Thirty-three homes in Selhurst and business premises on a light industrial estate all face demolition, under plans from Network Rail to provide a long-term solution to congestion on the London-to-Brighton mainline.
It is the second time Network Rail has consulted on the significant project, which includes some impressive engineering proposals to unblock the bottleneck on the Brighton mainline at the “Selhurst Triangle” as well as upgrading Norwood Junction station and the complete rebuilding of East Croydon Station, with two new platforms.
But to achieve some of the ambitious railway improvements, including having eight rail tracks passing under Windmill Bridge, Network Rail’s plans require the compulsory purchase of a considerable chunk of land, including an entire row of Victorian-built railway workers’ cottages and some light industrial premises alongside the tracks at Gloucester Road in Selhurst.
Inside Croydon first reported on the potential property blight of the houses and business premises nearly two years ago, when the first version of Network Rail’s plans were put out for consultation. Then, it was suggested that the process might blight the area for five years – with owner-occupiers unlikely to be able to sell their homes on the open market if they wanted to move. Now, that period of uncertainty could last much longer.
Gloucester Road runs roughly parallel with the railway, before rising on a ramp to form a T-junction with the road over Windmill Bridge.
Also known as the St James’ Road bridge, the road currently crosses five tracks. Under Network Rail’s proposals, the work on the bridge would require the closure of the southern end of Gloucester Road and demolition of the buildings there, with the space being used temporarily as a construction depot.
The latest version of the plans requires much more rail-side land than previously envisaged, including the demolition of all 33 cottages. The land they are sited on is marked as essential for construction. The buildings have to go, even if some of the land can subsequently be made available again for housing once the scheme is complete.
The general principle adopted with construction projects in the public interest is, wherever possible, to avoid taking private domestic property. According to the specialist website London Reconnections, “Thirty domestic properties is actually quite a lot for a railway enhancement programme involving no additional route mileage.
“Business premises, which form the bulk of the site, are generally not so well protected from compulsory purchase orders as the prevailing attitude is that businesses can be compensated for the inconvenience with no undue hardship caused.
“The need for the destruction of so many domestic properties could go some way to explain why it took so long to come up with a plan to eliminate the bottleneck at East Croydon,” London Reconnections says.
“Unless it is accepted that a considerable number of domestic properties need to be compulsorily purchased, a scheme would only provide marginal benefit. The only alternative is going to the extreme lengths of proposing a long tunnel emerging south of Purley – which was what Network Rail proposed about a decade ago.” The costs of such a tunnelling scheme would obviously stop the project in its… err, tracks. Crossrail, anyone?
Network Rail’s consultation website even includes a natty little animation video which illustrates “the closure and demolition of the southern end of Gloucester Road” to enable the bridge widening works to take place. What is missing from the animation is any sign of the buildings and homes that need to be demolished to make way for the rail works.
Residents on Gloucester Road and business-owners on the Tait Road trading estate have obviously been shocked by the proposals to turn their premises into a “logistics compound”.
The hard details, which also include similar demolition of some track-side properties on Lansdowne Road, can only be ascertained by trawling through drawings which are tucked away in a separate section of the consultation website (here, here and here).
“It’s not that we’re opposed to the need to resolve this issue, and we know with lineside spaces it comes with the territory somewhat,” one business owner affected by the proposals told Inside Croydon.
“We just feel it’s unacceptable in a second wave consultation for our road, businesses and jobs to have been treated like an afterthought not even worth mentioning as an important matter for fully informed public feedback.
“Most people don’t have the capacity to trawl through or decipher construction logistics drawings – especially when they might not even see them ‘cos they’re tucked away in a totally different section after the ‘give feedback’ section!
“There’s also no info on the potential future of this land after the completion of the railway scheme – a huge loss of already dwindling industrial space for businesses in the area, with much elsewhere being lost to ‘windfall’ developments. Nor are there any environmental impact reports for the public to provide feedback on. It appears to be a case of plans first, reports later.”
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