Monument planned for man behind monumental disaster

Our housing correspondent, BARRATT HOLMES, has found proposals for a piece of public art which proves that some involved in the Brick by Brick scandal and Fairfield Halls fiasco really have no shame

Vanity project: former Brick by Brick chair Martyn Evans

A firm of developers wants to place a giant statue on top of its latest south London mega-development, the artwork apparently featuring one of the company’s directors and a key figure in the crashing of Croydon Council’s finances.

Martyn Evans works as the “creative director” of struggling developers U+I.

Until November 2020, Evans was also the chairman of Brick by Brick, Croydon’s loss-making house-builders.

Last month, Inside Croydon received a tip-off about the proposals for a massive statue that looked very much like Evans. A check of the office calendar here at Inside Croydon Towers, though, quickly confirmed that it was not the first day of April. Even the likes of Evans and his mates could not be quite so gargantuanly hubristic, could they?

Apparently, they very much are, as another hyperlocal news site, 853 London, which covers the Greenwich beat, has managed to confirm that a statue which has clearly used Evans as its model is being lined up for the multi-million-pound development.

“A huge statue of a flat cap-wearing ‘everyman docker’ could appear on top of a warehouse at Morden Wharf in Greenwich, where a developer plans to build towers of up to 36 storeys high,” 853 reported this week.

Spitting image: the statue design of the ‘docker’ that looks remarkably like Evans

“U+I, the company behind the scheme next to the Blackwall Tunnel, has denied the ‘worker’ is based on one of the company’s senior executives – despite messages on Instagram from the U+I’s boss implying that it is.”

853 informs us that U+I has just been granted planning permission for 1,500 homes on the site, despite local opposition from residents and MP Matt Pennycook.

The statue is unlikely to win over the objectors, and it certainly won’t impress the Council Tax-payers of Croydon, who will be paying for the mismanagement of Brick by Brick for the next 20 years, at least.

Back in January 2019, when Jo Negreedy was the chief exec of Croydon Council with her buddy Colm Lacey in charge of the council-owned house-builders, Evans was invited on to the company’s board as chairman.

Evans, like Negrini, is an associate fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

“Martyn has extensive experience of working with local communities to deliver large-scale development projects,” Brick by Brick said.

Evans, they said at the time, “has more 20 years of property and regeneration experience including board and executive committee positions at the specialist mixed-use developer Cathedral Group and then at the listed property development and investment company U+I, which was formed through the merger of Cathedral Group and Development Securities in 2016.”

Brick by Brick was formed in 2015. When Evans joined the house-builders in January 2019, the firm had completed zero homes.

It was Brick by Brick which oversaw the unfinished and incomplete refurb of the Fairfield Halls arts complex, at a cost of £70million, delivered on Evans’s watch.

Evans remained as Brick by Brick chair until he was effectively sacked in the boardroom clear-out that followed the council’s financial collapse in November 2020.

‘Placemaking’: U+I’s Richard Upton’s Instagram feed was described by his company’s spokesperson as ‘tongue in cheek’

During Evans’ time in the hot seat, Brick by Brick, which received around £200million in loans from the council but failed to repay a penny, was operating without a finance director.

Now Evans, someone who was at least partially responsible for the monumental losses incurred by Brick by Brick, seems destined to be monumentalised himself.

When planning permission was granted for Morden Wharf, U+I’s boss Richard Upton posted a picture on his Instagram showing that what had first been proposed, a giant-sized statue of a child, had been changed to a man, dressed as a “worker”, wearing an old-style flat cap.

Greenwich meantime: U+I’s original proposals showed a statue of a young girl

When Greenwich Council approved the scheme last year, the rooftop sculpture had disappeared from the plans.

Upton’s Instagram feed strongly suggested a change of heart, with an oversized piece of public art. “A close-up shows the man has a striking resemblance to Martyn Evans, the creative director of U+I,” 853 says.

“We are united and industrious… I love this man, a massive burning flame within @uandiplc,” Upton gushed on his social media feed.

“Is that a full life sculpture of the great man?” Upton was asked by one of his followers.

“Larger than full scale for a larger than life spirit,” was Upton’s cringe-worthy response.

And Evans commented: “Oh lord… thank you.”

Evans had rejoined U+I for a second spell in February 2019, soon after he was made Brick by Brick chair.

Contacted by 853, a spokesperson for U+I said the sculpture is not of Evans, but an “everyman docker”, inspired by a 1937 photograph taken outside the Sea Witch pub.

Cringe-making: part of the exchange about the Martyn Evans statue on U+I Upton’s Instagram

“The site’s history and heritage has informed the architecture and landscape of Morden Wharf. U+I also want to celebrate the human story…

“Public art is a cornerstone of U+I’s approach to placemaking and as part of their commitment to supporting local creative business MDM Props, which is based at Morden Wharf, they have commissioned them to realise this piece.” Which is nice.

The spokesperson refused to comment on what Upton “has said tongue-in-cheek on his personal Instagram”.

Like Brick by Brick, U+I has been posting huge losses (£87million for the 2020-2021 financial year), and has made nearly half its staff redundant.

They have recently been subject to a takeover by another property company, Landsec. 

“I wonder what staff who have been laid off or shareholders who have lost money think of the business creating a statue of its marketing director?” one disgruntled reader has asked. “Goodness knows what local people or the council might think.”

The editor of Property Week wrote recently that under Upton, and Evans, U+I “had become known as being ‘all brand’.” As our reader observes, “Nothing seems to illustrate that better than this.”

Whatever next? A similarly sized model of Jo Negrini placed atop of the Fairfield Halls? A statute on top of a column of Tony Newman placed in what’s left of Queen’s Gardens?

The vanity, ego and hubris of the self-proclaimed “regeneration practitioners” and “place-makers”, such as Evans and Negrini who helped to crash Croydon Council’s finances, clearly knows no end.

But if this statue in Greenwich really does go ahead, it is surely proof that they have no shame, either.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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9 Responses to Monument planned for man behind monumental disaster

  1. A well-coiled “dog’s egg” would be more apt

    • Stephen with a P says:

      Allegedly, the last time Colm Lacey graced BxB’s offices was in the summer to record a promo vid of his achievements; cue sun rise over Croydon or was that sun set and some fancy drone footage of some boundary treatments and facades. Maybe he’s been working out his notice getting his design team to create a statue of him too…?
      Martyn (with a y) btw, allegedly, fancies himself too. Who knew?!?

  2. George Wright says:

    Talking of giant statues and Brick by Brick, I’m kind of reminded of Keat’s Ozymandius-
    “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of the colossal wreck, boundless and bare…”

  3. As I’ve said before on the site, the calibre of the Chairman and Executive Directors at BrickxBrick played a key part in the company’s failure. The people chosen to fill these roles were ‘C’ list but on a par with Jo Negreedy.

    As for U+I, as far as I can see they have built fuck all apart from some steel frame trash with emblazoned graphics. They’re big on the urban regeneration one-liners, colourful graphics and stock library pictures of laughing people drinking coffee in front of 2005 laptops but it all stops there.

    How would you sum up Evans and U+I?

    “No.1 bullshitters.”

    Sort of people we don’t want working in Croydon. We set our aspirations higher.

  4. I laughed all the way through this excellent piece.

    And then I felt very guilty because the joke’s on me – and all the people of Croydon.

    Martyn Evans’ tenure at Brick by Brick must have tipped a pile of shit all over his CV.

    I must check LinkedIn to see if it is mentioned

  5. Lewis White says:

    Teflon people tend to have Teflon CVs. The ordure collects on neither.

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