Coulsdon centre celebrates as council agrees 25-year lease

There are celebrations coming to Coulsdon, after the local community centre was handed a reprieve from a Brick by Brick-inspired demolition order.

New future: the Coulsdon Community Centre has been given a reprieve with a 25-year lease extension

“The year 2035 will see us celebrate our centenary, but we going to be celebrating this year too, the year that we got our future back,” Paul Ford, one of the centre’s trustees, told Inside Croydon.

The council-owned community centre was entangled in a convoluted Brick by Brick property deal involving two other sites in Coulsdon. The decision to abandon the proposal to demolish the much-loved centre on Barrie Close to make way for some money-spinning private flats was confirmed in the week before Christmas when Croydon Council agreed to extend the centre’s lease by another 25 years.

“It’s real,” Ford said. “Nothing to do with politics, just harsh financial reality actually taking hold.”

Brick by Brick’s “Coulsdon project” was, like so much of the council-owned failed house-builders’ schemes, doomed never to work.

Pipe dream: BxB’s Colm Lacey

Brick by Brick chief exec Colm Lacey had a pipe dream of finding a developer who was willing to put up the £2.5million to £3million to rebuild and refurbish Coulsdon’s old CALAT Centre, wait for the work to be done, wait for the Communuty Centre to transition across to the new premises, and then, and only then, get to demolish the existing centre off Chipstead Valley Road and build on it.

“It was never going to fly,” Ford said today.

“And the Community Centre Association pointed this out right at the beginning.”

It has been a five-year saga of uncertainty for the centre and the many local organisations which make great use of the venue, which has a wonderfully warm, village hall feel about it that you would expect of a building that has been serving local residents in 1935. Such community service considerations appeared to have been forgotten by the council when Jo Negrini was in charge at Fisher’s Folly while discredited council  leader  Tony Newman was pursuing his “anti-south of the borough” agenda.

With the council needing money now, not later, selling off the CALAT site was an obvious move for them,” Ford said, “especially with the Community Centre having a lease that stopped them from just shutting us down and throwing us out on the streets. 

“To be honest, I don’t think they ever really wanted to do that.”

Ford says that Steve Wingrave, the council’s head of assets and estate management, has instructed his legal team to draft a new 25-year lease, to run from the cessation of the existing lease. “So that’s the best part of 30 years more or less guaranteed,” Ford said.

Long lease: the centre will continue to operate now until some of these pre-schoolers are adults

“We’ll be checking the small print, looking for traps and loopholes, but Mr Wingrave has played with a pretty straight bat from the get-go, so we’re optimistic.

“We won’t rest easy until it’s signed, but it’s looking good at the moment.”

Coulsdon Community Centre is run by a not-for-profit community association and registered charity, with the centre used seven days a week by arts, leisure, sports, social and recreational groups.

As well as the more usual groups, such as pre-schoolers, keep-fit, badminton or short-mat bowls, there’s tai chi, a ballet academy and even pain management classes, which came in very useful for those who had to negotiate with the council over the centre’s future.

The council’s decision to extend the lease, according to Ford, “means that we can start applying for grant funding from various sources to properly upgrade the centre. Disabled access for the upper floor at last, improved toilet, kitchen and storage facilities for our users”.

“And,” he adds, “hold the council to account for the maintenance they’re legally obliged to undertake but have singularly failed to do over the last five years.

“Hopefully, 2022 is where it all changes.

“The sword hanging over our heads will be finally gone and we can look forward, making a real difference for the thousands of users we get each year.”

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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
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3 Responses to Coulsdon centre celebrates as council agrees 25-year lease

  1. Isn’t it just ridiculous that Coulsdon Community Centre should have been put in the position of being fearful for their future because of some fucking cretinous idea from BrickxBrick?

  2. Eve Tullett says:

    I’m sure if this centre was in West Croydon or South Norwood the council would never have agreed to this, funny how things go in the more affluent areas of the Borough where they can’t ride roughshod over people.

  3. Lewis White says:

    I am very glad for the Community association that runs the Coulsdon Community Centre that they have secured the long lease. It would have been truly unfair if the council had decided to keep them worrying about the long-term existence of the centre, and had then sold off the site once the existing lease had come to its end in 5 years, therby rendering the CCC homeless.

    However, I also think it a great pity that the Brick by Brick proposals to transfer the CCC to the old CALAT centre, the attractive gabled buildings of the old Smitham School with its iconic cupola, where a brand new hall would be built for performance, events and sport, has not come to pass. This would have given the CCC modern and 100% accessible premises. Which their existing building is far from being, in its 1930’s building with stairs.

    The CCC would then have had, at CALAT, a wheelchair friendly, light and welcoming heritage building, in excellent condition, plus a modern hall, which overall would have given a superb range of rooms for hire by commuity groups. All in a town-centre location, easy to get to by bus, and with its own car park, and above all, bringing back a community use an architectural gem at the heart of Coulsdon. It would have been really good, and a great use for an important architectural heritage building.

    The B by B proposal was to develop the existing CCC site off Chipstead Valley Road for housing, including some houses or flats purpose built for disabled residents. The proceeds would have paid for the new CCC premises at CALAT Smitham.

    As things now stand, as I understand it, the NHS has now bought the whole CALAT site.
    Before Christmas there was a useful publc consultation meeting held in the Coulsdon Methodist Church, where an NHS senor manager and their architect presented proposals to build a new Medical Centre building to house two local doctors’ surgeries which would relacate from their current (and in one case inadequate) premises in different parts of Coulsdon. The new building would be built to the West side of the CALAT site, on the current old playground which is –I hate to say it, but it is true– a sunken, cramped, gloomy area hemmed in between the old school buildings, and the steep supporting embankment retainig the higher level, and very busy Woodcote Grove Road. The latter rises quickly as it goes up the steep hill to cross the railway bridge by St Andrew’s Church as it goes onwards to Wallington.

    The proposed 3 storey Medical Centre building is effectively built in a pit, with only one access point at the lowest corner, where, due to the levels, the road is still a metre above the old playground. A ramp will be needed to allow access for the hundreds of vehicles each day that would deliver patients and supplies and staff to the reloacted doctors’ surgeries.

    It was quite clear from the consultation, that while the new building would physically accommodate the doctors practices in a brand new building, the access ramp and adjacent car parking would be a total design and parking capacity / manoeuvering disaster ! Far too small, with only half a handful of parking spaces which might not even be enough for all the staff — plus a few blue badge spaces.

    It would be necessary for a driver to drive down and reverse in a tight space, as far as I could see. What would happen if one or two cars came down the slope behind you ? There would be gridlock. I could just imagine the total resulting daily stress of the patients, the drivers, the staff and the doctors who would then (all of them) rue the move from their existing locations.

    The whole parking needs concept is this…. “Users coming by car will use the nearby Lion Green Road public car park” . (my summary)

    All well and good …or is it?. Actually….. NO !!!
    For a start, the new car park is already too small to serve the growing parking needs of a recovering, post-Covid, renewed Coulsdon, which will soon be welcoming hundreds of new residents in the 5 big new Lion Green Road bocks of flats …..and their cars. They will have little on site parking.

    In a real world with an ageing population, where many patients are driven to and from the doctor’s surgery by friends, or can only slowly and sometimes, in pain, walk a few metres from their car to the waiting room, and back, it seemed ludicrous to me that the proposed building had got this far in the design process without someone senior in the decision making team realising that it is totally unrealistic to have a brand new premises, servig thousands of Coulsdon residents, with such a pathetically inadequate amount of on-site parking accessed from the most congested part of the 2nd busiest road in Coulsdon.

    The reality is this…. the Lion Green car park is several hundred metres away, requiring the walker to negotiate the pedestrian crossing points at the junction of Chipstead Valley Road. The slope down and up Woodcote Road section of the walk is very steep for people with poor mobility or breathing difficulty. That is clearly impossible for any sick patient or anyone who cannot walk more than a short distance. Imagine a cold and rainy day. Oh, I had forgotten the ramp down at the access road. And that the footway is fairly narrow in the Wodcote Grove road

    My surmise is that, as the parking capacity at the new Medical cetre will be more or less non-existent, precluding parking on site for 98% of visitors, the reality will be that after dropping off the patient, the car driver would then exit by car, up the ramp, then wait for a rare gap in the stream of traffic coming down the hill to the traffic lights to let them out, then drive a few hundred metres , then wait to let the ever-present stream of traffic coming the other way to stop, or a kind driver to let them into the Lion Green car park (making the busy traffic behind both parker and kind person to stop and back up behind them). Then they will need to find a space in the Lion Green Road public car park (not guranteed), then pay a significant parking fee, park, then walk back to the surgery, crossing 3 parts of the pedestrian crossing (ideally managing to avoid one of the 5 crossings which has no button and no little green man), then walk back up the hill, back down the access ramp, and then enter the Medical centre to re-connect with their friend or family member in the waiting room. After the appointment, the driver will then exit the buildiong, walk back up the ramp, then down the narrow footway to the lights, cross back over the crossing, back to the Lion Green Car park, collect the car, then drive back to the surgery, almost certainly having to queue and block the traffic on Woodcote Grove Road while trying to get into the ramp, then drive down, hope that there is space to park and pick up the patient . Then go into the surgery, pick up the patient, and then walk out, gte into the car and drive back up the ramp. They then might wait several minutes before being abe to exit back into Woodcote Grove Road. OK, if the patient does not need qassistance or the presence of the griend or relative, maybe the car driver coild remain in the car park nad await a mobile phone call from the patient or receptionist, but t is all terribly tenuous and works against the concept of stress-free patent care.

    I can feel the stress levels that would be experienced by patent and helper in my heart just writing this !!

    The visitors to the recntCconsultation were given the opportunity to discuss the proposals with the architect, the developer (it seems to be being built by one such heathcare design company ) and with the NHS managers present. There was then a Q and A session.

    It was then that there seemed to be an honest discussion and collective realisation about the deep flaws in the proposed location, access and parking/drop off aspects.

    We talked about the other NHS proposal for a Dialysis centre, and learned that the part of the NHS dedveloping it have in fact bought the other half of the CALAT site–the old School with its many rooms and ables, and big car park. Sadly, no-one had come along from the Dialysis team to expain their project. It was a bad omission. What about the design options if both Medical Centre and Dialysis Cetre could be planned together ?

    We questioned the Senior manager as an open forum group, whether the Dialysis centre would be better located on the old Western playground site, instead of the new Doctors Medical centre, and that the Medical centre would be better off using the old school CALAT buildings, with its good, level car park, and access from the much quieter Malcolm Road. I must say, the NHS Senior manager and the Developer seemed to agree with us — it seemed like we the local public had confirmed what thet had already realised or knew all along in their real heart of hearts ! It seemd to be almost an Epiphany of a moment. Well, I hope it really was.

    I am sorry to any Inside Croydon readers who have persevered to read this whole comment, to have taken up some much column space talking about the access and parking issues, but this is many million £’s of Publlc Money being spent, and the life of the new NHS facilties would be maybe 70 years, so to have so much investment made without proper access and on site parking is BAD DECISION MAKING and BAD DESIGN.

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