Take a Peep at this: public garden planned for Zodiac Court

Zodiac Court, fabled as the home of Jez and Mark in Channel 4’s cult comedy Peep Show, is to get a complete makeover, including the addition of a community garden and café in a space which for half a century has been an inhospitable concrete forecourt, if the planners at Croydon Council grant permission.

Garden centre: Zodiac Court is getting the kind of makeover even Mark Corrigan couldn’t complain about

The plans, from development company Common Projects, involve transforming the hard-landscaped forecourt of Zodiac Court on London Road into “Broad Green Common”. The project has the support of the Big Local Broad Green community group.

Residents can view the plans on the council’s planning portal (by clicking here).

The brutalist 1960s buildings at Zodiac Court are split in two: the first four floors of offices, which have been empty for more than 50 years, and the residential tower, Zodiac House (the fictionalised “Apollo House” in the TV comedy) rising above it. Nearby was Cinatras, a typically Croydon nightclub, which closed its doors for a final time in 2004. That site, too, is undergoing redevelopment.

The Broad Green area – from West Croydon Station to Mayday Hospital – has been badly run-down for decades, and was at the centre of much of the worst arson and destruction in the Croydon riots in August 2011. The council’s and Mayor of London efforts to regenerate the area have been largely ineffectual.

Common people: an architects’ CGI of how developers are proposing to put the ‘green’ back into Broad Green

Zodiac Court was developed on the site of Broad Green House and its private gardens, a large private house that was built in 1807, at a time when homes in what was then the Surrey countryside, on the main route down to Brighton, were the height of Regency fashion. Zodiac Court’s 1960s developers turned much of the site into a concrete forecourt.

“Today, there is no trace of this history,” the developers say. “It is an underused and alienating landscape, most recently home to the Rosa Parked café, which has become a hub for several local community groups and has been heavily involved with the design process for the new garden.”

As part of the wide-ranging scheme, Common Projects is refurbishing the office block into flats, avoiding the hugely negative environmental impact of demolishing the existing building. The offices are being redesigned, the developers say, “into apartments for local first-time buyers”.

If the planning application is approved, Common Projects together with landscape designer Planit-IE and Big Local Broad Green say they will “progress the designs further with local people, jointly deciding what the gardens should contain and how the space can best serve its community”.

Steve Sanham, Common Projects’ founder, said, “We’ve really valued the time we’ve been able to spend with the local community, coordinated by Big Local Broad Green, to come up with the proposals for this space – it’s the kind of partnership which is so needed for major developments to be able to contribute positively to their local area.

“We plan to bring a ‘common’ back to Broad Green on the site of a former formal gardens, creating a new setting for Zodiac Court, and a new focal point on London Road for the Broad Green community.

Peep stars: Jez and Mark would struggle to complain about these proposals

“We are hopeful that the council will be able to consider the planning application quickly, and give us the green light so we see them become a reality.”

Queenie Chizea, a steering group member of Big Local Broad Green, said, “Broad Green is full of so much potential. I’m excited to see the birth of a space that will serve as a modern safe, green, welcoming positive and friendly space for locals.

“We are so proud here at Big Local Broad Green to be able to support what will serve as a legacy in Broad Green.”

Mark Corrigan was not available for comment. And nor was Jez.

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4 Responses to Take a Peep at this: public garden planned for Zodiac Court

  1. If only they could resurrect The Cartoon (179 London Road) too.

    Dr Feelgood in there was possibly the best three quid I’ve ever spent.

  2. Lewis White says:

    The architect’s CGI impression showing the much greener forecourt area, and the refurbishment proposed as flats, with cafe and no doubt, other features, seems promising.

    I must look at the Panning App.and look at the detail.

    This ugly forecourt area of concrete and tarmac has been empty and bleak for far too long. If only the owners of similar ones in West Croydon and elsewhere could follow this lead.

    I would just like to add that , a similar distance to the South town centre, Leon House, with its flats, lobby with sculpture, and green forecourt, shows how an ex office block can be rescued and repurposed, and its surroundings restored from grey to green.

    Hats off to the Common Projects people , not least for engaging with the locals and their group Big Local Broad Green

    • Be fair, though, Lewis: Leon House has always been an exemplar of top-class design. Not sure anyone – save perhaps John Grindrod – would say the same of Zodiac.

      If only someone could do something about the wind tunnel effect at ground level, though.

  3. Lewis White says:

    Hi–you mentioned “wind tunnel”–I assume you meant the gusts that blow round Leon House?. If so, you are right….they are pretty strong, and would affect the viability of a “sitting out area” if one were proposed there. Deffo.

    I think that I would be right in saying that the taller part of Zodiac house is much, much lower, than Leon House, and is set well back from the forecourt, behind the 3 storey lower block that extends along the back of the forecourt.

    This bodes well, suggesting that the wind speeds on the forecourt will not be significant. The newly greened forecourt should turn out to be a pleasantly warm and sunny place, as it faces both East and South, and is protected from cold North winds by the block next door. The adjacent horizontal 3 storey block is not so high as to blot out the afternoon light from the whole forecourt.

    This is now a rarity in today’s rapidly redeveloping urban world, where buildings in London are getting taller and taller, blocking the sun, and making formerly sunny and open streets into feezing canyons.

    My only reservation about the Zodiac scheme that there seems to be just a bit too much paving , and that the tall part of the double wedge shaped coffee building is too dominant. No comment as to whether that reflects the symbolic importance of coffee in the Latte-quaffing days we live in.

    But maybe the idea is that the upper bit of the coffee building could be used as a screen on which to to project 1950’s and 60’s films ?

    What ever……. but I can’t wait to call in for a coffee and take in some sunshine, while admiring the sculpted zodiac figures, and feeling the modern, much greener, Broad Green vibe.

    Bring it on !

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