More details have emerged about the plans for Croydon’s public space, at a recent community forum led by Tim Naylor, head of special planning for Croydon Council.
The High Streets Project is part of the ‘public realm’ regeneration program, meant to be completed by March 2015. It is funded mainly by money pledged to the borough after the 2011 Riots and by Croydon Council’s growth fund. Two years after the disturbances, the spending plans have been roughly finalised.
The details revealed by Timothy Naylor gave an overall view of the plans, which aim to make Croydon a more appealing place to live and visit; Shop fronts will be re-designed, paving will be improved and transport connections will be upgraded.
Regarding changes in the high streets of London Road, Central Area, Old Town and South End, Naylor explained the intention to create a “village feel” exploiting the potential already present. This would be done by bringing attention to the heritage sites and extending footways to create spaces that encourage people “to spill out, using the high street as a social place.”
Another strand of the regeneration is linking the local transport routes, particularly around the borough’s train stations.
East Croydon has faced heavy criticism for being unable to cope with the high volume of commuters (routes run to the city, Gatwick airport and the South Coast). Under the plans a new entrance/exit point will be opened to help alleviate congestion and lifts are expected to make the station accessible for all from July.
TFL are also involved in the regeneration, relocating the tram stop on George Street and investing in improvements around East Croydon station, location for the most dangerous tram stop on the network.
The plans were well received by attendees, but some concerns were raised. One local resident said that the plans failed to address the pedestrian route between West Croydon train station and the site of the future Westfield shopping centre. As it stands, people will have to use the underpass at the Croydon flyover on their journey from the station to the centre.
Security in the high street was another concern brought up by a local shop owner, who wanted to know what measures would be taken to ensure security for small shops during the building works. Mr. Naylor recognised that crime levels around the high street in Croydon have recently raised local concerns and he reassured the meeting that there would be close collaboration with the police.
Some of the local residents at the meeting expressed the hope that as a result of the project high street chains and amenities, which moved out of the high street following the riots, will come back. A longer-term objective of the ‘public realms’ project is to encourage small businesses to rent disused office space.
Croydon Council believe this will increase the appeal of the cityscape and create a more ‘commercial’ district, incorporating residential, business and arts -spaces.