Timber tea rooms dating back to the 1830s may face demolition and redevelopment after Croydon Council accepted a proposal to replace the structure, the oldest in Norwood, with a community centre.
In August 2009, the council rejected a proposal to replace the former tea rooms, now covered in scaffolding, which are now owned by the St Constantine and St Helen Greek Orthodox church next door, with a four-storey building. At the time, the council considered it would “result in the demolition of a building within the Upper Norwood Triangle Conservation Area which makes a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the area”.
However, the church is now proposing a new three-story building containing a community and cultural centre, meeting rooms, a hall, library and two single-bedroom flats. Croydon Council will accept comments on the proposal until 24 September, and the application will be considered at a planning meeting on 7 October.
The local Norwood Conservation group and other residents are campaigning against the proposal. Sue Nagle, of local business group Triangle Traders, said the building should not have been allowed to fall into disrepair. In 2009, English Heritage recommended to the council that the building should be saved and hoped that “with careful conservation” it could be incorporated into any future development plans for the area. However, speaking to South London Press, the church council president, Dr Andreas Andreou, denied that the building was of such great historic importance and explained: “We believe the building serves no useful purpose because we cannot bring it back to what it was”.
The structure dates back to the 1830s and was originally part of the White Hart pub across the road. The tea gardens were entered through an opening formed by the jawbones of an enormous whale and are referred to in memoirs of Norwood in 1852, by a Mrs Elizabeth Louisa Dee, who wrote: “The tea gardens of the White Hart…were very beautiful”. The present building, built in 1868, was designed by Sextus Dyball, but fragments of the original remain.