Despite pockets of deprivation that fuel its rough-around-the-edges image, Croydon is now a thriving economy rich with potential for development, the ‘Croydon 10’ conference was told on Tuesday.
Croydon is a thriving economy, equal to many other cities outside of the capital, he continued. The borough has the UK’s fastest growing economy with an annual growth rate of 9.3 per cent in gross value added, according to research published by Develop Croydon, the not-for-profit organization that hosted the conference.
Devastation from the August 2011 riots which resulted in widespread damage including a furniture store burnt to the ground, have been seen by some as the stimulus for the development initiatives.
Part of a wider £5.25 billion regeneration plan, the Westfield shopping centre is to receive a £1.4billion revamp, though plans have been pushed back to February 2020. The world’s tallest modular tower is currently under construction on George Street, and combined with a second modular building close by, will contain 546 build-to-rent apartments.
When asked how Brexit will impact Croydon, Travers told Courtney Fingar, chair and editor-in-chief of fDi magazine: “An unexpectedly abrupt Brexit would profoundly affect the manufacturing and production sectors,” upon which Croydon depends.
In light of this, for Croydon, “the softer the Brexit, the better,” he said.
Despite its flourishing economy, Croydon lags behind other boroughs in terms of productivity, calculated at gross value added per head. With one of the highest proportions of unemployment benefit claimants in the country, Croydon’s large population has yet to unleash every inhabitant’s potential.
“Further education investment is key to Croydon prosperity,” Travers said, noting that policies are needed to encourage and incentivise people who may not previously have done so well in education. Further education funding has been cut by 25 per cent in real terms across the country.
The conference was held on the tenth anniversary of the Develop Croydon conference with the aim of showcasing transformation across the borough and stimulating debate around Croydon’s vision for growth and on-going regeneration.