The private sector will have to step in to redevelop Purley Town Centre because Croydon Council cannot afford to pay for it, local residents have been told
The Future Purley project involves the council and the Purley Panel, and has laid out plans to drastically change Purley, addressing issues such as a lack of green spaces, and making it more community driven and sustainable. The public have now been asked for their views on the plans.
But in a statement the Labour controlled council, which recently declared itself bankrupt, said said it was not in a position to fund the project and instead hoped to “help influence developers working in the area” and support the local community to seek alternative funding opportunities for local projects. It hoped to “bring the community of Purley together to share their ideas and aspirations for the area”.
The project is led by consultants Urban Symbiotics who specialise in “people focused environments.” They have set up a survey for residents to complete, after identifying areas of future change in Purley. An action plan will be formulated which the Purley Panel will then agree on.
The Purley and Woodcote Residents Association, who are on the Purley Panel said: “We realise that in the current financial climate…funding for any selected project will need to be found from outside the Council, and that this will likely be a tough task likely involving time and effort to put together ‘business cases’ for funding bodies.”
The council acknowledged the need for change, and said: “Purley has experienced significant change in recent years with increased transport pressures, housing development and challenges for its high street.”
“This plan is an important opportunity to ensure that future change is managed in a way that benefits the local community and provides current and future residents and businesses with the community facilities, transport and public spaces needed.”
What is the Purley Panel?
The Purley Panel aims to “represent the area’s diverse community”. It consists of local residents, businesses and community groups such as Purley BID, Purley Youth project and the Purley Masjid Mosque. Its vision is to “grow into a self-sufficient, representative community group capable of seeking funding that will help implement community projects” and aims to continue beyond the Future Purley project to “deliver local initiatives.”
The plan focuses on making Purley more sustainable, with a section on the survey relating to environmental aspects. It states that following the council’s declaration of a climate emergency, “future decisions for developments will need to consider how they can be built [to be more sustainable].”
Purley Cross was found to be in the top five for the worst levels of air pollution in Croydon in 2019. Making Croydon more sustainable is a major priority for the council, who has hopes of Croydon being carbon neutral by 2030.
The PWRA said that when contributing to the project they have “striven to ensure that both the survey and the potential improvement proposals are expressed clearly and simply, and that there is focus on smaller, simpler (and hence financially realistic) proposals.”
However, the survey mentions ambitious and futuristic options to improve sustainability such as solar lighting, smart-solar WiFi benches and energy generating pavements that generate kinetic energy when stepped on, which is bound to be more expensive than simply planting trees.
Other areas covered by the survey include making Purley a destination town, with options such as pedestrianising the high street and plaza, as well as introducing a boutique cinema and an accessible library. There are also options for more youth facilities and a youth hub, as there is currently only one youth center in Purley.
The PWRA recognises “there have been similar initiatives over the years, most of which have come to nothing” but remain confident in supporting the project and think “it is worth pursuing this initiative through its next stages.”