The Future for Croydon Town Centre

Thursday 5 July 2012

A potent mixture of strong leadership, effective plan-making and mayoral regeneration cash following last year’s riots look set to lift Croydon into a new phase of development. But the town must decide whether it wants to be a part of London or continue adding to its ‘Croydon-ness’, must move forward with its plans to build an enlarged retail centre and continue to ‘tame’ hostile environments such as Wellesley Road.

Those were some of the key points to emerge from a special conference on the future of Croydon yesterday evening at the NLA. Keynote speaker and Croydon chief executive Jon Rouse said that the main thrust for the town is in several major masterplans and a new Opportunity Area Planning Framework which foresees significant residential growth in the centre. Part of the challenge was the existing, mixed 1960s office stock, and the fact that the council ‘had managed to miss three successive economic growth periods because it backed the wrong horses’. But a mark of how proactive the council has been is demonstrated in the way Abstract Securities won planning permission for its new Renaissance office scheme, including a Section 106 agreement, in five weeks and three days. Impressed with that performance from the local authority, GLA executive director of development and environment Fiona Fletcher Smith said she would be recommending to Boris Johnson that he produce a performance league table to ‘gee up’ others. Abstract is on site withe the Renaissance scheme near East Croydon station already, having only approached the council for the first time in January. Abstract Group chief executive Mark Glatman said that the main thinking behind the project was to offer a super-efficient building that, at £22/ sq ft, is the most competitive deal in the M25, pitched at attracting the admin departments of firms in central London.

To improve connectivity to this part of town, a new bridge link from the station is also underway, while Rouse said that work will begin after the Olympics on ‘taming’ the hostile Wellesley Road. This is in the form of two at-grade crossings with more work to come in order to raise the pedestrian and bike-friendly atmosphere to the town, as well as a more residentially-focused heart.

Other office schemes such as Menta’s Morello tower will help bring a ‘cascade of further interest in Croydon’, said its chief executive Craig Marks, while plans to extend the Whitgift centre may go to Hammerson, working on a holistic approach with Farrells and RTKL. This, said director of Hammerson’s retail development Robin Dobson, will be ‘one piece of retail circuit’ and ‘something tailored to Croydon, rather than ‘big boxes dumped into retail squares.’ The rival bidder on this scheme, Westfield, is working with Allies & Morrison, with partner Bob Allies revealing that the scheme will include towers containing 600 new flats.  Finally, Stanhope/Schroders now has outline planning permission for its plans to build up to 1.6 m sqft of commercial and up to 625 units of residential.

As Menta’s Craig Mark pointed out, ‘the delivery of Croydon is imminent’.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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