Croydon’s 21st century legacy is a decade of empty promises - by David Callam
14th January 2010
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Croydon’s 21st century legacy is a decade of empty promises

WHAT did the naughties do for Croydon? Was the first decade of the new century one in which the borough made long-term progress?

Forgive me for being negative, but the respective answers are ‘not a lot’ and ‘no’. And the biggest missed opportunity is surely the remodelling of the town centre.

At the start of the decade we were promised: an arena on the Gateway site, next to East Croydon station; a third major shopping mall to replace St George’s Walk and surrounding offices; and a refurbished entertainment complex as part of the redevelopment of Fairfield.

Ten years later all three proposals have failed to materialise. Meanwhile: re-building of West Croydon station, to celebrate the coming of the East London Line, has been drastically scaled back; and the idea of an arts centre in Old Town is still just that – an idea.

The council is now talking about narrowing Wellesley Road to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment, but as far as I know there’s no money earmarked for the work; and plans for a new municipal headquarters are about to saddle hard-pressed council-tax payers with an additional £150m of debt.

Pardon my scepticism, but in the forthcoming local government elections can I trust any of my would-be councillors? Many of them have raised grandiose expectations over the past decade that they have lamentably failed to fulfil.

Is it time, perhaps, for Croydon people to cast aside party politics in favour of a genuine, self-interested concern for the future of the borough?

Would a council made up of independent members do a better job? They could hardly do worse. Are land-owners more likely to know what kind of developments will work commercially? Should elected representatives take a back seat? Are highly-paid, career-minded senior executives a help or a hindrance?

Should publicly-owned land be subjected to architectural competitions, as it is in continental Europe? In the age of the X-Factor, can it be difficult to persuade council officers to dance more strictly to a tune chosen by a residents’ phone vote?

Would chaos ensue? Would urban design, such as it is, be any worse? Or might we just make progress?

David Callam is a freelance journalist and the former business editor of The Croydon Advertiser. For more examples of his work and to see what he could do for your business please visit


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