Croydon: On the journey to becoming London's Third City?

Published on 19th December 2014

When it was announced in 2010 that Croydon will be appearing on the iconic tube map for very first time in history, I remember becoming very excited. It was the first time when I thought about development in my hometown of Croydon. Ever since this moment, I have been noticing steady improvements being made to Croydon; it has become scattered with numerous construction sites. Croydon was once a suburb of London, but it could receive formal city status and become a Third City of Greater London, after Westminster and London itself.

Croydon is undergoing development at a phenomenal rate. The Croydon 2020 vision sets out plans that will be taking place in Croydon. This article will be discussing these development projects and how well they’re doing so far, aiding it with my photography to give you a picture of the hometown in which I live. It’s an exciting, dramatic, social place to live. The skyline is spectacular and I get to enjoy the sights around me every day.

 

There are certain problems which have been depressing Croydon for many years, and there are plans in place set to eradicate these problems and improve the situation. One of the most significant events was the fire at Reeves Corner resulting in the destruction of a 150 year old, independent, family run furniture store. This was a result of racist tensions, which continues to be a major problem today in and one which the residents of Croydon are having to battle with every day. 

1. Saffron Square

Britian is being faced with an overwhelming housing crisis, especially in the south. The construction of a breath-taking 44 storey tower on the site of Saffron Square near West Croydon is part of Croydon's answer to this. The new development will provide around 800 homes and 3000m² of retail floor space. With the population of Croydon currently at roughly 364,000 and set to increase to 400,000 by 2031, Croydon is in desperate need of new housing. But will Saffron Square deliver affordable housing? Efforts are being made to make sure that these homes are accessible by everyone. A 95% mortgage is being offered by Santander, with competitive interest rates. Furthermore, a certain percentage which is not stated on Berkeley Groups website is promised to be sold as affordable. On the other end of the spectrum, there are some exquisite penthouses which are in excess of £5million. After all, you'll have spectacular views of London, reliable and quick transport for commuting into London and a brand new shopping centre at your fingertips. 

2. westfield

The Whitgift Shopping Centre was completed back in 1970 and is to be replaced with a new Westfield shopping centre. Westfield Corporation is a prestigious, global shopping centre company and is set to transform the image of Croydon. Construction is due to start in 2016 and after its completion in 2019, Westield will become an itegral part of Croydons identity. The impact of a Westfield present in London, both Shepards Bush and Stratford, has been significantly positive; the aim of the Westfield in Croydon is to revamp its declining town centre and make it a hub for retail in the South of London. Whilst walking through our current shopping centre, I constantly find myself dodging numerous buckets scattered across the floor due to leakage from a recent downpour. Currently, there is a perception of the area being run-down but in the near future, visitors will associate Croydon with the uptown vibe of Westfield. Also, not only will Westfield attract investment, it will invest in the local area. One example is its commitment to the housing crisis and is planning to build 600 residential units.

 

Shopping is now a social event - long gone are the days where people shop for groceries and necessities. Shopping centres which have addressed this style of shopping, such as Bluewater, have been extremely successful. The provision of social activities for families, along with a scenic and safe atmosphere, with ease of access to public transport and car parking has meant that it has attracted shoppers. If a shopping centre just simply has shops in it, this is not good enough. The Whitgift centre has a wide variety of shops, however it is about perception from the public too. A Westfield will add an upper class perception to Croydon and reduce the derelict feel of the area, especially following the riots.  As a resident, I know that walking through the town centre at night is not a pleasant experience at all, however with the arrival of the new £1bn Westfield, the shoppers and commuters should feel safer and comfortable. The current shopping centre lacks a spacious social environment where people can relax and eat; the whole atmosphere of the town centre is set to be transformed. Westfield will become an icononic part of Croydon.

View 1: PRESENT

View 2: PRESENT

View 1: FUTURE

View 2: FUTURE

View 3: FUTURE

View 4: FUTURE

3. East croydon, ruskin square

As you approach East Croydon, you are greeted by this sight...

You are also greeted by this sign...

This large expanse of land has been largely derelict for the past fifteen years, and was previously used as a railway goods yard. With recent development plans to build 625 homes, 50% of which will be affordable; 100,000 sq ft of retail space including restaurants and cafes; and vibrant and attractive public spaces, it will definitely transform the area. Below is an artist's impression of what the area could look like.

Please note I do not own any of the CGI images. 

4. The menta tower

The Menta Tower, planned to be situated next to East Croydon station, is set to exceed the height of the tower at Saffron Square. At 55 storeys high, it will stand 11 storeys higher. What is striking about this development is that the tower, apart from the ground and first floors, will be residential. A 'vertical street' will combat the problem of land growing more expensive and scarce. Having mentioned this, 35% of the land will be used for public spaces, which stresses the importance that public perception of the area plays a vital role along with the actual purpose of the development. 

5. west croydon

London Road, one of the main routes in and out of Croydon, is undergoing major improvement works. The road stretches all the way past Thornton Heath, Streatham, and Brixton, to reach central London. These improvement works further strengthen the idea that aesthetics and public perception hold value when it comes to the development of a city. After all, in a SWOT analysis conducted by Croydon Council in the West Croydon Masterplan, it identified some significant threats for the area. The there was a "perception that the area lack[ed] strengths" and that there was a "poor urban environment". The railway station and the permeability of the public transport system was also identified as a problem; the station had poor presence and the interchanges between the trains, trams and buses needed to be improved. There are new passages being created which in turn improve the permeability between the public transport interchange. 

 

West Croydon bus station, adjacent to the tram stop and railway station, is being rebuilt. Completion is expected in early 2016.

The pavement is being repaved on London Road, along with shop front improvements to increase aestheic value. 

6. TAberner house and the nestle building

Right: The Nestle Building

Left: Taberner House

Seeing the once mighty Taberner House standing tall and proud, now crumbling to its feet is a strange sensation indeed. 

Built in the 1960's during post-war rapid growth, Taberner House was used by Croydon Council as an office block. It accomodated 1,800 staff, which have now moved to the newly built Bernard Whetherill house directly next to it, pictured above. 

 

“Taberner House has been a part of the Croydon panorama since the 60s and many people are nostalgic about it.  It has always been an important site for the borough so it is fitting that the redevelopment will provide hundreds of much needed new homes and jobs and act as a catalyst for regeneration in our town centre.”

A remnant of the past in the future: The Nestle building is seen reflected in the glass panels of the new Bernard Whetherill House

In the 2012, Nestle announced that it will be relocating its headquarters away from Croydon. Taken from an published on insidecroydon.com, it directed us to the reasons for Nestle relocating.

 

"...and in what can only be seen as a ringing condemnation of Croydon and the local council’s failure to deliver Nestle with adequate new offices, Grimwood [company chairman and CEO] said: “Our new head office will provide a modern, efficient and attractive workplace for our people, in an ideal location.”"

 

Tackling this major threat to Croydon's development, strategies are in place to create a environment attractive to companies wanting to locate in Croydon. Ruskin Square, the developments on Cherry Orchard Road, improvements to public transport and perception of the area and creation of public spaces create the pleasant, practical and reliable location that businesses need and desire. 

7.wellesley road

Wellesley Road (seen above in dotted green), cutting through the heart of Croydon, is a dual carriageway, with buses, trams and cars all sharing the same space.

A number of problems have been identified, with the functionality of the road. This busy road abandons the needs and safety of pedestrians, who are ostracised from using this space. The road is creating a divide between West and East Croydon, and more needs to be done to improve the situation. One important aspect of the redevelopment of this road is to create a safe environment for shoppers. The current method of crossing this road is through outdated and inconvenient subways; the use of these subways is severely low and people risk their lives by running across the busy road when they feel like it. It seems laziness takes over and common sense is drowned. The redevelopment of the road include plans to create street level crossings and to reduce car dominance of the space, all of which will enhance East-West Croydon connections and create a more inviting, pedestrian and cycle friendly environment - the opposite of what it is now. The junction near Poplar Walk remains a serious threat to lives, which doesn't have an official street level pedestrain crossing across the dual carriageway. Within a few minutes of standing at the junction, I spotted various hazards.

 

Hazards:

  • Close encounters with pedestrians and cars

  • Pedestrians walking along a tram lines

  • Pedestrians running across the busy dual carriageway

Wellesley Road could be looking like this after the improvements have finished. 

The various commerical and retail uses alongside the road are expected to thrive after the improvements. 

 

London's Third City?

Development in Croydon has had its threats, just as any project would. Westfield, which has been on the cards for 15 years according to some sources, does have some questions attached to its success. What will our shopping habits and behaviour be in the future, in a world which is becoming more technological? With internet shopping increasing in prevalence, would a successful shopping centre at the heart of Croydon be guaranteed? Can it follow the same successful footsteps as the Westfield shopping centres in White City and Stratford? Traffic is another prevalent threat to the success of Croydon’s development. A four lane dual carriageway services the shopping centres at White City and Stratford however only a two lane Wellesley Road will serve the shopping centre in Croydon. Furthermore, Purely Way and the Fiveways junction are both running at high capacity. As an after thought, Croydon currently has half the number of parking spaces than the two rival shopping centres.

 

Ruskin Square has also been critiqued by some, stating that those buying flats at the site will seek a “quick exit” to London, with trains from East Croydon station, which is adjacent to site, to London Bridge in 13 minutes. Such a short journey away from London may cause economic harm to the shopping district of Croydon and social harm, destroying a community feel if residential areas are left vacant most hours of the day.  On the other hand, in the near future, Croydon will have a presence of its own to attract Londoners on this short journey to explore the wonders that Croydon has to offer: The construction of a new shopping centre, improved public transport, improved public realm and a perception that Croydon has strengths in its rights, will help accomplish this.

 

Growing up in a city that is growing around you is a remarkable feeling. 

Anparasan

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