20 March – Crucial Day for Private Tenants re-Fitness for Human Habitation

20 March is an important day for private tenants living in sub-standard housing who signed their tenancy agreements before 20 March 2020. They will now be able to take legal action against their landlords for breaching the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.

This Act passed by Parliament in December 2018 on the initiative of Labour MP Karen Buck. It came into force on 20 March last year to make sure that rented houses and flats are ‘fit for human habitation’, which means that they are safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm. The Government guide states that it will  ‘make sure irresponsible landlords improve their properties or leave the business’.

If rented houses and flats are not ‘fit for human habitation’, tenants can take their landlords to court. The court can make the landlord carry out repairs or put right health and safety problems. The court can also make the landlord pay compensation to the tenant.

www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018/guide-for-tenants-homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018

Good riddance to those that do.

What does this mean for Croydon?

With the rapid growth in private renting in the Borough, which required the Council to bring in its licencing scheme, the opportunity is now provided for:

(1)    The Council to notify all tenants living in licenced properties of their rights.

(2)    All workers giving advice to private tenants (e.g. re- Universal, Credit, housing benefit, social work, etc to ensure they try to ascertain the standard of accommodation and whether it breaches the Act and to provide advice about whether the tenants can get extra more specialist advice.

(3)    A campaign by Citizens Advice and the Croydon South London Law Centre to publicise the new rights.

(4)    A campaign by the Croydon Labour Parties and the two MPs to publicise the new rights.

With continuing austerity  is it time for the advice service organisations in the Borough to set up a Welfare Rights Action Group or Croydon Advice Services Alliance?

I am delighted to see that the national Advice Services Alliance is still active, after 40 years.

https://asauk.org.uk/about

I was Acting Secretary in 1991 at a time of large scale cuts in funding to advice services across the country. Ten years later I was involved in writing a report on the economic case for advice services,

The South London Law Centres recently celebrated their 25th Anniversary.

The history goes back to the early 1970s when some of us living in Wandsworth and involved with the Wandsworth Housing Rights Centre, Wandsworth (Child) Poverty Action Group  and the North Kensington Law Centre developed the idea for a Centre. This was set up in Balham. With the election of the Conservative to control of Wandsworth Council in 1978 the funding to the three Law Centres was ended. The Wandsworth Legal Resource Project was established to take over their role. It operated at offices on Lavender Hill, initially established by the staff of the old Law Centres some of whom donated their whole redundancy pay An offer of  funding came from the City Parochial Foundation but before it was taken up, the Greater London Council came to the rescue and funded the staff in Lavender Hill.

Then the GLC provided the funds in 1983 for Law Centres in Putney and Tooting. The Project remained in existence as a charity because some funders only supported  registered charities. In 1990 Wandsworth Council, to which funding responsibilities had been transferred after Thatcher shut down the GLC, cut all the funding again. The anti-cuts campaign group Wandsworth Fightback, supported by Battersea & Wandsworth Trades Union Council, paid me to help. We organised a 3,000 strong demonstration against the these and other cuts to the community and voluntary sector outside the Town Hall. The three feeder marches picked people up from various community venues and estates en route from Battersea, Putney and Tooting. It was lead story on BBC TV’s 10 o’clock news. While the campaign was not successful, it was a major contributor to the Conservatives significantly reducing their planned school closures and mergers later in the year.

The Project continued to raise funds from City Parochial Foundation, Baring Trust and an anonymous donor to re-establish the service.  In 1996 London Borough Grants and Merton funded the Wandsworth & Merton Law Centre based in Tooting. . The Project saw the gap in services in Battersea and raised funds to establish a joint Law Centre and CAB service for Battersea. I joined the Wandsworth and Merton and Project Committees after I moved to Me joined the Committees after I moved to Merton in 1995.

As the need for legal  advice developed in other South London Boroughs, the idea of the South London Law Centres (SLLC) project was born. The work of the Project as a fundraising arm there was seen to be becoming redundant. As chair of the Project Committee it was part of my role to see it wound up. In February 2004 I completed a report for the emerging SLLC Deprivation in the 6 Boroughs to be served by, and potential location of offices for the South London Law Centre.

One of the key workers across the years in keeping the Law Centres alive in Wandsworth was Bob Nightingale. He has been running the London Legal Support Trust for several years which raises large sums of money for Law Centres and other advice services in London and the South East. It has teams from City legal firms running in marathons as well as its own sponsored runs, the next main on being on 8 June.

www.londonlegalsupporttrust.org.uk

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Croydon Growth Plan specialist issues

The Growth Plan paper for tonight’s budget setting Cabinet meeting includes discussion of a number of specific projects, including the Clocktower, Town Hall Museum of Croydon, a range of public services, jobs and digital connectivity, setting out what has been happening over the last year and the plans for the next year.

The Clocktower,  Town Hall and Museum of Croydon

‘4.3.1 The Clocktower refurbishment project (incorporating elements of the Town Hall) is at initial feasibility stage. The council will be reviewing a number of options for the improvement and revitalisation of this valued public asset, improving the facilities, public offer and access to Croydon’s central library, the Museum of Croydon, CALAT and other key services, creating a central community hub to mirror the cultural offer now in place across the road at Fairfield Halls. We will be seeking to secure further external capital funding to take this project forward, principally via Heritage Lottery Funding.’

‘4.4.2 The council will confirm the vision, objectives and programme for Clocktower and Town Hall refurbishment project, including the associated timeline for external fundraising (including targeting Heritage Lottery funding). We will undertake short term improvements to the building, including to signage and wayfinding, upgrading public toilets, and improving access control arrangements. The Council will develop and implement a new archiving policy for the museum and library services, and progress with seeking reaccreditation for the Croydon Museum, including planning for associated works to the building where appropriate. We will procure a multi-disciplinary project management, design and consultancy team to take the project forward and ensure robust and sustainable business planning including all the services operating from the building.’

This year sees ‘experimental programming led by local artists, community groups and voluntary organisations to deliver 9 temporary exhibitions along with a programme of activities and a trial of Museum Lates. ‘The programme will allow us to understand current and future audiences and how the Clocktower functions as an arts and community-led venue. The programme will be evaluated to review and inform the future evolution of the museum service, and planning for future exhibitions, engagement, programming and outreach, particularly to encourage a more diverse  and representative audience. (Para 4.6.8)

I recently sent members of the Scrutiny & Overview Committee some questions about the development of the Museum, following concerns of the Croydon Local Studies Forum. The Cabinet member indicated he regarded the Forum as important. It is therefore to be hoped that its request for a meeting will be responded to soon.

Croydon Creative Campus

London South Bank University has agreed to develop a campus in Croydon. Report states:

‘4.3.7 The Council are now developing the feasibility stage scope and spatial brief for an expanded higher education offer in the town centre, following the announcement of a partnership with London South Bank University.’

‘4.4.5 We anticipate a phased development of a new university offer in the town centre, and over the next year will be working with London South Bank University and other potential academic partners to define the programme, funding and investment requirements for the new Creative Campus.’

Where the Campus is going to be located is uncertain. Students are enrolling for next September with no premises yet identified. I have previously suggested that any re-modelling of the Westfield Centre redevelopment could incorporate the Campus.

Music and Festivals

The Council regards last summer’s culture programme on the High Street and Croydon Pride and Mela and the CroCro Land and The Ends festivals, a great success, and such programming will continue. The report states:

‘In 2018 the Council started to develop the Borough as a ‘Music City’ where music-making and production is at the heart of the local culture and economy.’ (4.6.2)

It is  starting ‘to create a Music Strategy that sets out the creation of an inward investment programme, developing creating a new music industry network and development of a clear budget and action plan. So far 4 Croydon Music City support grants have been provided to key events in the town centre, including ‘Croydon Rocks’ festival at Fairfield Halls.’

The resignation of the lead officer at Fairfield Halls because of low attendances so far raises serious questions as to the realisability of the Council’s music ambitions. Given the high levels of low income in the Borough the case for a discount leisure ticket needs to be seriously considered. I have submitted to the Council information on the lessons to be learnt from such initiatives in the 1990s.

Creative Enterprise Zone

Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ) status was awarded in December 2018. The report states that a £500,000 grant ‘is supporting the growth of Creative Industries in the borough through provision of space (such as Nexus and ASC Art House), skills and support (such as the paid creative internships programme and 40% workspace discount scheme for under 25’s), policy and developing creative community networks.’ (Para 4.6.5)

‘Subsequently, the borough will benefit from training and development for new creative entrepreneurs and businesses, bringing the total investment to over £1m. The core aim of CEZ is to retain and attract new creative businesses to the area by offering permanent affordable workspace, business and skills support and pro-culture policies like targeted business rate relief.’ (‘4.6.6)

Children’s Play Provision

For those of us who do not believe that tower block living is suitable for children it is welcome that the need for extra play provision is recognised. The report states:

‘4.3.2 New and expanded play provision for children and young people is required across the town centre area, to ensure children and young people both living in and visiting the town centre have sufficient and varied places to play. New outdoor play spaces and equipment will be provided as part of the planned improvements to open spaces at the Minster and at Queen’s Gardens, and informal play provision will form part of the new high quality Fair Field public realm.’

Park Hill Park

‘4.3.3 Building on the masterplan developed in 2017 for Park Hill, …. we are planning phased improvements to this site, principally focusing on creating spaces for young people and children’s play alongside other changes to the park landscape and infrastructure…. Interim improvements to the public toilets in the park will be completed in the coming months. We have undertaken a condition survey for the park’s Victorian water tower and a radar survey of the underground reservoir.’

‘4.3.4 From early 2020, there will be an 8 month programme of pop up play events and engagement activities, working with young people to test out ideas and design proposals for the new play spaces in the park. The Council’s Placemaking team are developing a brief for new entrance gateways at the two main entry points into the park, alongside local wayfinding improvements.’

‘4.4.3 An implementation, fundraising and phasing plan for Park Hill will be confirmed in 2020. We anticipate completing first phase works (entrance improvements and wayfinding) by 2021, with later phases of works to the park running from 2021-2023. Other children’s play provision across the town centre (including in Minster Green and Queen’s Gardens) should complete over the next 2 years.’

I am sure that these developments will be welcome to the Park Hill Friends and that there will be more constructive discussion by the Council with them.

Primary and Community Health Care

Work is underway ‘to clarify the requirements for new primary and community health space in the town centre, and associated capital funding.’ (Para 4.3.5) ‘We will assist in clarifying the proposals for and part-funding of a new health centre as part of Brick x Brick’s Fairfield Homes development, alongside a number of extension and refurbishment projects to existing health centres and GP surgeries in the town centre area, in order to meet projected demand.’ (Para 4.4.4)

Community Facilities

With the growth in population in the Town Centre as a result of all the tower blocks that have been approved and continue to be submitted for approval, there is going to be a need for improved community facilities.

The report states ‘There is to be engagement  with ‘local voluntary and community sector stakeholders’ and ‘an analysis of community space in central Croydon, to map and understand the existing availability of community space for use and hire, including assets owned or managed by the council, alongside an assessment of the pipeline of new community facilities being delivered as part of new development within the Town Centre….’ (Para. 4.3.8)

‘4.4.6 Working with We Made That and collaborating with the council’s community and voluntary sector partners we will develop a community space strategy and Growth Zone funding proposals for the town centre…’

The cultural activists have previously argued that what is needed is a range of community venues of different sizes.

Lighting (Croydon Lit)

‘The Council has commissioned a lighting strategy for Croydon incorporating a series of large and small scale lighting installations and pieces across the borough. … The first phase of Croydon Lit is the lighting projections for the building façade and surrounding pavements developed as part of the Fairfield interim public realm works. (Para 4.6.7)

Job Training and Apprenticeships

The need for jobs training was a key recommendation in 2014 by Croydon TUC. The Council’s record seems impressive.

‘To date, the Croydon Works service has supported over 1,500 Croydon residents into jobs, training or work experience, and made positive links with over 500 employers. This …. included the first Croydon Works Women in Construction training programme, with 8 women completing work placements, and 2 already finding work. The next cohort of the ‘She Constructs’ programme launched this month. Croydon Works has been expanding its outreach and partnership approach across the borough, targeting residents who are long-term unemployed, or young people not in education, employment or training, in particular through the positive partnerships developed with the job centre plus network locally.’ (Para 4.9.1)

‘The Croydon Apprenticeship Academy … (will) deliver quality information and guidance to residents seeking to become apprentices and businesses looking to recruit.’ (Para 4.9.2)

‘In March 2019,  ‘the Council launched the 100in100 campaign which sought to deliver 100 apprenticeship opportunities for local residents with employers across the borough in the 100 working days between 5th August and 20th December 2019.’ So far ‘122 new apprenticeship opportunities and more than 40 upskilling apprenticeships (existing staff retraining through apprenticeship standards)’  have been established. (Para. 4.9.3)

New Employers

4.9.5 ‘In the last year, several new organisations have located their headquarters or regional centres in Croydon town centre, ranging from HM Revenue and Customs becoming the first anchor tenant at Ruskin Square with 184,000 square feet of new office space, to Green Network Energy, with their head office based on Dingwall Road.’

While the increase in job opportunities are welcome it does not mean that many of them will become available to existing Croydon residents. There is likely to be a long period of commuting until employees coming into the Town Centre decide to come and live in the Borough. In order to ensure that any new jobs created or job vacancies are available to existing local residents to apply for, there will be a need for a partnership with employers to develop training for residents who are interested, especially in relation to entering the Civil Service.

Digital connectivity

‘Exploratory work has been undertaken in relation to improving digital connectivity in the Growth Zone and pan-Croydon, leveraging both public and private investment. The Council engaged with fibreoptic providers to explore a variety of schemes to deliver full fibre to residents and businesses. This included:

  • Progressing the development of a proposal to DCMS Local Full Fibre Networks challenge fund, in partnership with Coast to Capital LEP and its members as well as discussing partnership opportunities with Network Rail.
  • Early dialogue with providers on the deployment of full fibre network to premises for social housing estates across the borough, with affordable entry-level prices and digital inclusion activities.
  • Regular conversations with providers to push for more and faster upgrade of their network, in particular fibre to the premises for businesses in the Town Centre, district centres and growth corridors.’ (4.24.1)

Such developments are particularly welcome, since I have been making submissions for some time on the digital divide. However, there are still concerns about how those who are not yet internet connected or uneasy using digital technology are to be offered training. There is also the serious problem of the costs of equipment, service packages, and broadband connection costs for those on low incomes.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

‘As part of Croydon’s approach to becoming a smart city it aims to become a recognised IoT testbed to develop innovative solutions for a wide range of purposes. The Council established a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) for IoT development. The network is free to use for experimentation and prototyping of IoT solutions. Croydon Council, in partnership with Digital Catapult, ran an IoT innovation challenge measuring the impact of construction sites on air pollution to help collect relevant data and address this challenge in such a way to minimise and mitigate the negative impact.’ (4.24.2)

Hopefully there will be many ideas that residents have which could be developed such as  wider air pollution monitoring across the Borough; speed monitoring in 20 mile per hour zones; energy efficiency ratings of buildings; air pollution monitoring from the Beddington Lane incinerator; and identification of underground streams.

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Croydon Council’s Creative Growth Plan Faces Serious Challenges

Across the board there has been an impressive range of creative and lateral thinking in the development of the Council’s Growth Plan local economic strategy, as set out in the report to the Cabinet meeting on 24 February as part of setting the Budget for 2020/21 .

The report sets out a lot of detailed information on what has happening over the last year and how things are being developed especially in relation to culture, especially in the Town Centre. Unfortunately| is in embedded in a pack of  which is too large to link to from this blog site. You can access it at

https://democracy.croydon.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=183&MId=1880

Although there will always be legitimate debate about the relationship between to-down/bottom-up, engagement and partnership as programmes develop, the report has much in it that activists particularly in the cultural field will welcome.

The Context

Since 2012, Croydon has seen an 8% growth in population; 11% increase in under-16s; 20% increase in over-65s; BAME residents now over half of Croydon’s population. The population will ’continue to grow at an even more-accelerated rate over the next 20 years as we build the much-needed homes to meet housing demand.’  (Para. 3.3.2) This means that a large percentage of the population will not be economically active, and will need education, cultural, play and health services. This poses serious funding challenges.

The Economic Realities

Tonight’s report was written before the announcement of the mothballing of the Westfield/Whitgift shopping centre redevelopment, which could undermine the whole Town Centre strategy.

The report to the Cabinet in November last year painted some of worrying economic realities.

(1)    There is a dearth of major employers with over 250 workers. While the number of businesses in Croydon rose 33% from 2013-18 to 14,675, 93% are classified as micro-businesses, and 99.7% as small and medium-sized enterprises SMEs.’

(2)    The main employment sectors are retail, business & administration and health & social care, of which retail, hospitality and health & social care that pay low wages.

(3)    There is a ‘disparity between the earnings of residents living in Croydon and working outside of the Borough, and the pay rate of jobs in the Borough. Those working outside of the borough are likely to earn more than residents living and working in the borough.’

(4)    ‘The unemployment rate in Croydon is the third highest in London at 7.2% (Annual Population Survey). Many of those who are workless have multiple and complex barriers to work and have significant challenges to accessing and sustaining work.’

(5)    There is a high level of in-work families in poverty.

(6)    25% of those in work are being paid below the Living Wage.

(7)    16,600 families were in work and claiming tax credits.

(8)    ‘Borough-wide data masks the extreme differences between various parts of the borough and sometimes between neighbouring wards.’

(9)    ‘The impact of Brexit is yet to be fully felt on the economy in Croydon. It is likely to have disproportionate impact on sectors where EU nationals fill high volume vacancies including construction, retail and hospitality and health & social care.’

Is the updated growth strategy approved by the Cabinet in November capable of meeting these challenges, especially now that the Westfield shopping development has been mothballed?

Key Challenges

There is so much going on in the Town Centre that it is probably now urgent for the Opportunity Area Framework which includes the Town Centre and the various smaller district plans with in are up-dated. There is a strong case for doing this as part of the current Local Plan Review.

Other new key challenges relate to funding, especially whether there will be further cuts in Government grants to local authorities, the effect of any migration back to Europe as the implications of BREXIT take effect, and the knock-on effects of deteriorating world economic and environmental developments.

Specialist Issues

Of particular interest in the report to the Cabinet tonight are sections discussing Climate Change, the future of Croydon Clocktower, Town Hall and Museum of Croydon, Children’s Play Provision, Primary and Community Health Care, Croydon Creative Campus, Community Facilities, Social Impact Baseline and Monitoring, Music and Festivals, Creative Enterprise Zone,  Lighting (Croydon Lit), Job Training and Apprenticeships. New Employers, Digital connectivity and The Internet of Things (IoT).

These are discussed in the next posting.

Climate Change

The climate change emergency is now embedded into the strategy.

‘3.2.2 Plans for growth and regeneration will incorporate improvements that can have the most impact on reducing or mitigating future climate change. In particular this includes a focus on investment in more sustainable transport, improving sustainable energy supplies and networks and achieving high environmental standards in new construction and refurbishment projects.’

Hopefully, the Council initiated Citizens Assembly on Climate Change will assist in creative ideas for strengthening what the Council can do in the future.

Social Impact Baseline and Monitoring

Work is underway ‘to develop a framework to gauge and monitor the social impact of the town centre regeneration programme.’ (Para 4.3.9)

‘4.4.1 Across a number of project themes, collaborating with other Growth Zone workstreams, we will develop and deliver innovative and appropriate meanwhile activity in the town centre, testing ideas and building evidence towards social infrastructure objectives, particularly in relation to the engagement and outreach required to develop the Clocktower and Town Hall refurbishment project, and for testing proposals for new community spaces and children’s play provision.’

‘4.4.7 We will complete and publish the baseline report and accompanying monitoring framework for the town centre regeneration social impact measurement/analysis in 2020, including future proposals for regular reassessment.’

The 2021 Census will provide important evidence as to the nature of the growing population and its diversity which will be able to underpin development of social infrastructure from about 2013.

What kind of economy do we need in Croydon?

Back in 2014 I published three articles in Croydon Citizen What kind of economy do we need in Croydon?

(1)    More attention is needed to see how the three sectors of the economy interrelate and a strategy developed that recognises that not only does each have a role to play by themselves and with others in their sector,  but also through their inter-relationships. After all the public and voluntary sector organisations employing staff and running buildings purchase a lot of goods and services from the private sector.

 (2)    The need for a resilient, diverse economy, which

the Centre for Local Economic Strategies suggested consisted of the following components: a thriving community and voluntary sector’, strong civic engagement, a strong public sector, a diverse finance sector, high levels of diversity in the economy, effective public services, closer integration of land use planning with economic development, and strong provision for young people.

(3)    The potentiality of the Co-operative Council model, involving a leadership and enabling role rather than a command and control one, especially given the ever decreasing revenue funding it will have available.

(4)    The freeing of Council assets through asset transfer to the social economy.

(5)    The establishment of a Croydon Bank.

In June 2014 I organised a public meeting to discuss the Whitgift re-development. The handout quoted: 

The ‘whole process of urban redevelopment is regressively redistributive and it is contributing, possibly on a very significant scale, to wealth inequality.’ (Peter Ambrose and Bob Colenutt. The Property Machine. Penguin Special. 1975. p. 142)

Although that quotation was 25 years ago it still resonates today.

Reliance on property development still seems to be the Council’s preferred main economic driver, including the new registered planning application for the 49 story tower on College Green.

The context in which the economic strategy is have to be implemented has changed dramatically since November, with the final decision to leave the European Union and the priority that needs to be given to the climate change crisis.

Croydon TUC and the Growth Plan 2014

 The Growth Plan was adopted soon after the Labour administration was elected to control the Council in May 2014. 2014 I chaired the Working Party of Croydon Trades Union Council (CTUC)  which produced its report What Kind of Economy  do we need in Croydon? Croydon Council’s Growth Plan and District Centre Investment;  Growth For All. A Commentary with Recommendations.

https://seancreighton1947.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/what-kind-of-economy-do-we-need-in-croydon

The Working Party was concerned that while the Vision in the Plan is admirable, a set of contradictions was likely to prevent it being achieved. It is particularly concerned that forces outside the Council’s control such as private developers rental and sale prices, the increasing role of private landlords, the continuing effect of the austerity measures, will simply increase the inequalities and largely benefit newcomers to Croydon rather than existing residents who have a wide variety of needs which are not being met.

Issues that are still relevant are its recommendations on:

(1)    greening the economy;

(2)    the establishment of a University Centre for Croydon Affairs to provide independent robust research evidence to underpin future policy and strategy development.

(3)    in-depth analysis of social disadvantage and the barriers to overcoming it.

The Council never engaged seriously with it CTUC, although as the years have gone by several elements of its recommendations resonate within the up-dated Growth Plan.

The officer who is now the Chief Executive did meet members of the Working Party in April 2015 after being challenged to do so at the Whitgift CPO Inquiry.  In a follow-up email CTUC suggested:

‘The main challenge is how to reduce inequalities without driving those experiencing them out of the Borough.’

Despite what you said about the improvement of District Centres being a political priority we are unconvinced that the Council is able to do enough to bring real quality of life changes to  existing residents, other than the possibility of improved high street environments, particularly given the restrictions on key planning issues, such as the range of retail offer in high streets.  In particular we are concerned that the growing articulation of concerns about the decline of many neighbourhoods are based on issues which cannot  be addressed by money such as noise, insecurity and congestion which we tried to capture in Box A of the commentary on the Growth Plan.

Particularly in respect of District Centres and smaller neighbourhoods we consider that a priority should be to strengthen the alliance between the Council and local residents through using some of the mechanisms in the Localism Bill, such a neighbourhood forum (or District Committees as we called them in the commentary). A start could be made in Thornton Heath following the recent successful meeting there on the initial ideas for spending on the High St.

We remain unsure that there is full understanding of the loss of jobs in the past few years, current  and potential jobs (by sector) is properly understood, and unconvinced that enough is being done to protect employment sites from residential redevelopment.’

‘Our overriding impression from the meeting is that the thrust of Council policy and action is overwhelmingly pro-developer with no guarantee their schemes will substantially help current Croydonians. We are concerned that if employers transfer their office bases into the Town Centre this will simply increase the number of commuters, unless there is an agreement of offering vacancies to local people. We fear that many jobs will be in low wage sectors. While there will be an unknown number of construction jobs created in addition to the Whitgift scheme (if the CPO is approved), and while training is being set up, the problem is going to be how to persuade Croydonians to take advantage of that training or those formerly in construction to return. It is difficult to conceive of enough locals being recruited and trained, therefore requiring  building workers from elsewhere to commute in.’

These concerns still seem relevant nearly five years later. Even though the Council has moved down the devolution road, it is not yet working effectively as demonstrated by the Norbury Regeneration Steering Group, which I am a member of.

 

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Where next for Westfield?

October 2019. This was the opening date for the new Westfield shopping centre date that John Burton of Westfield told the Inspector at the Whitgift Centre Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) Inquiry (Para 7.1. Summary of Proof of Evidence. 8 January 2015)

A personal resume and interpretation.

The Redevelopment Crisis

The major  crisis looming over Croydon Town Centre with the announcement in its annual report by the owner of Westfield that the shopping centre redevelopment has been pulled from its active development pipeline reported in the previous posting on this blog can also be seen as an new opportunity to address many of the unsatisfactory aspects of the outline planning application approved in November 2017. Some of these aspects included warning about the long term changes in consumer behaviour and a need for a more imaginative leisure mix.

The options for the future include:

(1)      Mothballing the site as was done with the St George’s Place development from 2008- 2019.

(2)      Selling the site to another developer.

(3)      Selling the site in lots to different developers

(4)      Switching from redevelopment to refurbishment (e.g. long a long-time scale like Southside in Wandsworth)

(5)      Selling back to the previous freehold owners their parts of the site which were subject to the approved Compulsory Purchase Order.

I have  reviewed the background based on my involvement in the work of the Croydon TUC working party on the Council’s Growth Plan in 2014, giving evidence at the Whitgift Centre CPO and the Croydon Local Plan Public Inquiries, opposing the revised application in 2017, and in discussing developments in blog postings. The background is discussed here:

Whitgift Westfield Planning Background

Challenges of a new application

Any new planning application that may be considered will need to be accompanied by new special studies, especially in view of the Council’s commitment to a carbon free Croydon and in the light of any policy recommendations adopted by the Council’s Citizen’s Assembly on climate change. There will also need to be an assessment of the following concerns raised previously at the time the revised planning application was being considered in 2017:

  • the impacts of any changes in massing on heritage assets e.g. the Almshouses and St. Michaels and All Angels Church, and in relation to the Central Croydon Conservation Area.
  • the creation of a high quality public realm on Wellesley Road.
  • the creation of a vibrant urban block lined with active frontages incorporating residential at upper floor.
  • significant tree planting and small green spaces to soften the building environment and help combat air pollution.

The Inadequate Design Of The Revised Scheme 

As the Planners commented in 2017: ‘the design approach requires further work to demonstrate’ ‘an appropriately balanced and informed relationship between the retail and residential aspirations of the proposal and the wider aims and aspirations for the Opportunity Area and Croydon as a Metropolitan Centre.’

When the Planning Committee considered the revised plans in November 2017 I urged the members to support a much more imaginative approach which could include:

(1)      spreading the new homes across the top of the centre in accordance with the historic “Living Over the Shop” element of  the Town Centre’s streets, and produce a lower roof height enabling the proposed towers to be dispensed with.

(2)      creating an extensive public green space on the roof, identified as a top priority by members of the public in the Nudge Factory survey, and which could be looked after by community gardeners.

(3)      providing a major public performance, art and meeting place and fountain.

(4)      providing a major leisure facility such as a swimming pool and dance studio, as suggested to Westfield in 2012, and which would attract more people  instead of a cinema which will compete with the existing Vue.

(5)      returning the former Allders building into a premier department store.

(6)      reducing conflict between pedestrians and car park traffic on Wellesley Rd, by reconfiguring the car parks and increasing drop-off (and pick up space for cars, taxis and self-driving vehicles) along Wellesley Rd.

(7)      contributing to employing local people and paying them  the London Living Wage.

Some of these issues may still be relevant in the discussion on a revised application and in assessing the merits and negative aspects of that application. They are discussed in detail here:

Whitgift Westfield Issues to be considered

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Westfield freeze will dominate this coming week

Overview. A major crisis looms over Croydon Town Centre with the announcement in its annual report by the owner of Westfield that the shopping centre redevelopment has been pulled from its active development pipeline.  The announcement came after the detailed report was prepared for  the Cabinet meeting tomorrow night on the budget implications of the Council’s Growth Plan particularly as it affects the Town Centre. It will no doubt put a dampner on the Culture Network meeting on Tuesday and particularly create despondency at the annual economy conference on Thursday. The obsession with cramming more skyscrapers into the Town Centre continues with the Planning Committee considering the 49 story block for a site by Croydon College. Thursday also sees the close of the public consultation on Fair Green.

Owners Freeze Westfield Shopping Scheme

The French owners of Westfield have stated in their Annual Report  that the Whitgift shopping centre requires ‘major redefinition’, and is ‘postponed significantly due to market or administrative circumstances, or did not meet the group’s return requirements’.

www.mylondon.news/news/south-london-news/croydon-westfield-shops-deals-sales-17763434

www.drapersonline.com/news/croydons-westfield-development-put-on-hold-again/7039522.article

The Council’s Labour Leader Tony Newman said on 18 February that in the next couple of weeks the Council has a meeting at City Hall with the Deputy Mayor of London for regeneration and representatives from Westfield.

www.mylondon.news/news/south-london-news/croydon-council-leader-tony-newman-17772520

October 2019  was the opening date for the new Westfield shopping centre date that John Burton of Westfield told the Inspector at the Whitgift Centre Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) Inquiry (Para 7.1. Summary of Proof of Evidence. 8 January 2015)

I am finalising an analysis of the background to the scheme and some of the issues to be considered in the next stage. Given the ‘blind faith’ that the Council leadership put in the scheme going ahead the question arises as to whether key individuals should resign. The Conservatives will have no right to attack the administration. It was there former MP Gavin Barwell who encouraged Hammerson and Westfield to partner up in the over ambitious scheme. It was the then Conservative administration  that pushed through the outline planning permission a few weeks before the start of the 2014 local election campaign rather than allowing more time and a detailed application to be prepared. Readers should note that I have opposed the scheme, giving evidence to that effect at the CPO Inquiry needed to enlarge the freehold ownership of the area into the hands of the Whitgift Foundation so it could grant a 999 year lease to the Croydon Partnership. I urged the Inspector to reject the CPO, including on the grounds there was no Plan B. Since then I have made a number of constructive suggestions re-redesign.

Monday 24 February. 6.30pm. Council Cabinet

The Growth Plan local economy strategy forms part of the set of reports. I am finalising an analysis of it.

Tuesday 25 February. 6.30pm. Scrutiny & Oversight Committee

Question time with the Cabinet Member for Safer Croydon and Communities, Councillor Hamida Ali, and review of review of the Safer Croydon Partnership and the Violence Reduction Network.

Tuesday 25 February. 2-4pm. Croydon Culture Network

Fairfield Halls

www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/croydon-culture-network-feb-2020-tickets-93504425253

Thursday 27 February. 8am-.11.45am. Croydon’s Annual Economic Summit

www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/croydon-open-for-business-croydon-economic-summit-2020-tickets-94609835565

Thursday 27 February. 5.30pm. Planning Sub-committee

Thursday 27 February. 6.30pm. Planning Committee

The main item is the redevelopment of land adjacent to Croydon College on  College Road to provide a part 49 storey and part 34 storey building with basements, comprising 817 co-living units (Use Class Sui Generis) within Tower A and 120 residential units (Use Class C3) within Tower B, a cafe (Use Class A3), community use (Use Class D1), associated communal facilities for co-living residents, amenity spaces, cycle parking, disabled parking spaces, refuse and cycle storage and associated landscaping and public realm works. Download papers here:

https://democracy.croydon.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=136&MeetingId=427

Thursday 27 February. Closing date public consultation Fairfield Green

Elaine Denise Garrod writes on Croydon Friends of the Earth Facebook:

‘If you haven’t already been, you might like to go to Fairfield halls and consider the environmental implications of the proposals for the design of ‘College Green’, the open area between Fairfield Halls and Croydon College. You can see these proposals on display stands in the area at the top of the main stairs, at the front of the Halls. There are feedback forms available near the display which you can fill in anonymously, or you can download and print one from the link below. (Scroll down to the bottom of the web page under where it says Contacts).

The consultation ends around 27th February.

There’s quite a lot that’s good about the proposals in terms of activities and things to liven up the area but is it going to be ‘green’ enough? Have a look and see what you think.

The proposals do seem to include quite a few trees and a few lawns but it looks like there will be considerably more structures and paving which could be quite energy intensive to manufacture and contribute to the ‘Urban Heat Island’ effect. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_heat_island

Given the hot summers we’re experiencing these days, we need plenty of cooling grassy areas.

With regard to the proposed trees, you might like to consider whether they are technically and financially viable given that College Green is actually the roof of the underground car park and that large trees will need supporting columns and large, heavy, engineered soil pits which would be expensive to create and maintain.

The splash pool sounds great fun, and the proposed reed-bed filtration is a good eco-concept, but will the Council be able to afford to maintain it, given the amount of litter that’s already about in Croydon, and the likelihood of further park maintenance budget cuts?

You might have different views or concerns but, above all, it’s important to have your say – so don’t delay!’

www.croydon.gov.uk/planningandregeneration/regeneration/delivering-for-croydon/the-fair-field-public-space

Problems at Beddington Lane Incinerator

www.letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/cylinders-factor-in-beddington-breaches

 

 

 

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Hidden Histories Through Cultural Activities

More and more hidden histories are being dealt with through cultural activities.

Some aspects of this link are discussed in my discussion Croydon and All That Jazz at: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/feb/12/the-whip-review-rsc-political-drama-swan-theatre-stratford

http://historyandsocialaction.blogspot.com/2020/02/croydon-and-all-that-jazz.html

“Strike For Freedom: Frederick Douglass in Scotland”

This 15-minute film ‘chronicles new efforts to memorialize Frederick Douglass’s abolitionist work in Scotland. In the 19th-century, Edinburgh was a city of freedom for Black social justice campaigners born into slavery in the USA. Committed to ‘telling the story of the slave’ and the ‘strike for freedom’, Douglass and other Black abolitionists came to the city to collaborate, speak publicly, and to inspire thousands to join the anti-slavery campaign.’

The film is being shown in the USA on 19 February with a panel discussion on memory, history, the archive, and the enduring effects of slavery unwilling to die. Panel members include Dr. Celeste-Marie Bernier, Personal Chair in U.S. and Atlantic Studies and Professor of English Literature, The University of Edinburgh.

With her particular interest in Douglass Bernier is a reminder that a lot of aspects of Black History are studied by a broad range of academics not just historians.

www.ed.ac.uk/profile/celeste-marie-bernier

The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff

This play with music about a North East teenager fighting against fascism in Spain during the Civil War is currently being performed at the Northern Stage in Newcastle until 22 February. It then tours:

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh: Thursday 27 – Saturday 29 February
Hull Truck Theatre: Tuesday 21 – Friday 24 April
Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse: Thursday 14 – Saturday 16 May

www.northernstage.co.uk/event/the-ballad-of-johnny-longstaff#Tour

Monday 29 April.  5pm. Putting Africa First Exhibition

This historical and cultural event will launch the exhibition to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the African Remembrance Day Committee by Onyekachi, Chidi and Manassie Wambu and the 230th anniversary of the publication of The Interesting Narrative of The Life of Olaudah Equiano: or Gustavus Vassa, The African.

The African Remembrance Day Committee and the Equiano Society, in association with the British Library. Hosted by David Lammy, MP.

Upper Waiting Hall, House of Commons, to attend

Includes a reading from Equiano’s Epigrams: The Interesting Narrative in Poetry’ by author,  poet and writer John Agard, and selected excerpts from The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano: or Gustavus Vassa, The African read by the actor and director, Burt Caesar.

Tribute will also be paid to the late Bernie Grant MP, David Lammy’s predecessor as Member of Parliament for Tottenham, whose vital support of and encouragement to the African Remembrance Day Committee must always be acknowledged in the narrative of the annual August 1st assembly. There will also be a reception.

Play and Dance on Black History Themes

Today The Guardian G2 newspaper reviewed print edition two plays on Black History themes.

  • The Whip, about the passing of the Slavery Aboliton Act featuring politicians ad slaves.

It runs at Stratford until 21 March:

www.rsc.org.uk/the-whip

The review was put up last Wednesday at

www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/feb/12/the-whip-review-rsc-political-drama-swan-theatre-stratford

After Leeds it is touring, including London, but not Croydon.

www.phoenixdancetheatre.co.uk/whats_on/black-waters

We all need a history lesson on the empire

Yet another excellent piece by Afrua Hirsch in The Guardian print issue last Thursday.

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/12/british-empire-lisa-nandy-history

Thursday 27 February. 1.10pm. William Shield concert

Anne Marie Christensen and Amélie Addison, based on the latter’s research into the Tyneside-born composer William Shield’s early career as a musician in the North East during the 1760s and ‘70s, and includes some of his earliest compositions as well as works by visiting musicians who influenced and assisted him.

King’s Hall, Newcastle University

www.ncl.ac.uk/events/noticeboard/item/duecorde-northerninfluences27february2020.html

Amelie gave a fascinating talk about Shield at the International 18thC Studies Congress in Edinburgh last July.

History Today March 2020

This issue is has the following articles:

  • Liverpool’s Slave Trade Legacy

by Claire Shaw, a freelance writer and writer and author of Historic Walks in York.

  • Shampoo Empire

by Arunima Datta, Assistant Professor, Idaho University, about Sake Dean Mahomed

  • Big Spenders

by Roderick Floud, author of An Economic History of the English Garden, in which he argues that the re-landscaping of gardens attached to stately homes was a multi-billion pound big business in terms of today’s prices, financed in the case of Royal properties and by the Old Corruption due to the large salaries and money skimmed off by office holder, as well as the profits from land, slavery and the East India Compnay, and from inheritance. Using his calculation to concert money as at 1670s to today’s prices £20,000 is £43m.

  • Cato St Conspiracy

Letter by Marika Sherwood arguing the spy George Edwards planned the conspiracy not Arthur Thistlewood.

Socialist History Society newsletter

The latest Socialist History Society Newsletter contains articles on:

  • John Ruskin: for and against
  • Britain and the Creation of the State of Israel
  • Women in  war  and  peace:  Women  and  children  in  Ger­many 1914-­1924
  • Living the Revolution: urban  communes  and  soviet  socialism
  • Reviews of:
    • Resist: Stories of Uprising – Edited by Ra Page
    • El Norte, The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America by Carrie Gibson
    • Apartheid is Not a Game, Remembering the Stop The Seventy Tour campaign, by Geoff Brown and Christian Høgsbjerg
    • Reading Labour 100 by John Partington

www.socialisthistorysociety.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Newsletter-9-1.pdf

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The Occupation of the American Mind 28 February

Ruksin film 28 February

Ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territory, repeated attacks on blockaded Gaza, and the relentless expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, have all triggered a backlash against Israeli government policies by people around the world, but less so in America. This documentary feature, by the US Media Education Foundation, has been blanked by mainstream media and distributors. Narrated by Roger Waters, it shows how the Israeli and US governments, with the pro-Israeli lobby, shape news coverage and therefore American public opinion.

“A remarkable achievement. Anyone who wishes to understand the deeper reasons for America’s utter failure to bring peace to the region should begin by watching this powerful film.”
Avi Shlaim (Professor Emeritus, Oxford University)
USA | 2016 | 84 minutes

 FRIDAY 28th February at 7.30pm 

Ruskin House (Cedar Hall), 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD

Tickets from Ruskin House Bar (£5.00) or online (£5.80) at:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/91558214083

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