The Council has belatedly posted on its website the Councillor and Public Questions at the 26 January Council meeting, following my asking why they had not been put up as at 1 February. The initial response stated ‘The details are not placed onto the website until the agenda is in order for the next meeting and therefore, these will not be available until after 13 February (midnight).’ Copying in Chief Executive Nathan Elvery I replied ‘This makes no sense at all.’ Elvery commented back ‘‘Me neither, leave it with me.’ Today I received the following explanation from Julie Belvir, Monitoring Officer in Democratic & Legal Services: ‘I regret to advise that it appears that there were issues of leave and absence, through illness in the team, which combined meant that the questions and responses were not uploaded in a timely fashion. We will endeavour to ensure that this is not repeated going forwards.’
Fewer than usual most questions from the public were on Purley Pool. As usual the questions from Councillors vary from the attempts at political point scoring to ones in which there are full an important updates on progress on Council initiative such as water and fly-tipping, and on a range of health issues, important statistics on what happens to Right to Buy receipts, street by street progress with street lighting replacement in some wards, and anti-flooding action.
You can access the two sets ofPDF files containing the questions at
Below are a details of topics relating to Park Hill Park, Roehampton University, Purley Pool and Regeneration, artists studios, school playing fields, the Pump House, sale of freeholds, Upper Norwood Library and Fairfield Halls. (PQ = public question: MQ = Member question)
What is happening in Park Hill Park?
- Basketball Court (PQ)
Tim Godfrey explained ‘There are no current plans to improve the Park Hill Park Basketball Court, although my officers within the Place Department are always looking for opportunities to improve facilities and if any external development funding is made available they will explore improvements to the court.’
- Playground and Toilets (PQ)
As Councillor Godfrey had previously confirmed that 2015 budgets for redevelopment of both the playground & toilets at Park Hill Park are going ahead (promised spring 2015), he was asked to supply a timeline for each project including when consultations will be made with FOPHP, designs, start & finish dates.
‘We will be holding a Parks and Open Spaces meeting at the end of February or early March which will enable us to start the process of planning how we improve all of our parks and open spaces across the borough and how we support our friends groups. The Community Garden project is proceeding to the agreed timescale, the feasibility study into the refurbishment of the existing toilet block has unfortunately been delayed due to the project lead officer leaving Interserve unexpectedly on ill health grounds, but a revised timetable is being prepared and agreed with Interserve for delivery of this feasibility study.
In respect of the enhancements for the play facilities for toddlers, there is a draft project plan prepared and once agreed, will be shared with the Friends Group of Park Hill Park.’
Roehampton University (PQ from me)
Asked for the reasons why Roehampton University has pulled out of discussions to set up a campus in the Town Centre and what steps are being taken to identify another University or to develop the University courses role of Croydon College, Councillor Toni Letts replied:
‘The University of Roehampton is still keen to have a presence in Croydon, which it recognised as being a vital part of the future of the London economy and a place that deserves its own university.
Unfortunately the Conservative-led government has created such a high degree of uncertainty around future control of student numbers and tuition fee levels that Roehampton has had to pause while it awaits the outcome of the 2015 General Election. Given the high level of investment required, clarity over the new Government’s policy for higher education is essential to ensure a greater chance of success in the long run.
In addition to this, conversations continue to be held with a number of University partners to seek wider interest and investment on a regional, national and international level. This relates to not only educational space but also student accommodation.
Finally Sussex University through its relationship with Sussex Innovation Centre has recently taken approx. 15,000 sq ft of office space in order to pursue its links with Croydon. This will support its relationship with Croydon College and Higher Education.
Purley (PQs & MQs)
- The Future of Purley Pool
There were several questions about the proposed closure of Purley Pool addressed by Council Leader Tony Newman. He reiterated his promise at the 19 January Cabinet meeting that a report will go to the Cabinet on 16 February and that it would address the issues raised in questions.
‘No decision has been taken regarding the future of the pool. I took the proposal to a pre-budget meeting of the Scrutiny Committee in December and have since met with members of the local community. There has been a good discussion around the challenges we all face as a result of eight years of no investment in the pool by the previous Conservative administration.
I am pleased that our Labour administration is committed to govern for all of Croydon and we will work in partnership with the local community on a long term plan for leisure provision in Purley.
At the Cabinet meeting on 19 January 2015, I made a public commitment that a further report on the pool will be presented to the Cabinet meeting on 16th February 2015 and I will ensure that all the questions submitted for tonight’s meeting are addressed in that report.’
- Purley Regeneration (PQ)
Councillor Alison Butler was asked how the building of 200 more flats and the loss of 420 parking spaces will regenerate Purley. She replied:
‘The Council is committed to the regeneration of Purley Town Centre and believes that the comprehensive redevelopment of 50-52 High Street to provide a mixed-use scheme incorporating new homes and public facilities will revitalise Purley High Street.
The existing building blights the High Street with non-active frontages and a vacant foodstore. The principles for redevelopment will incorporate public realm improvements and introduce better pedestrian connectivity from the High Street to Whytecliffe Road South as well as a sustainable new community at the heart of Purley and the co-location of public services. We are also aware of the many concerns regarding the current parking facilities which are both unpleasant and underused.
Further discussions are underway regarding the nature of the leisure provision and car park provision. As part of the due diligence work being undertaken to refine development proposals for the site, the Council is exploring options to assess the quantum of public parking that might be provided in the redeveloped site in order that it, together with the other public car parks in Purley town centre, meet current and future demand.’
Arts and Culture
- Artists Studios (PQ)
Asked whether the Council is planning any new artist studios in Croydon and when the art and culture strategy will be available for the public, Councillor Timothy Godfrey replied:
‘….. The council undertook the initial consultation event on the development of the cultural strategy #ambitiousforculture in July 2014. The outcomes of this consultation were published in the autumn.
This was followed up with an online survey which finished at the end of December 2014. This is currently being analysed to ensure that we understand what the Croydon community want from culture and arts in the borough. We want to make sure that the community has a say in how we develop our ideas. We intend conducting further targeted consultations with the under 25s, the business and the artistic communities in the spring of this year.
Once we have completed the consultation and analysed all of this information it will be used to ensure that a cultural strategy delivers to the needs and aspirations of Croydon. We are currently working towards publication in the summer of 2015.
The council does not anticipate providing artists’ studios itself. However, as part of the town centre regeneration we will make sure the needs of local artists are heard and understood. We will certainly consider proposals which develop a range of facilities for artists as part of our plans to ensure Croydon is a place where culture thrives.
I am very pleased that we have support from across the Council departments to take and make every opportunity that shows itself to improve the cultural offer. I would very much like to see new artist spaces across Croydon, and will pursue any opportunities that arise.’
- Fairfield Halls (MQ) – Councillor Timothy Godfrey reply
‘Last September Cabinet agreed the new vision for the College Green area including the Fairfield Halls as a key part of the boroughs new “Cultural Quarter” and agreed to integrate the College Green and Fairfield Halls Modernisation projects to form one comprehensive approach to realise this vision for the area.
As part of this new approach we are working closely with the Fairfield Halls at how we deliver the project including a fund raising strategy and strategic partnerships to support the development and future operation.
We need to embrace links across Culture and across the Council to leverage the very best future for both our venues and our cultural programme from national and international partners. I understand that national and international collaborations are very much in favour by the Arts Council and other funders.’
- Fairfield Halls (MQ) – Councillor Timothy Godfrey reply
‘I agree that the 3 early win projects that were delivered last year have been a great success. The new cinema offer, the studio, a new entertainment space in what was the green room and improvements to the Arnhem Gallery will enable the Fairfield Halls to expand their offer and attract new audiences.
We are not resting on these achievements, however, and this is why we changed the approach of the Council to this project to ensure that the full refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls takes place in a timely fashion.
As part of the integrated College Green and Fairfield Halls project, a key part of the boroughs new “Cultural Quarter”, we are working closely with the Fairfield Halls to ensure the best way to deliver improvements to the building.
The overall approach to the delivery will be flexible and seek to enable the redevelopment of the different component parts of Fairfield Halls in a timely fashion with clear timelines for when different elements of the work will take place over the next three years. The Council is working closely with the Fairfield Halls to outline the works to be undertaken over the next 3 years to secure the best value for money.
The Chief Executive of the Fairfield sits on the project board and I expect him to ensure that all works that are carried out benefit the Fairfield directly.
I look forward to reporting how this spend is progressing at Future Council meetings and welcome the Oppositions support for getting on with the job.’
Building Housing on School Playing Fields (MQ)
Hopefully the following statement by Leader Tony Newman ends the problem of the Labour administration’s shooting itself in the foot by hinting that it would build homes on school paying fields. In response to Tory Leader Tim Pollard he said: ‘The overwhelming concern of the public is whether school playing fields are built on, as the previous Conservative administration planned to do on Highbury playing fields. You can be rest assured that this administration will not adopt such a practice.’
Pump House (MQ)
Clllr Helen Pollard asked: Could the Cabinet Member outline her plans for the regeneration of Waterworks Yard? When will the water tower be renovated? What will she do to encourage shops to take up the empty units around the square? Councillor Toni Letts replied:
‘The Pump House at Exchange Square was put to market late in 2014 and bids were invited. The Council is currently waiting to hear who the successful bidder is and will then aim to work closely with them to ensure that the site is brought forward for active use. We are also keen to ensure that there is a wide programme of events and activity taking place to support this area as the emerging Cultural Quarter. In the meantime, there are a number of project strands taking shape in the area such as the Surrey St Eatery and work to support the Surrey Street market traders.’
Sale of Freeholds (MQ)
Councillor Simon Hall’s reply shows how little pieces of Council freehold assets are being sold off.
98 Parkway Garden Land £2,000
5 Princes Road Garden Land £4,000
192 Lower Addiscombe Road Sale of FH (subject to 999 year lease no ground rent) £2,000
Gatestone Court Garden Land £5,000
1 &2 Cox’s Cottages Sale of FH (subject to 999 year lease no ground rent) £1,000
Libraries (MQs) – Councillor Timothy Godfrey replies
- Carillion Service
‘At present all Croydon libraries remain open.
Three libraries have increased their opening hours.
At the start of the contract Wi-fi was installed in all libraries and all public PCs replaced.
In 2014, 8 libraries moved to self-service successfully, each one configuring its reception space to do so. Most book transactions are now done using the self-service machines.
The contract is being rigorously monitored to ensure continuing quality and outcomes for users.
I remain disappointed at user numbers and recognise the need to improve our Library offer for all Croydon residents.’
- Upper Norwood Library
The Administration has honoured its election promise and commitment to Upper Norwood Library by match funding Lambeth’s funding this year. The additional funding is helping extend the opening hours of the library to 5 days per week – an immediate, positive impact for the local community.
In 2015/16 Croydon Council will match fund Lambeth and plans to continue to do so in future years. The level of funding will be decided each year as part of the budget setting process of the Council.
It is clear however that funding for all public services is under pressure as the government cuts its support to local government. Libraries, just like every other part of local government remains under attack.
I remain fully committed to a full and professional library service in Upper Norwood and look forward to continue to work closely with the Upper Norwood Library Trust Campaign.’