Regrets & powerlessness over College Green/Fairfield Halls approval

 ‘Reflecting on last night I feel sad that Labour have caved

in so completely on their original good intentions to build

affordable housing for families, college scheme has 15% affordable,

6% for families, all in ‘pre-cast’ concrete, no attempt to create

a community space.’

This is the sad reflection of Kate Vennell (former Fairfield Croydon charity Chair) on the Planning Committee decision last night to approve the Council’s College Green/Fairfield Halls application.

‘Well meaning good people (Councillors) don’t seem to have the tools to respond to officers arguments about ‘advice on saleability’. I feel funding Fairfield is being used as the trojan horse to push over the qualms they must feel. It is clear there are much bigger agendas, which will include council’s desperate funding challenges and a market which is driving the wrong results for the community. We need to follow the money. And at some point good Labour councillors need to assert their personal redlines.’

Her  comments were in response to those posted by Andrew Kennedy on Historic Croydon Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/historiccroydon/permalink/752490938240923

Kate adds:

‘With every new project that crops up, take the risk of doing something for humanity”. Civic Space, St George’s Walk, Surrey Street, College Green, George Street, Segas House, Croydon College, Taberner House. Westfield. Don’t let the developers dictate. Insist upon alternative designs and put it to the popular vote. Too often we are being presented with one solution a fait accomplis that at best we can tinker with. I’m sure this will garner comments.’

The night before she was not allowed to complete her statement to the Committee.

Powerlesness

Janice Green has agreed with Andrew’s comments adding ‘but I feel a bit powerless. My heart sinks every time I see a new development totally lacking in imagination and without any nod to humanity at all. Last week I went through Lewisham and Catford by train and was shocked by the ugliness of the new developments there. I want Fairfield Halls to be a beautiful, inspirational statement. I also hope that the Queen’s Gardens development progresses beyond Gehry’s starting point of “faceless blocks”.

Save Our Fairfield’s Views

Reservations about the details of the scheme were provided to Councillors by Andy Hylton of the Save Our Fairfield Campaign and by Andrew. Andy has issued the following press statement:

‘Following Planning Approval for ‘Fairfield Halls and College Green’ – 23/2/2017 the £30million planning application for Fairfield Halls and College Green has been approved with a vote of 6/4. The application received 381 objections from residents, but the committee allowed only five minutes to those who wished to make a statement of objection. Former technical manager of the Fairfield Halls, Rob Callender spoke on behalf of ‘Save Our Fairfield’ campaign, highlighting our concerns with the current plans. The time limit was strictly enforced, and sadly Kate Vennell, of the Fairfield Arts Board, was not allowed to complete her statement. Considering the scale of the investment and the experience of the speakers, the arrogance we have faced from Croydon Council throughout the entire process, and undermines the credibility of the project. We have always supported the investment, but we do not support the council’s methods, the treatment of the former Fairfield staff or the implementation of the plans as they stand. If the venue were to fail following an expensive refurbishment that would be a very poor result for Croydon, and we object to all aspects which may affect the future operational viability of the venue. There are inaccurate statements in the Design & Access document and an inconsistency between public statements and the actual approved plans. For example, the truck-lift is still in the plans, although Councillor Godfrey has previously stated this was removed after advice from the Theatres Trust Advisory Review, allegedly saving £4million for the project. It is also unclear whether Ashcroft stage extension and fly tower improvements are being taken forward or have been removed from the designs, as previous press releases and councillor statements have stated. There needs to be more clarity in respect of what is being planned. Our main objections were:

  • Encroachment of the new Croydon College on the rear of Fairfield Halls, affecting daylight into the Ashcroft Theatre dressing rooms and impacting on privacy in these rooms.
  • Access to yard and ‘Get-In’ plans will make operations LESS flexible and more awkward to manage. This will make the venue less attractive to large productions and affect viability.
  • Lack of parking, will reduce the viability of the venue. The parking assessment suggests a ‘move away’ from family orientated audiences and from attracting audiences, who are unable to use public transport. Kate Vennell, former Chair of Fairfield Trust, agrees. “These risk the commercial viability of the Fairfield Halls. They need maximum ticket sales from high audiences and great shows. Everything absolutely optimised for the large, complex Fairfield to run without any public subsidy.”

It is vital that Croydon Council introduce an operator into the design process at the earliest opportunity. When plans are being developed in the absence of an operator, mistakes mean rework, increasing the cost to the operator. Art venues play a significant role in community, having a major impact on people’s lives. It is now time that the Council engaged with the community and listened to their concerns. There needs to be a strong cultural offer throughout the works. This promise is still to be delivered. We care about the Fairfield and want this project to succeed. The Council must listen and connect with those who have the inside working knowledge of the Fairfield, so that the project delivers the thriving cultural centre that has been promised for 2018.’

Andrew Kennedy’s Design Reservations

Andrew brought drew the following two points to the attention of the Planning Committee.

‘1) The design for Station Link North as presented does not seem to be fully defined. There seems to be doubt as to whether the planning application covers sufficient area to be fully resolved in a manner that befits this important gateway to College Green and the Fairfield Halls. This gateway has the potential to be a very impressive walk and cycle way in the manner of the “High Line” in New York welcoming people to the Fairfield Halls when arriving at East Croydon. Evidence Document 203537_92.pdf. Ownership ground Floor Level. The end of College Road slopes down to the basement car park. The College Green platform however is on a level with the top of College Road which gives rise to the opportunity to have an elevated walk and cycle way. The elevation and the area required to realise Station Link North does not seem to be fully described in the landscape drawings. A very narrow red outline is shown on some drawings indicating that only a thin band of land, a footway perhaps has been included in the application. And the ownership ground Floor Level shows that the top of College Road is not owned by the Council. What I am suggesting is that Station Link North would benefit from a treatment similar to the “High Line “ in New York and also that which I understand is being developed in Peckham called “The Coal Line”. This would make an impressive approach to the Fairfield Halls from East Croydon Station. I am suggesting that if additional permissions need to be obtained then everything should be done so that this gateway can reach its potential. New York – “High Line” (image reversed for purposes of illustration) I believe they are doing something similar for The Peckham Coal Line.

2) Play space does not take into consideration the needs of College students. In fact neither the Officers report nor the planning document Fairfield Pay Space Strategy Section 5.2 make any mention of the word “student” at all. This is an omission. The students will want to use College Green for “play” as well as the resident children and College Green is already somewhat of a skateboard park with the wider youth of the borough. Documents concerned. – Fairfield Play Space Strategy (Doc 203537_13.pdf) Design and Access Statement 5.2 (Doc 203537_58.pdf) Officer’s report section on Children’s Play. Paragraphs 7.56 to 7.61 The Officer’s Report – section on Children’s Play highlights a shortfall of play space for Block Three and mentions the possibility for “organised games” on College green Play Space Strategy mentions a 30 x 20 metre zone for ball games but this does NOT appear on the drawings in the Design and Access Statement. College green is used now by students of the college and by skateboarders from all over town. The Strategy document goes on to mention the basketball and tennis courts at Park Hill Recreation ground which are already well used by all comers from the borough but the provision of a new multi-use court on College Green would provide a different opportunity, they could be used for minor competitions and would provide a spectacle within the larger context of the spectacle of Fairfield Halls. Indeed natural tiered seating could be provided for spectators using the palette of materials already listed. The Play Space Strategy goes on to cite Queen’s Gardens as being an existing opportunity but Queens gardens is NOT a designated play space. As the report says it consists of “well maintained ornamental gardens”. The main function of Queen’s Gardens is as a formal leisure garden used by grown-ups and town centre visitors. It should not be called upon to be either a back-up play space or even the primary play space for blocks of flats on Fairfield or in fact for that matter at Taberner House. Its use is primarily for such things as wedding photographs in front of the Registry Office and as formal gardens, a lunch spot for office workers and visitors to the town, not as a mainstay for the residential flats. It also has possibilities as a performance and cultural space which according to the Mid Croydon Masterplan should be given as much priority as play because of its position in the cultural quarter. In conclusion, the Play Strategy mentions that an “organised play” area 30 x 20 metres is being considered but this does NOT appear on the Design and Access Statement.

My suggestion is that a multi-purpose sports court be provided in a similar manor to the pictures shown. This would be of use to both College Students and to the older children of the residential blocks and could be used for organised play. An official play area on College Green would complete the Play Space requirement. Pictorial examples are shown below. Consideration might also be given to a sandpit for a beach volley ball court.’

The Council’s view 

http://news.croydon.gov.uk/plans-for-fairfield-and-college-green-cultural-quarter-approved

 

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About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly, and am a member of the latter's Environment Forum. I am a member of the 5 Norbury Residents Associations Joint Planning Committee, and a Governor of Norbury Manor Primary School. I write for Croydon Citizen at http://thecroydoncitizen.com. I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and advise the North East People's History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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