The Croydon MIPIM Debate

For background on the MIPIM Croydon panel discussion see the previous posting.

Risk Taking

At the  CEO Jo Negrini argued that taking risks is helping to transform Croydon’s image. ‘She pointed to the arrival of Boxpark as evidence of a proactive approach towards changing people’s perceptions of the town.

  • “We had to do some interventions so where people would go ‘I didn’t expect to see that in Croydon.’”
  • “We proactively went and got Boxpark as the thousands of people who use or pass through East Croydon station every day to see that things were happening in Croydon.”
  • “Stanhope were fantastic to give us that site and actually that one intervention – when I was talking to Body Shop one of the biggest reasons they gave for coming to Croydon was Boxpark.”
  • “But it’s being provocative and taking a risk with things that has been a gamechanger for us and now we are looking for other people to work with – but they’ve got to be in it to help make it a great place to be.”
  • “We’ve got to take risks and the council took a big risk with Boxpark because it could have gone disastrously wrong but you’ve got to be risk-takers or else nothing is going to change.”

  • Fusing to-down with bottom-up

Jo Negrini also referred to various other developments commenting:

  • ‘… there’s been a lot of top-down interventions from all of these partners, but what makes the story slightly different is there’s a lot of bottom-up stuff coming through the residents and parties on the ground, to really create that energy where the top-down meets the bottom up and that’s where you get the regeneration sweet spot. And that’s what’s happening in Croydon now.’

Gavin Barwell commented that the fusion Jo Negrini talked about ‘is what makes the story such an exciting one.’

Croydon Key for Housing

Gavin Barwell’s main points were:

  • ‘…. Croydon is one of those key locations in the capital where there is the potential to build significant extra homes.’
  • The government is backing the Growth Zone deal and ‘relocating government uses down to some of the new office space that’s being developed next to East Croydon station.’
  • It ‘is a hugely exciting time for our town because we are seeing our town centre being completely redeveloped.

In a later contribution he added:

  • that among the people who live in Croydon ‘there is a huge sense of excitement about this transformation’ The Town ‘needs to extend southwards’.
  • We ‘are not just a dormitory suburb we are a real centre in our own right – if you took this borough and put it down in the countryside somewhere it would be the seventh or eighth biggest city in this country.’
  • ‘Because there is a desperate need in our country for more homes in the south, I’m keen as I ever was to urge anybody who makes the decisions to invest here it’s a great place to come and do business.’

Taberner as example of bottom-up

Steve Sanham of HUB which is developing the Taberner House site referred to bottom-up regeneration.

  • ‘we deliver some big schemes but we also really value the opportunity in Croydon to get stuck in at a grassroots level to go out, walk the streets, meet people in the local community and we spoke to 1,200 people before we put a planning application in for our scheme and we really valued that interaction.’
  • ‘We want to do more in Croydon, we want to work very closely with the guys at Croydon Council and see if we can deliver something that’s a little bit more special than just bricks and mortar.’

Oh I despair at the delusion that consultation is bottom-up and talking to Council officers certainly is not.

The importance of Marks & Spencer

Steve Yewman of Westfield stressed the importance of the agreement to provide ‘a  new flagship store for M&S.’

But no mention of John Lewis, which was supposed to be the retail flagship!

Social Change – Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Yewman explained:

  • that what ‘we’re really feeling from the work that we’ve done in Newham and in West London is that the social change, and the change in people’s lives’ is that it is ’about jobs, jobs, jobs.’
  • ‘Croydon has created a lot of jobs and a lot of that is to do with Jo her team and the leadership getting the schools up to a much better level and education and all that want to invest in.’

Yes organisations like EDF and Body Shop have moved in, and the Home Office and HMRC are due to move staff from elsewhere. This is no job creation, but job re-location. The number of jobs created by the Tech City movement is small in comparison with the loss of jobs in recent years. The new Whitgift will largely be offering low paid retail jobs.

Costly Croydon Vision

Yewman gives the game away about Croydon’s re-development when he says:

  • ‘Boxpark has been a good example of an hors doevre for the main event but they are doing a great job. And they’ve introduced to Croydon £10 burgers and £5 beers and I’m delighted with that because they will be more expensive when we turn up.’

Just got to get on with it

Later he added

  • Croydon’s ‘always been about big grandiose plans …’ Westfield/Hammerson ‘own a massive chunk in the middle of it but from a Westfield point of view and from Hammerson’s point of view we don’t make these sorts of decisions lightly. We’ve got lots of opportunities, both of us around the world, to invest.’ We’ve ‘just got to get on with it.’

Croydon  as a destination

Robin Dobson of Hammerson talked about the jobs and leisure benefits of development schemes elsewhere in the country.

  • ‘It’s all about creating the very best experiences, through the very best destinations in the very best towns and cities. And what I mean by that is it’s about lifting the benchmark for our town. It’s about architectural quality, about creating a much greater and wider leisure offer, and just about giving all-round experiences to everyone in particular families, which is so important in Croydon.’

What architectural quality? None of the new tower blocks provides it. The concrete brutalism of the 1960s is being replaced by glass brutalism.

Building confidence in Croydon

Robin Dobson added:

  • What I think we’ve done is also awakened the pride and the loyalty that does exist in and around Croydon. People want to come into cities, that is a changing demographic a change back to cities rather than towns, and actually I think what’s happening here is evidence of that confidence that we’re bringing back to Croydon.’

I am not sure this will change the minds of the large number of people who say they want to get out of Croydon because it has become a horrible place to live.

Fairfield Halls

On Fairfield Halls Kevin added that withthe biggest borough by population in London’ Croydon ‘needs a big cultural centre, a big new art gallery for spectacular visual arts – something that competes with the big boys up in town – to continue more people coming to Croydon to see our outstanding visual arts offering and cultural offering and to watch that develop from the ground up and from the top down together is exactly what we all hope for.’

The full report of what the panel members said can be seen at

One of the photographers the Develop Croydon website gives credits to for photos of the panel session is  Tom Lickley. Tom is a regular contributor supporting the developments in Croydon in Croydon Citizen and defender of Croydon’s involvement in MIPIM.

About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy, housing and environment issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly. I am a member of the Love Norbury Residents Associations Planning & Transport Committees, and Chair of Nobury Community Land Trust. I write for Croydon Citizen at I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and edit the North East Popular Politics database. 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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1 Response to The Croydon MIPIM Debate

  1. Pingback: Croydon Council events & news at 1 March | History & Social Action News and Events

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