Croydon ‘blazing a trail’ in £5bn regeneration

Friday 13 October 2017


Croydon is ‘blazing a trail’ for other authorities to follow in the pioneering way it is pushing forward with a regeneration programme worth over £5.25 billion.

That was one of the key messages to emerge from ‘Croydon: Growth zone to culture club’, an On Location event held at the town’s tech hub TMRW yesterday, where delegates heard about the authority’s innovative approaches to the creation of housing and cultural projects.

Croydon’s chair of the planning committee, architect Paul Scott, said that the town had gone some way to dispelling a lot of the myths around the area, where a ‘hell of a lot is happening’, but where the potential for growth is just as strong – in fact six times the capacity than Earls Court opportunity area, for example. By 2030, said Scott, Croydon will be a ‘taller, denser, and more mixed use’ place which works as well as a place to live in as it does to visit or work in. The area will be home to 33,000 more homes before 2036, with 30% stipulated as the minimum level of affordable, with intensification a key plank of the policy. Around a third of those homes will be in the town centre, a third on allocated sites, and the final third ‘integrated into the suburban landscape’. But there will also be space for new offices to balance those lost through permitted development and a focus on increased culture in the borough. A large part of this strategy is in the Growth Zone, essentially a partnership with central government, TfL, GLA and the council to finance £495m to facilitate growth in the central area. This allows the council to borrow up to £309m to allow infrastructure investment to commence from net April, with Croydon allowed to retain 50% of growth in business rates in the Growth Zone for the next 20 years to repay the loan.

Reimagining Croydon is something Piers Gough says he has been doing for some time, but that delight is now ‘made manifest’ by getting permission for a new addition to the town’s skyline, One Lansdowne Road. His new 68-storey tower – which would make it Britain’s second tallest – draws inspiration from Matisse cut-outs and Gough’s own professed ‘love of femininity’. It will feature sinuous forms on its north and south elevations, a public viewing gallery at its peak, along with 10 levels of ‘stonking’ Grade A office floors, restaurants and bars. Importantly though, said Gough, it draws on Will Alsop’s ideas about improving pedestrian routes across the city and has a ‘celebratory element’ to its peak as seen in New York rather than a flat roof. ‘Cities need to celebrate their fabulousness’, said Gough. ‘And Croydon’s future is going to be quite extraordinary’.

The conference also heard from HUB Developments managing director Steve Sanham, who showed his firm’s scheme for four AHMM-designed towers at Taberner House and crucial reworking of the park they sit on, Queen’s Gardens, through close dealings with local stakeholders. ‘It wasn’t a consultation, it was a full-on engagement’, said Sanham. Croydon’s culture director Paula Murray signalled the importance of the Fairfield Halls as a ‘central mothership space’ for Croydon after its ‘beautiful refurbishment’ by Rick Mather Architects next year. RMA’s Stuart Cade said this will include a new art gallery and flexible studios. Housing’s key push is from the council’s own Brick by Brick initiative led by managing director and CEO Colm Lacey, who said keeping pace with demographic change and tenure requirements was a big issue, as was affordability. But the initiative is using good architects like Coffey Architects, Mae, Stitch and its own in-house team to add quality and perhaps make more of an impact with its infill projects in place terms than some of the larger projects in the town centre. Speed talks included Tyrens director Anna Reiter on destination parks masterplanning, and vPPR Architects director Tatiana Von Preussen on its Croydon iStreet idea for corten steel ‘halos’ suspended over the streets, whose first build will be at the Fairfield Halls regeneration.

But it was Darren Richards, strategic planning manager at GLA who suggested that Croydon was looking at providing infrastructure and funding in an innovative way that could be a model for other places across the city. ‘Croydon is blazing a trail about how you can make that happen’, he said.  

Editor, New London Quarterly 

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