Black History, Culture, Gentrification, Housing, Riesco, Street Lighting
Croydon’s Black History
With the start of Black History Month (BHM) on 1 October Croydon Citizen has published a posting by me on Reflections on Croydon’s Black History. http://thecroydoncitizen.com/history/reflections-croydons-black-history.
I will be interviewed about BHM on Janet Smith’s Culture Show on Croydon Radio on Sunday 6 October which starts at 2pm. http://croydonradio.com/schedule/show.php?HistoryID=60665546-ac0a-ceab-fbd6-48172b5741db.
Inside Croydon has chosen to highlight a Croydon BHM event on 29 October about the history of Caribbean enterprise. http://insidecroydon.com/2013/10/01/pjs-enterprising-look-at-black-history-month-oct-29.
The Croydon Arts Debate takes place on 10 October. This event has been organised by the South Croydon Community Association as a follow-up to its initiative on the future of the Fairfield Halls and on the need for a community arts strategy. I have written about the importance of the Debate on Croydon Citizen: http://thecroydoncitizen.com/culture/arts-entertainment/invitation-croydon-arts-debate.
Gentrification or Community Regeneration
The debate about what the future of Croydon should be continues in various postings on Croydon Citizen. The latest is one by Gavin Barwell, MP’s assistant Mario Creatura: ‘The gentrification of Croydon and why we’re all to blame’ (http://thecroydoncitizen.com/politics/gentrification-croydon-blame). His analysis is challenged by one of those posting comments Louis Akindele, which has promoted me to post:
‘Louis Akindele has hit the nail on the head. Gentrification is a process where by the less well off are forced out of areas by the better-off. The regeneration policies being pursued will certainly speed up the gentrification processes. You only have to look to Wandsworth to see the effects of gentrification over time, and how those on low incomes and with higher social need have either been forced to leave the Borough, or been highly concentrated onto the Council estates. Community regeneration approaches seek to ensure that the less well-off benefit and are driven away to cheaper areas. That does not mean you cannot have many of the so-called advantages of gentrification. Culture can be a tool in community regeneration. If we are to have a socially, as well as ethnically, diverse Croydon we need policies that concentrate on improving the socially and economically disadvantaged areas. This will include the need for a level of controls over the private rented sector whose short-term lettings create rapid turnover of residents, meaning there are not enough people putting down roots and helping to develop their neighbourhood community. The Council should focus on looking for developers who are not just in it for the maximum profit, but understand community regeneration needs and want to help meet them. It will need to ensure that rental values on retail are not pushed up beyond the ability of local shopkeepers to pay. The new Cabinet housing plan adopted on 30 September does not understand the contradictions involved in regeneration between gentrification and community. It is therefore in danger of helping to speed up the former at the expense of the latter.’
Meeting Housing Needs
Croydon Council is reported to be in trouble over its treatment of homeless families – http://insidecroydon.com/2013/09/29/council-faces-massive-compensation-bill-over-housing-failings.
Croydon has a high incidence of homelessness, a large unstable private rented sector, a lack of affordable housing. To be fair to the Tories they have been trying to grapple with these problems. Earlier in the year I attempted dialogue through the Scrutiny Committee process but as I was ignored I submitted several Freedom of Information requests. I posted the answers on earlier postings on this bog site so that more people in Croydon have access to the detail.
The Council Cabinet has now approved (30 September) a five year housing delivery plan based on the following principles:
- optimising the development of new homes;
- bringing empty homes back into use;
- creating pathways to home ownership;
- developing a quality private rented sector;
- supporting the development of affordable housing;
- ensuring the Council’s planning framework and policies continue to facilitate positive residential growth;
- developing a strong sense of place and high quality neighbourhoods.
The Cabinet paper states that the plan’s’ ambitious housing growth targets will only be achieved through the combined efforts of all housing development and delivery partners across sectors.’ The Council proposed to set up a Croydon Housing Congress to meet about three times year bringing ‘together of all these partners including funders, developers, landowners, registered providers, community housing organisations, agents, architects, consultants and builders, with the Council.’
It proposes to develop a Croydon Council Housing Investment Fund ‘in the form of a revolving fund, possibly in partnership with other bodies. The Council will use its’ borrowing powers, income base, assets and the strength of the local authority’s covenant, to help provide necessary financing for investment in stalled sites where viability cannot otherwise be achieved, in return for repayment contributions over time.’
It plans to encourage more conversion of redundant office blocks into residential, like the current
St. George’s House (288 homes); Quest House (73 ‘affordable homes’); and St. Anne’s House. The Council thinks that there ‘is potential for such schemes to produce more than 900 apartments within the metropolitan centre and over 150 in the district centres.’ An Immediate action is therefore to identify and appraise priority office conversions schemes.
It also envisages unlocking stalled sites in the 9 District Centres and London Road, ‘to deliver significant regeneration benefits potentially including: more than 800 new homes; new supermarkets and a variety of other retail units; new leisure facilities; improved streetscapes.’
Over 150 empty properties have already been brought back into use in 2012/13. The Council estimates that '285 homes in the borough have been empty for more than twelve months and the Council is working innovatively with different partners, including private landlords, registered providers and Community Interest Companies, to bring these back into use.’
‘107 sites have been identified to provide some level of affordable housing. The Council will continue to develop its new build programme and work with the GLA, registered providers and private developers to maximize affordable provision, including within the metropolitan centre.’
Unfortunately the Council sees the ‘private rented sector as representing a major opportunity for housing growth.’ It aims ‘to create a high quality sector providing an attractive tenure across the borough delivering new homes suitable for a range of incomes; balancing investors’ ability to take revenue and a share in capital return with maintaining affordability. Croydon’s current relatively low cost position, coupled with its potential for very strong growth, makes it uniquely attractive to this sector across the whole of London.’
The full report can be seen at https://secure.croydon.gov.uk/akscroydon/images/att2641.pdf.
The Riesco Collection Sale
Rather than wait to be expelled from the Museums Association the Council has decided to resign. Full details at
www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/10708022.Croydon_Council_resigns_from_Museum_Association_over_Riesco_row; and at http://insidecroydon.com/2013/10/02/the-riesco-resignation-doesnt-pollard-read-his-mail.
I am delighted to be able to report that the Council and Skanska agreed to re-site two street lamps from front garden boundaries to near the kerb in Oakhill Rd. This follows a long string of emails leading to a meeting of three residents and Maggie Mansell, one of the local Councillors, and further emailing to clarify the exact nature of what was agreed. This finally resulted in another meeting in the street to resolve outstanding concerns. These discussions involved John Algar of the Council and Paul Burnham of Skanska.
What the exercise has shown is that there is room for flexibility on siting new street lighting columns. Our concerns was mainly about light intrusion into front bedrooms from the new columns being sited on front garden boundaries.
A number of wider issues have emerged from the discussions that potentially relate to every other street waiting to have new lighting columns installed.
The markings for siting new columns may not be accurate. So for example the re-siting in Oakhill Rd were not 0.45m from the kerb edge as they should have been, but further into the pavement including over a utility trench. Skanksa needs to ensure that its markings are accurate to avoid misunderstandings by residents about siting.
The notice delivered to residents needs to be clearer about what is involved, the measurements for placing columns, and making it clear that residents with concerns should contact the Council to see whether there is any room for flexibility.
The particular characteristics of a street are not necessarily fully understood by the specialist company that does the survey and drawings for Skanska. For example for Oakhill the traffic flow and parking problems in relation to Skanksa’s vehicle during the installation process had been were underestimated.
There needs to be improved co-ordination on works between the street lighting team and the street repairs team. Two parts of small pavement repair work undertaken a few weeks earlier in Oakhill had to be dug up into order to install the new columns. It would be better if those repairs could be timetabled to be completed after the columns have been installed, and the old columns taken out.
The next meeting of the Street Lighting Joint Committee is being held on Wednesday 16 October at 5.30pm at the Town Hall. To see the agenda when it is posted up go to https://secure.croydon.gov.uk/akscroydon/users/public/admin/kabmenu.pl?cmte=SJC.