What are the challenges facing Croydon’s communities?

By - Monday 3rd August, 2015

Let’s work together, says Sean Creighton

Here in Croydon as elsewhere we tend to look at local issues separately, and do not always see the cumulative effects. The Croydon TUC working party’s analysis of the council’s Growth Plan last year and my evidence to the Whitgift Centre CPO inquiry were attempts to look at a series of interconnected issues. The borough’s Opportunity and Fairness Commission provides an opportunity to take this wider view.

There’s increasing networking across the borough, with active groups including the Croydon Assembly, the emerging Friends of Parks group, some residents associations, the Croydon Arts Network and so on. We need to have joint discussion about what we think are the important challenges facing Croydon’s communities.

My own sense is that key areas to include are our council’s top-down decision-making, how to go about strengthening residents and community organisations and fostering community cohesion, the inadequacies of the railway system, the effects of central government cuts on local services, fragmentation of the schools system, the influence of private developers, the Whitgift Centre redevelopment proposal, the Fiveways traffic proposal, the council’s approach to culture and the arts, the conversion of offices into flats, the shortage of family housing, the need to improve the protection of our built heritage, the lack of neighbourhood committees to oversee council ‘regeneration’ spending, the importance of protecting high streets from supermarket convenience stores, betting and loan shops and of course air pollution and climate change.

Do you agree – and what would you add to the list?

Key issues can help us identify potential allies

It’s worth us all considering where we stand on the following key issues – whether we agree or disagree on them defines our personal standpoint and helps us to identify when others from different sectors and backgrounds are potential allies, with overarching common interests. Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

1. We should protect those at the bottom of society and ensure they can remain living in Croydon.

2. Croydon should be developed in order to drive out those at the bottom of society.

3. I have been adversely affected by cuts to public services and benefits.

4. My personal income and buying power have decreased in recent times.

5. As a private tenant I am treated properly by my landlord or agent.

6. The building of new offices, apartments and the planned rebuilding of the Whitgift Centre will not be beneficial to Croydon residents.

7. I disapprove of the large number of new multi-storey buildings planned for Croydon.

8. There should be a limit on the increase in the number of people living in Croydon.

9. More housing of all types, prices and rent levels should be provided in Croydon to encourage more people to live here.

10. Racism and anti-foreigner attitudes are harmful to life in Croydon.

11. Racism and anti-foreigner attitudes are on the increase in Croydon.

12. The council is not pursuing policies based on equalities and inclusion, community engagement and cohesion.

13. Quality of life in Croydon has improved in the last five years.

14. Travelling around Croydon is stressful.

15. Croydon has become a safer place since 2012.

16. There are not enough play facilities for local children.

17. Croydon is run by a tight clique which includes the council, the property companies and developers, the Whitgift Foundation and others.

18. Croydon Council’s approach to involving the public in decision making has improved since the council election in May 2014

By itself, each organisation has little influence. Let’s increase our vision

Community organisations exist because their members believe that it is important to take action on issues of concern and to try to influence decision making, as well as to try to provide services and activities that improve quality of life for their members and users. By themselves each organisation has little potential influence. That’s why it is important that there is networking and co-operation.

Working together can include sharing information, meeting together, taking part in debate, following local news and comment, submitting questions for the council’s meetings, commenting on papers to the cabinet and other committees, objecting to unwanted or flawed planning applications, submitting freedom of information requests and signing petitions.

Do you think that there are other methods?

Keeping up to date with what is going on is crucial, and analysis and comment on developments are important too. That is one of the key roles of Croydon Citizen. Analysis helps us to improve our knowledge and understanding and to increase our vision beyond ourselves as individuals, families or specialist groups.

It is interesting to think about how we come to have the views that we hold, what sources of knowledge have helped us reach our view point, and how to understand differences in views in order to find common ground. This will help to ensure that there are improvements in the future and that things do not deteriorate.

Sean Creighton

Sean Creighton

A former employee of and freelance project worker with community and voluntary organisations, Sean is active with Croydon Assembly and with the Planning and Transport Committee of the Love Norbury group of residents associations. He is Chair of the Norbury Community Land Trust. He is a historian of Croydon and South-West London, British black society, social action and the labour movement. He coordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History networks. He runs blog sites covering Croydon, Norbury and history events, issues and news. He runs a small scale publishing imprint called History & Social Action Publications. He gives talks on a range of history topics and leads history walks.

More Posts - Website

  • Rossella Scalia

    I agree with you regarding a more active citizens participation. I would like to know your opinion about a virtual engagement tool I have just set up to trigger a discussion on Croydon and the regeneration project that is taking place in the borough.

    Please feel free to leave a comment. Every opinion matters!