Beacons of hope: How I learned to love Croydon’s crane-filled sky


By - Wednesday 9th March, 2016

Jonny Rose encourages his fellow Croydonians to look to the heavens for inspiration


The view from Sussex Innovation Centre Croydon.
Photo author’s own.

It was James Naylor, Editor-in-Chief of the Croydon Citizen who first impressed upon me the importance of looking up when walking around Croydon.

According to James everything you needed to know about Croydon – where it is, where it’s come from and where it’s going – can be seen not by looking at what’s happening on the streets, but what’s happening in the skies. Whether it is looking up at the fine open timber-work roof supported by angel corbels in Croydon Minster or looking even higher up to the building work beyond.

As I do with pretty much all sensible advice proffered to me, I ignored it, until the good Lord manufactures a circumstance that corrects me of my folly. In this case, the epiphany came whilst sitting on the 11th floor of No.1 Croydon in the newly installed Sussex Innovation Centre Croydon: looking out at the building work going on around East Croydon Station.

Signs of progress everywhere and as far as the eye could see. In some cases, quite literal signs: “Boxpark coming Summer 2016”.

Morello will be a 55-storey tower with 424 new homes with restaurants and shops on the lower flowers. Morello Offices is the next-door scheme, redeveloping 70,000 square feet into offices.

Ruskin Square with its 9-acre promise of 625 residential units and 100,000 square feet of retail, public spaces and restaurants, will soon be populated with millennial yuppies, hoary professionals and drained parents.

And that’s before you take into account other incoming schemes in the same eyeline such as Chroma – an office development with a consented scheme of 258,000 square feet over 17 floors, and 70 residential apartments that are being proposed under the banner of Addiscombe Grove.

From my eleventh floor vantage point, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Croydon is the new Corinth after all.

But mostly, I noticed the cranes. Lurid-coloured proboscis methodically creating the homes and offices of tomorrow’s Croydon.

The Morello development.
Photo author’s own.

The rising skyline of Croydon

Saffron Square is an altitudinous new build that I’ve seen through from beginning to end. I watched the development every day as I commuted from Purley to London Victoria and back again. It shot up pretty fast, like that boy at school who had a growth spurt overnight. The other cranes must have contemplated a switch from Weetabix to Ready Brek.

There have been other recent contributors to Croydon’s rising skyline whose ascents have been equally as nippy: ISLAND over towards West Croydon was completed in 2015 has twenty floors, whilst the incredibly sophisticated Altitude25 in East Croydon has – as the name suggests – twenty-five.

Over in Purley, a local Baptist church has incurred the wrath of Croydon NIMBYs for putting in for permission to build a 16-storey tower block.

Now there is talk of an “iconic” skyscraper with the highest bar in Europe and a 14th-floor glass-bottomed swimming pool set to be built in Croydon – suspended between two 51 and 65-storey towers (if the PR bumpf is to be believed).

Spindly beacons of hope

There will be more of them coming, you know. The cranes.

Whether it is for Westfield, or a renovated Fairfield Halls, we won’t be seeing the last of them for a long, long time.

When I think of these other not-yet-buildings and the cranes that will be making them possible, I reflect on the interminable quest to better oneself. Just as I might take up pilates to improve my posture or decide to lose some of the flab off my tummy, Croydon will decide to build a wonderfully gauche skyscraper with a suspended swimming pool. It’s a never-ending search for personal improvement, and Croydon and its people are on that journey together – whether they like it or not.

It doesn’t change my conviction that Croydon will eventually have to build down instead of up or that we’re focusing on the wrong housing issues, but for now I’m happy to see these majestic beasts against Croydon’s skyline. Symbols of a newer, better Croydon – spindly, mechanical beacons of hope.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • lizsheppardjourno

    ‘Proboscis’: ‘an extensible tubular sucking organ’.

    I also find our cranes rather beautiful and graceful, in their angular way. Whether I love them depends on what they are building. When it’s over-priced flats for couples and singles while Croydon needs family homes: not so much. But I’d love a go in a suspended swimming pool.

  • Terry Coleman

    Trouble is that nothing ever gets finished off properly, or to time. The town has been a perpetual building site for as long as I can remember and probably always will be.