Not for profit: Develop Croydon has community at its core


By - Friday 25th November, 2016

Tom Lickley addresses the criticism levelled at the Develop Croydon Conference


Jules Pipe CBE, Deputy Mayor of London for Planning, Regeneration and Skills addresses delegates.
Photo by Develop Croydon, used with permission.

The Develop Croydon Conference took place on 22nd November, drawing together council members, developers, architects, investors, occupiers and community interest groups to discuss the town’s regeneration and offer the opportunity for delegates to learn about the finer detail behind the exciting plans for the town’s future.

As is often the case for these type of events on a national and local scale, the conference came in for criticism amongst members of the public, as seen in articles published by the Citizen here and here. At the extreme end, the group known as ‘Class War’ organised a protest to coincide with the conference lunch at Boxpark, which drew extra resources and time from the police and extra expense from organisers Develop Croydon to provide security for the event.

I attended the conference on behalf of Develop Croydon, which is a client of mine. I’m pleased to report that the day passed peacefully and indeed, successfully.

The forum is open, for a joining fee, to any relevant business located in Croydon

The concerns raised in the Citizen point to a misunderstanding of the intention of the Develop Croydon Conference and the principles of the organisation behind it, the Develop Croydon Forum.

Formed in 2011, the Develop Croydon Forum is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company made up of more than 60 interested businesses, community groups and government organisations. The forum is open, for a joining fee, to any relevant business located in Croydon and companies based outside the borough with a significant interest.

The forum runs events throughout the year, including the Develop Croydon Conference and represents the borough at MIPIM, the annual international property forum. All events are paid for by the forum members and any extra revenue is put back into the company.

More than half the delegates attended free of charge, with a considerable number of free tickets not taken up

The seventh edition of the Develop Croydon Conference was a commercially-run event, and the costs of hosting more than 200 delegates, speakers and support staff across five different locations (with usual venue Fairfield Halls out of action) are understandably considerable. Therefore, the ‘standard ticket’ was priced at £395 + VAT. There were heavily reduced rates (less than one third of the standard price) for attending individual workstreams, and further discounts available above and beyond that. By far the majority of the revenue which paid for the event came from its sponsors, individual forum members and private companies, who between them covered around two thirds of the costs of the event.

Perhaps more importantly, more than half of the delegates attended free of charge, with a considerable number of free tickets available not taken up. Free ticket offers were made to Croydon Chamber of Commerce, Croydon Tech City, the Croydon Citizen and numerous other guests.

Much of the criticism levelled at the conference revolved around the perceived lack of engagement with Croydon residents. With Croydon Council, elected by Croydon residents, being both a member of the Develop Croydon Forum and providing the largest number of guests for a single organisation (and seven speakers), the conference endeavoured to place the council and the community it represents at the heart of the day.

It was abundantly clear that the event revolved around creating a place where people want to live and work

Many of the companies and organisations attending the day and speaking at the conference represent community interests or exist solely to serve community needs. Government organisations such as the GLA and TfL provided guests and speakers, and affordable housing developers, housing associations, charities and business groups (for both start-ups and established companies) were all represented.

Monday’s article claimed that very few of the speakers represent Croydon, but over a third of speakers either live in, work in or hail from the town with several more having a long association which goes far beyond business interests.

Many questions focused upon community interests: particularly in the debate on housing, where Brick by Brick, the development company which has the council as its sole shareholder, presented, and the subsequent panel debate which focused on providing fair and affordable housing achievable for all.

It will never be perfect, and the conference will never be able to invite all 380,000 residents of Croydon

Whilst clearly the conference sought to attract developers and investors, it was abundantly clear that the event revolved around creating a place where people want to live and work. As I’ve mentioned in articles numerous times before, property development is very far from a quick and easy way to make a profit. It takes passion, dedication and patience and like the vast majority of us, investors/developers want to do a good job.

A good property development is not one which only makes profit and leaves no legacy. With potential developments subject to thorough investigation via the planning process at (elected) local level and if needed regional (the GLA) and national level, there are built-in mechanisms to secure good quality development, although the process is of course not without flaws. The newly appointed Croydon Place Review Panel, one of the chairs of which spoke at the conference, adds an extra guarantee of quality, especially with regards to the public realm.

Future conferences and indeed the forum will continue to strive to bring together those companies which have the ability and the passion to create a better Croydon for all, including residents and employees. It will never be perfect, and the conference will never be able to invite all 380,000 residents of the borough. What Develop Croydon will continue to do is collectively promote Croydon as the fantastic place to live, work and play that it deserves to be.

Tom Lickley

Tom Lickley

Contributing a variety of roles to the Citizen since early 2013, Tom now focuses upon regeneration, urbanism and real estate writing. He is a strategic communications consultant specialising in the real estate sector, and counts a number of the world's largest investment and fund management companies amongst his clients.

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  • Anne Giles

    Thank you for enlightening us all. Well done!