Rebuilding London Road

By - Monday 25th March, 2013

Conservative councillor Vidhi Mohan returns to London Road, this time to talk about the post-riots rebuilding efforts in the area

Smoke from London Road visible over West Croydon bus station during the 2011 riots

One of the things which has not helped with the London Road area looking a bit run down, even before the riots, is the big empty site which used to house the Croydon General Hospital. The old hospital was demolished many years ago and the site owners, part of the NHS, had no plans to develop the site. Croydon council has now bought the site to provide a new secondary school for west Croydon. This will both bring the site back into proper use and ease the pressure on secondary school places in the north of the borough. School standards are rising across the borough, with many of the new academies with which the council has replaced older failing schools making really quick progress in helping our young people get well qualified. Standards in Croydon have risen much faster than the national average and are now above average for the first time in many decades. Better schooling and better post-16 education should really help our young people get into work when they leave full time education.

People often ask me about the other elements of the recovery package we have received from the government and the London mayor, Boris Johnson. It is often put to me that of the £23 million total investment, London Road should be getting a greater share as it is the area most impacted by the riots of 2011. I understand that point of view: it doesn’t sound unreasonable, does it?

To answer this, one must think of the underlying social causes of the riots. Did people riot because they wanted a better environment for shopping in London Road, or was it because there is a deep underlying malaise of hopelessness in some sections of society? I think it is the latter. There is a group of people in their twenties who feel, rightly or wrongly, that society has given up on them. They often have little in terms of formal qualifications and, more importantly, have little hope that the future will be better. What these people need most is a sense that there is a way out, that they can get their lives on track. Employment is the key to this: we desperately need to reinvigorate Croydon’s employment market by attracting new employers, new jobs, and new opportunities.

Many functions can as easily be based in Bangalore as Croydon

Croydon’s employment market was built in the sixties, when large financial services companies based in London moved parts of their administrative base to cheaper areas nearer to where their employees lived. Those days are gone. The centres which carry out those functions can as easily be based in Bangalore as Croydon, with the improvement of the global IT infrastructure. Too many of the big office blocks built to house these teams of workers now stand empty because the businesses they served have globalised.

There have been wins in this area for us recently. Zurich has expanded its operation in Croydon and we have also recently become the home to a significant proportion of the Land Registry. But we also have to attract new, high growth potential businesses. This is why a proportion of the money is going into what we call the ‘Innovation Centre’. This centre will hothouse small businesses with high growth potential, based on a model successfully used by a number of universities. Working with Croydon College, which had recently become a University Centre in its own right (in collaboration with the University of Sussex), we will hothouse these businesses and support them to grow rapidly. This centre needs to be located near the strongest available transport hub, which is why we are putting it near East Croydon Station, but we hope it will draw its employees from the West Croydon area, which is within easy walking distance.

Businesses will only locate here if they feel that they can tick a number of boxes for their directors and employees

And if those businesses are going to want to stay in Croydon once they have outgrown their Innovation Centre roots, we need to do something about the experience for businesses and workers in the New Town area between the Whitgift Centre and East Croydon. Built in the sixties, the infrastructure there is looking grey and shabby, and pedestrian links are terrible because of the barrier created by Wellesley Road. Another portion of the mayoral money is going there, to make getting about easier and less grey. In the end, businesses will only locate here if they feel that they can tick a number of boxes for their directors and employees. They want a pleasant, safe working environment. They want good transport links in every direction. They want good housing in all price brackets for every level of employee. They want potential employees in the area to have a good skills base. They want good schools for the employees’ children.

Croydon has to have the complete package, and if it does so then there will be opportunities for all residents. This is why it is so important for those residents in the north of our borough that we do sort out the business offer and give them the prospect of long term employment. And that’s why it would be madness to spend all of the riot recovery money in West Croydon (not forgetting that South Croydon, Church Street, and New Addington were also significantly affected by the riots). We need to strike the right balance between the infrastructural needs of west Croydon businesses and the long term economic prosperity of west Croydon residents.

Overall close to £10 million is being invested the London Road area, to regenerate the physical infrastructure, as well as reinvigorate local businesses and communities. This investment has been long overdue, but is finally taking place due to the efforts of the council and the mayor of London. The future for the dynamic and vibrant communities in London Road is certainly bright.

Vidhi Mohan

Vidhi Mohan

Vidhi Mohan was born in India and has lived in Croydon since 2000. He works for one of the UK's largest engineering companies as a consultant with the transport industry, advising both public and private sector clients on the feasibility, funding and implementation of transport schemes. A Conservative councillor since 2005, Vidhi is currently the cabinet member for Communities and Economic Development. He is a governor at Park Hill Infant School and was previously on the board of Croydon College. In his spare time Vidhi enjoys watching and playing sport, especially cricket.

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  • Anne Giles

    Excellent article!

  • Kake

    The title of this article is rather misleading, as by my count it only contains eight sentences actually about London Road (the first four, one in the second paragraph, and the last three).

    Can you tell us more about the “Enterprise Hub based in London Road” that you mentioned in your previous article?

  • Sabine Haller

    So redevelopment of London Road, does that include finally giving the businesses there the compensation from the riots that was promised to them before they go bankrupt? Or is it the aim to drive those shabby looking premises out of London Road to turn it into something more upmarket? The appeal of London Road is it’s mix of small independent businesses from all over the world. Business rates in Central Croydon would be totally unaffordable for these businesses, they are too high as it is. What is going to happen to them, when the area gets redeveloped? Will the rents and rates rise? Are they going to be rpiced out the market?

  • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

    Hi Vidhi is there any word on the new school? I get the feeling with a big weed engulfed plot, empty zodiac court former honda dealer and offices as well as the missing shops and flats opposite the iBuilding an improved public realm will be nice but won’t really help the image of the area much.

    Not sure if you read my article on street art but London rd could be a great spot for authorized street art zones. I know artists who are more than happy to come and do work and just need the green light to legally do it. This would help to bring an improved image and focal points like Jubilee bridge.