Old town, new ideas

By - Wednesday 3rd April, 2013

Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners opens up the floor for Croydon citizens to create the Master Plan for regenerating Old Town. Roving reporter and Croydon’s own Frohican, Wes Baker was on hand to report on Old Town’s future

On the 26th March, Allies and Morrison hosted the ideas workshop for the Old Town Master Plan. The event took place at the workshop in Matthews’s Yard to a packed room of locals. I arrived just before it started not really knowing exactly what to expect but was happy to see a really good turn out with a large variety of people.  The ideas workshop was the follow-up to the previous event in October, with the purpose being to update all those interested in the progress and regeneration projects within Old Town.

Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners (AMUP) was appointed to oversee the master plan by the council after demonstrating expertise in architecture, heritage, urban design, transport design, economic development, landscape architecture, and urban planning.  The presentation started and we were informed that the purpose of this particular master plan would be to…

  • Improve the built environment for local residents, shoppers and those working in the area.

  • Set guidance for the area parameters for the development of streets, buildings and public spaces.

  • Preservation of the areas heritage and historical buildings and street patterns.

The plan is that this will take place over a 20 year period with short- and long-term projects. The area for the master plan covers the boundary of Roman Way, Tamworth Road, Keeley Street, Frith Road, Surrey Street Market, down Scarbrook Road to the flyover and back to Roman Way. We were told we would form groups and use the map, pens, stickers, and markers in front of us to first highlight the issues we want to overcome. The second exercise involved adding our ideas for Old Town to another map, and this could be any idea we had with a bit of leeway to extend out of the area I highlighted above.

My group was formed of Trevor Reeves (of the House of Reeves) and two local ladies living by the Salvation Army by Roman Way. Groups ranged from about four up to almost ten people. What I found interesting was that my group members were many decades older than me, and were enlightening me on facts such as the market originally crossing Church Street to then extend down Frith Street. The original bridge into Wandle Park was right at the end of Rectory Road, creating a natural sightline drawing people into Wandle Park.

We highlighted issues such as the lack of signage from East Croydon and North End, thus reducing permeability for those visiting from outside of the area. Lack of enough lighting in Exchange Square makes it feel like an unsafe area to cross alone at night, and the simple lack of businesses, venues, and events in the Square stops it from becoming somewhere people adventure too.

The second exercise brought up ideas such as arches at both ends of Surrey Street to make the market even more special, signage for Exchange Square, the redevelopment of the empty House of Reeves plot into a green space with railings much like a central London square, the pump house becoming a creative venue, and the area being pitched to be the home of Croydon’s creative community. As a gateway site I even spent the week developing an idea for a landmark sculpture based on my group member’s wish for a tree. Cycling had been mentioned by AMUP, and we proposed having a Dutch-style cycle lane into old town.

Our hour of brainstorming came to an end and we shared our ideas. Interestingly a lot of the ideas were echoed throughout all groups. From the vibe in the room it seemed that everyone had enjoyed themselves. The AMUP team stressed very much they want any and all Croydon citizens to get involved if we have any new ideas for Old Town, so get thinking, get talking, and hopefully see you at the next meeting!



Street photographer, 1st of the Frohicans and Croydon's No.1 fan according to my parents. I graduated in Transport Design at Coventry University summer 2012 and made my way back to the town I love to continue working on my Croydon facebook page. I eventually met some of the other local creatives with the same enthusiasm and soon knew it was my mission to engage with and hopefully help to get the word out about the creative potential and future of Croydon.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/liz.sheppardjones Liz Sheppard-Jones

    Really interesting piece, Wes. I’m a Town Centre resident but sadly was unable to attend this meeting. My feelings about the longterm future are very positive and I am also delighted to see such strong interest in the issues of Old Town’s heritage and how to preserve this alongside Croydon’s new developments.

    IMO the question of how we get through the next five years needs to be addressed. The building of the enormous Croydon Westfield development is potentially disruptive for both residents and businesses and is likely to reduce footfall considerably. It’s surely quite difficult to develop the character and heritage of an area which is right alongside a huge building site? I know that Croydon Business Improvement District is working on a strategy to support Town Centre businesses through the development period but I would like to know what the thinking is in Old Town?

    Also – how will Old Town interface with Westfield when it is completed? Will there be signage within the new retail development to direct shoppers outside into the heritage area? Who will be liaising with the developers to ensure that this happens? I will definitely try to be at the next meeting.

    • http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Wesley-Jordan-Anthony-Baker/690910500 Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

      Hi Liz sorry its taken so long to reply. We were thinking Whitgift as it is, is like a barrier if your entering the town by East Croydon. It seems like you’d naturally make a b-line for the whitgift and I love Westfield and that its coming here but again the pedestrian routes promote going straight into Westfiield. I mentioned making some sort of statement piece be it a sign or god knows what at East Croydon to say basically hey we are here why not pop down since its not that far.

      I agree the construction could be very disruptive. I was thinking they will probably start on Allders 1st and hopefully with the amount of empty units in both malls tenants who want to stay and be in the redeveloped Centrale and Whitgift would be offered new temporary homes to make Croydon feel like its still open for business.

      Do you remember when the Clocktower opened to the public there was the Picasso exhibition called ‘Cock and Bull’? There were hooves and chickens feet on the floor leading all the way from places like West Croydon station up north end. I doubt thats gonna should at everyone come here as well as there but what do you think about some sort of street art maybe that draws you in almost like a street gallery.

      I think its worth us maybe consulting the developers. Now you’ve said it I’d definitely email them with ideas and concerns, they might not reply but I guess you can only try. Even Matthews yard I was saying to someone there should be a sign maybe under the new surrey street bridge as people still seem to be unaware its there. I wonder as well if COBA has any money maybe to advertise on the tram since from Wimbledon Old town is the natural gateway to Croydon and maybe signage coming into town from Purley way from both ends. Would love to hear your thoughts.

      • Chetas Patel

        Relocate the market between east croydon and westfield

        • http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Wesley-Jordan-Anthony-Baker/690910500 Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

          The markets location is steeped in history and the idea is to stay and fight. It’s not a mission impossible either just needs people with the means as enough people love old town and have ideas that will enrich our town.