Croydon is for community, not commuting

By - Thursday 4th January, 2018

If our town is to retain its identity, we must actively resist becoming just another commuter hub

Photo author’s own.

Croydon’s hard-earned self-determination was achieved through people electing to spend time and money in the borough’s regenerated commercial, cultural and property sectors. However, this community commitment is being undermined by London-centric housing developments that see Croydon as only a ‘base’ to sleep and get easy access to the capital.

The effect of the sheer scale, speed and success of Croydon’s rebirth can be best demonstrated through the redevelopment of East Croydon station, where previously derelict and barren land has been transformed by mass property developments that loom over the now diminutive station. One of the most notable projects is Vita Ruskin Square, whose ‘luxury apartments’ (why does no-one sell ‘flats’ anymore?) entice outsiders to purchase in Croydon by desperately clinging to the rail line. Places like Vita Ruskin Square are where the future of Croydon’s identity will be decided.

Looking at Vita’s website the main and vital selling point of the development is clear: you can get back into London very, very quickly: “Croydon is ideally placed for London living […] a gateway to central London” that is “within 15 minutes of central London”. Despite being situated only a short walk to our town centre, Vita have next to nothing to say about our borough except that it should be considered as “a new city within a city… a new quarter of London”. Oh, and that we have Boxpark.

We must instil those that live in commuter buildings like Vita with the same feeling community that helped bring change to the town

To live, work or spend time in our town or borough was once considered a compromise or concession, whereas now it ought to be a desired privilege. The most significant reason for this has been the iron-fisted will of our people, who saw the gold amongst the concrete and reignited Croydon. Our citizens put ink to our art scene, pored over our varied coffee shops, fed the high street restaurant quarter and connected our future-focused businesses. London-focused developments like Vita risk diluting this identity, which was passionately crafted at a time when outsiders would have considered living in Croydon only marginally better than a studio on Pluto.

A lot of people in Croydon work in central London and the time it takes to get there is therefore important, but what about evenings and weekends? If Croydon inhabitants are driven to live here primarily by the speed at which they can get back into London, what chance does the town’s feeling of self have to survive?

For Croydon’s self-determination to continue we must instil those that live in commuter buildings like Vita with the same feeling community that helped bring change to the town, encouraging the mindset of Croydon first, London second. By electing to spend your leisure time in Croydon, you are making a significant difference to the borough’s longevity as a thriving and exciting place to be a part of.

Croydon-centricity doesn’t mean leaving your job in Zone 2 or never doing anything in London, but it does mean making a conscious decision to spend time and money in our town when possible to do so. You have a wonderful town and borough, if we don’t continue to use it any enjoy it, the essence or Croydon is at risk of being swallowed up and its identity lost. The next time you tell someone you live in Croydon, focus on what our great borough has to offer, not how quickly you can get to London Bridge or Victoria.

Luke Langlands

Luke Langlands

Luke lives in East Croydon with his girlfriend, having arrived from Edinburgh in 2013. Originally from County Durham, when Luke isn't reading the Citizen in a Croydon pub/cafe he can be found enjoying the town's wonderful green spaces or learning Polish. Luke works as a communications consultant for the health /medical industries and has a Masters degree in Journalism.

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  • Jonny Rose

    Here, here, Luke – well said! :)

  • David Jupp

    Great article! As a 30 something who bought their first place in South Croydon recently, partly because of the easy commute I think that Croydon’s sense of community is inescapable. If you live in Croydon it only takes a few months to start discovering all the hidden gems and as soon as you realise that it has so much to offer without hopping on a train the laziness seeds the romance. We’ve been here 2 years now, we were considering Walthamstow, Forest Hill and plenty of other burgeoning middle-class white enclaves… We definitely made the right decision. I’m pleased Westfield is going ahead but I hope the town retains its awesome identity. Croydon is awesome.

  • Robert Ward

    Thanks Luke, good points that most Croydon people would be onside with. The risk of being a dormitory plus a shopping centre has long been recognised. The Fairfield Halls and cultural activity are vitally important for us to be more than that.

    What is also important is safety in the evening. Companies that have moved here from Central London say their employees go straight home after work rather than, as they had done in the past, staying for after-work drinks, because of safety concerns.

    I think both political parties support development of local communities like Addiscombe where you live. That is yet another strand of a successful future Croydon.

    Much work to be done.