Slides for this event can be viewed via the RTPI London events pages.
The morning’s persistent rain failed to prevent a troupe of RTPI members from travelling down to Croydon to hear the Council’s plans for the wider metropolitan area and how infrastructure was supporting this development.
Mike Kiely (Croydon Council – Director of Planning & Building Control and current President of the Planning Officers Society), welcomed all to the event. Mike noted that the development of the metropolitan area played a significant role in the wider London context as a designated opportunity area and hoped all enjoyed the talk and tour of the town centre. Mike noted the Opportunity Area Planning Framework, (OAPF) was prepared in collaboration between the Council, GLA and TfL.
Tim Naylor (Head of Spatial Planning – Croydon Council), introduced the policy framework for the metropolitan region which is defined as the central area. The mass of office stock and high rise buildings are emblematic of the prevailing zeitgeist for decentralisation of central London office stock in the 1950s and 60s. Croydon’s reputation as an office centre has since diminished due to competition from alternative centres.
As a result the council have been working on getting the right ingredients together to bolster the town’s commercial and residential offer. Where currently less than 300 people live within the Croydon Metropolitan centre, this is expected to grow to 7,300 homes. This is governed by a strong LDF and clear masterplans.
There are five masterplans which cover the future development of Croydon and look to deliver the growth in housing and commercial offer the town centre needs. Vincent Lacovara (Place Making Team Leader), provided a detailed review of the East Croydon Masterplan, which was adopted as interim planning guidance in 2011 and won a New London Architecture Award for best masterplan in 2012. The plan developed in collaboration with a number of stakeholders and using consultancy support covers an area around East Croydon Station.
The station at East Croydon is remarkably one of the busiest stations outside central London and often operates at (or near) capacity. In order to avoid a situation where the gatelines need to be closed for periods of time, the council worked with Network Rail and surrounding landowners to look for solutions. One such solution which has now been delivered is a new bridge from Dingwall Road, around half way up the platform. This new entrance intended to ease pressure on the main entrance will also double up as a new pedestrian link across this part of Croydon, creating a new East-West link which adjoins several other improvements tied into what is known as the Connected Croydon Programme.
Central Croydon suffers from major barriers to easy access across the area. Wellesley Road and the train lines are just two pieces of major infrastructure which create a significant severance effect. The Connected Croydon programme is a programme of planned public realm enhancements to deliver improvements to access across the town centre serving the local people, who will live, work and socialise in the town.
Added to the future regeneration of the Whitgift Shopping Centre, known as the Croydon Partnership site it will be possible to easily walk all the way from Cherry Orchard Road across to Wandle Park, the nearest significant piece of parkland for the town. This programme is being coordinated by the council using £50m of funding, including £23m from the London Mayor’s Regeneration Fund.
Danny Calver (Principal Planner – TfL) was the final speaker of the session and provided a whistle-stop tour around planned transport investment to support the onward development of the town centre. Danny noted the OAPF being developed in collaboration with the council, TfL and GLA identified a package of measures which were necessary to support the onward redevelopment.
This package is being identified through a Development Infrastructure Funding Study (DIFS) similar to that in Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea and White City. This adds certainty when negotiating mitigation measures.
There are a number of existing committed transport projects, those identified within the OAPF and additional improvements which are necessary to support the Croydon partnership proposals. Major projects include improvements to tram stops and services, ensuring that the tram can continue to operate at a similar level of frequency and enhanced capacity. TfL are also progressing a study into a new turning loop at Dingwall Road, this will allow trams to turn on both the east and west sides of the town centre adding resilience to the network to keep it operating during busy periods. In addition on the western side of the metropolitan area, TfL is progressing a study, linked to the findings of the Roads Task Force to look at key pedestrian, cycling and highway improvements along the A23 corridor.
Following the informative presentation session, Vincent led the group on a short tour of the town centre, including a visit to the top of the council’s new offices at Bernard Weatherill House for a view across the rooftops of Croydon. This allowed the group to see the potential development opportunities across the metropolitan centre and what has already begun in earnest.
This event provided the opportunity to see the masterplans and delivery programmes in action, from the works to create a new junction at Dingwall Road to the new bridge and the council’s offices, Croydon is changing. The policy framework which has been delivered through close collaboration and the mitigation packages are guiding this change to maximise the potential of the metropolitan centre as a centre for living, working and socialising.
Many thanks to Croydon Council for hosting the event; to the volunteers who assisted and to our speakers Mike Kiely, Tim Naylor, Vincent Lacovara and Danny Calver. A special thanks to Ross Gentry at Croydon Council for facilitating this event.
The RTPI London Centenary Series is supported by the following partners: Atkins, NLA, Colliers, TfL, URS, KDH Associates and AECOM.