Croydon: The renaissance is becoming a reality

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Croydon’s renaissance is in full swing, not only taking forward a vision of growth and prosperity but delivering against it.

Special edition: article first published in London Business Matters, June 2019

Rich in exciting cultural events, transport links and a diverse residential population of nearly 400,000, massive investment will see more than 23,000 new jobs created and 10,760 new homes started in the next 5 years.

As part of Croydon’s vision, the borough will see: 2.8 million sq feet of new grade A office space created; 28 new public squares and spaces; a revitalised and vibrant city centre environment; 21 city centre development opportunities and a world class train station to name but a few.

The vision is being realised at a rapid rate. Multiple sites across the borough are under redevelopment with cranes adorning the skyline and a large contingent of construction workers turning the dream in to reality.

Croydon is extremely well-connected

Of course, Croydon is not the only destination experiencing significant regeneration. What does set it apart from many of its contemporaries is its connectivity. Croydon is without question at the heart of the action when it comes to the capital. Some may say we are the capital without the cost.

Much has been said about Croydon’s connectivity to central London, 16 minutes to central London. But it is also our proximity to international transport hubs which hold Croydon above the parapet when comparing against other locations across London.

Croydon’s outstanding transport connections open up a comprehensive range of commuter, national and international transport options for your clients, your staff and your business – without compromising connectivity with central London.

With over 30 services an hour to central London, 11 services an hour to Gatwick, Croydon is connected. The likes of London Bridge and London Victoria are an insignificant 16 minute journey away, Gatwick is just 15 minutes and if you fancy a jaunt to the coast, Brighton is a simple 48 minute journey. Canary Wharf is 33 minutes from West Croydon.

Croydon’s Transport

The success of a destination relies in part on its transport infrastructure, access to different modes but also its reliability not only to get you from a to be but to deliver a positive experience from the start to the end of your journey for the 300,000 passengers who rely on it each weekday. As the fares rise, so does our expectation.

Therefore it is important to recognise Network Rail’s proposal to upgrade the Croydon bottleneck, located in the Selhurst Triangle’, the junctions north of East Croydon, and through East Croydon station.

The bottleneck at Croydon often causes knock-on delay across the network every time an incident occurs and it means there is no capacity to run more trains to meet future passenger growth, leading to overcrowding in the years ahead unless action is taken. The investment to infrastructure will allow for more frequent, more reliable services across the Brighton Main Line and its branches.

As the main route connecting the capital with Gatwick Airport and the south coast improving the Brighton Main Line will provide a significant boost to the regional and national economy.

The commitment shown by Network Rail does not just stop there. Proposals also include a rebuilt station with two additional platforms and a larger concourse with improved facilities for passengers.

It is fair to say that in recent year’s train operators have encountered a tumultuous period of unprecedented change and turbulence which has been further compounded by an impact to the service and its reliability. Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) which delivers the Southern Railway franchise has and is on a journey of development and improvement. GTR still has improvements to make but as a franchise, it is delivering for its commuters improved performance. As of May 2019, performance of the Southern Metro was at 90.2% of trains on time, 6.8% late and 2.9% cancelled.

It’s people who make a place

Croydon’s growth is not just linked to regeneration, development and construction. The vision focuses largely on the people of this great borough.

In March 2019, Croydon Council and London South Bank University (LSBU) revealed the next exciting step in the borough’s regeneration, as the town centre further develops as a centre of business, culture and learning.

The partnership could see LSBU establish a centre for higher education in the heart of the town centre – a move which would significantly increase learning and training opportunities for residents of all ages, particularly the borough’s 93,000 under-18s.

It would also provide a significant boost to the borough’s economy, enhancing the skills of the local workforce, forging links with local businesses and building on the success of the council’s award-winning apprenticeships scheme.

The new partnership is the first step in the council’s ambition to develop the Croydon Creative Campus, which would see the town centre develop as a global centre of higher education.

Leader of Croydon Council, Cllr Tony Newman said:  “Croydon’s regeneration is already delivering a wealth of opportunities for our residents, with new jobs, homes and facilities. This partnership is another, incredibly important development, as it will improve access to further education for residents of all ages, but especially our 93,000 young people, significantly boosting their skills and economic prospects.”

Croydon’s Commitment to the Arts

As Croydon invests in its property, infrastructure and people, of all ages, it is making a clear commitment to the arts in creating a programme of cultural activity that promotes the incredible talent Croydon’s borough has to offer.

Croydon has energy and edge in its proliferation of street art, its enviable mix of incredible artists, its reputation as the home of dubstep and  it’s phenomenal punk history. It also has world class choral performance at Croydon Minster, beautiful parks and woodland. The 1960s architecture in the centre has recently attracted critical acclaim from the National Trust on a series of tours and the redevelopment of the Fairfield Halls will create a new cultural heart for South London.

Closed for extensive refurbishment since July 2016, Fairfield Halls is now preparing to re-open its doors this September to a new era for one of south London’s most cherished venues with five venue spaces: the famed Phoenix Concert Hall with its perfect acoustics, the 800 seater Ashcroft Playhouse, and three flexible studio spaces for performances and events.

Operator BH Live has pledged to deliver a fantastic range of artistic and cultural activities at Fairfield Halls, including theatre, drama, live music showcasing a range of genres, modern and contemporary acts, visual arts, international performances, and classical performances including opera and ballet, comedy, dance and community events. Their proposed programme includes more than 800 performances, of which more than 400 will be community-based, firmly establishing the venue as the new cultural hub for Croydon.

Neil Chandler, Venue Director at Fairfield Halls says: “BH Live’s track record in managing community assets, event programming and delivering exceptional hospitality gives me immense confidence and the opportunity they have given me to be part of this project, both artistically and operationally, will be very rewarding. I look forward to connecting with the local community and to presenting seasons of entertainment that appeal to a local and wider audience.”

Croydon is awash with talent from global superstars who trained at the renowned BRIT School to artists that have been plucked from obscurity on to centre stage.

How Croydon BID is contributing

Croydon Business Improvement District (BID) is making a positive impact to the now and the future. As an integral partner to the development and growth of the town centre, we are committed to supporting our member base of 560 in any way that we can. Delivering innovative solutions and initiatives designed to support pledges such as: investing in your safety; delivering Brighter Streets, helping you in and around; bringing businesses together and creating a great impression are central to our cause.

We are working hard on key challenges affecting our town centre today including the redefining of our high street.

High streets have constantly had to adapt and change over the last couple of centuries. Whilst online sales are growing at a fast rate, bricks and mortar sales still account for nearly 82% of sales.

If you look specifically at Croydon, we have a host of vehicles and organisations that all come together collaboratively to add real value in that way Croydon works. As one of the best connected places in the UK, with so much potential, it has won support from central government in terms of the Growth Fund for Croydon town centre.

We can feel confident in the future of Croydon, and at the same time, adapt right now to create a more attractive offer for consumers. The town centres of the future will adapt to bring together the kind of the customer experience that people want. It's not just about going to one store anymore and spending half an hour and going home. This is all about the whole experience. It is about a day. It's not an hour, it's much longer. It has much more value for consumers, and for town centre businesses.

In order for Croydon to become the key chosen destination, it must have everything lined up in a row that provides the single best offer in South London and wider, so that we can compete.

As suggested by the Institute of Place Management (IPM), places need leadership and partnerships making the collective work of Croydon Business Improvement District, the local authority, forums, partners and above all our membership absolutely vital.

Places like Croydon need communication flow, intelligence and regular updates using a variety of technologies, like My Solomon and Croydon BID Radio Link. People of all ages need to engage, but particularly the young people – they will inherit what we will develop and build.

From Croydon’s perspective, our renaissance is not a dream, it is becoming a reality.

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