It is Obvious

Chris Rick has got altogether too much to say

Croydon

Posted by chrisrick13 on August 31, 2011

It is obvious: a lot of pieces are falling into place

Remember: one is not a good sample.

It was about 24 years ago that I would, foolishly and far too often, bundle up the family with three young children and drive into Croydon of a Saturday morning.  We would fight to park and then fight through the crowds to find a cafe and finally wander the shops spending money on things we did not want or need.

I came to my senses, eventually, and I have barely been there over the intervening 24 years.  Much has happened.  The Whitgift Centre was covered over making it into a pleasant place to shop, with a lot of varied stores – you could get just about anything there.  The Debenhams across the high street became another shopping centre with expansion.  The Drummond Centre was built next to it.  An old furniture store was turned into a cinema complex.  The high street was pedestrianised.  The tram was built that ran to two stops at either end of the high street.  A lot of smaller investment was made into shops, cafes, and restaurants.  Definitely investment had gone into the centre and it was a much improved place.

But bad things also happened.  Allders closed because it simply did not sell what people wanted.  Perhaps the culmination was the burning down of Reeves Corner on the edge of the centre in the riots last month.

The council contributed.  Having run out of money it opted to sell cash generating assets and use that money to pay bills over the short-term.  It effectively took income for the next 100 years and spent it over 3 or 4 years.  The reverse of PFI.  Much like a sinking fund.  Of course it was a Labour run council.  One of the assets that they sold was the car parks.  They also insisted that the car park fees be raised to discourage people driving into Croydon.  After all there was a tram to get people in.  However the predominant shopping pattern now is that for anything beyond a pint of milk and a loaf of bread, people drive to the shop, throw their purchases in the car and drive home.  In the past I had not taken my car to Croydon because I couldn’t find a space.  Now I don’t go because of the cost, but when forced to, I park in an empty car park.

The result is that the centre is ‘owned’ by large numbers of pushy youngsters with loud music, lots of shouting, littering and what I can only describe as threatening behaviour.  Along with all that discouragement for shoppers there is the dreadful state of the economy.  More than a third of the ‘units’ are closed.  Many of those that are open are new and destined not to last long.  The centre of Croydon is dying.  There is nobody there.  I wonder if that pattern is being repeated throughout the country: large investment in city centres that now has no return?

It does affect me because I pay council tax.  Sorting out the centre will be paid for by me.

It seems that wherever I look I can see things that, with hindsight perhaps, were done poorly.  All of our past mistakes seem to be readying themselves for retribution in the near future which will need money.  The past generation can’t pay, the next generation won’t pay (and can’t if they are not in productive employment).  It is up to my generation, yet many of them are not in any position to pay.  The government wants us out there spending to save the economy.  If we don’t spend it then the government will soon take it off us.

It is obvious: a lot of pieces are falling into place and I don’t like the look of the picture that is being revealed.

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