A historic city center that regularly hosts royalty has become a neglected landfill, say frustrated locals.
The old town of Croydon on the outskirts of London has a rich history of buildings from the Saxon period and was the summer residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for over 500 years.
Still, residents say the site has fallen into disrepair as the local government went bankrupt and the local tax increased by 15 percent this year.
The Old Town precinct in south London includes Croydon Minster and a church building mentioned in the Domesday Book published in 1086.
Six former Archbishops of Canterbury are buried in the Minster, while kings and queens used to be regular visitors.
But the people who live there now say that the area is not only not living up to its potential, but actually appears as an eyesore and an embarrassment.
Croydon City Council recently pledged to invest £7.5million in the area around the Minster – while acknowledging that “significant improvements” are needed.
Their planned works include relocating parking lots, creating a new play area and getting rid of a pedestrian underpass.
Still, locals remain concerned about the prospects for improvement, they say Local Democracy Reporting Service.
There have been complaints about the amount of trash dumped in the district, as well as ongoing vandalism and anti-social behavior.
Among those calling for action is a family business that survived the 2011 riots and whose base was burned.
Trevor Reeves’ furniture shop, House Of Reeves, has had a presence in Croydon’s Old Town for over 150 years and has been run by five generations of the family since it was founded in 1876.
The arson attack that destroyed the headquarters became an iconic image of the August 2011 riots which began in Tottenham, north London, before spreading to other areas including not just Croydon but further afield in Birmingham and Salford in the greater area Manchester.
Mr Reeves said: “Having been involved in the master plans after the riots, I have no confidence that anyone will do anything.”
“As a long-established business we are a magnet for the area – most older people would remember we were here when this was the center of Croydon before the Whitgift Center was built.”
“It really destroyed this area. Nobody has really cared since then, neither Labor nor Conservatives.”
The Whitgift Center in the city center opened in 1968, but plans to convert it into a £1.6 billion Westfield shopping center in this century were finally abandoned in 2019.
David Leadbeater, who has lived nearby since 1996, said: “I think it’s important to highlight the history here.
“It used to be a lot busier – it’s such a shame. It would be helpful if you made it easier for people to park their cars.”
Housemate Gill Ball said: “I don’t think it’s pretty and I live here – it’s gone downhill.
“I think there’s potential all over Croydon but we’re paying a mega council tax and we’re not seeing any change.”
Joyce Dean, who has lived in Croydon since the 1970s, is dismayed at the Old Town’s current appearance and plight.
She said: “There are beautiful buildings and a lot of history of Croydon that people don’t know about – so many Archbishops of Canterbury are buried here.”
“I saw it go through the subway. It has everything it has to offer – it has the wonderful train connections to London.”
“I think the Council spent all that money on the wrong things. They sold the family silver and squandered so much on Fairfield Halls and buying the Croydon Park Hotel for way too high a price was a scandal.”
The hotel was recently bought by Amro Partners for £24.9million, with plans to convert it into apartments – compared to the £29.8million Croydon City Council paid for it in 2018.
Work on the refurbishment of entertainment venue Fairfield Halls – whose heyday in the 1960s and 1970s attracted the likes of the Beatles, David Bowie, The Who, Queen and Morecambe and Wise – was completed in 2019 but cost £70m instead of the original budget of 30 million pounds .
The 15 per cent rise in local taxes announced last month came after special approval from the government and Leveling Secretary Michael Gove, and came on the heels of the local government’s third bankruptcy announcement in two years.
A council spokesman said: “Council is implementing a major £7.5million project investing in the improvement of public spaces and parks in Minster Green in Croydon’s old town.
“Detailed designs are currently being finalized and will be shared with our residents and partners later this year before construction begins.
“Drafted in consultation with the diocese and local community, the plans include the relocation of parking spaces, the removal of the pedestrian underpass, a new play area with green spaces and lighting around the listed Minster.
“The new layout and lighting will create a space that residents can enjoy while addressing issues such as vandalism and anti-social behavior.”