Croydon Vision 2020 was a £5.7 billion regeneration plan promising 21 development sites, 9,500 new homes, seven new hotels and 28 new public spaces.
But it is a promise that locals and visitors find hard to believe as they wander down Croydon’s once-proud North End, its main shopping street, which now has the appearance of a place in serious retail peril — a long way from living up to the Mayor of London’s designation of Croydon as one of the capital’s top 13 centres for shopping.
Croydon is a town in limbo. It put its faith in a new Westfield shopping centre which should, if it works, sweep away the dated Whitgift and Centrale shopping centres and put Croydon on a par with the glitzy Westfield malls in Shepherd’s Bush and Stratford.
But seven years on Croydon is still waiting; earlier this year the project partners Westfield and Hammerson put their scheme on hold, blaming Brexit, while still maintaining the new Croydon Westfield will be delivered by 2023.
Croydon still has reasons to be cheerful, though. The cranes are very much in evidence, building new homes and offices.
Insurance and finance companies such as AIG, American Express, Zurich, Liverpool Victoria and Goldman Sachs all have offices here and Croydon has the potential to become a new sort of city with workers living in high-rise apartment blocks walking to work in nearby high-rise office blocks.
The hugely successful Boxpark drinking, dining and events space, next to East Croydon station, has brought a touch of Shoreditch cool to the suburbs, while recently renovated Fairfield Halls entertainment and arts centre was reopened in September by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Dame Judi Dench.
Boxpark’s 35 street food outlets, in shipping containers set around a communal dining area, include MEATliquor, The Breakfast Club and BBC Great British Menu winner James Cochran’s Goat, specialising in goat meat.
Fairfield Halls reopened after a three-year, £42 million restoration. Often described as the Festival Hall of the south, it was built in 1962 but had descended into a tribute band venue.
Now stripped back to its former glory by MICA Architects, the firm formed from the late Rick Mather’s practice, a bright future is promised.
It opened with the only UK performances of the musical Angela’s Ashes, based on Frank McCourt’s book about his Limerick childhood, and the foyer is featuring a photographic exhibition celebrating the Windrush generation.
A new Croydon landmark: the 43-storey Saffron Square tower with its sparkly red, pink and purple cladding overlooks West Croydon bus station and the tram stop (Daniel Lynch)
The property scene
Of the wide range of homes in Croydon, the priciest are the large detached houses with big gardens in Shirley, south of the town centre.
The most expensive house for sale now is The Oaks in Springhurst Close, a 20-year-old five-bedroom 4,300sq ft home with a three quarter-acre garden, priced £1,795,000.
The Whitgift Foundation roads off Addiscombe Road east of the town centre have mainly detached Arts and Crafts-inspired houses. One of these, with five bedrooms in Grimwade Avenue, is priced £1.5 million.
Park Hill, south-east of the town centre between Barclay Road and Coombe Road, is an estate of Sixties and Seventies Wates-built houses in walking distance of East Croydon station.
A three-storey, three-bedroom townhouse is for sale for £495,000. Park Hill also contains the St Bernards conservation area, 21 locally listed houses on a wooded, hilly site by Swiss architects Atelier 5.
The Waldrons conservation area south-west of the centre has a crescent of early Victorian villas, one of which was home to Cicely Mary Barker, author of the Flower Fairy books.
The majority of the big detached Edwardian and Victorian houses in the Chatsworth Road and East India Estate conservation areas have been divided into flats. A seven-bedroom Edwardian semi in Outram Road is for sale at £875,000 as a development opportunity.
An abundant supply of modern flats includes the 43-storey Saffron Square tower, completed in 2016 by Berkeley Homes, with sparkly red, pink and purple cladding that’s visible for miles. A three-bedroom flat on the 38th floor is for sale at £825,000.
Leon House is the conversion of a 22-storey modernist concrete former office block in High Street by FI Real Estate Management.
There are 263 flats with full-height windows, communal sky gardens and a private rooftop dining room that residents can hire.
An original Sixties concrete artwork by William Mitchell was uncovered and restored during the conversion. One-bedroom flats start at £372,000 and two-bedroom flats at £428,000. Call 020 8686 9434.
The same developer is about to start nearby on Leon Quarter, 357 flats and duplexes with up to four bedrooms, ranged across three buildings, plus a restaurant on the ground floor. Call 0845 500 6161.
Vista 24 in Dingwall Road in the town centre, by Bellway Homes, launches next year with one-, two- and three-bedroom flats. Call 020 3802 0418.
In the pipeline are: the next stage of Ruskin Square, with shops, offices and 625 homes next to East Croydon station — call Places for People on 020 7429 0400; Queen’s Quarter, by developer HUB and Bridges Fund Management, with 513 new homes for sale and rent, overlooking pretty Queen’s Gardens — call 020 7534 9065; and 101 George Street, with 550 flats for rent in two towers, one 44 storeys, the other 38. Call Greystar (020 3595 3333).
First-time buyer and shared-ownership homes
Addiscombe Grove, near East Croydon station, launches soon with 41 out of 153 one-bedroom flats for shared ownership, by developer Pocket and housing association Optivo. Call 020 7291 3680.
Period conversion flats start at £850 a month for one-bedroom homes and £1,100 for two bedrooms. Modern flats at Saffron Square start at £1,175 a month for one-bedroom homes and £1,475 for two bedrooms.
No 26 in Dingwall Road near East Croydon station has 183 flats with Conran furnishings, plus a co-working space and a 23rd-floor roof terrace. Studios start at £880 a month; one-bedroom flats at £1,560 and two-bedroom flats at £1,610 a month. Call 020 7313 6149.
Large family houses to rent are rare: a Thirties four-bedroom mock Tudor semi in Sefton Road is £1,900 a month, while a five-bedroom Arts and Crafts house in Croham Manor Road is available at £2,700 a month.
Local MP Sarah Jones is campaigning to get Croydon stations brought into Zone 4 for London commuters. Croydon has three stations — East, West and South Croydon.
Trains from East Croydon take 16 minutes to London Bridge, 21 minutes to Victoria and on the through-London Thameslink service, 21 minutes to Blackfriars and 30 minutes to St Pancras; a few minutes more from South Croydon. Trains from East Croydon to Gatwick airport take 15 minutes.
Services from West Croydon take 18 minutes to London Bridge and 33 minutes to Victoria.
West Croydon is also on the Overground, with trains to Shoreditch High Street and Canada Water, one stop away from Canary Wharf. Croydon’s stations are currently in Zone 5 and an annual travel card costs £2,400.
The Tramlink service connects Croydon’s outlying areas with East and West Croydon stations and also runs to Wimbledon.
With so many flat sharers, Croydon can be a transitory place. However, there are desirable areas where people put down roots. For example, a Thirties house in Grimwade Avenue is on sale for £1.5 million for the first time since 1967.
CR0 is the large postcode covering central Croydon and stretching as far Shirley. South Croydon, though, is in CR2.
Bishops Walk is a private road in Shirley and in South Croydon roads such as Croham Manor Road have large detached Twenties houses with Arts and Crafts detailing.
Up and coming
Forestdale off Featherbed Lane in Addington, south-east of Croydon town centre, is a Sixties and Seventies Wates-built estate arranged in a series of culs-de-sac, with three-bedroom terrace houses starting at around £325,000.
Croydon council is Labour controlled. Band D council tax for 2019/2020 is £1,716.82.
A bit of Shoreditch cool: Boxpark street food and events space, next to East Croydon station with its terrific links (Daniel Lynch)
Shops and restaurants
Croydon’s shopping experience, especially along North End, is looking tired and shabby while it waits for Westfield and Hammerson to make up their minds about redevelopment plans.
There are two department stores – Debenhams and House of Fraser – and two shopping centres – the Whitgift Centre and Centrale, plus branches of M&S, Zara, Next and Primark. A John Lewis department store is promised for the new shopping centre.
Surrey Street Market has a long history but it, too, is struggling, although some street food stalls have been added. Matthews Yard off Surrey Street is a café and arts and creative hub with the first crowdfunded theatre in the UK.
The restaurant quarter is in High Street and South End where board game café The Ludoquist and independent coffee shops Byte Café and Crushed Bean are thriving. Ponte Nuovo is an Italian restaurant and Altesh is a Turkish restaurant.
The Clocktower Café in the central library in Katharine Street is always full and there is live jazz on Thursday lunchtimes.
Boxpark next to East Croydon station is a rare highlight; a street food venue in a series of shipping containers around a communal eating area where you can eat yourself round the world with everything from bao buns, to Argentinian steak; to pizza, Thai, fried chicken, Greek kebabs, pasta and a bowl of noodles on offer.
Park Hill Recreation Ground between Barclay Road and Coombe Road has a walled garden, tennis courts, children’s playground and an historic water tower.
Lloyd Park to the east of the town centre has a café, children’s playground, outdoor gym and bowling green. Outside Croydon the Addington Hills are on the London Loop walk.
There are four golf clubs: Shirley Park in Addiscombe Road; Croham Hurst in South Croydon; Addington Palace in Gravel Hill and at the De Vere Selsdon Estate, a country house hotel, in Addington Road.
Leisure and the arts
The recently restored Fairfield Halls has a concert hall; the Ashcroft Playhouse and a smaller concert hall, the Recreational.
There are two Vue multiplex cinemas, in the High Street and Purley Way. The nearest council-owned swimming pool is at Waddon Leisure Centre in Purley Way.
In Croydon it is hard to escape the influence of the powerful Whitgift Foundation, formed in 1596 by John Whitgift, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who spent a lot of time in his palace in Croydon, halfway between Lambeth Palace and Canterbury.
As well as being a major Croydon landlord the Whitgift Foundation runs three private schools: Old Palace of John Whitgift (girls, nursery to sixth form) in Old Palace Road in the centre of Croydon; Whitgift (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Haling Park Road; and Trinity (co-ed, ages 10 to 18) in Shirley Park.
Croydon also has a good choice of state schools and nearby Sutton has three grammar schools — Wallington County (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Croydon Road; and Wilson’s (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Mollison Drive, both of which are judged to be “outstanding” by the Government’s education watchdog Ofsted; and Wallington High (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Woodcote Road which is judged to be “good”.
The “outstanding” state primary schools are: St Mary’s RC Infants in Bedford Park (the junior school is judged to be “good”); Chestnut Park in St James’s Road; Park Hill Infants in Stanhope Road (the junior school is judged to be “good”); Heathfield in Aberdeen Road; West Thornton in Rosecourt Road; Harris Primary Purley Way in Propeller Crescent; and Harris Primary Haling Park in Haling Road.
The “outstanding” comprehensive school is Harris Invictus (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in London Road.
The following comprehensives are rated “good”: St Mary’s Catholic High (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Woburn Road; Archbishop Tenison’s CofE (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Selborne Road; The BRIT School for performing arts and technology, (co-ed, ages 14 to 18) in The Crescent, famous for turning out stars such as Adele and the late Amy Winehouse; Thomas More RC (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Russell Hill Road in Purley; The Archbishop Lanfranc Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 16) in Mitcham Road; and the all-through Oasis Academy Shirley Park (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Shirley Road.
Coombe Wood (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Melville Avenue is a new Free School opened in September 2018 and has not yet been inspected by Ofsted.
The private primary and secondary schools are: Elmhurst (boys, ages three to 11) in South Park Hill Road and Cumnor House (boys, ages two to 13) in Pampisford Road.
The private secondary and all-through schools are: The Cedars (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Coombe Road; Royal Russell (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Coombe Lane; and Coloma Convent RC (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Upper Shirley Road.
There are two private tutorial colleges with a large intake of overseas GCSE and A-level pupils: Croydon Metropolitan College in South End and Cambridge Tutors in Water Tower Hill.
Croydon College (co-ed, ages 16 to 18) in College Road is the local Further Education college.