This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 08/09/2017.
Summer 2017 in brief
The big stories of the summer, summarised by the Citizenteam.
Animal rights campaigners staged a protest at the opening of Croydon High Street branch of Five Guys
On Monday 31st July, vegans and other animal rights protesters leafleted customers on the opening day of Croydon’s new branch of Five Guys, currently the fastest growing restaurant chain in the US and famed for its bacon milkshakes. Under the slogan ‘you buy, they die’, the London Animal Rights Meet-Up group opposes not only the cruel practices which it states are involved in animal husbandry but also ‘carnism’ (meat eating) on the grounds of the harm that the group believes it causes to human health. Long queues were reported inside the restaurant throughout its opening day.
Croydon celebrated the only London Pride event outside the centre of the capital
For the second year in a row and this time on an expanded site in the Queen’s Gardens, Croydon hosted a successful LGBTIQ Pride event on Saturday 15th July. This was the only event of its kind outside the centre of London but within the M25, and was themed around celebrating fifty years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England in 1967. The parade began in Poplar Walk at the top of North End, and the day featured live music, dance, food and drink, cabaret and comedy, along with stalls run by community groups and charities. Headline acts included Topping and Butch.
Signalling problem caused chaos after trains were unable to leave Selhurst Depot
Friday 4th August saw major rail disruptions on the lines up to central London from East Croydon after a signalling problem prevented trains from leaving Selhurst Depot. Five sets of points failed to function, leading to what was described by the Croydon Guardian as “chaos”. There was heavy disruption not only north of Croydon but as far south as East Grinstead and Uckfield.
Cottages in Cane Hill conservation area were saved from demolition
Plans by Optivo, a housing association formed earlier in 2017 following the merger of Amicus Horizon and Viridion Housing, to demolish two historic cottages on site of former Cane Hill hospital, now a housing development, were abandoned within 24 hours of a protest against the proposal. The cottages are within the Cane Hill conservation area and residents had been given notice of their demolition on the grounds that they are ‘economically unsuited for the area’. Optivo had intended to replace the cottages with flats. Its application, published on the Croydon Council website, had been met with a wave of objections from members of the public and was described by Croydon South MP Chris Philp as “outrageous”.
Human Zoo company brought theatre to Surrey Street market
From 2nd to 12th August, Croydon’s historic fruit and vegetable market in Surrey Street saw live performances by the Human Zoo Theatre Company. Performances including poetry not just performed but written live in front of shoppers, puppetry, comedy, music and dance.
Doubt arose over John Lewis as the ‘anchor’ store in Croydon’s proposed new Westfield
The ongoing delay of Croydon’s promised Westfield retail development was given an extra twist by an announcement from the new managing director of the John Lewis that no further stores will be opened in the UK in the foreseeable future, beyond three already announced for Oxford, Cheltenham and Westfield Shepherd’s Bush. Discussions are believed to have been ongoing since 2015 between the Croydon Partnership and John Lewis in the hope that a John Lewis store would become one of two major ‘anchors’ in Croydon Westfield. Agreement already exists for the other ‘anchor’, which is to be a branch of Marks and Spencer. John Lewis’s reluctance to open more branches is reportedly due to the cost (£30-£35 million in each case) and an increasing emphasis on online retail.
There may still be scope for flexibility, given that the freeholder of the John Lewis at Home branch on Purley Way wishes to expand the premises. Should John Lewis therefore leave that site, the possibility of a new location in Croydon Westfield would remain. In any case, Councillor Alison Butler stated in response to the announcement that Westfield Croydon “will open with or without” the store.
An increase in knife crime gave cause for concern
During a summer of worrying headlines concerning knife crime in Croydon, including the stabbing of a sixteen year old schoolboy in the town centre on July 11th, local campaign group Lives Not Knives stated that one in twenty such crimes in the London area now occurs in the borough. Newly-elected Croydon Central Labour MP Sarah Jones has established an All-Party Parliamentary Group on knife crime; Croydon North MP Steve Reed is also a member.
The background picture is a four year high in knife crime, with 175 recorded in 2016. Police borough commander Jeff Boothe stated in the Croydon Advertiser that “there is no specific intelligence to say to us that there is a specific reason behind it”. In discussions with Croydon Council which he described as “frank”, Commander Boothe said that he had been met with a “refreshing response”.
Shift K3Y and the London Mozart Players performed together at Boxpark
On Wednesday 19th July, Shift K3Y, a twenty-four-year-old DJ, collaborated with world-renowned classical orchestra, the London Mozart Players, in a ground-breaking concert at Croydon’s Boxpark in Dingwall Road. The cross-genre concert brought a positive response from a packed Boxpark crowd and challenged the truism that people who like dance music will never like orchestral music, demonstrating the enthusiasm and musical adventurousness of the Croydon audience.