This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 04/01/2018.
Croydon is for community, not commuting
Croydon’s hard-earned self-determination was achieved through people electing to spend time and money in the borough’s regenerated commercial, cultural and property sectors. However, this community commitment is being undermined by London-centric housing developments that see Croydon as only a ‘base’ to sleep and get easy access to the capital.
The effect of the sheer scale, speed and success of Croydon’s rebirth can be best demonstrated through the redevelopment of East Croydon station, where previously derelict and barren land has been transformed by mass property developments that loom over the now diminutive station. One of the most notable projects is Vita Ruskin Square, whose ‘luxury apartments’ (why does no-one sell ‘flats’ anymore?) entice outsiders to purchase in Croydon by desperately clinging to the rail line. Places like Vita Ruskin Square are where the future of Croydon’s identity will be decided.
Looking at Vita’s website the main and vital selling point of the development is clear: you can get back into London very, very quickly: “Croydon is ideally placed for London living […] a gateway to central London” that is “within 15 minutes of central London”. Despite being situated only a short walk to our town centre, Vita have next to nothing to say about our borough except that it should be considered as “a new city within a city… a new quarter of London”. Oh, and that we have Boxpark.
We must instil those that live in commuter buildings like Vita with the same feeling community that helped bring change to the town
To live, work or spend time in our town or borough was once considered a compromise or concession, whereas now it ought to be a desired privilege. The most significant reason for this has been the iron-fisted will of our people, who saw the gold amongst the concrete and reignited Croydon. Our citizens put ink to our art scene, pored over our varied coffee shops, fed the high street restaurant quarter and connected our future-focused businesses. London-focused developments like Vita risk diluting this identity, which was passionately crafted at a time when outsiders would have considered living in Croydon only marginally better than a studio on Pluto.
A lot of people in Croydon work in central London and the time it takes to get there is therefore important, but what about evenings and weekends? If Croydon inhabitants are driven to live here primarily by the speed at which they can get back into London, what chance does the town’s feeling of self have to survive?
For Croydon’s self-determination to continue we must instil those that live in commuter buildings like Vita with the same feeling community that helped bring change to the town, encouraging the mindset of Croydon first, London second. By electing to spend your leisure time in Croydon, you are making a significant difference to the borough’s longevity as a thriving and exciting place to be a part of.
Croydon-centricity doesn’t mean leaving your job in Zone 2 or never doing anything in London, but it does mean making a conscious decision to spend time and money in our town when possible to do so. You have a wonderful town and borough, if we don’t continue to use it any enjoy it, the essence or Croydon is at risk of being swallowed up and its identity lost. The next time you tell someone you live in Croydon, focus on what our great borough has to offer, not how quickly you can get to London Bridge or Victoria.