This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 30/05/2018.
Let’s keep talking, Croydon
Here in Croydon, as elsewhere, we tend to look at local issues separately. We do not always see the interconnections and what the cumulative effects are.
What are the important challenges facing us? I believe that the list includes:
- the council’s top-down decision-making
- the council’s ‘consultation’ approach
- the need to strengthen residents’ and community organisations
- lack of community cohesion
- the inadequacies of the railway system
- the effects of the cuts imposed by central government on Croydon council
- the fragmentation of the school system
- the influence of private developers on decision-making and planning
- the Whitgift Centre redevelopment proposals (i.e. the proposed new Westfield retail centre)
- the council’s approach to culture
- the conversion of offices into flats
- the conversion of family houses into flats
- the need to improve the protection of the built heritage
- the lack of neighbourhood committees to oversee council ‘regeneration’ spending
- the need to protect high streets from supermarket convenience stores, betting and loan shops
- air pollution and climate change
- protection of parks, large and small open spaces
- improving the offer at Croydon’s libraries
Do you agree? Do you think that anything else should be added to this list? I would love to see a response to the questions being asked here in the comments section below. Please set down your thoughts, and make your voice heard.
Separately, we have little influence. Working together and co-operation are vital.
Community organisations exist because their members believe that it is important to take action on issues of concern and to try to influence decision-making, as well as providing services and activities that improve quality of life for their members and users. By themselves each organisation has little potential influence. That is why it is so important that there is networking and co-operation.
Working together can include: sharing information, meeting together, taking part in debate, following local news and comment, submitting questions for the council meeting, commenting on papers to the council cabinet and other committees, objecting to unwanted or flawed planning applications, submitting Freedom of Information requests, petitions and demonstrations.
Do you think that there are other methods?
One of the key roles of the Croydon Citizen is to encourage analysis and discussion. Analysis helps us to improve our knowledge and understanding, and increases our vision beyond ourselves as individuals, families or specialist groups. It is interesting to consider how we come to have the views that we hold and what sources of knowledge have helped us reach our viewpoint. How are we to understand differences in views and find common ground in order to ensure that there are improvements in the future and that things do not deteriorate?
Croydon is changing, but how do you feel about these changes?
It may be worth considering your answer to the following statements.
- Should we protect those at the bottom of society and ensure they can remain living in Croydon, or develop the town so that prices rise so high that the poor are driven out?
- Do you feel better off than in the past? Or have your been adversely affected by cuts to public services and benefits, and the buying power of your income?
- If you are one of the rapidly increasing number of private tenants in Croydon, do you feel well or poorly treated by your landlord or agent?
- Do you feel that the building of new offices, apartments and the planned rebuilding of the Whitgift Centre will be beneficial to Croydon residents, or harmful to them?
- Do you approve or disapprove of the large number of new multi-storey buildings planned for Croydon?
- Do you feel that there should be a managed increase in the number of people living in Croydon, or that Croydon’s population should be allowed to rise without limitation? Do you believe that more housing of all types, prices and rent levels should be provided in Croydon to encourage more people to live here?
Do you feel that Croydon’s broader quality of life is changing for the better, or are you troubled by our direction of progress?
- Do you notice that racism and anti-foreigner attitudes are increasing? Do you consider these harmful to life in Croydon?
- Do you believe that the council is pursuing policies based on equalities and inclusion, community engagement and cohesion?
- Overall, would you say that quality of life in Croydon has improved or detoriorated in the last five years?
- When you travel around Croydon, do you find this experience stressful? Do you feel safer or less safe than you did five years ago?
- Are there enough play facilities for children, or support services such as youth clubs for young people?
- Do you feel included in decision-making in matters which affect your life?
- Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Croydon is run by a tight clique including the council, property companies and developers, the Whitgift Foundation and others’?
- Do you consider that Croydon Council’s approach to involving the public in decision-making has improved since May 2014?
Now consider your answers…
- How have you come to your views? What are the sources of knowledge that have helped you reach your view point?
- Consider those who will have given different answers. How are we to understand these differences of opinion? How can we find common ground?
- If you think that there is a lot of change and improvement to be achieved in Croydon, what contribution are you currently making or do you hope to make in the coming months?
Dialogue between communities is essential. We need to continue to discuss collectively at meetings and through social media what we think are the important challenges facing us.