Croydon Gets £18.5m in Levelling Up Funding

A quick line to say I’m delighted to report our Borough has received £18.5 million of “Levelling Up” funding to help improve Croydon Town Centre. The funding followed lobbying by Croydon’s Mayor Jason Perry and by me.
The funding, awarded from the Government’s “Levelling Up” Fund, will improve public spaces around the town centre to allow residents and visitors to travel more easily via safer, greener, and more pleasant routes. The money will fund six infrastructure and public realm projects to improve the environment in central Croydon.
The projects will cover the South End restaurant quarter, East Croydon Station, West Croydon Station and Old Town and Croydon Minster. Central to the bid is the delivery of a new civic square for the Fairfield cultural complex, connecting Queen’s Gardens and Surrey Street Market. Croydon Town Centre was sadly neglected under the previous Labour council, and this money will help to turn it around.
Speaking of the town centre, the Whitgift Centre is also in an appalling condition and desperately needs to be pulled down and rebuilt. I have recently been told by Westfield (who now own the site) that they will submit a new Master Plan application next year for a phased regeneration of the Whitgift Centre and surrounding area. This new Master Plan will replace the big-bang full Westfield scheme which is no longer viable following years of delay under the previous Labour council. The new Master Plan will, I am told, contain more office and residential space while having a new retail centre replacing the Whitgift Centre that is smaller than previously envisaged. In the meantime, Westfield is promising to spruce up parts of the area, such as the Allders site. This is all very long overdue.
While on the topic of Croydon Town Centre, it is worth mentioning that there is now a dedicated Croydon Town Centre police team of around 20 officers patrolling regularly. There are also specific plans being put in place by the Police to tackle mobile phone robbery around East Croydon, South Croydon and Purley stations. Croydon Town Centre has also been the subject of an innovative trial of facial recognition technology – last Thursday and yesterday. This entailed setting up cameras linked to a database containing the pictures of people wanted for various crimes. Several thousand people passing by the cameras were scanned against this database. If there was no match the scan of the passer-by is immediately deleted. But over those two afternoons, 17 wanted people were successfully matched, caught and taken into custody. This included a man wanted for rape, a man wanted for GBH and a man wanted for class A drug dealing. Without this work, these wanted people would still be at large. I expect that this kind of technology (called live facial recognition) will help us to catch a lot more wanted criminals going forwards and I will encourage its adoption.
Anyway, the “Levelling Up” money from the Government is long-overdue good news for Croydon Town Centre and I know our Mayor Jason Perry will ensure that it makes a difference.