Thursday 26 July 2007

Meeting With Andrew Pelling

My thanks to Andrew Pelling MP for inviting me to tea at the Palace of Westminster yesterday.

Andrew, myself and Lucy Pelling had a very good, open and interesting discussion about the arena, Arrowcroft and Croydon council.

Andrew Pelling MP and Ken Frost on the Terrace of The Palace of Westminster

Andrew Pelling MP and Ken Frost on the Terrace of The Palace of WestminsterAndrew Pelling MP and Ken Frost on the Terrace of The Palace of Westminster Andrew Pelling MP and Ken Frost on the Terrace of The Palace of Westminster
Andrew Pelling MP and Ken Frost on the Terrace of The Palace of WestminsterAndrew Pelling MP and Ken Frost on the Terrace of The Palace of Westminster
Andrew Pelling MP and Ken Frost on the Terrace of The Palace of WestminsterAndrew Pelling MP and Ken Frost on the Terrace of The Palace of Westminster

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Follow The Money

There are some people who, some might say, naively believe that Arrowcroft's intentions towards the Warehouse Theatre are honourable.

I most certainly would not wish to dispute/question Arrowcroft's intentions, or their recent "Road to Damascus" conversion wrt their new offer to include a space for the Warehouse in their plans.

However, a little bit of background wrt the money flows relating to this project may help "clarify" the reality.

Maybe our local media might like to start probing the agreement between "our" council and Arrowcroft a little more closely?

Warehouse - 'generous offer of £3Million'.

Guess who gets the money if the Warehouse cannot put together a robust business plan for a new theatre (following a three or four year decant from the site)?

Yes, that's right, Arrowcroft.

So what incentive does Arrowcroft have to actually make their arrangement with the Warehouse work?

A cynic might argue that the £3M is in fact an incentive to stop it working!

I leave it to you, the citizens of Croydon, to form your own judgement on that.

Stanhope, on the other hand, have to hand their £3M+ over to the council for arts related projects on site.

Here's another question that our local media might care to ponder.

The odd thing in all this is that the Fairfield Halls have not (yet) objected to the Arena.

Why is that?

Is it because the councillors that sit on its board (Cllr Dudley Mead is one of them) have a conflict of interest?

Our councillors of course do not like conflicts of interest, that is why the recent junket offer by Arrowcroft to fly a few of them over to the Hamburg arena was rejected.

Good for them!

Pity that the same offer last year was not rejected by those in the council, who made the trip in 2006, who are now so vociferously promoting the scheme.

Maybe it is time that our local media started to act in the interests of the citizens of Croydon, and investigated what is really going on here?

What do I know?

I'm just a local resident who's opinions, like many others, have been ignored by "our" council!

Monday 23 July 2007

Arrowcroft's True Feelings About The Warehouse

My thanks to V, who sent me this email.

It very neatly points out the contradiction between Arrowcroft's recent claim that they now want the Warehouse Theatre in their project, and the real viewpoint of Arrowcroft.

The viability of Fairfield Halls also seems to be in dispute as well.

"Dear Ken,

Re Nicholas Hai's 'Warehouse welcomed' (quoted on Catarena Message Board from Marple), you would not think so to read the "put-downs" on both the Warehouse Theatre and Fairfield Halls in Arrowcroft's submission to the Inspector for the public inquiry!

For those without the "benefit" of this document, I quote from it below.

Retail and Leisure

10.50 (Apart from the Vue Cinema and Clocktower) "in-town entertainment and leisure facilities are rather dated, not market facing and lacking in quality.

The Warehouse Theatre is a small arts-based facility which has lost grant support. The Fairfield Halls which was at one time a leading venue attracting major popular acts such as the Beatles and Rolling Stones" [the arena is not big enough to attract the modern equivalent either !] "now suffers from declining audiences, inadequate facilities and too small a capacity for many current touring acts. We understand that Croydon Council is currently considering the future of Fairfield Hall and Peggy Ashcroft Theatre."

Economic Benefit of Arena

2.5.7 "The Warehouse is a small arts based (80 seats due to health and safety restrictions) facility which has lost grant support."

1.2.7 "The Fairfield Halls have also been losing audiences and are not financially sustainable as they stand."

2.5.5 "The published accounts of Fairfield Halls show that it has been highly dependent upon grants of one sort or another for many years." [How many years ago did they have their council grant cut to nil because of council overspending and the need to balance the budget?] "It is in need of essential refurbishment and updating as it lacks air conditioning and many features are outworn.

Attracting an investment partner to fund these improvements would be difficult and it seems unlikely without large scale government funding that Fairfield Halls will be brought up to modern standards in the near future."

I suppose giving the Inspector the impression that Fairfield is on its last legs gives them the excuse for pinching all their parking spaces!

But then again Dudley Mead (Cabinet member for Finance and Major Projects) in a letter to me dated 12 April 2007 said "Please also note that the Fairfield is continuing to make great progress - with rising audiences."

So who's right?

I've been there six times in six months, and five times the seats were all full, or almost full

Friday 20 July 2007

Arrowcroft's Case Demolished

My compliments to the Canning and Clyde Road Residents' Association who have written and excellent letter demolishing Arrowcroft's case for the arena.

They have given me permission to publish the letter here.

It is a pity that our local media have not probed Arrowcroft's claims very thoroughly, if at all, nor indeed acknowledged that there is widespread opposition to the arena within the borough.

"The Planning Inspectorate
Attention Deborah Tobin
4/04 Kite Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay

17 July 2007

Dear Ms Tobin

Town & Country Planning Act 1990 – Section 77 Application by Arrowcroft Ltd Site and Land Adjoining East Croydon Station, George Street, Dingwall Road and Lansdowne Road, Croydon Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/293)

We have been informed by Berwin Leighton Poisner that we have an opportunity to comment upon the latest planning material for this important East Croydon Gateway site.

We are sending this objection on behalf of Park Hill Residents Association, Morland Park Residents Association, H.O.M.E. Residents Association and our own Association. This represents over 4,000 households in the vicinity of the proposed development. We are aware of strong opposition to the applicant’s scheme by other residents who do not have the representation of an association.

Our own Association has commented on the original application to the London Borough of Croydon on 7 February 2003 and to the Government Office for London on 10 February 2004. We trust, as we intend to speak at the forthcoming Inquiry, that these
previous objections will be considered by the Inspector.

As you are aware, the potential developer has just released a considerable amount of last minute new information and we would like to further object by adding the following:

1. We believe the current plans are amongst others contrary to the Secretary of State’s Policy in PPG13 and Policies PPS1, PPS3 and PPS6.

2. The plan completely fails to show any improvement to the public transport
infrastructure, only a woolly reference to a new platform at East Croydon Station.

3. The statement of impacts on transport generation and modal travel patterns is severely flawed. For example, the traffic assessment is based on two days, Wednesday 18 July 2006 and Saturday 6 January 2007. There is no evidence that either of these days is representative. It would be expected that traffic would be relatively light on a Wednesday in mid-July because it is in the holiday season and some educational establishments were on holiday.

4. In an endeavour to prove transport capacity, the importance of chronology seems to have been forgotten. It is highly likely that patrons will arrive in a pulse during the hour before an event. This coincides with rush hour for both vehicle and public transport, particularly trains. Most certainly a 17.00 hours to 19.00 hours assessment, possibly of a Friday, is needed for all modes of transport. The patrons’ choice of transport will of course be decided by ease, cost and sociability. Particularly with a mind to returning after an entertainment event, the car seems a preferable choice. There is no price sensitivity analysis to disprove this and encourage more sustainable transport choices.

5. The road infrastructure in and around central Croydon is poor and very fragile. As an example, in a three week period earlier this year, there were three instances when traffic gridlocked due to minor incidences. The gridlocking of course affected bus and tram services.

6. The difficulty in using the Whitgift, Allders or any other car parks on the other side of Wellesley Road is that patrons will have to cross the Wellesley Road either at a busy road junction or through a subway which not everyone views as safe. Arena patrons will likely be competing with patrons of the Fairfield Halls to use their car parks. The temptation to use on street parking in adjacent and neighbouring residential areas is therefore overwhelming. All of our residents associations do not wish to see any changes to existing controlled parking zones. This will damage our community and inhibit activities including attendance at clubs and places of worship. Where will patrons of the 12,000 square feet night club park up?

7. We note that the supermarket has grown to over 110,000 square feet. The original
plan was that people would use this supermarket to do their weekly shop. Given that the total site contains more cycle parking places than car parking (1,477 / 1,186) and given the difficulty of driving into the centre of Croydon, it seems unlikely that people would want to use it for a weekly shop. What will be the purpose of this supermarket that is not already provided for in the centre of Croydon? Cycling in central Croydon is known to be extremely hazardous.

8. The Means of Transport Statement is severely out-of-date. The tram routes have
changed and bus service listings are out-of-date at time of traffic assessment. The
volume and distribution of public transport travel in Greater London has increased
substantially since 2000 so for example updating a seven year old SRA rail travel
survey is not likely to give valid results.

9. Although the applicant presents Croydon as having quick public transport links from all areas, this is not the case for certain places within the potential catchment area, such as Orpington, Bromley, Biggin Hill, Selsdon and Sanderstead amongst others. These people will likely come by car.

10. We think the nature of the development is such that it should be required to
demonstrate that a sequential approach has been applied in selecting the location for
the proposed development. This is dismissed by saying that none were considered.


The most cursory of investigations would have revealed the potential of the nearby Crystal Palace Arena. It has a seated capacity of 16,500 and can handle up to 45,000 for large concert events. It has Crystal Palace Station adjacent to the main entrance and has three other railway stations within easy walking distance.

The Arena is well served by a variety of bus services from throughout London – the East Croydon Gateway site being just a 25 minute public transport ride away. The Crystal Palace area is highlighted for regeneration. Plans proposed by Croydon Council and TfL include a Croydon Tramlink extension to Crystal Palace.

11. The application should demonstrate regeneration which we take to mean creating a
sustainable community. We believe that the Arena scheme in this location will severely harm existing demonstrable, local, sustainable and diverse communities and not create one in its own right.

12. The application contains a new building for the Warehouse Theatre, but conditional upon the Theatre being able to provide a viable business plan for the future. Since the applicant’s development plans would mean displacement of the Theatre for at least a 3-4 year period then this could prove tricky (and seems fatuous, since the applicant lacks one of their own). We think this ‘last minute’ concession to the Theatre is due to the overwhelming public outrage – local, national and international - at its previous exclusion from the earlier planning application.

13. Nothing in the new material leads us to believe that the proposed development is
commercially and financially capable of delivering the metropolitan status, rebranding and regeneration of Croydon. Since the Arena idea was first mooted, alternative arena venues have opened in London, for example Wembley (12,200 fully seated) that with the 70% increase in tube capacity can easily cope with the patronage. In addition of course we have the O2 and Indigo venues at The Dome.

14. We have yet to see a business plan for the operation of the proposed Arena. A year ago we were told by the applicant that a full capacity (12,500) audience was needed 100 times per year for the Arena to be commercially viable. We note from the latest application material that a capacity crowd has now been redefined to mean either 60% or 70% of the total possible. Apart from having to do so to suit the Transport Plan, surely this raises doubts over the commerciality of the project and raises questions as to why the Arena should be so large in the first place.

15. Is there any reason why Croydon needs yet another night club? Problems with existing clubs have recently led to the Council reviewing its licensing procedure.

16. We could find no mention in the new material of off-site law, order and crowd control nor emergency evacuation arrangements. Who will undertake this? We have been
made very aware of how overstretched the Croydon Police force already is at peak

17. Regarding the quality of design, it appears to be more oppressive greyness and glass with which Croydon has been architecturally overburdened since the 1960s.

18. Although this applicant’s scheme is preferred and promoted by the London Borough of Croydon, at no time has the Council undertaken any proper public consultation to ask the people of Croydon whether this is what they want. In fact we learnt about the
original planning application by chance and were sent details of this latest application apparently because we have formally objected to the Council’s Compulsory Purchase Order to the site. Notification did not come from the London Borough of Croydon but a third party. For a development of this size and with the impact that it is likely to have on Croydon for many years to come, it begs the question why the public’s opinion has not been carefully canvassed and why the Council so willingly granted the original planning application (now the subject of the call-in) apparently without any viability or impact assessment.

We take heart from the UDP Inspector’s Report that said an Arena on this site was not

We are grateful to the applicant, Arrowcroft, for inviting us to meet to discuss our concerns about their latest development plans. We did this on 12 July 2007 but regret we received no satisfactory answers to the above and other matters raised.

Steve Collins
Chairman, Canning and Clyde Road Residents Association

Also on behalf of Park Hill Residents Association, Morland Park Residents Association,H.O.M.E Residents Association and the former Croydon Society Transport Group

Monday 2 July 2007

The Past Guides The Future

Those of you who feel happy to accept Arrowcroft's assurances about their plans for the arena and the warehouse theatre may care to read what Gerald Kaufman said about them in 1999:

"I shall talk about the conduct of people in Arrowcroft, in North West Water and in other firms. I am sorry to say that their conduct involves lies, concealment, deception, double dealing, proposed blackmail, proposed bribery and attempts to manipulate Members of Parliament."

Why are Croydon Council so keen to work with an organisation, that was in 1999, described by a leading MP in this manner?