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From pillage to village? Call to rename Croydon's riot scarred Broad Green

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DOMINATED by takeaways and convenience stores, with an overgrown building site the closest it gets to green space, it would be fair to say "village" is perhaps the last word anyone would use to describe London Road.

But now a group of campaigners want to reinvent Broad Green as Croydon's cultural quarter, following recognition of its historical and restaurant district – starting with a new name.

They believe renaming the area "Broad Green Village" will act as a fresh start for a street scarred by the riots of 2011 and attract the sort of businesses which will help West Croydon be known for its coffee shops and restaurants, rather than fast food and payday loans.

"We want to get away from the fact that Croydon is known as the city of the riots and make more of the history and culture we have," said Bushra Ahmed, from the West Croydon Community Forum, one of the groups behind the idea.

"Renaming in itself won't be enough – there has to be new types of businesses and areas for the community – but it could be the start of restoring pride.

"There may be people out there who think it's a stupid idea but if it makes people feel better about living here, then why not?"

Cathy Aitchison, chairman of the Friends of Church Alley, said: "Village sounds like something an estate agent puts after an area to up the value, but there's more to it than that.

"Broad Green has a lot of history. The Half Moon pub is one of the oldest in Croydon and some residents remember a time when the area did have more of a village feel.

"It will be delicate bringing on board the new residents who might not understand or be aware of the heritage, but there's a lot to be said for recognising an area has its own identity."

While the idea is in its early stages, with little detail of what it would involve or how much it would cost, it has some political backing.

Broad Green councillor Stuart Collins believes London Road must be regenerated if Croydon is to make the most of Westfield and Hammerson's £1 billion town centre project.

"I think if you had a village area around West Croydon then it would complement the new shopping centre," he said.

"We need to give shoppers a reason to come to London Road as well as Westfield, and that could be the coffee shops, restaurants or culture. The only way the area will improve is if the row of shops feels more like a community.

"Renaming the area isn't enough on its own, of course. There needs to be significant improvements to the public realm and while there are plans in place, I think the council should invest more of its own money."

London Road is to receive more than £9 million, the biggest single amount of the mayor's £23 million regeneration fund awarded to the borough after the riots. This includes £5 million for business support and £4.6 million for the area around the station.

Vidhi Mohan, cabinet member for communities and economic development, said a new name could complement the council's investment but that he needed more detail.

"If it's something similar to the re-branding of Old Town or the Restaurant Quarter, and the community supports that idea, then I would not object to it," he said.

"I would say that whatever name is chosen should have the support of the whole community, which could be difficult as it's quite a diverse area.

"A fresh start is always a good thing, and the rebranding would help."

With little to show from the physical regeneration since the riots, there will many people who will take some convincing that renaming Broad Green is the way forward, especially when other ideas, like a loyalty card, failed to make it past the drawing board.

Ganapathay Kasinathan, chairman of London Road Business Association, struggles to see the point.

He said: "Renaming the area wouldn't be a fresh start. It doesn't change the history of the area. The crime and the criminals, the dirty streets and betting shops, they will still be here.

"Leave the name as it is and concentrate on changing the things that are important, like the shopfronts and making the place cleaner."


SOUTH CROYDON EXAMPLE SHOWS THE WAY
THE idea to rename Broad Green follows the reinvention of South Croydon and the area around Surrey Street Market. The Restaurant Quarter, designated by branded signposts at in South End, has led to a food festival attended by 5,000 people and celebrates the areas high-quality eateries. It is promoted via a website that includes a business directory, events listings and special offers, and notes the area's "distinct village atmosphere". Giorgio Lopez, manager of Bagatti's in South End, believes businesses in West Croydon should embrace a common purpose. "Giving the area a new name has really helped," he said. "We had the South End Food Festival last year which brought lots of new people to the restaurants. "We're in competition with each other but we also have to think about the community and how co-operation helps everyone. "So I think businesses in London Road should support it because it will bring people together." Old Town, dubbed "Croydon's historic quarter", also has a website, banners and is backed by a £100,000 grant from retail guru Mary Portas. Paul Collins, secretary of Croydon Old Town Business Association (COBA), set up as part of the rebrand, said: "It's really important to have an identity, especially when you have so many different offerings in an area. "I don't think it's a gimmick as long as it's done properly. There has to be a fundamental reason behind it. If there's no history then it's just a marketing ploy and not enough people will buy into it. "That shouldn't be an issue with West Croydon Village because they know there's some history to it, though it still needs to be properly researched and promoted, then more people will get involved." On the impact of rebranding, his area as Old Town, Mr Collins said: "It's put the historical side back on the map. A lot of people, both those who already lived here and people who has just moved in, don't know about Croydon's history. "We've seen some slight improvement but nothing drastic because it's very early days." We're working three or four years in the future and building the foundations of what

From pillage to village? Call to rename Croydon's riot scarred Broad Green


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