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Three years after riots, just 12 per cent of Croydon's regeneration fund has been spent


THREE years after the 2011 riots new figures show that just 12 per cent of the money allocated to regenerate the worst-affected areas has been spent.

Croydon arguably suffered the most extensive damage, with 28 buildings set alight, 252 businesses damaged and 100 families made homeless.

It was given £23 million by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson to rebuild and revitalise the worst-hit areas on top of £13.2 million of council investment.

Both have been criticised about how the money has been spent, with very little change in places such as West Croydon.

Now a report by the London Assembly Regeneration Committee, published today (Friday), has found just £4.4 million of the available £36.1 million has been spent so far

Even projects that were thought to be on track have now been set back. The council's £1.5 million Innovation Centre - designed to create jobs and support businesses - has had its funding delayed and the authority has been unable to find a suitable location for it.

In total, just £11.4 million (16 per cent) of the £70 million Mayor's Regeneration Fund (MRF) has been spent across London so far, the report said.

Gareth Bacon, chairman of the committee, said: "The 2011 riots left many already deprived areas of London facing even bigger economic hurdles and challenges after such wanton destruction. The Mayor's Regeneration Fund was a welcome recognition that these areas would need help on the path to recovery.

"These projects must be delivered in a timely and effective manner, so Londoners who have experienced long-term decay in their communities and can live in a safe environment, with access to jobs and growth."

In Croydon, people affected by the riots, such as those living and working along London Road, were under the impression the majority of the money would be spent rebuilding and investing in areas which had, by the council's own admission, been neglected for decades.

Instead they have seen very little change. Earlier this year Cllr Jason Perry, the authority's head of regeneration, admitted people would notice "no difference" from the Croydon of 2011 but that construction work would begin later this year. He credited the delay to the fact that "physical changes take time".

Most of the money spent so far has been put toward Connected Croydon, a transport and public realm project, with little if any connection to the hardest-hit communities. Some £7.5 million, for example, is being spent on improved road crossings in Wellesley Road.

The report said the Greater London Authority (GLA) needed to better communicate the purpose and progress of the MRF.

It added that the balance of funding is "skewed towards transport and other projects to improve the public realm".

"It aims to deliver locally appropriate projects, but some local communities have complained that the fund has not responded more directly to the needs revealed by the riots."

The report, called Out of the Ashes: the Mayor's Regeneration Fund, also called for changes to be delivered more quickly.

Under a revised timetable, the Mayor has indicated that the plan was now to spend £35.5 million by April 2014. The committee found just £11.4 million had been used by that point.

"Almost three years after its launch, the GLA and boroughs have spent only a small proportion of the MRF," states the report.

"Indeed, the GLA has extended the timeframe for spending the fund, and there are risks of further slippage."

The report does add that "overall", the MRF is "having a positive impact on bringing forward and supporting local regeneration that will make a difference to communities".

The committee visited Croydon in February as part of its research. They toured Surrey Street and then Reeves Corner - where House of Reeves furniture store was burned down - and walked down London Road before a presentation at the CVA building.

Mr Bacon told the Advertiser at the time that he was "impressed" with the way the Mayor's money had been spent.

"What they are trying to do here is really good," he said. "The scope and the ambition is considerable, now it's a question of delivery."

He also implied that residents and business owners could have to wait ten years to see real change.

"Right now it would be good if there was more done but, in ten years' time when things are finished and done properly, I think they will see it's been the right way to go."

The committee did not speak to directly to business owners and shopkeepers during its visit (Mr Bacon: "We didn't have the opportunity to talk to [the shopkeepers], so I can't comment on how they feel") so instead rely on an article in the Advertiser to gauge their opinion on the MRF.

Referencing the piece, the report says "some business owners expressed disappointment that while there were plans for improvements to shop fronts in the London Road area, MRF-funded works had not yet begun".

It calls on the GLA to "reflect on the impact" expert advisors in Tottenham and Croydon had on how the Mayor's fund has been spent.

Mr Johnson appointed Julian Metcalfe, co-founder of the Pret-a-Manger group, to lead the Croydon taskforce.

The committee heard Mr Metcalfe took on a different approach to Sir Stuart Lipton in Tottenham, focussing on supporting "brokerage" with businesses on London Road.

"We heard that he advised Croydon Council on bringing together local businesses to discuss the implications of the redevelopment of the Whitgift shopping centre. These discussions aimed to help local businesses prepare for the impact of the development would have on the local trading environment."

In the future, the committee said, councils should be required to set up a leadership and governance structure as soon as they make successful bids for regeneration funds, and should also set out how they intend to use expert advisors.

The report makes three recommendations including that Mr Johnson should "refresh his efforts to deliver the MRF" by engaging in a public consultation to inform people how the money is being spent, the reason for the delays and when they should expect the work to be complete.

Council: 'Projects like this take considerable planning and coordination' 

Croydon Croydon has defended the lack of progress made in regenerating areas affected by the riots. 

It said investment on this scale takes "considerable planning" and that each stage has to be signed off by the Greater London Authority (GLA). 

A spokesman pointed to changes already implemented through the Mayor's Regeneration Fund, including the West Croydon Enterprise Hub and the business investment package in London Road.

Improvements have also been made to Lansdowne Road and Reeves Corner will be developed through the Old Town Masterplan. 

South End works are already well underway, the council added, and London Road will start later this month. Work will start in Surrey Street and Frith Road next Easter. 

A spokesman added: "In the intervening time we put a huge amount of effort into consulting with communities over what works were wanted, recruiting design teams and preparing detailed delivery plans to maximise the benefit of the investment and to minimise local disruption". 

Innovation Centre 'delayed'

An 'innovation centre' predicted to create close to 500 job opportunities has had its funding delayed.

The project, backed by £1.5 million from the Mayor's Regeneration Fund, is designed as a co-working space for small and medium-sized businesses but the council has been unable to find a premises for the centre.

The London Assembly Regeneration Committee said the centre is now being "re-scoped" and that its funding agreement has been delayed by approximately five months.

A report published in late 2012 said the council would take out a ten-year lease in existing office space near to East Croydon station.

Estimates suggested the centre could support up to 267 businesses during that period, creating 470 jobs. 

Three years after riots, just 12 per cent of Croydon's regeneration fund has been spent

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