THE new council administration says it is looking to breathe new life into Croydon's district centres, but what is needed to get business booming again? In the first of a series of features, we take a closer look at South Norwood. SAM FOSTER reports...
YEARS of neglect and struggling businesses have left many South Norwood residents feeling like the 'poor cousins' of Croydon.
Barclays Bank in the High Street is set to close and the area's largest shop – the Co-op – shut its doors at the end of September and won't be replaced by Aldi until at least next month.
Pubs are closing down and if you're looking for a bite to eat, you may have to settle for fast food over cordon bleu.
The new Labour-run council has promised investment in an area where it holds all six seats, and there is £1.5million from the Mayor of London's Local Implementation Plan earmarked to spruce up South Norwood High Street and Portland Road in the next few years.
While a number of residents are wary of any promise of investment, there are many who remain cautiously optimistic.
Sai Ng, 48, said: "This is an up and coming area. The travel links from here are really good so it's easy to get about.
"House prices have gone up so that's a sign that things are good. "There are lots of small businesses here but I've noticed that grocery stores aren't doing so well now that Portland Road is dominated by Sainsbury's and Tesco."
This improved retail offer has long been on the minds of community groups such as the South Norwood Network and People for Portland Road.
And David Champion, 50, who has worked in South Norwood for 33 years, thinks this has to be a priority. "Lots of local shops seem to go out of businesses and the land gets turned into flats instead," he said.
"People from outside of South Norwood don't really have any reason to come here.
"There's nothing to come here for unless you live here. You can only really get a takeaway because there aren't any restaurants or pubs to go to anymore."
Other issues which have irked business owners include a lack of parking and numerous bridge works, including the still-shut Tennison Road bridge, which has created huge traffic issues in the area.
But Anna Tsakistra, 40, of new business the Pink Icing Company, sees an area full of opportunity.
"I feel that there is a really welcoming community here in South Norwood," she said.
"Local shops are always helping each other out. The people here are very supportive and our customers are friendly."
David Osbourn , 70, South Norwood: "I've been working at my glass company in South Norwood for nearly 50 years and parking is definitely the biggest issue on the high street. I've never known it to be so bad. People can't park anywhere because they'll be given tickets straightaway. We once drove out of the side entrance to the shop, stopped outside for two minutes while we closed the gate and we were given a parking ticket."
Arul Kumaran, 42 , Croydon: "South Norwood is doing okay in general. We don't have any problems anymore and I think it's much better than it used to be. When the football is on the traffic can be really bad, obviously. I think business can be very quiet some days and there could be more fresh fruit and vegetable shops on the High Street. There could be more fresh flowers too."
Ali Fahmi, 37, South Norwood: "I think South Norwood is really bad right now. The streets have no proper cleaning so there's rubbish everywhere. I've had a barbershop for the last five years and we've had a lot of problems with security. There's nowhere to park on the high street without getting a £65 fine. The pavements are so wide – if they were thinner there could be spaces for cars to park instead."