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Croydon review of the year - July

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THE Advertiser's review of the highs and lows of 2014 continues with a look back at the headlines from July...

AN AWARD-WINNING author spoke publicly for the first time about being abused at a children's home.

Alex Wheatle, 51, told how he was sexually assaulted by a doctor at the council-run Shirley Oaks Children's Home, which closed in 1983.

The writer, who was appointed MBE in 1998 for services to literature, claimed "strange, nameless men" had access to the home in full knowledge of the authorities.

In the weeks that followed Mr Wheatle's initial allegations, several other victims came forward with stories of abuse and mistreatment.

These included Pauline Gocan, her brother Leigh and sister Yvonne, who waived their legal right to anonymity to talk, for the first time, about their experiences at the home in the 1970s.

"They would make us do things. They were sexually abusing me," Pauline said.

"When we were allowed out into the gardens, I would refuse to go back inside. Their response was to drag me back into the house and beat me.

"I don't know why I didn't talk about it. Maybe it's because they were always threatening to lock me up. So I stayed silent and carried the shame with me."

YOU might not think those elected to serve the people of Croydon would need a guided tour of the town they govern.

But that's exactly what was mooted for Croydon councillors in the aftermath of the elections.

Jo Negrini, the borough's new director of development and environment, believed the four-and-a-half hour bus tour would be a great educational exercise for those newly occupying council seats.

Branded as a "member learning and development bus tour", the away-day was due to take place on July 12.

But, shortly after our report, the idea was canned due to an apparent lack of interest.

A NEW man took charge of Croydon's police in July.

Chief Superintendent Andy Tarrant took up post as the new borough commander, succeeding David Musker in the role.

Tackling domestic violence and addressing the fear of crime were listed among Mr Tarrant's biggest priorities.

He said: "The major crime types – burglary, housebreaking, mugging, theft – they're all down.

"Croydon is on the up, and the challenge for me is getting that message into the communities."

THEY were compared to everything from "something out of The Flintstones" to "an invasion from outer space".

But in July, the decision was taken to banish the New Addington boulders – for good.

The huge rocks, installed in September 2012 via funding from the Mayor of London, were supposed to stop illegal parking in Central Parade, but soon became the butt of local jokes.

A poll on the Advertiser website revealed 60 per cent of people wanted to see the back of the boulders and the new Labour council granted their wish.

Newly elected Councillor Oliver Lewis told us: "We were quite comfortably elected and we knocked on hundreds of doors; this was one of the top issues that were coming back to us. Often politicians are criticised for not keeping their promises; this is a clear pledge that we are sticking to."

HUGE crowds were treated to diverse cuisine from around the world as Croydon's Restaurant Quarter celebrated the third South End Food Festival.

More than 11,000 people flocked to the event which boasted dozens of food stalls alongside music and dance on the main stage.

The festival showcased food for everyone with the range of cuisine available including Italian, Indian, Malaysian, Ghanaian, Jamaican, Greek, Caribbean, French, English hog roast, Mediterranean and Spanish food, while Cronx beer provided some locally brewed refreshment.

Martin Sandler, operations director at sponsors Brakes Food Market, hailed the festival as "an amazing success".

"It was great to see so many people turn up," he said.

"The festival showed off the very best of Croydon and the great offering that we have here."

CROYDON South MP Sir Richard Ottaway landed himself in hot water for suggesting residents who can't afford a house in the area should get "on the trains and up to Manchester".

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics show, Sir Richard Ottaway said the solution to a shortage of affordable homes in the area was for people to move to the cheaper north of England.

But defending his remarks, the veteran MP insisted he was referring to a long-term solution to reduce demand for affordable housing in London by improving the economy of the north.

He told the Advertiser: "It certainly wasn't a 'b****r off to Manchester' statement."

QUOTES OF THE MONTH:

"They look like they've just been dumped there really, if they were on some grass they would look great. At the moment people just come out and throw their Kentucky chicken on the floor."

New Addington resident Michael Lyons wasn't a fan of the estate's boulders, which it was announced in July would be removed

"My son once asked me why I leave the light on at night and I told him I do it because of my childhood." 

Pauline Gocan waived her right to anonymity, to tell the Advertiser about the horrific abuse she suffered at Shirley Oaks children's home

"He wasn't just a grandad, he was a best friend too. He couldn't have been more of an inspiration to me." 

South Croydon hip-hop artist Ryan Junior Matthews-Robinson mourned the loss of his idol and grandad, former singer Robbie "King" Robinson

"I want to buy a house in Croydon, but there's no way I can afford it." 

A stark admission from Emily Benn, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Croydon South

Croydon review of the year - July


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