MOVES to brighten up and improve part of Croydon's Old Town area have been widely welcomed.
The £1.6 million renovation project, in Church Street, starts on Monday, with a programme which will see about 30 buildings and shop fronts benefiting from being cleaned and repainted.
New shop signs, awnings and security shutters are also included in the first stage of the work, which is expected to be completed in June.
At the end of March, work will also start on widening and re-paving footpaths in Church Street and part of Frith Road, a project due to finish in September.
The work forms part of the Connected Croydon programme, a £50 million project to transform the town centre.
Two of the area's longest established businesses have said they are hopeful the work will boost what is one of the remaining centres for independent traders.
Trevor Reeves, whose family furniture business hit headlines when part of it was burnt to the ground during the 2011 riots, said: "This is something that needed to happen a long time ago but the previous council did not get its act together.
"It has taken a long time but at least the council is moving with it now, which has got to be a good thing."
He said the widening of pavements would make it easier for people to move up and down Church Street, and enhancing the architectural features would brighten up the area.
Richard Stevens, manager of schoolwear specialist Hewitt's of Croydon, which has been in Church Street since 1863, said: "The benefits to Church Street will be tremendous.
"Croydon has been going downhill for a few years and this street does need a facelift."
Improving the appearance of the area would, he hoped, attract more shoppers who would be able to see what Church Street had to offer.
Paul Collins, secretary of the Old Town Business Association, said: "This has been a long process but it is a project for the long term future and not just a quick fix."
He said improvements to street furniture, widening of pavements, removal of clutter and better lighting would all make Church Street more inviting.
Mr Collins added: "The area will end up being a lot better and a lot safer than it is now."
Toni Letts, the council's cabinet member for economic development, said: "Croydon's Old Town is home to some of our most historic buildings and has a major role to play in the wider regeneration of our town centre.
"Church Street is a great place to wander and shop. As well as long-established businesses, new ones have taken opportunities to create a secure and successful future for themselves.
"While looking ahead, it is vital we don't forget the past, and this will help to revitalise this important part of Croydon."