PLANTING hundreds of trees, improving street lighting and replacing paving will not just make central Croydon look better – it will make it safer too.
This is message being put forward by Croydon Council, in the week its Fair Field Masterplan moved a step closer to reality.
A desire to reduce the fear of crime and tell people Croydon is "open for business" at all hours lay behind the Masterplan.
The multi-million pound transformation of the areas around Fairfield Halls and Croydon College was given the green light by the council on Monday night, after several months of public consultation.
The changes will mean events such as outdoor film screenings and ice skating could be brought to the area, in a bid to attract more visitors in the evening and to improve Croydon's night-time economy.
But by planting trees, replacing tired paving and improving street lighting, the hope is to create a safer, more welcoming environment for visitors.
Councillor Jason Perry, cabinet member for regeneration, told Monday's meeting: "The mix of cultural, educational and local enterprise activities alongside a refurbished Fairfield Halls and a residential community will revive Fair Field's historic role as a thriving regional destination."
The Masterplan covers the area bounded by George Street, Park Lane, Barclay Road and the railway lines.
Replacing and improving the paving, lighting, seating, planting, ramps and steps on College Green and around Fairfield Halls is part of the plan.
Pedestrian routes between East Croydon Station, College Green and Fairfield Halls will also be improved, with the Masterplan report saying the aim is to establish a "well-connected, accessible and safe pedestrian environment".
And the theatre, which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary, will be lit up at night, to improve its dated appearance, while an outdoor ticket office will be included in the square.
The inside of the building is also in line for a huge, £27 million makeover, which will include improvements to the ticket office and foyer area.
Cllr Perry added: "This Masterplan is about delivering a much better place, a much better Croydon.
"Things are changing in Croydon, with Westfield and Hammerson coming in and the Fairfield Masterplan, these are all things that will help the borough come forward."
About crime, the report says the plan aims to provide "natural surveillance and well-designed lighting", to make the area feel safer.
The first work on the plan, which will include improvements to the paving at College Green, will begin this summer.
There is no final date for the design as a whole to be completed, though the work at Fairfield Halls should be finished by 2016.The Masterplan for Fair Field is one of five drawn up by Croydon Council, aimed at rejuvenating the town centre and its surrounds. The four other town centre Masterplans are being drawn up for West Croydon, East Croydon, Wellesley Road and mid-Croydon. In describing the plans, Croydon Council has said they will: "Provide a long-term framework for the regeneration of the area, as well as a pragmatic plan for the delivery of short-term physical improvements." Work on the Masterplans began in October 2011. The plans
- The Fair Field Forecourt Aspirations are for the frontage to Fair Field on the western boundary to become a unified pedestrian surface, increasing the visibility and access to Croydon College and Fairfield Halls. Car parking has also been changed in agreement with the Fairfield Halls. The revised Masterplan states: "The layout of the Fairfield forecourt should accommodate disabled vehicle parking, coach and taxi drop-off, and service vehicle access to the Arnhem Gallery side of the building. A reduction in car parking to the forecourt should be compensated for by an equivalent provision of well-lit, safe parking spaces at the lower level as close as possible to the Fairfield Halls."
- Performance space The report suggests the area is the 'ideal location and scale for outdoor events such as cinema, performance, ice skating and an exhibition showcase for Croydon'.
- Parking The proposals will retain and upgrade the underground level of the Fairfield car park, and remove the multi-storey element, reducing the total number of publicly available spaces from 905 to 750-800 spaces.
- College Square The regeneration of this space is focused on a link between Croydon College and George Street. This is among the first proposed actions of the plan, with work to regenerate the area due to begin this summer.
- Tree Planting A section in the Masterplan on tree planting was reviewed to ensure that trees are planted in suitable locations. Negative impacts such as shading, falling leaves and bird droppings have been mitigated through the review.