However, with 2023 slowly fading into the rearview mirror, the local democracy reporting service casts an eye forward to what will be a busy 2024 for London’s southerly boroughs.
MyLondon has compiled a brief round-up of the biggest council-focused stories to keep an eye on in 2024.
Levelling Up funding
The borough welcomed the news that Croydon was chosen to receive £18.5m as part of the latest wave of funding from the Department of Leveling Up. However, the borough will likely see the money spent on its Reconnected Croydon plan in 2024, after the council has undergone a ‘validation check’.
This plan will see the borough spend millions on regenerating the town center, making it more accessible for pedestrians and cyclists. There will be a particular focus on greening up the streets and integrating East and West Croydon.
Croydon Council’s asset disposal list
As part of its continued effort to balance the books, Croydon Council is undertaking a mass consultation on the disposal of its property assets across the borough. This has already seen Croydon sell off a number of its buildings to generate income following its multiple bankruptcies in recent years.
The council has categorised this process into three tranches. Having currently completed its second tranche worth £24.6million, the local authority is now moving on to dealing with its more sensitive assets. The council has already come under fire for its apparent lack of communication with charities using the buildings they are planning to dispose of.
With high-profile properties like Croydon Athletic’s Mayfield Stadium and several golf and tennis courts also on the list, this is certainly not the last we will hear of Croydon’s asset disposal.
Progress on the Purley Pool
The redevelopment of Purley Pool was one of Mayor Jason Perry’s big campaign promises during his 2022 mayoral bid. He promised to rebuild the run-down Purley leisure into a community space, complete with a gym, pool, cafe, and elderly residential living. While a developer partner, Polaska, has been found, progress around planning permission has been slow. However, according to the council’s website, Polaska is now preparing to submit a planning application to the council.
Croydon blitz cleans
Following the success of the Norbury bitz clean-up, the borough has made clear it intends to bring this initiative back in 2024. The council-organised clean focused on removing flytipping and graffiti from the streets of Norbury back in August of this year. The council has pledged the cleans will return to high streets across Croydon in the new year.
Beddington Farmlands Consultation
Valencia Waste Management, the owners of the Beddington Farmlands site, will consult with the neighbours over updated suggestions for the 120-hectare historic landfill site in Sutton’s final restoration plan. While neighbouring Croydon and Merton also have an interest in the site’s future, the farmlands will be on Sutton land.
The original plan, to turn the acidic grassland behind the industrial park into a conservation area, was one reason why Valencia was permitted to build the Beddington plant in the first place. The persistent lack of progress with its development has led many residents to question whether the site will ever be built. For this reason, all eyes will be on the results of the current consultation, which is set to conclude on January 5.
The consultation can be found here
Sutton town centre redevelopment
Last year saw Sutton Council update residents on the latest stage in its plans to redevelop the town center. In October, the council announced that it is looking for a developer partner to renovate the current St. Nicholas shopping center, Civic Offices, Gibson Road parking lot, and the empty Secombe Theatre space.
In addition to council offices and a new town center library, Sutton Council hopes to build a brand-new Civic Hub on the High Street that will house public services offered by the Council and its partners. In 2024 we can expect to see the authority secure and partner and add to the progress they have already made with developments like the new Oru Space on Sutton High Street.
The controversial AELTC Wimbledon Park expansion
Last year saw the All England Tennis Club’s plan gain national attention for its ability to galvanize the local Wimbledon community in opposition. The plan could see the tennis club build a 500-seater stadium, 38 practice courts, and a number of maintenance facilities built on the historic Capability Brown-designed Wimbledon Park.
The plan’s proposed location will fall under the jurisdiction of both Merton and Wandsworth. Merton council, which holds the lion’s share of the park and benefits from massive AELTC business rates, unsurprisingly voted for the plans to go ahead. Conversely, Wandsworth who doesn’t enjoy these benefits, sided with the Save Wimbledon Park campaign group and blocked the plans.
This impasse over these decisions and negligible chances of any compromise means the plans currently sit with Sadiq Kahn’s deputy mayor for planning, Jules Pipe, who will decide whether to stop the plans entirely or call them in for review. Whatever the outcome, we can expect this debate to drag on well into 2024.
The future of St Helier Hospital
The ongoing saga around the possible closure of services at St Helier hospital has left many residents in Sutton and Merton feeling concerned. The plans, first proposed in 2019, would see maternity and A&E services stripped out of St Helier Hospital and centralised at a proposed new hospital in Belmont.
Despite being in Sutton, Merton Council issued an independent report that found around 50,000 Merton residents will have to be absorbed by St. George’s, Kingston, and Croydon hospitals if the plans were to go ahead.
In a letter to the secretary of state, Council leader Ross Garrod said: “I believe this decision would be to the detriment of local people who rely on these vital services at St Helier Hospital, and that especially following the unprecedented increase in pressure on local healthcare systems following the pandemic.”
While the public sentiment is aligned with Epsom’s Chief Medical officer that St Helier is currently an ‘ unpleasant environment,’ most residents reject the proposed move to Belmont, instead favouring new development on the fields opposite. We can expect to see further developments in 2024, especially if a new general election brings a change in government and health strategy.