South Norwood High Street was named one of London’s ‘unhealthiest’ high streets but it’s hoped a cash injection of up to £1.7m will boost the dwindling economy.
The high street ranked bottom fifth in a survey of the capital’s retail areas by the Royal Society for Public Health last year.
The area has the highest number of empty shops in Croydon, but the council’s plans could modernise the way high street is used, while celebrating its Victorian history.
Croydon Councillor Paul Scott, cabinet member for transport, environment and regeneration said: “Something a lot of people say to me is ‘Councillor, why can’t you get the shops reopened?’ And my honest answer to them is well, actually you’ve stopped shopping in the way that you used to.
“So we’re looking at different ways that those shops can actually be used, creative ways to bring jobs, to bring employment, to bring people during the day.
“It starts in a cyclical sort of way to help develop the economy up again.”
The successful £1.7m bid from Historic England is on top of a £1.16m investment for the area announced last year from the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund that the council is match funding.
Proposals include the restoration of Victorian buildings, an arts and heritage trail, and plans for specialist heritage-related apprenticeships.
“This isn’t just about tidying up some old buildings, or doing a little bit of this or little bit of that,” said Councillor Scott.
“It covers everything from culture, from recognising and celebrating our history and helping to restore our history.”
The council hopes that turning empty premises into workspaces for creative and social enterprises will give South Norwood a much-needed boost.
Councillor Scott said: “We’ve got a lot of empty shops unfortunately. South Norwood has hit a bit of a rough time of late.
“We’ll be working with landlords to actually bring those shops back into use.
“Possibly as shops, but quite possibly as other things, bringing in new businesses.
“Something that’s built as a shop, doesn’t necessarily have to be a shop anymore.”
Emily Gee, Historic England’s regional director for London and the south east, said:
“This is fantastic news for the residents and businesses of South Norwood.
“Historic England is looking forward to working with the local community and stakeholders on this exciting project to help revitalise the historic high street, in turn supporting regeneration of the area.”