The 'forgotten' South London neighbourhood where people fear letting their kids walk streets

Costa Cast
-Credit: (Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

Residents in a 'forgotten' neighbourhood on the fringes of Croydon say they fear walking in the area due to crime, and things are being made worse by a lack of youth services. New Addington, a large former council estate with a distinct identity, had until 2023 been placed in the Croydon Central constituency.

However, last year's boundary review saw the creation of the new Croydon East constituency. Having flitted between Labour and the Conservatives over the years, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) headed to the neighbourhood to find out what issues are most concerning voters as they prepare to cast their ballot on July 4 for the first time under the new boundaries.

Edwyn Wood said: "It's quite a nice area, but it's forgotten. It's not like other areas like Croydon and Thornton Heath that you have to drive through. You come up here and you're out of the way."

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Edwyn Wood
Edwyn Wood said New Addington can feel forgotten -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Mr Wood felt this distance from Croydon's metropolitan centre had its benefits, specifically when it came to noise and greenery. However, like Croydon town centre, the area does experience crime and antisocial behaviour.

The area has an unfortunate history of violent crime, with one of the most recent victims being 20-year-old Bradley Hutchings who lost his life following a knife fight in September last year. Some locals believe this worrying trend stems from a lack of youth services in the area.

Mum-of-three Kelly McPherson told the LDRS of the concerns she has for the safety of her children. She said: "I take my kids on daily walks just because I don't feel safe with them around here. My son used to do boxing but that closed down and there's not much left."

New Addington will now form part of the new Croydon East constituency
New Addington has a distinct identity due to its location away from central Croydon, and that has both its advantages and downside, residents say -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Another mother, who did not want to be named, shared this concern and told the LDRS: "I have boys and don't let them out here.

"Kids have got nothing to do around here, they need some more activities. They are trying to get more but Croydon Council don't have the budget so they don't do as much as they could.

"They need to do more for this generation, when we were growing up we had youth clubs. It's all down to the school [to provide things now]."

When asked if there is much of a police presence in the neighbourhood, nearly all New Addington residents responded tellingly with the same answer: "Only when something has happened."

The mother told the LDRS of her difficulty in dealing with the police in the area. She said: "I had an issue and had to try and find the police to report a few incidents, and I basically had to do all the work for them.

"I was present at the town hall when Elianne passed away and told a commissioner officer there's not a lot of support from the police and if you do report something you have to wait until the last moment before something really tragic happens.

"There was a police station round here years ago but now there's none, you have to go to Croydon or Bromley. It is a struggle and you have to be on point if you want to help your own kids really."

Parade 'needs more variety'

New Addington's small shopping parade was also the focus of concern for many locals, who feel it does not provide variety to the area's 10,000-plus residents. Longtime New Addington resident Janet Young was one of a number of people who felt the high street had had its day.

During a quiet break from midday shopping, she told the LDRS: "The council keep giving shops around here permission to sell alcohol. We need more variety."

Janet Young
Janet Young poses for photos in New Addington in south east London, Britain 12 June 2024. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

This view was shared by local businessman Costa Cast, who has run the Parade Fish Shop for the past 30 years. He told the LDRS: "There's too much fast food, when I came here I was only one of two or three and we need more choice up here for people."

As a longtime business owner in the heart of the New Addington, Mr Cast has witnessed first-hand the changes that have come to the area. On the whole, he believes the years have not been kind to the area. He said: "There was more of a sense of community up here but it's slowly disappearing. I think it's as the tram has come, more crime has come."

He added: "People are getting poorer and spending less. Business is a bit slower than it used to be. Things are changing now, people used to have fish and chips.

A number of parents complained of a rise in anti-social behaviour on New Addington's Central Parade
Some suggested New Addington needs a better variety of shops -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

"Now people are wanting chicken, and fish is expensive. People can go to Morley's and get chicken and chips for £2.50 but cod and chips are £10."

Concerns over ULEZ also persisted in New Addington, despite almost a year passing since the controversial expansion to all London boroughs. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the area's distance from Central London and comparatively sparse public transport. It's also near the border with Surrey so more likely to affect people who move in and out of the charging zone.

One mother, Lindsay, told the LDRS how the policy has impacted her and the area as a whole. She said: "Our community is a poor community and some of us rely on the benefits system and things like ULEZ are making everything worse for us.

"I don't drive but ULEZ needs to go. I don't see some members of my own family because they can't afford to come into the estate; They live up in Ipswich."

A spokesperson for Croydon Council said: "The council is dedicated to working with our voluntary sector and other community organisations in New Addington to provide support and activities to keep our young people safe and give them opportunities so they can fulfil their potential.

"In the last two years we have introduced more outreach programmes in New Addington to engage young people with activities and support. This summer we have awarded PlayPlace £29,000 of funding to run programmes for young people at risk of becoming involved in antisocial behaviour, and to help them stay safe. Last year we awarded £30,000 to PlayPlace to run sports and music activities, and workshops on self-esteem, decision-making and knife crime.

"The council funds weekly outreach sessions at the Youth Hub at The Fieldway Family Centre, which has workshops and football coaching in partnership with Palace For Life, an extensive summer holiday programme at The Fieldway Family Centre, and a weekly youth bus to engage young people and signpost to activities.

"We continue to listen to the New Addington community and its young people, respond to their needs, and work closely with key partners to create safe spaces and opportunities for our young people."

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