A LONDON BOROUGH OF CRYSTAL PALACE – that’s the plan being proposed by the Upper Norwood Improvement Team.
In a move which partly reflects the plot of the 1940s Ealing Studios film classic ‘Passport to Pimlico’ – where residents of part of Pimlico declare independence after discovering their area is part of Burgundy – UNIT are now actively pursuing more information on the idea of independence with a difference.
The move comes against a background of increasing local hostility within Upper Norwood towards Croydon council’s ruling Conservative group over massive funding cuts to Upper Norwood joint library and the closure of the children’s centre behind Sainsbury’s on Westow Street.
Fiona Byers, representing Upper Norwood joint library, said that as a childrens’ librarian she dealt with a lot of families. “They are saying there’s far too many children in our schools, there’s far too many people around. “I’m wondering whether this is a golden opportunity to form another London borough.
“The Crystal Palace area would then become the central point. “We’ve got so many amazing people that make up our area being creamed off in little bits. “It would be nice to harness what we’ve got and go places.
“That might release some pressure on everyone around. “It would be much more helpful with getting stuff done – I use that in its loosest form.”
Fiona recalled there had been problems with the Victorian toilets on Crystal Palace Parade for two years or more because everyone was fighting over who owned the toilets because they were on the boundary of three boroughs.- but may not have been when they were first built. (The toilets have since turned into a ‘below stairs’ home)
“We’re in a unique position that five boroughs meet within a few hundred metres of each other and this is what causes so many problems. “There are places in London where three boroughs meet. “There’s nowhere where there’s four meet. “It’s hard enough dealing with one council but when you’ve got to deal with five it’s a nightmare.”
Southwark Cllr Andy Simmons explained that there were periodic reviews of boundaries by the Boundary Commission for England, an entirely independent body.
“But they do tend to focus on ward boundaries within a borough. “If people do want to go down that route then London boroughs are about 200,000 to 300,000 people in size. “Any change that people might suggest would have to fit in with the order of 250 to 300,000 people.”
Cllr Simmons (Lab. College ward) suggested “for the sake of debate” moving the boundaries of one borough to encompass the whole of the Triangle might be a more realistic proposition than trying to create a new borough.”
Mark Richardson replied: “That seems good to me – to get us away from Croydon. “They’ve taken away the town centre manager, the children’s centre. “We’re mortgaging the street lights for 25 years and our children are going to end up paying for them.” The £75,000 Croydon had given Upper Norwood library was “totally derisive” he added. And he recalled that, as a previous chairman of the (then) Upper Norwood Chamber of Commerce “I was repeatedly told we had no right to have a Chamber up here because they had one in Croydon! “How about asking the Boundary Commission to come up and give us a talk?
Responding to Cllr Simmons suggestion of one borough encompassing the whole of the Triangle, UNIT chairman George Filbey said he’d personally prefer Southwark – “and possibly Southwark may not want us.”
Declaring his own independence – Mr Filbey, a former Croydon councillor for Upper Norwood ward – said he had now left the Conservative party. “This is the party I like – the Crystal Palace party.”
He said he would like to see the London borough of Crystal Palace run by a community group rather than a political party. “We should be considering the old system where we had ratepayers associations – that kind of thing..Fiona Byers said that if the area got down to just three boroughs it would help the situation.
UNIT’s next meeting is the annual meeting on Tuesday October 29th.
IF A LONDON borough of Crystal Palace was to be created one possible blueprint would be for it to embrace the following existing council wards (Figures in brackets are the numbers on the electoral register for that ward for the May 2010 borough council elections):
Crystal Palace 8,667
Penge and Cator: 12,060
Clock House 11,690
South Norwood 11,027
Upper Norwood 11,171
Thornton Heath 11,050
Bensham Manor 11,235
West Thornton 11,547
Gipsy Hill 9,808
Knights Hill 9,973
Tulse Hill 11,169
Thurlow Park 9,837
Forest Hill 10,255
East Dulwich 8,948
This would give a total figure of 188,137 – the 200,000 figure could be reached by including the Croydon wards of Norbury (11,682) and / or Addiscombe (11,748)
(Image courtesy of Cinema Museum)