Bringing the Wandle back to Croydon

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(Image: croydonthirdcity.co.uk)

In an article in today’s Financial Times, dramatically titled Knock it down and start again, we’re reminded of the sheer scale of architect Will Alsop’s plans for regenerating Croydon, the major conurbation on the Wandle’s headwaters.

As part of these plans:

Alsop intends to shrink the monstrous carriageway (through the centre of Croydon) and build modern covered walkways above it and to unearth the river Wandle, making it a focal point for a number of new and accessible parks.

It’s a welcome display of blue-sky (blue-water?) thinking for Croydon, where miles of upper Wandle carriers were culverted over when they turned into open sewers in the 19th century, and became a horrible health hazard for local residents.

But in the meantime – and whatever happens to Alsop’s grand designs – it’s worth remembering that efforts to bring the Wandle back to this borough are already underway. 

On the New South Quarter brownfield development by Barratt Homes, the Environment Agency are supervising a careful deculverting and river restoration exercise (especially sensitive due to the site’s contaminated history as an fuel plant).

Just upstream, the Friends of Wandle Park are working with Croydon Council on plans for daylighting the river from the concrete culvert where it was buried as recently as 1967.

Needless to say, we’re always delighted to see the Wandle as a focus of this nationally-important urban regeneration story.

Healthy rivers spring from healthy headwaters. And healthy, free-flowing headwaters, not urban runoff in underground pipes, are just one of the Wandle’s key requirements for a properly sustainable future.

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