An ambitious green recovery plan which aims to improve access to green space in the north of the borough in the wake of pandemic has been unveiled.

At the heart of the initiative which would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, is a desire to create a green biodiversity corridor linking Croydon town centre and districts like Thornton Heath allowing walking and cycling friendly, with slow moving traffic and roads that are easy to cross.

Croydon and particularly Thornton heath has been among the worst affected by coronavirus, with a death rate around double that of the national level. This has been mainly influenced by existing inequalities – overcrowded housing, poor air quality, health and race – highlighting the importance of healthy green spaces.Last year, Croydon Council declared a climate emergency; councillors Jamie Audsley and Mohammed Ali, both cyclists, believe recovery from the pandemic presents a unique chance to change direction on the climate crisis.

The initiative is being supported by many other local councillors, environmental campaigners and community groups including the BME Forum, Asian Resource Centre of Croydon and Thornton Heath Community Action Team

The plan is divided in to short, medium and longer term measures which would see investment focussing on green job creation for the young, ethnic minority communities and the disadvantaged. 

They have met with the chair of Croydon’s Climate Commission. Miatta Fahnbulleh who is overseeing a comprehensive strategy to make the borough greener. She indicated ‘massive support’ for the plan said Bensham Manor Cllr Jamie Audsley who added: “This crisis has laid bare the fundamental connection between healthy, flourishing and productive communities and a thriving environment.”

It also aims to improve access to existing quality green spaces and support the council’s Streetspace Improvement Programme. This has seen busy pinch-points widened so that pedestrians can socially distance more easily including plans for a scheme on Brigstock Road; with segregated cycle lanes on London Road and elsewhere the introduction of controversial low traffic streets stopping through traffic using large planters.

Richard Mullins, a local architect, has helped develop the plans. “The Green Corridor is a way of creating and improving access to green space in the north of the borough, fast. Through the creation of pocket parks, reallocation of kerbside space used by cars to green space, and the creation of protected cycle lanes and walking routes to connect existing green spaces, we can ensure that Croydon’s many green spaces – one of its key strengths as a borough – are better available to all our communities.”

Linda Watson, chair, Thornton Heath Community Action Team:“THCAT is very keen to seen an increase in green spaces in Thornton Heath and for our existing, well-used spaces to look maintained and cared for. The idea of establishing pocket parks and gardens is an exciting one.”

For Lucy Bowyer cycling has been a lifesaver during lockdown and has also helped her deliver supplies to those in need: “I got a new bike at Christmas but hadn’t really gone out on it much.”

She said: “When lockdown started, I wanted to help out with a local charity and found the Elim Food Bank via the Thornton Heath Mutual Aid group. 

“I started using my bike to do deliveries and it really gave me a reason to get out from my desk as I’ve been working from home since March. I moved to Thornton Heath last year but hadn’t really explored much but doing deliveries around the area meant I was meeting an amazing group of local volunteers and residents whilst cycling round and learning about the area and building up my fitness. 

“I’ve been bitten by the cycling bug and very much plan to cycle to work. I feel like doing the deliveries has really given me a catalyst to get on my bike.“

Last week the prime minister announced that cycling will be prescribed on the NHS with £50 bike repair vouchers as part of plans to boost cycling and walking as part of campaign to tackle obesity after research found that being overweight or obese puts people at greater risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19.