Shifa Mustafa was appointed as Executive Director of Place last October to lead Croydon Council on safety, streets, development, regeneration, culture and planning.
Her appointment came after her predecessor Jo Negrini was promoted to the role of the council’s chief executive.
With more than 30 years’ experience working in local government, Shifa arrived from Kingston Council where she has provided interim leadership and management for environmental services, having previously spent six years at Waltham Forest where she oversaw a number of different environment and regeneration services, including the award-winning redevelopment of Walthamstow town centre.
Here, we talk to Shifa about her role, the Croydon Growth Zone, and why the borough is such an exciting place to be…
What attracted you to Croydon?
The sheer potential of the borough in terms of its development opportunities and the council’s forward-thinking approach to growth and regeneration. So much is happening here and there is a big challenge in terms of making sure the local community benefits from the regeneration taking place.
How important do you feel it is to have all of the elements which make up ‘the place’ within your remit?
I prefer working in organisations with the levers to focus on key outcomes for residents and business, rather than just running technical departments. Croydon is a forward-thinking borough with the political will to ensure that we not only create the right environment for businesses to invest in, but also quality neighbourhoods for our residents.
Why is Croydon ripe for investment?
It’s the most exciting place to be in London at the moment. Croydon has a proud track record of delivering major redevelopment schemes. Our transport connections are unique, we have a diverse community and there is a real buzz around the borough. The opportunities are huge, and I don’t think there is anywhere else in London with the same potential to deliver growth on this scale. I’ve only been here for three months but it’s safe to say that it has lived up to my expectations and more.
What is the Croydon Growth Zone and how is it being funded?
The Croydon Growth Zone is unique because while the government has created growth zones purely for housebuilding in other boroughs this is another stage on. This is a partnership between central government, the GLA, TfL and the council to finance around 39 infrastructure projects. The council being allowed to borrow around £500million on a 25-year loan which we will be able to repay because we are allowed to retain half the uplift in business rates – for example from the new Westfield and Hammerson scheme and other developments being brought forward in the town. It shows the tremendous confidence the government and the GLA have in the council’s ability to deliver such a huge regeneration programme.
How significant is the Growth Zone to what you are trying to achieve?
It’s a game-changer because this is a totally new way of funding new infrastructure. The new homes, offices and other developments are already coming – this is all about getting the infrastructure in terms of the transport infrastructure, the healthcare, the schools and universities, culture, the jobs and all those types of things which will support that growth and regeneration and make it sustainable. It is a real compliment to Croydon that we are the first place to have been entrusted with this type of arrangement – we are blazing a trail on this.
What is your vision for Croydon – the place?
My vision is that it delivers on its potential to become a major economic centre for London and a gateway to the vibrant Coast to Capital region. The big challenge, and the most important thing from our point of view, is to make sure residents and businesses benefit from the growth and regeneration that is taking place. We want to use that growth as a vehicle for change and to provide a solution to some of the other challenges we face in the borough. The ultimate goal is to make Croydon a place of choice by creating a quality destination where people want to live, work and play.
CROYDON GROWTH ZONE: Unlocking the borough’s growth potential
Transport and access, public realm, energy and social infrastructure schemes are among the initiatives which will be funded through the unique Croydon Growth Zone.
Plans are already underway to manage the construction, logistics and traffic arising from the developments, which include an architectural lighting scheme at Fairfield Halls which is expected to go live later this year.
Other proposals include district energy provided by a combined heat and power unit and using technology to improve wayfinding in Croydon. The programme will be funded by the borough being allowed to reinvest 50 per cent of the increase in business rates generated by Croydon’s regeneration.
Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor of London for planning regeneration and skills said: “Through the retention of the uplift in business rates that will result from the development in the designated growth zone area we will be able to invest early in a whole series of critical projects.
“This is going to be critical to unlocking the potential further housing and economic growth – 10,000 new homes and 23,000 jobs which can be directly influenced by these improvements.”