I found myself in Croydon town centre a week or two back for the first time in years. It’s de rigueur to deride Croydon, and I expect you think I’m still going to, but whenever I’m there I remember why I think it’s got one of the best-designed centres of any town I know. It’s not wildly pretty, true, but it has its moments (the old hospital on the corner of the high street and George Street is one; the station at East Croydon is another), and most of all, it just works. Whether you come in on foot, in a car or by public transport the system is designed to get you to where you want to be quickly and with the minimum of fuss. The high street is pedestrianised along most of its length, and there are two indoor shopping centres (the Whitgift is older and a little more run down; Centrale, which replaced the old Drummond Centre, has a silly name but almost all the shops anyone could want to visit), so that it’s an uncomplicated and stress-free place to shop whatever the weather or time of day. The main car parks are just behind or under the high street and cars are deposited there via a system of bypasses and tunnels, so that pedestrians and vehicles rarely meet one another, which can only be a good thing. And the public transport is a dream: there are three mainline stations, countless buses and a speedy and reliable tram network (run by those good folk at TfL).
And it still has an Allders. Bromley’s Allders, where you could buy almost everything, became a giant Primark. Croydon’s goes from strength to strength. Sometimes all you need is a shop with a really good haberdashery department.