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Croydon 'a busy menagerie'

Winnie Agbonlahor

East Croydon

As you step out of East Croydon Station - one of London's busiest transport hubs - on this cold morning, the area's diversity becomes apparent immediately.

There is a man wearing a turban, a woman wearing a traditional African dress and headscarf, elderly women pushing mobility scooters being taken over by a small group of joggers and a large group of school children being guided to a traffic light.

The menagerie of different languages being spoken blends in with the sound of construction: drilling and hammering noises emanate from building sites on almost every corner, and Croydon's many skyscrapers and tower blocks are interspersed with cranes.

Box park

This is emblematic of the huge amount of investment Croydon has seen in recent years, and regeneration which is afoot.

There is a large police presence around the station with what seem to be sniffer dogs. "They pick up on explosives", one station worker tells me, but she is quick to add that there is "nothing to worry about" and they are "just training" them.

Council aims to be first with fire checks accreditation

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Grenfell Tower

Kensington and Chelsea council is planning to become the first local authority to get accreditation to do its own fire risk assessments in house.

The move has been welcomed by some people who were affected by the Grenfell Tower fire who think it will make the council accountable, whilst others think the fire brigade should do the assessments.

The council hopes to get accreditation to do the checks, which involve looking at any potential safety risks and recommending work to put it right, by early next year.

By law the council has to do regular “suitable and sufficient” fire risk assessments (FRAs) of all its buildings, but carrying out the surveys is usually contracted out.

The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey block which the council owned has highlighted the importance of checking for risks.

The council owns 700 buildings and assessments highlight more than 3,000 remedial actions every year.

The council’s new head of fire safety, Keith Todd, explained that if it gains the BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment) SP205 certification Kensington and Chelsea council would be the first to be given third-party certification “as competent to deliver suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessments”.

A council spokesman said: “We hope to have a date soon for our inspection, which will start the formal certification process, and hope to have this by early 2020.”

The move won the backing of the chairman of the Lancaster West Residents Association, which includes Grenfell Tower. Abbas Dadou said: “If it’s in their hands they will be accountable.”

However North Kensington councillor Kasim Ali, who speaks on housing for the Labour opposition on the council said it should not be doing FRAs but called for firefighters to be given the resources to do the assessments.

“Fire safety should be all the way with the fire fighters and let’s give them the resources to do it,” he said.

Croydon's wealth inequality problem

Sam Francis

BBC News, London

A general view shows a bus stop near the Goat Pub in Croydon,

London's third largest borough by area, Croydon encompasses some of the poorest and most affluent pockets of London.

According to the Land Registry Croydon is home to hundreds of million pound homes.

In 2017 buying a house on Kenley Lane, in Kenley, will set you back close to £1.9m.

The average wage in the area is £25,600, above the national average but well in to the bottom third of London earnings.

An estimated 16% of children live below the poverty line

In a walk of just two miles the average life expectancy drops 10 years.

Residents living in Selsdon, near the Croham Hurst golf club, can expect to reach 84.5 years old.

Those living in Selhurst, in the poorer northern tip, tend to make it just past 74 years old.

Frost fairs to be celebrated at museum festival weekend

Frost fair
Getty Images

London's famous frost fairs, which were held on the River Thames when it froze during particularly harsh winters, are to be celebrated at the Museum of London Docklands.

About seven frost fairs were held between 1564 and 1814, with Londoners descending on the ice to build markets, play games and cook up feasts.

The last to be held in 1814 even saw an elephant being marched across the river alongside Blackfriars Bridge.

The fairs will be marked at the east London museum with a free family festival on 21 and 22 December featuring choirs, talks, arts and crafts.

Aisling Serrant, community engagement manager at the Museum of London Docklands, said they hoped "to capture the spirit of these spectacular, winter celebrations of a bygone era".

Children serenade First Lady on Salvation Army centre visit

Melania Trump and children
PA Media

Melania Trump was serenaded with a rendition of Mariah Carey's festive classic All I Want For Christmas Is You as she visited a Salvation Army centre in east London.

The US First Lady bobbed her head slightly as around 30 children from Baden Powell Primary School belted out the well-known Christmas song.

Wearing a black and white houndstooth check coat over a black sheath dress, the wife of US President Donald Trump appeared to say "bravo" as she congratulated the ensemble.

She also spent around 20 minutes helping the school children make Christmas wreaths, using sparkly pipe cleaners, pine cones and tinsel.

Mrs Trump beamed throughout the visit, commending the Christmas hat-clad youngsters on their festivewear and chatting more generally about the festive season.

Melania Trump with child
PA Media
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