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Spotlight on Bromley

PUBLISHED: 07:40 06 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:30 11 February 2014

Artist's impression of Bromley South Central scheme

Artist's impression of Bromley South Central scheme

Archant

An exciting regeneration programme for this well-connected town

The town grew from a tiny hamlet in what is now Bromley North Village. From being ‘owned’ by successive Bishops of Rochester, who lived in nearby Bishop’s Palace (now the Civic Centre and parkland), it became a key coaching stop on the route from Hastings to London.

Bromley was then one of the first dormitory towns for commuting London workers, before achieving London borough status. Celebrity ex-residents include the Bromley contingent of punk rockers (Siouxsie Sioux et al), David Bowie, anarchist Peter Kropotkin, Charles Darwin and H.G. Wells.

The council is now on course to make the town centre into one of the most welcoming, architecturally innovative, and exciting places in the south east.

AREA ACTION PLAN

Although Bromley town centre is already completely pedestrianised and its shopping centre is acknowledged to be world class, in 2010 the council produced an Area Action Plan (AAP), as a blueprint for dramatic improvements. Six key areas were identified, and, starting from the top (north) these are:

Northern gateway

The transition zone between residences and the town centre, regarded as a transport hub, with arrival points, large roads and Bromley North station.

Bromley North Village Scheme (£5.2m)

The historic core of Bromley, with parks, gardens and a Conservation Area, includes Market Square, East Street and High Street North.

Current situation: The plan is to improve and revitalise the historic areas with pedestrian-friendly, clean, safe, open spaces, so as to attract new businesses and retailers. Planned are new pavement surfaces and lighting, more trees, new street furniture and the envisaged pedestrian exit from The Hill car park, should mean more footfall along the northern part of the High Street.

Upgrades to pavement and carriageways, pedestrian crossing and lighting, plus public art and community spaces improvements began in 2013, and the First Phase, a revitalised East Street (new granite paving, lamp columns and trees), has now been completed, this area’s Second Phase due for completion in March. In January 2014, work will begin on Market Square, with similar improvements, this tranche of work to be complete by August.

Bromley Town Centre

This is the central high-density, retailer-packed part of the High Street, extending from the INTU shopping centre (formerly The Glades) to Bromley South, including the cultural quarter around the excellent Churchill Theatre and library building.

Current situation: Muse Development Ltd has ‘preferred development partner’ status for improving the qualitative retail mix, and for promoting high-quality retailers, with some residential construction, new public spaces and more parking facilities.

Western Edge

The transition zone between Bromley Central and the surrounding residential areas has parkland that includes Church House and library gardens and Martins Hills.

Civic Centre

To the east of the centre, this is another transition zone with the Kentish Way (road) separating it from the High Street, and encompasses the parkland surrounding the Civic Centre, with the remains of the original Bishop’s palace and a lake.

Current situation: This area is currently badly integrated with the town centre, and links between the two are proposed.

Bromley South Central scheme (£90m)

The southern gateway to the town is where Bromley South station is located.

Current situation: Westmoreland Road Car Park has been demolished and work is now underway on this major development by Cathedral Group in partnership with the council, to be called St Mark’s Square.

Coming soon will be: a 130-bedroom hotel (Premier Inn), nine-screen (Vue) cinema, 25,000 sq ft of new café and pre-let restaurant space, plus the construction of 200 new apartments, an underground 400-space car park and a new central landscaped public plaza. Completion is anticipated by autumn 2015.

Walkaround

The High Street above Elmfield Road is all pedestrianised, there are several ample car parks. The Churchill Theatre adjoins the library, next to Church House Gardens, with its lake and ornamental bridge. At the ‘top’ of the High Street is Market Square, with its magnificent house-wall mural and children’s roundabout. Below here is the entrance to the INTU shopping centre, plus the many varied High Street shops, and the pedestrianised section ends at Ethelbert road (along here is Bromley town church), and beyond is Bromley South Station.

Entertainment

Shopping in Bromley has been described as ‘better than Bluewater’. The INTU Shopping Centre (formerly The Glades) has 120 stores, there’s also The Mall, plus shops all along the High Street.

There are two theatres: The Churchill (0844 7620, BR1 1HA) and Bromley Little Theatre (020 8460 3047, BR1 1SB), plus the Pavilion Leisure Centre (020 8313 9911, BR1 3EF) with a swimming pool and bowling facilities.

Bromley has lots of good restaurants too: Ferrari’s (Italian) (020 8464 8877, BR1 1QQ), Garden Restaurant at the Bromley Court Hotel (020 8461 8600, BR1 4JD), and pubs: Bricklayers Arms (020 8460 4552, BR2 9HW) and the Swan and Mitre (020 8460 5617, BR1 1PG).

Thinking of a move?

One- and two-bedroom flats cost in the region of £166,000 and £234,000, a three-bedroom semi would be around £310,000 and a four-bedroom detached house could be yours for upwards of £495,000.

An artist’s view + pic of Stuart Leaback

Stuart Leaback

Stuart Leaback is an artist, principally an abstract impressionist, who now concentrates on producing local scenes around Bromley and South London.

He has lived in Bromley for 45 years and before he became disabled, was a lecturer in fine art, illustration and computer graphics.

Stuart now concentrates on his own artwork and has produced 150 scenes for greeting cards of Bromley, Dulwich and other parts of South London, and passionately believes that landmarks and buildings that have artistic merit impart character to a place and should be recorded for posterity.

“Downham, for example, had the vestige of character of the old English village, with its pond, a stream, what was left of an old flour mill, two old pubs and the stream,” he says.

“Within five years all that’s left is the pond – fortunately I had recorded all the features with drawings. As an illustrator I was taught to illustrate or visualise, do the job of creating or explaining in visual terms for other people.”

He adds: “Bromley has gained in popularity because it is one of the outer boroughs encompassing a combination of town and rural qualities. From Bromley town centre it’s a short hop to be in farmland and public space.

“The neighbourhood contains a lot of common land and country parks, and there is surprisingly little change in and around Bromley in areas such as Shortlands, West Wickham, Beckenham, Chislehurst and Hayes, Downe and Biggin Hill.

“Bromley is quite a refined town with a thriving arts community, looked after by Bromley Arts Council, with the central library holding a year-long packed itinerary of concerts, exhibitions and shows in the Churchill Theatre.

“West Wickham Art Society and the Cantium Group, as well as many other art groups, maintain the fine art tradition of beautiful watercolour painting, and the Bromley Arts Council is an excellent place.”

● The BAC, based at Ripley Arts Centre (020 8464 5816, BR1 2PX), offers arts courses, has a lovely sensory garden and has three (changing) exhibitions per month, with free entry (but always ring to view).

Getting there

Bromley adjoins south-east London, and is accessible from the M25 at Junction 4 by the A21. London is only 16 minutes away by train, from Bromley North or Bromley South station, and there are good bus services.

Satnav postcode: BR1 1DN town centre

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