Croydon's IYLO tower: What happened to the borough's flagship housing development?
FOR nearly two years the IYLO tower has stood unfinished in the middle of a roundabout on a major Croydon route. This week reporter Gareth Davies explored the site and found it to be unsecured, litter-strewn, and covered in graffiti…
THE graffiti above a crudely drawn swastika reads "KKK" or at least it did until being scribbled out and replaced with "bi*****s".
On a stairwell below, a Chelsea fan has daubed something about "CFC, the Blues" and, a few floors before that, the words "Wake up 2012" have been sprayed in what should probably be someone's living room or kitchen.
"SOLD" declares a sign on a balcony, making some unfortunate house-hunter the proud owner of a concrete shell filled with rotting wood, building material and the odd beer can.
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This is the IYLO building, a 20-storey block of flats in Croydon. At least in theory. At the moment there are no flats and only half a building.
For nearly two years the skyscraper has sat unfinished in the middle of a roundabout, staking claim to the unenviable title of ugliest sight on a skyline, for some, the byword for architectural blight.
Workmen last picked up tools at the site in June 2011, shortly before a subsidiary of the developer went into administration. Last July, IYLO was bought by a company based in Jersey, which promised work would start again in the autumn.
The only new licks of paint since then have been the tags and slogans sprayed on many of the walls and windows; the only nails hammered in anger on wooden panels to keep trespassers out.
This week the Advertiser took on that role to expose the abject state of what was once a flagship housing development.
After climbing over the fence with little trouble, our reporter and photographer found the site bereft of security staff and littered with rubble and rubbish.
The main stairwell which runs through the centre of the tower is closed off but an opening appears to have been made in some wooden panels covering a metal staircase nearby.
On the floors where walls have been built, most have at least some graffiti. There are other signs of visitors too. In one room we find an empty bottle of Teacher's whisky, in another a T-shirt.
Not that the IYLO building is habitable, particularly today. It is Monday afternoon and the morning snow has given way to wintry showers. Huge puddles are a feature of every floor and where there is timber, it is sodden and rotten. Others are covered in broken glass or sheets of metal.
The main staircase is accessible on floors above the ground, so we make our way up the tower until the 16th storey. By now there is less graffiti because there are few walls or windows to spray.
The floor is covered in snow so we carefully edge our way out. Up here, you begin to get an idea why someone might want to own a flat in the IYLO building.
You can see for miles. In the distance the Crystal Palace tower pokes out through the mist. In the opposite direction, the twin chimneys of Ikea are visible.
A short distance along Wellesely Road is Berkley Homes' Saffron Square, a block of flats which has been proposed and completed since work first started on IYLO in 2007.
The view is even better from the 20th floor, where the staircase ends with a wooden gangplank. Metal cables shoot out from the ground, which is littered with girders and wiring. Even this high up, the staircase is covered in graffiti.
Some 200 feet below, hoardings bordering the site feature IYLO's official slogan: "Inspiration for Life". Its original promise was "live in extraordinary beauty".
Five years since construction has started, the only thing the building has inspired is a parody Twitter account about life in an "existential nightmare".
Croydon's planning chief admits he has no idea when work on the IYLO tower will restart.
Last July Jason Perry, cabinet member for planning, regeneration and transport, said new owners Rosefair had informed the council that construction would resume by the end of the year.
"It's disappointing that nothing has happened given that we were promised things would start to move forward," he said.
"I haven’t had an update on what is going on.
"It's on my agenda and I have been chasing it up this week."
The Advertiser has been unable to contact Jersey-based Rosefair, which bought the building after St James’s Croydon, a subsidiary of developers Phoenix Logistics, went into administration in June 2011.
Construction on the 182 mainly one and two-bedroom apartments had previously been hampered because Phoenix fired original contractors Lancsville for poor performance, causing work to grind to a halt.
Paul Scott, Labour’s spokesman for planning, said much of the work that has already been completed may have to be redone.
Cllr Scott, who works as architect, said: "The real problem from my professional view is the longer the building stands there, the less of it can be salvaged.
"The warranty on the walling would have gone already so anyone who takes this building on now may well have to strip it back to its frame.
"It's a massive shame because it was starting to shape up as a really well-thought out building.
"To have such a large building half-finished, potentially for many years to come, is a disaster for Croydon.
"I would call on the council to use whatever influence it has to move things forward and get the thing done.
"Councillor Fisher keeps indicating it's going to start again, but nothing happens.
“We can’t have a positive regeneration of the town centre with that sitting there looking tattier and tattier.
"As time goes by it will become more and more of a problem.
"It will start to look worse. It’s only a matter of time before someone does some huge graffiti on it which can be seen all over the place.
"The whole thing is a bit of a disaster, frankly.
"For a nice scheme, in an area which desperately needs more housing, to just be sat there is an absolute tragedy."