Mayor Ken Livingstone has rubbished the idea of an arena at the Gateway site and instead called for "an iconic building that defines the new Croydon".

Speaking to members of Croydon's Business Improvement District (BID) on Friday last week the mayor drew applause when he said an office development would make better use of the space.

"Who needs an arena which will often be empty. Does anyone seriously believe that the Rolling Stones will come and perform in an arena that small?" he asked.

Mr Livingstone's comments were at odds with those of Labour councillors in Croydon who dreamt up the 12,000 seat arena plan, the Conservative administration that continued to back the scheme after taking control of the town hall and the council's new chief executive Jon Rouse.

Ken Frost, a campaigner from Croydon Against the Arena, said after the meeting: "It's a strange state of affairs where I find myself agreeing with Ken Livingstone. The fundamental disgrace is that the council has spent hours of time and God knows how many thousands of pounds opposing the original plans that were set out by the owners of the land. It is not economically viable, it faces stiff competition from the O2 arena and we don't have the infrastructure to deal with the crowds who may or may not turn up to it."

Mr Livingstone, who was in Croydon as part of his election campaign, said improving the tram service and getting kids out of gangs and off the streets would be his priorities if he was elected for another term.

The Mayor said he has campaigned for anyone caught with a knife to get an automatic prison sentence.

He said that they could use fingerprint and DNA technology to find out who owned any weapons found: "There is nothing for kids to do in London at the moment, we need to get kids off the streets and into training.

"We need to provide things for them to do in the evenings and on the weekends and give them role models and mentors. A lot of them have been failed by the education system. We will be providing a proper second chance for these kids."

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