Croydon is famous for a number of things - Stormzy, the 50p building, and of course being the former home to one of the UK’s first international airports.

With Croydon Airport’s closure in 1959, the then Surrey council were left with acres of empty runway space to fill on the now Purley Way.

In 1967, that space was eventually filled by the first tenants of the Roundshaw Estate.

Now sitting in the borough of Sutton, the Roundshaw Estate houses 10,000 residents on the outskirts of Wallington and South Croydon.

The brutalist high rise flats and anti-social behaviour that characterised the area prior to its regeneration in 2000 meant its residents often had to wrestle with the estate’s bad reputation.

However, Roundshaw is home to a proud community who take issue with this reputation and instead say that living there has improved their lives.

The Roundshaw Community Network (RCN) is the main group behind the rise in Roundshaw pride, and one of its key figureheads is Shen Inalpolat, 42.

On a windy September morning outside her own burger van, Shen told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “I moved here from the bottom of Carshalton, or the nice end as people say. People say to me ‘you chose to go there?!’

“My response is always to say I needed a bigger property and my kids went to school here.

"If I had the chance to swap now, I wouldn’t. I’ve got to know everyone here, whereas I didn’t even know my neighbours at my last property.

“Some people think of Roundshaw as a stepping stone or that people can’t wait to get off it, but for me, it’s been the total opposite.

"It’s made my life, whereas I probably would have just sat at home otherwise and got a crummy little job.

"Living here has meant I’ve built a business, been part of a community, set up events and community schemes.”

Shen bought her burger van with the support of MVTH, the housing association that is now responsible for all the homes in the estate.

She claims that their support for her and others in the community has been encouraging.

She told the LDRS that due to the success of her burger van following covid, that she will soon set up a permanent cafe in The Phoenix Centre opposite.

As well as her business, Shen also runs a mobile food hub for the community. Working alongside Roundshaw’s permanent food bank, she offers residents free food and provisions provided by local retailers.

She said: “I left French sticks out last week and they were gone in 15 minutes after I put a post up on our community Facebook page. I thought that must be some kind of record but it does show that there is still a need for stuff. People still need a lot of help.

“There are still a lot of people who won’t come to the hub because they feel embarrassed but they will walk past and take from here because it’s on their route and there’s no judgement.

"We do have some that raid it but that’s always going to happen. I will not let anyone go hungry.”

Despite the community support it provides, some residents have expressed frustration in dealing with MVTH, especially when it came to home repairs.

One resident told the LDRS: “If you have a problem, you can’t get through to MVTH. If they do respond, you’d be quite lucky. You can’t just walk in to their office like you used to.”

Another local resident added: “I have had a leak in my kitchen and black mould on our ceiling for three months. I have three children and one disabled adult.

"The leak from the ceiling has now meant there’s mould around the floor, and I can’t have that. Metropolitan has come round three times, but it’s never sorted.

"They just say they haven’t got the part and reschedule. This has been going on for three months now.”

Mum-of-five Holly, 38, said: “I have tried to swap my property for a while now. I’m in a three bed, but they won’t house me in a bigger property because my husband’s work means we are over the cut off point. So they say go and look in the private sector.

"When I do look, no one wants the property, because of the reputation.”

According to Shen, crime still does seem to be an issue in the area, although she believes it is a problem not specific to Roundshaw.

According to recent data published by the Met Police, Roundshaw’s crime rate is just over average when compared to the rest of the borough. Furthermore, Sutton remains one of the top five safest boroughs in the capital. 

Shen added: “We do have our problems here. Ghere was a local guy running around with a machete, but what happens on Roundshaw stays on Roundshaw.

"There’s not many police on walking patrols round the estate, but there are a lot of cars and vans that come through. When they do come through, they try to talk to you, and they do make an effort.”

Kyra Annacy, 35 told the LDRS: “We do talk to the police, but things tend to be sorted out between us because we live here, and we have to deal with it.

"There’s no worse that goes on here than there does anywhere else. We all look out for each other, it’s like Coronation Street up here.

"If someone needs something, there’s always there to look out for you. But at the same time, we were not in each other’s pockets.”

Being a largely self-contained estate on the fringes of both Sutton and Croydon, Roundshaw relies heavily on its bus services.

Kyra told the LDRS: “Roundshaw’s well-connected, but we had to fight to get the 154 bus back after the council stopped the route.

"It runs from West Croydon to Morden, it’s a long route, but it runs late. At one point we lost the 455 and the 154 due to the buses colliding into the corner of Sandy Lane just outside of Wallington. The council just stopped running it.

“A lot of children on this estate go to Oaks School, which means you had to get 154. Everyone around here gets the bus.

"The nearest station is Wallington or Morden, so when they take away a bus route we really notice. Especially the many children on the estate. We had to do lots of appeals and got our local MP involved. Mainly it’s just Facebook though, people argued to bring it back on there.”

Another key member of the community, Pioneer Vicar David Atkinson, also praised Roundshaw’s strong community spirit.

Your Local Guardian: Pioneer Vicar David Atkinson and local volunteer JeanPioneer Vicar David Atkinson and local volunteer Jean

Speaking to the LDRS outside of St Paul’s Church, one of his community hubs, he told the LDRS: “My family have been here for three years now.

"The reason a place like this separates itself from anywhere in London is that it has a genuine community. My kids always know they’ve got other kids living next door if they want a kick about. You often hear, that’s what used to happen in the 50s, but that still happens in a place like this.”

He joked: “You see the same people, and we look out for each other. There are also challenges with that though, if you have a fight with someone you have to see them every day.”

The force of Roundshaw’s community spirit is best demonstrated in the seriousness in which they take their local events.

As well as the recently refurbished The Phoenix Centre, the estate has a large playing field and backs onto the sprawling Roundshaw downs, which offer an impressive vista of nearby Croydon town centre.

Shen said: “One thing that shocked me when I came here eight years ago was Roundshaw’s Halloween and fireworks night.

"It was like America. I had never seen anything like it. There’s a long row of houses that club in and decorate their houses for the kids to enjoy. There’s even a lady around here that decorates her house like the Hansel and Gretel trail and lets children walk around for free.

“Halloween goes on until about 10pm here. It’s done in such a nice way. It’s not just that, though, we see it in the street parties we had through lockdown as well.

"We do summer fairs and Christmas fairs at The Phoenix Centre that get massive turn outs. About 3,000 people each year. One year we even had the local MP, Elliot Colburn, doing the char char slide. These events have given people an excuse to get back out after Covid and learn more about their area.

“Roundshaw Downs also has events there occasionally. They even have cows there that graze from December to February, and you can sit there and see Wembley Stadium on a clear day. We need people to come here on a more regular basis, so they don’t think that it was just Roundshaw people on their best behaviour. If people could actually spend a bit more time up here, they’d see that actually it’s not nearly that bad.”

When approached for comment, MTVH said: “We want to make it easy and simple for residents to contact us and have many ways of getting in touch. The MTVH office at Roundshaw is fully open, five days per week, and has been since February 2022. Residents can either walk-in or book an appointment in advance.

“Our online easy access forms are a quick and simple way to send us a message about neighbourhood concerns, estate maintenance, or repairs. On MTVH online residents can request and track repairs and perform a number of other functions through a personal account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our phone lines are open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday with emergency support available 24 hours a day. We operate a free call back feature.

“Roundshaw is one of the largest estates MTVH manages. Given its size, our property services team regularly visit Roundshaw to listen to any resident concerns and help address any issues. As well as managing and maintaining the properties on the estate, our team based in Roundshaw play a big role in the local community. We work hard to support residents with different types of tenancy support, wellbeing initiatives, run a community centre, provide support with the cost of living, and organise a food bank.

“Our team focuses on listening to residents and addressing the issues that matter to them most. The team works holistically with residents to impact not only their current quality of life, but also their longer-term goals and aspirations as individuals and communities. All Roundshaw residents are also invited to attend our monthly drop-in hub at the local leisure centre. This is attended by our Property team should residents wish to raise any issues. Roundshaw’s also has a dedicated local surveyor for the estate.

“Ensuring we are connected and listening to our residents is absolutely critical to our work at MTVH, and one way we do this at Roundshaw is through a monthly community poll, which has been signed up for by over 200 residents. This survey is sent to residents to understand what is most important to them and to inform MTVH on how to best support residents. The Resident Connectors then follow these questions up with phone calls to residents, offering person-centred one-to-one support to those who need it most.

“This runs alongside a ‘You Said, We Did’ report. The report was built on listening to residents’ concerns and thoughts, which MTVH colleagues then used to address the issues that mattered to residents most.”