A new 40-shop mini mall will be built on the former site of a Sports Direct gym on Purley Way, which had become a notorious fly-tipping hotspot in recent years.

A site-wide clean up of the site is now underway following months of campaigning by residents and councillors alike.

The site had become a hotspot for commercial and general waste in the years following the closure of the gym that previously occupied the land at the southern end of the Purley Way.

The site is easily accessible due to its positioning on the side of a major dual carriageway and next to adjoining retail units.

Despite local outrage directed towards the site, some even called it a ‘disgrace’, and nothing was done to prevent illegal waste disposal.

The issue was also raised by Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones in a House of Commons debate earlier this month.

The impasse was finally broken when a group, backed by local business people, started to clear the site last week.

The group, led by Wallington resident and business consultant Koby  Yogaretnam, has taken responsibility for the site from the incumbent landlord with the intention of building the commercial thoroughfare’s newest shopping centre.

Mr Yogaretnam said: “I’m from the local area, I live in Wallington and always thought what on earth is going on with that site with all the fly tipping last year.

“An idea my good friend had was to create a high street that was not on the high street.

"The idea behind it is that we want to create multi retail store, a mini mall for instance.

"This will help local and up-and-coming businesses’ ability to trade in affordable ways.

“Nowadays the high street in places like Wallington and Purley is charging around £20,000 in rent a year plus rates, it’s incredible.

"Now add into that lots of different parking legislation and even just going to the shop is becoming less and less attractive to shoppers.

“We want to get the companies in. Not your Starbucks and Costa, but your local greengrocer, butcher, and other people who are just being priced out of the hight street.

"We want to make sure the rent is low enough to make sure the companies are enabled to make use of the space.

“When I was younger my mum used to take me to the high street and we would browse around for an hour or two. It was a time killer and you’d never know what you’d find, this will be a similar model.”

Mr Yogaretnam told the LDRS how he envisions a site that would become a destination that local shoppers would be happy to visit, adding that potential visitors would be entitled to 90 minutes of free parking in one of the site’s 100 parking bays.

While his group initially had plans of building a new function room on the site, Mr Yogaretnam instead chose to focus on opening the space up to smaller businesses. 

The mall is currently referred to as Imperial Plaza, owing to its address at 33 Imperial Way.

However, Mr Yogaretnam said this name is subject to change as progress on the site’s development continues. 

While not unique to Croydon, fly tipping is endemic to the borough.

Similar sites have popped up across Croydon, and prove evasive due to them being on private land where the Council has no responsibility. 

Before the takeover, the responsibility to clear this particular site sat with the landlord, Spark Properties LTD, while enforcement of anti-fly tipping laws lies with the Environment Agency.

According to Mr Yogaretnam, the delays resulting from this lack of responsibility led to the rise influx of rubbish and crime to the site.

He said: “There is video footage of cars, with visible registration plates, dumping stuff here and nothing has been done. Now someone has to take responsibility.

“We negotiated with the landlord and said we would take responsibility as long he gives us a free period of rent because it’s costing a lot to get it removed. I’m appalled by the way people are taking advantage of this.

“I’ve actually heard that there was a person who was charging to let fly-tippers in through the rear entry point. It’s a real mess.

“There were homeless people on the site. We offered two of them work with us but unfortunately, they didn’t have any working papers, so unfortunately we had to move on.

“On the first day, we got the keys to the site, within the same night it was broken into. These types of things attract trouble.”

Mr Yogaretnam told the LDRS that once the site is cleared, it will be boarded up to secure it from further break-ins.

He also said that, barring any delays, Imperial Plaza could open as early as April next year.

Bubbling frustration with fly tipping in Croydon led to the issue recently being brought to a debate in the House of Commons on February 6. 

During the debate, Jones MP said: “Fly-tipping is a persistent and acute problem in Croydon, but it is not just a problem in Croydon. This blight on our communities should not be treated as some inevitable feature of city living—quite the opposite.”

She added: “Rowenna Davis and Ellily Ponnuthurai, two Labour councillors in Waddon, have been fighting tirelessly to get the mess on Purley Way, probably one of the biggest fly-tips in London, cleared up.”

Following the announcement that a clean up had begun on the site, Councillors Rowenna Davis and Ellily Ponnuthurai told the LDRS: “After two years this toxic danger is getting cleared up. 

“Sports Direct were the leaseholders but they wouldn’t help. Mayor Perry’s Council refused to help too.

"So it took local residents, the press, the Environment Agency, Sarah Jones MP, the freeholder and us two Labour Councillors. Together, we got it done. 

“We’re not stopping here though. Croydon is being abused by fly-tippers. The Mayor needs to crack down on them. So we’ll keep fighting.”

When approached for comment, a Council spokesperson said: “The Council has been dealing with the Environment Agency — who are the primacy contact for these sorts of incidents — for some time. We have and will continue to support them on this fly-tip on private land.

“The council take the issue of fly tipping seriously and have introduced blitz cleans in district centres to restore pride in our borough. Norbury was the first blitz clean, and Thornton Heath is due to commence in the near future.”

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “We have begun legal proceedings against Spark Properties Ltd to force them to clear waste from land they own in Imperial Way, Croydon. The company previously ignored an Environment Agency order to clear the site.

“The Environment Agency’s Operation Angola is investigating sites throughout south-east England where groups who have unlawfully dumped waste. We have successfully prosecuted 20 people as a result.

“Anyone who suspects waste crime can report it to our 24-hour incident hotline: 0800 807060.”