The Whitgift Centre is to be closed for three years – and that’s according to the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, so it must be true.
There has been confusion this week over the plans for the £1 billion re-development of the town centre shopping mall by Hammerson and Westfield after the council cabinet was briefed on Monday night by the Town Hall’s senior planning director that the Whitgift Centre would have to be shut down completely during the works, which are expected to last at least three years.
The following day, the same council official, Jo Negrini, the “executive director of development and environment”, offered an on-the-record media briefing in which she denied any recollection of mentioning the three-year closure, and suggested instead that the re-development work would be conducted in phases.
But Gavin Barwell MP has taken to Twitter to contradict Negrini, stating, “Did any of you think the Whitgift Centre was going to be knocked down & rebuilt without it closing??”
Barfwell is a member of the board of the Whitgift Foundation, which owns the freehold for much of the Whitgift Centre.
Barfwell denies that there is any conflict of interest between his public office as the MP for Croydon Central and his position on the board of the charitable trust that owns vast swathes of the borough’s business district, all coupled to his loud and proud public support for the Foundation’s chosen developers, Westfield, who just happen to be donors to the Conservative Party.
Barfwell has welcomed Westfield and Hammerson offering £29million in Section 106 payments towards the road-building and other public works necessary to support a scheme which is likely to come in at more than £1 billion; he supports Monday night’s council decision to agree to Compulsory Purchase Orders on any property owners who will not readily sell up to the developers; and he has condemned anyone who has called for the development to include significant levels of (low-profit) social housing within the scheme.
Last year, Barfwell’s MP’s office received £125,000 of public money towards his staffing costs; in next month’s local elections, three members of Barfwell’s staff are standing as Tory candidates.
Barfwell claims that he excludes himself from all Whitgift Foundation meetings that discuss the Hammersfield re-development. We only have his word for that, and he is a professional politician…
But despite being absent from all of these key meetings, Barfwell certainly seems to know every intricate detail of the scheme, even to the extent that he is prepared to contradict publicly Croydon Council’s senior-most official in planning.
“There is certainly more detail to come but timeline hasn’t changed & hardly newsworthy centre will close while it’s rebuilt,” Barfwell tweeted. “Opening in early 2018 has always been the timeline,” he said.
On Tuesday, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation wrote: “Westfield and Hammerson have signed an agreement with the Whitgift Foundation. They’ve bought the head lease off Royal London Asset Management and they are in negotiations with the other owners. But given the complexity of the land ownership, it is possible that they won’t be able to reach agreement with all parties within an acceptable timeframe.
“That’s where a CPO comes in. Councils have the power to force people to sell their property at the market rate provided an inspector determines that the project concerned would bring sufficient social, economic and environmental benefits.
“I strongly support the decision the Cabinet took last night.”
Gavin Barwell MP refuses to resign his position with the Whitgift Foundation.
- DAVID CALLAM: £1bn Hammersfield scheme is Croydon’s last hope
- Planning chief: ‘I don’t know how long Whitgift will be closed’
- Regenerate! Hammersfield £1bn scheme still lacks a traffic plan
- Minerva threaten legal challenge over Hammersfield scheme
- Mary Portas, Westfield, Bradford and a £1bn hole in the ground
Coming to Croydon
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Mitre Players, Apr 11-12
- Norwood Society Talk: Crystal Palace, Apr 17
- David Lean Cinema: Inside Llewyn Davis, Apr 17
- Opening of Marlpit Lane bowling and putting greens, Apr 17
- Arts and Crafts Market, Exchange Square, Apr 19
- Private Peaceful, Charles Cryer Theatre, Apr 23-26
- David Lean Cinema: Short Term, Apr 24
- Stop The Incinerator Beer and Bingo fund-raiser, Apr 28
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood – a place of change, May 15
- Croydon RFC charity memorial day, May 17
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 72,342 average monthly page views (Jan-Mar 2014)
If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org