It took until August 2021, but finally, Croydon Council admitted – it was never going to happen.
A report to the council’s cabinet conceded that, after nine years, two planning applications, a public inquiry and massive CPO, the long-promised, £1.4billion Westfield and Hammerson redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre is dead. It is no more. It has passed on. Croydon Westfield has ceased to be. It’s pushing up the daisies. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker…
Inside Croydon was among the first to identify some of the serious flaws with a scheme which was embraced by Tory and Labour politicians alike, having been foisted on the borough by a Conservative MP and Croydon’s biggest landowners, aided and abetted by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. Yeah, Johnson, a man noted for having really bad judgement when it comes to public projects.
Seven years before the council ended its supermall delusions, economist and union official Andrew Fisher cited John Maynard Keynes as he wrote, “At a time of weak consumer demand, with retail sales shifting from the High Street to the internet, is a new shopping centre really the best Croydon can do?”
You see, it wasn’t as if the eventual collapse of the multi-billion, multi-national scheme wasn’t predictable.
Fisher wrote, “The real story here is privatisation and deregulation. Housing and transport policy are now subject to the whim of developers, no longer subject to democratic control to ensure the best interests of communities are prioritised. This has now become a secondary concern once the interests of under-taxed private investors have been sated.”
And once the profit was gone (if it was ever really there with the Croydon Westfield scheme), so was the developers and “regeneration practitioners” supermall wet dream.
And Inside Croydon has monitored the project’s (lack of) progress since 2012.
From the Mexican stand-off between rival developers Westfield and Hammerson to the intervention of Johnson, this redevelopment of the down-at-heel Whitgift Centre and its unification with Centrale had come with promises of it being a “game changer” for our town.
The original offer involved 2million square feet of new shop space, 600 homes and “destination” leisure facilities. It would make it the largest scheme of its kind in the country once completed, we were promised by the Barwells and Negrinis.
When first announced, it came with a 2017 target date for completion, promising 5,000 jobs (though without any details of what sort of jobs these might be, whether they are full-time posts, all in retail, or mainly replacing the low-skilled, low-paid jobs currently provided within the Whitgift Centre).
By the time “Hammersfield” was finally put out of its misery, after Brexit and covid shocks to the already critical high street retail sector, the government was predicting 8,000 job losses across Croydon due to the pandemic.
But then, such economic set-backs, with the supermall at its core, was always predictable.
By 2016, and not a single brick had been laid. And that was before the outcome of the EU Referendum.
As Inside Croydon was asking as early as 2016, “Will Hammersfield ever deliver, or could Croydon suffer the fate of Bradford, with developer blight for a decade or more? Is it a matter of the Emperor’s New Clothes?”
Or delve back into our archive for some of our earliest take on the project tat was doomed from the start:
- Hammerson and Westfield agree to work together in Croydon
- The council’s in a hole, and yet they still keep on digging
- Mary Portas, Westfield, Bradford and a £1bn hole in the ground
- Barwell, Brexit and Croydon’s troubled Westfield dream
- The MP, the charity, the £1bn scheme and a three-year closure
- Boris’s cunning plan: too high, too many, too central
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