Re-designing Croydon for the 21st century appears to be some kind of favourite fantasy game among architecture students. Until July 3, the Fairfield Halls is staging an exhibit called “New Croydon”, “celebrating Croydon’s architecture” – yes, seriously – as part of the London Festival of Architecture.
And the Inside Croydon mailbox has just pinged into life with a press release from Bell Pottinger, the swanky PR firm now working on Westfield’s bid to take over the Whitgift Centre.
Westfield is to “unveil”, the spinners tell us, “its plans for another iconic shopping centre” – which sort of suggests that there is already an iconic shopping centre – during a four-day “community consultation” beginning on Thursday next week, July 5.
Does it ever occur to anyone else why these expensively assembled “consultations” are never kept open for more than a few days and all-too-brief opening hours?
For instance, the Westfield plans will only be available to view at “North End, Adjacent to the Whitgift Centre, Croydon” from 11am to 4pm on the Thursday and Friday. That means that anyone who works for a living, and perhaps has to go into an office in London as so many Croydon residents do, could only possibly view these plans, which Westfield have doubtless spent a great deal of time, money and effort compiling, at the weekend. Or is this just another example of a lip-service “consultation”, with Westfield going through the motions to appear to show willing to engage with the public?
Bell Pottinger tell us that the exhibition “will give the public an opportunity to provide feedback on Westfield’s proposed £1 billion shopping centre and regeneration scheme for Croydon”. Provided you can get there for the limited period, obviously.
“Westfield is committed to bringing forward its scheme at the earliest opportunity to ensure that regeneration can begin in Croydon,” the release says, omitting to mention that the freeholders of 75 per cent of the Whitgift Centre do not want Westfield, and have instead appointed rivals Hammerson as their preferred developers.
“Westfield’s plans for the Whitgift Centres’ redevelopment is to create a world-class shopping, leisure and residential destination which kick starts the further regeneration of Croydon,” says the release from the PR company founded by Margaret Thatcher’s personal spin doctor.
The next key date in the tug-of-war over the centre of Croydon, which also impacts beleaguered Allders and the Hammerson-owned Centrale, is a planning application to be submitted by Westfield next month.
According to the release, the Westfield scheme “includes 1.5 million square feet of retail including a major department store” presumably Allders or something on the site where Allders now stands…
“and shops of different sizes to attract a variety of occupiers including small to medium operators, family leisure with a state of the art cinema” somewhat like the state of the art multiplex Centrale’s planning across the road, and barely 100 yards from the existing Grants centre …
“and bowling, restaurants and bars, 600 new homes, safe car parking and will create over 5,000 permanent local job opportunities including full and part time work.” No mention of the casino idea, which was floated, presumably to test public reaction, last week.
It is sure to be a fascinating view. We hope anyone who attends will share their comments with Inside Croydon as well as Westfield.
- The exhibit will be open from 11am-4pm on July 5-6, 10am-4pm on Saturday July 7, and from noon to 4pm on Sunday July 8.
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon. Not from Redhill.
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- “War over Whitgift” has planning showdown tonight (insidecroydon.com)
- Hammerson gets green light for £50m scheme at Centrale (insidecroydon.com)
- Boris promises to end Croydon’s planning paralysis (insidecroydon.com)
- Anglo Irish in £1bn fight over UK site (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)