Westfield to display their Whitgift Centre plans next week

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.
  • Post your comments on this article below. 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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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8 Responses to Westfield to display their Whitgift Centre plans next week

  1. Westfield is smart in making a concerted effort to persuade InsideCroydon of the merits of its scheme. It evidences the continuing decline of influence of Croydon’s local press. An increasing number of the people of Croydon are turning to InsideCroydon to find out what’s really happening in the borough.

    Also, InsideCroydon’s assessment of the Westfield scheme is likely to more objective than the local press – which may be swayed by potential Westfield advertising revenue.

  2. James Naylor says:

    You’re absolutely right that this consultation is poorly timed. As you say; considering a lot of employed professional people will be working in London at this time, it’s pretty silly.

    Not sure I understand your sideswipe at Croydon’s architecture though. There’s lots of interesting architecture in Croydon. The Almshouses, Town Hall, NLA Tower, Stanley Halls, Pump House are uncontroversially fascinating examples. I don’t even need to suggest anything that offends the most conservative of tastes. Suggesting there isn’t, is the sort of lazy assumption I’d expect of outsiders; not a publication supposedly coming from ‘Inside’ Croydon.

    • Thanks, James: even Bell Pottinger agreed that the timing of the consultation seemed a little brief. They were unable to offer an immediate explanation for the shortness of the exhibit or the choice of hours, and said that they’d get back to us. We are still waiting.

      As you are recognised as a fully paid-up member of the Croydon glee club, it is no surprise that you fail to understand our brief comment about Croydon architecture, since it seems that you subscribe to a view, held by a vocal minority, that no criticism of our town will be tolerated.

      You cite a very fine list of buildings, only one of which was built during the past half-century. We rather think that as the exhibit is entitled “New Croydon”, it will have its focus on buildings yet to be built or constructed more recently than, say, the graceful Almshouses that you mention.

      Nor are we alone in our dismissive view of Croydon’s modern built environment: even the glee club’s cheerleader-in-chief Gavin Barwell referred in parliament to the damage done to Croydon’s reputation by the concrete “brutalist” architecture.

      From your comment, it does not seem that you have yet visited the exhibition at the Fairfield Halls. If that is the case, then we might suggest that it ill-behoves you to bandy about insults such as “lazy”: we will be posting a review on the exhibition in the next few days.

      Once you’ve bothered to take a look, we’d delighted to hear what you make of it through those rose-tinted specs of yours.

  3. James Naylor says:

    I’m glad you think that the way to build-up your readership is to insult them. I hope you at least enjoyed the bile-fueled rant you just slung in my direction there; that’s something to get out of it.

    But onto the imagined “glee club”. Have I ever said to you that I will not tolerate any criticism of our town?

    I just don’t tolerate your unreasonable criticism, your doom-laden conspiratorial nonsense, laughably biased prose or any of the other garbage one has to sit through to get to the facts on this site. Balanced criticism is something I welcome, and led me to comment positively here before; such as on Andrew Pelling’s very well written article on last year’s riots.

    More of that please – less of your unpleasantly aggressive personality. Or if you have to be like this, at least own up to who you are Steve and use your real name so we can begin to distinguish between authors and the editor.

    • So is that how it works, James?

      You are allowed to throw out whatever baseless and ignorant insults that take your fancy, but if someone else – perhaps those who do not have a vested business interest in selling Croydon to gullible tourists who can’t get enough of part-empty concrete car parks – happens to point out to you that you have failed to read or understand a particular reference, you decide this is unacceptable and insulting?

      How very precious you are.

      Your latest comment is the usual delusional claptrap we have come to expect: the evidence is manifold that you find any criticism of Croydon, however factually based, discomforting and unacceptable (vide your latest rant above). And because the reality does not fit your preferred version of reality, you try to brand it as biased, without realising that your own view is similarly biased.

      Yes, the readership of Inside Croydon *is* growing, while sales of the Redhill Sadvertiser decline to historic lows. So maybe there is something on this site that others find interesting, stimulating and informative.

      And as far as my identity as editor of this site, that’s been well known since we launched two years ago. Or haven’t you been paying attention?

  4. James Naylor says:

    1.I think it’s hilarious – and pretty much proof of my assessment of you as “conspiratorial” that you think I’m out to mislead people to make money. Do you really think there’s SO much money to be made from Tours of Croydon that I do it for the money, not the love of this town? I do it because I care for the place I’m from, and the place I moved back to live in: something you don’t display at all. But then – why would you display any such care? I think the level of concentrated bile you display to someone you’ve never met in person (or had the courage to speak to at a public event when you recognized me – I’m not afraid of any such meeting however, and would still happily agree to such a thing) suggests to me that you are not altogether well. If this is the case, maybe I should be more sympathetic.

    2. If you aren’t afraid of attributing authorship, why don’t you do so clearly on every article?

    3. My first mistake here was to sink to your level. I.e. throwing around insults. That’s not something I should have done and I do regret it. Especially as I should have known it would be impossible for you to return to the higher ground once the first attack had been made.

    4. I didn’t fail to understand anything; except that there is probably no reasoning with you. This is the second take-home lesson for me here. You’re not interested in any consensus but the one that holds that you are entirely right, and I foolishly believed, that maybe, just maybe you could sometimes be reasonable with people you disagree with. But if people don’t applaud how marvelous you are, you write long vicious, exquisitely-crated (I’ll give you that!) replies to them – usually in the form of personal attacks.

    I can only assume it’s because you thrive off the bile and aggro. Unless it is the result of illness, that’s not something I can even begin to understand the attraction of and Its not something I really want to be part of. It just does’;t seem worth spending loads of my time getting stuck into this. (I’m not sure this comment was worth it) and writing endless corrections to your venomous bravado or wildly exaggerated figures.

    5. Btw I’m not bothered if you publish this comment, or reply again just that you’ve read it.
    I won’t be reading this thread again – so if you do want to meet, please e-mail me at info@croydontours.com.

  5. James Naylor says:

    Actually. I’ve had second thoughts. I posted this comment because once again, you made me really cross by being deeply unpleasant to me. And I responded by being angry and negative back; which doesn’t help anybody.

    I do mean what I said about this not being worth it. So I’d like to ask you to delete the above and this comment. I don’t think any of this exchange has been particularly constructive.

    • Did we say precious?

      “Deeply unpleasant”? Oh good grief. You clearly have no idea what “deeply unpleasant” really is.

      But let’s pause to examine a couple of the points you have just made. You operate Croydon Tours out of the kindness of the heart and the “love of this town”? So why do you charge money at all? Why not run the tours for free?

      And of course you never make exaggerated and baseless claims about Croydon? Like “Britain’s most interesting town”, which we believe is one of yours?

      Who says so? Pevsner? AJP Taylor? Simon Schama? Or no less an authority than… James Naylor, a guy with a quirky business idea who might have slightly over-stretched himself in the promotional department. Frankly, we’re just surprised that you haven’t already been taken to the Advertising Standards Authority for foisting BS like that on unsuspecting tourists.

      Thing is, we know you know your stuff and it is all very worthy. But you and too many of Croydon’s delusional fringe – some with vested interests, others with a political axe to grind – seem to think that you have to overstate the “glories” of Croydon, and ignore its multitude of short-comings, all the time.

      And that does you, and Croydon, no favours whatsoever.

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