Only 18% vote in favour of Westfield’s “plans” for Croydon

Westfield is promising this morning to publish the results of its self-commissioned, self-conducted and self-satisfying survey of Croydon residents and what it will claim to be their views on its proposed £1 billion shopping redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre.

Don’t hold your breath, Croydon: the results will be overwhelmingly positive. How can it be anything else?

Earlier this month, we had a bit of a dart at the nonsenses that are “public consultations” which are deliberately designed to deliver exactly the responses required by the people commissioning the survey. Ask the right questions and you get the answers you seek.

As a sort of tester, Inside Croydon ran one of Westfield’s questions online. Same question, same possible answers, same lack of detail and the same unscientific method.

By last night, in answer to the question, “Do you want to see a Westfield shopping centre in Croydon?” a 

60%

majority voted “Don’t know” on our version of the poll.

Meanwhile, less than

18%

voted that they favoured the Westfield scheme.

The rest, the other

22% ?

They all voted against the Westfield scheme.

Now that’s hardly an overwhelming endorsement of Westfield’s offer for Croydon, is it? Our poll remains open, and it will change from one reader’s vote to the next, so you can see how things develop.

We confidently predict that in the People’s Republic of Croydonia, where no dissent is tolerated, Westfield will report that, on the survey conducted by Westfield about Westfield’s plans, 80, 85, maybe even 90 per cent of people voted WESTFIELD! That’s the sort of democratic majority that would make Kim Jong-un jealous.

The response to the Inside Croydon-run poll proves nothing more than the paucity of hard information available about the Westfield proposition (for instance, Westfield’s own estimate of the number of homes – ie. more high-priced yuppie “apartments” – has a variation of 50 per cent. Even they don’t know).

They use CGI in Hollywood movies, and now also for artists’ impressions of £1bn property schemes. It certainly makes Croydon look good

Truth is, it is impossible to judge Westfield’s scheme on the basis of a few vague lines on a glossy promo sheet shoved through our letter boxes.

John Burton, the Australian-based company’s main man in London, was at Croydon Town Hall last night for a meeting of the council’s strategic planning committee.

The meeting was attended by a selection of councillors and members of the public. According to one, the session amounted to “lots of slick PR but little detail … This was a presentation, so nothing in tablets of stone and all a work in progress”.

Being an Australian company, it ought not be a surprise that according Westfield insiders, the corporate attitude towards the public and lowly local councillors is to treat them like “mushrooms” (keep ’em in the dark and feed them bullshit).

So it is unsurprising that Westfield’s public “consultation” conveniently omitted to mention anything about the tug-of-war going on over the Whitgift Centre with rival developers Hammerson.

Westfield drawings suggest shopping walkways that do not look unlike how St George’s Walk might once have been imagined

Nor did it mention the decade-long saga in Bradford, which has seen Westfield leave a vast hole in the centre of that city where they’d promised to build a £275 million mall. “Westfield are very good at what they do,” our source who works at the upper echelons of Westfield confided, “but for every development they get right, there’s four or five that go wrong.”

By the time of last night’s strategic planning meeting, Westfield’s Croydon survey was being hailed as “positive”, with Burton seriously claiming to be “surprised” by the outcome.

Burton’s response when Councillor Sherwan Chowdhury dared mention the “B” word was a good deal less “positive”, however.

“Bradford was almost shoved down Councillor Chowdhury’s throat by Burton,” said one of the attendees. “It was a legitimate question and one that deserves a proper answer.”

Westfield’s PR juggernaut has clearly been spurred by information from Bradford reaching Croydon. Yesterday, they issued a press release announcing two stores agreeing to buy-in to the Yorkshire scheme. Trouble is, Westfield had previously announced one of those stores, Marks & Spencer, as long ago as 2007. This was not news, it was media manipulation.

Without wishing to be cruel, don’t the Aussies know the one about when you’re in a Hole, stop digging?

Most pertinently for Croydon, even yesterday’s press release admitted not a single shovel will be lifted in Bradford until Westfield gets sufficient commitments – or pre-lets. The same will apply in Croydon. “Westfield is continuing its negotiations to secure the remaining pre-lets required before construction can recommence,” said a paragraph at the end of the release, though not buried as thoroughly as if it was at the bottom of the Bradford Hole.

Westfield’s Croydon survey results, when published this morning, will be a foregone conclusion. Yes, the people of Croydon do want to see the Whitgift Centre and surrounding area regenerated (No shit, Sherlock!), and there will be overwhelming support for Westfield’s plans, probably because no alternatives were outlined.

But like the people in Bradford, Croydon residents will not be any wiser about what Westfield wants to do with at the heart of our borough.

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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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