Blow for blow, like a heavyweight title fight, Westfield and Hammerson, are slugging it out. Not so much the Rumble in the Jungle, more the Scurry for Surrey.
Within hours of reports that Westfield had lodged its planning application for the Whitgift Centre – even though the Australian-based developers do not have the backing of the holders of the majority of the leasehold – so Hammerson had their expensive West End PR firm issue a press release to announce their own consultation.
Hammerson do appear to be a bit off the pace in this race to win the hearts and minds of the Croydon public. Having less investment capital available than their giant Aussie rivals, having the need to get work at Centrale underway, and changes to key executive personnel have probably all delayed Hammerson’s latest move.
Westfield, meanwhile, conducted their own self-serving survey two months ago. Westfield have the crucial support of the Whitgift Foundation, which has among its board members local politicos such as Dudley Mead, the deputy leader of the council, and MP Gavin Barwell. Where the Whitgift Foundation goes, Croydon Council is never far behind.
But Hammerson has bought into the council’s vocabulary by dubbing its planned regenerated area “The Whitgift Quarter”, a title which is neither entirely historically accurate and also verges on the innumerate – thanks to the ubiquitous council PR firm White Label, Croydon now appears to have at least five largely meaningless “quarters”.
“Whitgift Quarter will bring together a redeveloped Whitgift Centre together with North End and Centrale to transform the centre of Croydon with retail, restaurants and new homes,” the Hammerson release explained.
Blow for blow? “The development will provide in the region of 5,000 permanent retail and leisure jobs for local people,” Hammerson says, matching exactly the notional jobs offer from Westfield.
“We’ve spent many months working on our plans,” Robin Dobson, Hammerson director for retail development said, “and listening to local people’s views…” really? “… about what they want to see from the redevelopment of Croydon.
“But there’s still time for more people’s views to be heard, and this exhibition, and the launch of the Whitgift Quarter website, is an important part ensuring the scheme meets the needs of people who live and work in the town.”
Hammerson’s exhibition of its plans is open for longer than Westfield’s brief visit to the town centre. The public exhibition is being held at Centrale, in the North End Mall, adjacent to Café Giardino, from 10am-5pm until this Saturday. An additional exhibition will also be in North End in between Centrale and The Whitgift Centre on:
- If you visit the Hammerson exhibit, we’d be interested in finding out your views – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will share your comments with the wider Croydon public
- Westfield swoops in early with planning application for Croydon (insidecroydon.com)