Little opposition to Croydon’s £1bn Hammersfield wet dream

VOTE 2014 logoIt’s the billion pound question about Croydon’s future but WALTER CRONXITE has discovered ahead of next week’s Town Hall elections that there’s near-unanimity between the major parties over the redevelopment of the town centre by Westfield and Hammerson

Issue No2: HAMMERSFIELD

THE ISSUE: The Whitgift Centre is tired and fading, and its major land-owners, the Whitgift Foundation, urgently need to revitalise their income from retail, office and housing on the town centre site.

Almost none of the borough’s established politicians, of whatever hue, and few of those who’d relish the chance of a seat at the Town Hall, have much to say against the developers’ scheme. Yet many of the crucial details – especially the Transport for London review of traffic schemes linked to the development, including major re-workings of Purley Cross, Fiveway and the tram system – have yet to be properly laid out for scrutiny.

But then, who wants to “scare off” £1 billion-worth of investment and the (noticeably vague) promise of 5,000 jobs?

THE BACKGROUND: The people running Croydon Council, of the left or right, have had a disastrous record over the past three decades in delivering major schemes in the centre of town: the failed Croydon Arena project, the still-undeveloped “Croydon Gateway”, now re-branded the Ruskin Square site, Cherry Orchard Gardens and even the Menta site and the “Bridge to Nowhere” debacle at East Croydon are all testimony to our local authority’s inability to deliver.

Will Hammersfield be any different?

How Westfield imagine Wellesley Road might look, with towers of apartments, looking like a Costa del Croydon according to some

How Westfield imagine Wellesley Road might look, with towers of apartments, looking like a Costa del Croydon according to some

The Whitgift Foundation, with strong connections to Tory politicians on the council and at Westminster, owns large tracts of commercial property, including the ageing Whitgift Centre shopping centre. A year ago, Boris Johnson stepped in to broker a deal so that the Hammerson-owned Centrale on the other side of North End should be redeveloped together with the Whitgift property, with Conservative Party donors Westfield handling much of the scheme. It has all the hallmarks of a multi-billion-buck developer’s wet dream.

Planning permissions have been nodded through with alacrity by our Town Hall and City Hall representatives, who are in complete thrall to the interests of developers.

Few disagree that Something Must Be Done with our town centre. But a Temple to the Great God Retail? Another multiplex cinema? Is that it?

In the planning permissions, Croydon Council’s Tory administration has ignored its own planning policy and the borough’s housing crisis by failing to insist on at least 30 per cent of the new homes in the development should be “affordable” (which under current government guidelines, in Croydon terms, means £1,000 rent per month instead of £1,200…). Council leader Mike Fisher claims that if the 30 per cent threshold had been enforced – meaning providing 180 affordable flats, instead of fewer than 90 – Westfield will have walked away from the whole scheme. Is that in any way believable?

The Tories are now relying on scare tactics in their election campaign. They have even circulated an image of the proposed Hammersfield development and seriously suggested that this website is part of an elaborate Labour plot that might threaten the scheme. Oh, puhleeze…

THE 2014 CROYDON MANIFESTO PROMISES:

  • Conservative: The Croydon Tories don’t have a borough-wide manifesto. They claim the credit for the Hammersfield scheme, and now they want to get their snouts in the trough for the next four years without the pesky socialists getting in the way. Errr, that’s the sum and substance of their pitch to be re-elected on May 22. Trebles all round!
  • Labour: A tad more critical of the scheme than the Tories, but only just. There’s chance that if Labour are elected, they will insist on a more planned approach to the development, to assist district centres in the borough and to deliver more meaningful social amenity benefits, but the scheme is now so far down the planning process, there’s a limit to what could be achieved.
  • LibDems: They say that they back the scheme (no shit, Sherlock!), but want binding planning agreements on social amenities to be provided by the developers. Might be a bit late for that though.
  • UKIP: As UKIP does not have a party whip, even if they do manage to get a handful of councillors elected to the Town Hall, once there they are free to vote as they wish. So anything they promise now is virtually worthless. UKIP backs the scheme.
  • Greens: “Current administration panders to developers – investment needs to made that benefits the people,” they say. “What is in Westfield for local traders? It’ll be full of chains. What’s in it for local people?”

INSIDE CROYDON’S ELECTION VERDICT: The merged Whitgift Centre and Centrale will be re-developed. They will have lots of shops, bars and restaurants, some offices and flats. Ho hum.

As retail sales shift ever more to online, the operating lifespan of the new centre will be shortened. Thanks to the current Conservative-run council’s fawning approach to all developers – and some significant suggestions of conflicts of interests – Hammersfield will probably come to be regarded as a significant missed opportunity for this part of south London.

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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
This entry was posted in "Hammersfield", 2014 council elections, Addiscombe West, Allders, Boris Johnson, Business, Centrale, Cherry Orchard Gardens, Croydon Council, Croydon Greens, Cycling, East Croydon, Environment, Fairfield, Gavin Barwell, Housing, Menta Tower, Parking, Planning, Property, Purley Way, Restaurants, Ruskin Square, Tramlink, Transport, Whitgift Centre. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Little opposition to Croydon’s £1bn Hammersfield wet dream

  1. That’s a bit gloomy, Mr Cronxite: you sound like UKIP whingeing about Europe. Everyone’s out to diddle us: we stand alone against a nest of vipers who will do us down given half a chance.

    I am concerned about the lack of truly affordable housing (£650 a month; mortgage or rent) within this scheme or anywhere in Croydon borough – that’s the Tories for you – and the idea of another multiplex cinema is a bit lacking in imagination, but the retail scheme is a godsend.

    Click and collect is the biggest growth area in internet shopping, requiring a different kind of retail presence, but purpose-built shopping centres continue to do well, providing they offer a carefully designed environment.
    The present Whitgift Centre and Centrale definitely don’t: Hammersfield Shopping City, designed and built by a world-class retail management company with the necessary funds to do it properly, certainly will..

    And consider the other benefits: an enhanced tram network, more buses, better designed and managed car parks and the decades overdue re-modelling of Fiveways, Purley Cross and the rest of the A23.
    What’s not to like?

    • “A bit lacking in imagination”? Just a bit?

      Like the political parties, in principle it all sounds fine. Trouble is, the Devil’s in the detail, and for some reason we have been denied many of the details of the scheme so far, particularly on the transport plan.

      The report from the Boris-controlled TfL was due at the time of the planning application. Six months on, and still nothing. Wonder why? Maybe, just maybe, it contains a political bombshell which would sink any authority trying to push it through: how about a four-lane urban motorway linking the Flyover to the Purley Way – how much of Duppas Hill Park might that chew up?

      None of the benefits of the scheme overall can be properly judged until all the details are known. 5,000 jobs? Doing what? Full-time or part-time and low-skilled?

      Too many questions have remained unresolved for too long. All too familiar to those who’ve seen previously planning bungles in Croydon.

  2. davidcallam says:

    I wouldn’t want to spend an evening in the pub with you and Cronxite: what a pair of wet blankets!
    Of course there’s more to come about access to central Croydon: I’ve suggested so in previous posts. And maybe when its made public I will change my mind, but my present opinion, based on what we know now is that this development has the potential to be one of the two best things to happen to Croydon in the past 50 years; the other being Tramlink.

  3. Caution will always have to be exercised after the absolute disaster of the 1960s redevelopment and adoption of the croydon flyover/Roman way which was rushed through and as a result ripped the Old Town community in half! The positives of Hammerfield do out weigh the negatives however those natives have scope to mirror the crazy short sighted decisions of the 1960s traffic is a issue but if the council think they can take more out the Old Town area (Duppas Hill) after already promising to redevelop the Roman Way they will have a almighty fight on there hands!

  4. Also never forget that the plan for the centre of Croydon is to mirror Central London e.g. Expensive small apartments, Underground St (which i’am convinced is on the way), this is the reason why the tram is being extended to crystal palace as it’s very close to “hip” Dulwich village the centre of Croydon will mirror brixton and will have the middle class moving in the working class who are left not wanting to sell up = Gentrfication

    By the way where is Lunar House being moved? As I know it can’t stay where it is on the same street as Saffron square & Hammerfield etc my guess somewhere in Croydon North unfortunately

  5. Nick Davies says:

    I find it very difficult to go along with Big Retail’s routine “x thousand new jobs” line which local politicians find so seductive. It’s used to justify anything from a Tesco Express to a huge precinct like Hammersfield. The only possible way you can create new jobs in retail is if there are more people spending more money to pay those extra wages. If, as is almost always the case, you’ve got roughly the same number of people with much the same amount of money to spend all you are doing is moving the jobs from one place to another.

    Exactly how many retail jobs will be lost, or go elsewhere when the Whitgift turns into a building site for a few years?

  6. There you go again: more doom and gloom.
    Croydon is not Bradford: Croydon is already a well-established though now badly faded major shopping destination. It is well-known to national and international retailers as a profitable place to trade, but is now long out of date and suffers from a chronic shortage of suitable shop units.
    The plan is to make it the third point of a London-wide retailing triangle: a companion to the already successful Shepherd’s Bush and Stratford.
    Do you really think a world-class company has enlisted the public support of Boris Johnson, one of the most ambitious politicians in the country, merely to create a hole in the ground as a lasting monument to the company’s and Boris’s incompetence?
    I think not.

  7. PS: Croydon Old Town: I would think it highly likely there will be a revival of the proposal to pinch a strip off Duppas Hill Rec to dual the road; its the obvious link between the A23 and the town centre, so get in early and start your protest group now.
    Nick Davies: of course we are in competition with other towns for jobs; for better or worse, that’s the way the world works.

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