CROYDON COMMENTARY: A once-in-a-lifetime regeneration, or a sinister land grab? SUSAN OLIVER, pictured, has some nagging doubts about the massive Compulsory Purchase Order on the Whitgift Centre taken out by Croydon Council on behalf of the Hammersfield developers
I was surprised to see that 141 objections have been lodged against the Westfield Compulsory Purchase Order, where our local authority endeavours to buy up properties to enable a development scheme to go ahead.
If 141 businesses and organisations took the time, and hired solicitors, to challenge this project, then surely many more people may think that way. And that means this side of the argument has not been properly represented by our elected councillors and in public debate.
If you read the papers on the CPO – and I encourage you to do so, including the submissions from the objectors as well as the council’s formal explanation – you will see that “a compulsory purchase order should only be made where there is a compelling case in the public interest”.
The most important word here is “compelling”. So I ask you: Is there a compelling need to change the Whitgift Centre into the Hammersfield Project?
Let’s look at the following:
1. The area around the Whitgift Centre, George Street and North End is already a major money-making area in Croydon and shoppers are used to going there. Radically altering this could jeopardise what we already have, which would be financially and socially irresponsible.
2. Major construction in this area may encourage shoppers to go elsewhere (like Bromley) and they may not come back. Or it could take huge efforts to bring them back, and these efforts – like tram re-routings – may not be worthwhile for the town as a whole.
3. The Whitgift Centre claims that it had a bumper Christmas shopping period. If this is true, then may be things are not critical for the centre after all? According to their own publicity, it is a popular shopping destination and able to attract people from outside the borough.
4. Any under-performance of the Whitgift Centre – specifically, complaints about low occupancy rates – could be addressed with improving the existing centre itself, just as has been the case with Superdry.
5. Concerns about the design, layout and configuration of the Allder’s building could be addressed by changing the interior of the building.
6. The people of Croydon are not suffering because of the state of the Whitgift Centre, they are not complaining about the aesthetics of the Whitgift Centre.
7. The fact that people have not taken to Centrale proves that looks aren’t everything and that the public may not take to the glitzy facade of the Hammersfield project in a way developers are suggesting.
8. The glamourous Hammersfield facade may only serve to remind some Croydon residents how impoverished we are, and so create social tensions around why the project was supported. This would be dangerous in the light of the 2011 riots, when the apparent wealth of the shopping mall was a target for attacks by looters.
9. This area of Croydon already supports many jobs. While it is closed, some of those jobs may be lost, affecting people and businesses. Let’s not be cavalier about the losses that will be felt by some people.
10. The disparity between the appearance of Hammersfield and the rest of the town centre will be colossal. It will be so colossal that the public has reason to worry how the rest of the town centre will be treated if Hammersfield goes ahead. The residents and shop owners of Hammersfield may look down on the rest of the town. Will we be pressured to spend millions of pounds to improve the rest of the centre for them? How can this be appropriate in a borough with such a low median income? Will the high-flying executives of Hammersfield eventually demand that the Alms Houses be relocated?
These are 10 reasons that challenge the “compelling” nature of the CPO. Some people may want the CPO – they may think it’s beneficial for Croydon. But it is not crucial. It is not compelling.
And therefore it does not meet the required legal criteria for a CPO.
- Could Dead Mall Syndrome be coming to a high street here?
- Boris’s £25m tram scheme will benefit Westfield, not passengers
- Why do all roads lead to Hammersfield, but few of the costs?
- Crisis for Labour in Croydon as Hammersfield admits delays until 2019
- Mary Portas, Westfield, Bradford and a £1bn hole in the ground
Coming to Croydon
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Jan 14
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, The 78 Project Movie, Jan 15
- Child Aid Lanka foreign aid debate, Thornton Heath, Jan 15
- Youth Games cricket team trials, Thornton Heath, Jan 16
- Storytime (for under-8s), Oval Tavern, Addiscombe, Jan 17
- David Lean Cinema, Hannah Arendt, Jan 20
- David Lean Cinema, The Imitation Game, Jan 22
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Storytime (for under-8s), Oval Tavern, Addiscombe, Jan 24
- David Lean Cinema, Night Will Fall, Jan 27 (Holocaust Memorial Day)
- David Lean Cinema, Kon-Tiki, Jan 29
- Storytime (for under-8s), Oval Tavern, Addiscombe, Jan 31
- Soul Symphony Community Choir taster session, Feb 3
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 4
- Storytime (for under-8s), Oval Tavern, Addiscombe, Feb 7
- Tales of Love, Lost and Found, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 7
- Uninvited Guests, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 11-13
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Rosie Wilby, Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 27
- Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson, Stanley Halls, Feb 28
- Holmes Alone, Spread Eagle Theatre, Mar 6
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Mar 11
- Iain Lee, Spread Eagle Theatre, Mar 14
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Eagle Improv, Spread Eagle Theatre, Apr 8
- Anatomy of the Piano, Spread Eagle Theatre, Apr 15
- Patrick Monahan, Spread Eagle Theatre, Apr 16-17
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
- South Norwood Community Festival, July 5
Inside Croydon: Named among best regional media campaigns, 2014.
- Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 729,297 page views in 2014.
- 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 email@example.com