Developers’ PR company announces the #CroydonTakeover

The Croydon Flyover. The Croydon Facelift.

Now we have the Croydon Takeover.

Or #CroydonTakeover, as the council’s favouritest PR bunglers, Grey Label, managed to hashtag it when they were off on the jolly to the South of France for the MIPIM developers’ “junket” earlier this month.

Croydon Takeover

They’ve all tried to deny it – “they” being the Tory MP for the Whitgift Foundation, or the council’s Australian-born executive director in charge of “regeneration”, or the Labour council cabinet member for development who refuses to resign from the Whitgift Foundation.

But the £1 billion scheme by Australian-based shopping mall developers Westfield is a takeover of Croydon town centre, all backed by leading land-owners the Whitgift Foundation. And even the developers are admitting it now.

Croydon Takeover - close-upIf you look at the programme flyer, there at 3pm on March 11, you’ll see it in black and white (or white and light blue):

“#CroydonTakeover: How leading developers and businesses are transforming Croydon”, it promises as the theme for the session. This was all to be staged by Develop Croydon, the business organisation which is chaired by Richard Plant, a partner at Stiles Harold Williams, the commercial estate agents of choice for the Whitgift Foundation.

Richard Plant: Develop Croydon chairman and keen salesman of Croydon

Richard Plant: Develop Croydon chairman and keen salesman of Croydon

Develop Croydon’s committee includes representatives from Barratt Homes and Berkeley, Hammerson and Westfield, as well as Croydon Council’s Jo Negrini, and it is all managed by Katharine Glass and Jo-Ann Gumb, a couple of former local newspaper staff who now run the council’s favourite PR company, White Label. Or as we prefer it, Grey Label, to better reflect the grubby trade.

Grey Label is understood to receive a retainer of more than £2,500 per month for their “PR skills” from at least one member organisation within Develop Croydon. They may receive similar retainers from Develop Croydon itself, or from its other member businesses.

Such a retainer is regarded by some businesses as an “entry fee” for getting on to the top table, to access and influence Croydon’s decision makers. And with Grey Label also getting plenty of work directly from Croydon Council, too, that surely makes things just that little bit easier.

So Grey Label must be very good at what they do?

Or not, if #CroydonTakeover is an example of their handiwork. What sort of message does that send out? There’s no chance that such a thing was intended ironically: good PRs don’t do irony, there’s too big a risk of it back-firing.

We asked an experienced public relations operator, who is familiar with some of the development schemes in Croydon, for their view of Grey Label’s handiwork in general, and the #CroydonTakeover tag in particular: “They’re fuckwits, obviously,” they said.

The thing this PR disaster shows, alongside the multi-million-pound Compulsory Purchase Order of the town centre run by the council on behalf of Hammersfield and the £87 million urban motorway proposed to be built through a public park towards the supermall, is that this is exactly what it has always appeared to be: a takeover, with Croydon Council an over-eager “player”, rather than a bulwark to represent the interests of 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
This entry was posted in "Hammersfield", Business, Centrale, CPO, Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Planning, Stiles Harold Williams, Whitgift Centre, Whitgift Foundation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Developers’ PR company announces the #CroydonTakeover

  1. arnorab says:

    And lo, it has come to pass, much sooner than even I predicted.
    Croydon is not a community in which elected members serve the public. It is a business, a business opportunity in which all with any interests at all, be it career, commercial or political, see it only as a place to make a profit and not a place in which people with real lives live.
    All the commercial jargon is there: Takeover, Develop Croydon, PR, Grubby Label, being a “player”….
    We really no longer have a Council, just a sort of Board of Directors (self-) charged with a remit to ensure that the greatest possible profit is made from our assets in the sententious and pious hope that some may trickle down and enhance the lives of ordinary folk. Some hope.

  2. Croydon Council would argue that by working closely with the developers it is representing the best interests of the borough.
    It would argue that the alternative is more of what we have at the moment; a failing town centre with dozens of empty retail units and no prospect of letting them to anyone other than charity shops or cowboys.
    It might add that the Whitgift Foundation does a brilliant job of educating a wide cross-section of the borough’s children and caring for an equally wide cross-section of the borough’s elderly. And it might also add that without the rental income from the Whitgift Centre and other investments the charity would no longer be able to do so.
    Unfortunately, the council’s commercial credibility is very low: it has overspent by about £100m on its new headquarters, per square meter, more expensive than The Shard; it has paid about £10m over the odds for a swimming pool in Waddon and is about to do the same for a second pool in New Addington.
    That’s £120m it could be using to bolster vital borough services, including a promised new swimming pool in Coulsdon; money it prefers to waste on a flawed property investment scheme.
    So, Tony Newman and Jo Negrini tell us a takeover is brilliant for the Croydon economy. And they might be right. For all our sakes I hope so.
    But what do they know? Are they just crossing their fingers and whistling because there’s nothing else on offer?

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