Hammerson admit £1bn Croydon supermall delayed till 2021

The bright new future for the Whitgift Centre. But will it be worth it for existing businesses affected by the CPO?

The bright new future for the Whitgift Centre. But now not before 2021

Finally, Hammersfield have admitted publicly that work on their £1billion supermall, a deal which Tory MP Gavin Barwell and London Mayor Boris Johnson boasted would secure Croydon’s future, now won’t start until 2017.

Adding the words “at the earliest” would seem appropriate, as the project has already slipped by two years in the three years since it was announced.

With their trading report issued to The City this morning, Hammerson conceded that it could be 2021 before the supermall is ready to open. The Bradford experience – as we outlined here last month – seems to be all the more possible with each passing week of developer blight in Croydon town centre.

The Croydon Partnership of Westfield working along with Centrale-owners Hammersfield, to replace the tired old Whitgift Centre, was announced in 2013. Work on the new centre was due to finish by next year. Now, as Inside Croydon reported last October, delays at the council over the detail of some of the Compulsory Purchase Orders and what Town Hall sources suggest are “legal difficulties” means that the shiny new temple to retail won’t be open for business until… well, some time next decade.

This much was obvious when, as we first reported, some leaseholders still trading in the Whitgift Centre were offered renewals which would allow them to continue doing business from their current premises right through Christmas 2016.

Today, Building Magazine reported, “Hammerson has once again put back the start date on its flagship £1billion Croydon shopping centre, due to protracted discussions with local planners…” that’ll be Jo Negrini and her council department “… and potential anchor tenants” who could well be the apparently wary John Lewis, as we reported last month.

The developers had originally hoped to begin construction by 2015. But the CPO inspector’s report was delayed, and sources suggest that while that gave the council the green light to buy from the Whitgift Centre’s 153 different owners and occupiers, the legal team in Fisher’s Folly is struggling to seal the deal on a couple of key elements.

GB Westfield Tweet

Gavin Barwell’s “Me! Me! Me!” tweet to claim credit for Westfield in November 2012

Meanwhile, at the behest of Boris and local Tory politicians led by Barwell, vast sums of public money have been set aside to do what is seen largely as Westfield’s bidding.

Besides the costs of the CPO, Croydon, Transport for London or the Greater London Authority, or some combination of the three, have committed to spending at least £25million on a new loop of tram track which threatens to bring the town centre traffic to a standstill and appears designed only to benefit car drivers heading for the Westfield car park. And they are keen to spend another £50 million or more of public cash on road schemes where the A232 meets the Purley Way, which appears to benefit car drivers heading for…

Well, you get the picture.

Barwell originally claimed much of the credit for Westfield coming to Croydon. As well as being the area’s MP, at the time he also sat on the board of the Whitgift Foundation, the private schools-operating charitable trust which owns most of the supermall site and stands to be the biggest financial beneficiary of the project. Indeed, just last year he got re-elected to Parliament by including boasts in his election leaflets that “Gavin played an important role in making it happen”.

But today, after the Hammerson announcement, Barwell was adopting a much more arm’s length position with the project.

"Just like school dinners, what!": Boris and Barwell tuck in at the New Cafe, which hs a 1-star hygiene rating

Boris and Barwell claimed the credit for bringing Westfield to Croydon, and they have made a right dog’s dinner of it

“If there were further slippage I would be very concerned,” Barwell said, as if over-running by at least four years isn’t cause for concern enough.

“I’ve long been a very big supporter of this scheme,” Barwell said, perhaps forgetting as recently as last year he handed out election bumpf which said that it was him who had “helped bring Westfield and Hammerson to Croydon”.

“I think it’s very important for Croydon, but we do need to get on with it now,” Barwell said today, mastering the skill of stating the bleedin’ obvious.

“Everyone accepts it’s going to be three years of difficulty while it is underway…” or four years, if Hammerson’s latest estimate is anything to go by “… but everyone is keen to get on with it so we can get to the end point as soon as we can.”

Barwell also said that he has a meeting – another of his regular get-togethers with the Croydon Parnership – next week. “I will be asking them to clarify what the situation is,” he said.

Suggesting that now that he has lumbered Croydon with the mis-firing project, Barwell doesn’t actually know what’s going on.


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 Central, Croydon Council, Gavin Barwell, Jo Negrini, Julie Belvir, Planning, Whitgift Centre and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Hammerson admit £1bn Croydon supermall delayed till 2021

  1. So the end date has slipped four years in four years. This is really very sad a Croydon urgently needs the boost the scheme may give it. As has been discussed before, increasing use of the internet reduces demand for high street shops and this is likely to escalate as time goes by. Were the UK to vote to leave the EU I suspect there will be more uncertainty as terms, trade agreements etc are negotiated. I don’t think 2016 is going to be an easy year for those making key decisions and I suspect we may see a slightly different scheme develop with less retail space.

  2. derekthrower says:

    Well what can you say? Isn’t it funny how our speculators are all of a sudden (after creating huge upheaval and blighting any alternatives) hedging their bets. Makes you think they are worried about something. Always makes me laugh when our hear our illustrious Leader Cameron pontificating about the need for a strong economy to bring investment to fruition. The only problem is that these strong economies are located elsewhere and the investment is always some unspecified time in the future.

  3. timbartell says:

    Ol’ Gav could well be out of office and looking for a job in retail by then

  4. As usual a very disingenuous article. You make no allowance for the fact that compulsory purchases needed to be made and the time that it took to get them.
    The timescale really is n o surprise at all, indeed this site itself said months ago that leases had been renewed to include this Christmas.
    The fact that this is now a joint venture between Hammerson and Westfield has also mean that they have had to go back to the drawing board to come up with a best of both worlds proposal. There is no way that a scheme of this size and importance should or could be rushed.
    To compare this to Bradford is plain daft. The two parties involved have huge reasons to press
    on as soon as possible, not least because unlike Bradford this is a prime site in the south of London. A shopping centre that will be visited from many of thousands of people from many miles around.
    I’m just chuffed that Hammerson have said they are ready to push the button for next year and am looking forward to seeing the relic that is the Whitgift Centre knocked down and the fantastic prospect of the new Westfield being born.

    • So what we have reported was happening, or was the inevitable consequence of what had happened, is “disingenuous” now?

      That is, the various reports about this scheme which you claimed were wrong have now been proved to be very close to the mark. Modesty forbids me for saying that they are spot on: we said that the supermall would not be finished until 2020… Hammerson are now saying it could be later still.

      No need to apologise for your various and regular insults. It’s just good to see you drawing attention to quite how wrong you have been, David.

      Enjoy your wait. Only another five years to go!

  5. Croydon is already turning into a ghost town – as each week goes by another shop closes. Very sad to see the town go downhill – will just be betting shops, chicken shops & charity shops soon – well done to all the council leaders & those on £100k plus who just happen to live outside of the borough.

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