The redevelopment scheme proposed for the town centre risks creating a “Croydon Carbuncle”, according to one concerned resident who has issued an open letter to the council’s planning committee, which is due to consider the revised plans for the £1.4billion supermall at its meeting tomorrow evening.
The letter is from a retired chartered engineer, Andrew Kennedy, and is addressed to the chair of the planning committee, Paul Scott. In his letter, Kennedy expresses several concerns about the revised and much expanded plans, published last week by developers Westfield and Hammerson, and he asks the council’s planning committee “to press for the highest possible planning standards”.
“Let it not be a blot on the landscape,” Kennedy writes.
The scheme already had planning permission and was subject a year ago of a Compulsory Purchase Order inquiry, which was formally granted. But Hammersfield, “in response to positive retail demand for space”, last week revealed a project that is 40 per cent bigger and which takes in new properties and demolishes buildings in a conservation area it had previously intended to refurbish.
The developers admit that they will require new planning permission – but with the centre of Croydon awaiting the much-delayed arrival of the Hammersfield bulldozers, it appears that the council has been put into a corner, with little option but to accede to the revised scheme.
Hence the Kennedy letter. He writes: “If we have to have a five-storey car park on top of the new shopping centre, can it at least look attractive, make an architectural statement and not be a bland box?”
Kennedy makes the point that the massive car parking space, with 3,000 bays, “will be visible from Roman Way and miles around as visitors come into Croydon”. He is also concerned at the loss, from the previous approved proposals, of roof-top green space in this area of the development.
There is also worries about the form of the building proposed to accommodate an IMAX cinema on the site of what was Allders, potentially overshadowing the Grade I-listed Whitgift almshouses nearby. Kennedy asks that, “can we ensure that that too is an architectural masterpiece and not another carbuncle such as the Vue cinema on top of the Grants building”.
Kennedy’s appeal to the planning committee – effectively asking them to stand up for the interests of the residents of Croydon who elected them, over the interests of big business – includes a number of other serious questions about the 11th-hour design changes.
A glass-roofed arcade to the car park, which would have allowed natural light into the atrium below, is missing from the revised scheme.
Kennedy is particularly animated about the traffic which the construction and operation of the new Hammersfield supermall will generate, and the planning disconnect which is seeing the council spending millions of pounds now on re-shaping the town’s urban motorway, Wellesley Road. “Surely those works need to stop and be reassessed?” Kennedy writes.
He calls for fresh consideration to be given to a massive park-and-ride scheme to be established, off the Purley Way or at the Coulsdon end of the A25. “We need a large Park and Ride scheme operating from there and frequent trains (or trams). The target market for Westfield Hammerson is the whole of Kent, Surrey and Sussex. People love their cars, they will not all come by train. That’s pie in the sky,” he said.
The exhibit will be held in the Whitgift Centre (on the ground floor, next to the WH Smith entrance) from May 12 until May 15, open from 2pm to 8pm on the Thursday, 11am to 6pm on the Friday, and 11am to 5pm on the Saturday and Sunday.
The developers intend to make another pre-application presentation to Croydon’s planning committee in June.
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