CROYDON COMMENTARY: What do you call a public consultation exercise that offers no real, hard information? A Croydon public consultation exercise.
ARNO RABINOWITZ went along to the latest box-ticking stunt staged in the town centre by Westfield and Hammerson over the weekend, and found it a complete waste of time
I went to the Croydon Partners exhibition of the latest proposals for the £1.4 billion supermall in the Whitgift Centre, and wish I hadn’t bothered.
It was uninformative and unhelpful.
“Are these the final plans?” was my opening gambit. “No, not as such,” I was told. What does that even mean? So what was the point in putting these plans on public display for four days?
“Has John Lewis agreed to take space?” I tried, sounding hopeful.
“We are still in touch with them.” That, I think, means no.
“Don’t know, nothing to do with us,” came the reply. I think I had managed to find the true level of helpfulness and insight this expensive PR exercise had to offer.
But there was some elaboration. “It’s either TfL or Croydon Council you should be asking,” they told me, cheerily unhelpful.
“Will the parking be at all subsidised?” I tried. I know. There was a touch of desperation creeping into my questioning now.
“No idea,” they responded. “Unlikely.”
“Will there be more than one entrance and exit to the parking?” I asked.
“Sounds a good idea,” they said, and then must have noticed the look of excitement in my reaction to such positivity, and so they added, quickly, “But unlikely.”
Developers of such schemes are encouraged to conduct public consultations and present some data of the attendees when it comes round to applying for planning permissions – how many, what age groups, what ethnic backgrounds, that sort of thing. It’s supposed to demonstrate engagement with the public, it is used to imply public approval. They don’t have to provide any honest evaluation on the quality of the information provided at those public consultations.
Four years on from when the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre and Centrale were first suggested, and with Westfield and Hammerson apparently now expressing their keenness to get to work starting in 2017 – the year we were told originally that the whole thing would be completed – and judged on the evidence I saw last weekend, we are really none the wiser of what is about to be imposed upon our town centre.
Woe is on the way, mark my words.
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