BARRATT HOLMES reports on the latest delay in long-promised town centre redevelopment
More frustrations have been raised about when, if ever, work will begin on the £1.4billion Westfield supermall in Croydon after the council cancelled a planning committee meeting scheduled for next Thursday.
Town Hall figures and members of the planning committee had understood that the additional meeting had been arranged specifically to consider the much-revised scheme to be put forward by Australian mall developers Westfield and their partners, Hammerson, for the complete redevelopment of the town centre shopping area.
The Croydon Partnership, as the sometimes uneasy Westfield-Hammerson liaison is called, had last month expressed the hope that the revised scheme would be put before the local authority for approval “some time in the next month”.
It is five years since the scheme was first announced, put together by landowners The Whitgift Foundation with the help of the then Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and local MP Gavin Barwell. Back then, the promise was for the town centre overhaul to be completed by 2017.
Now, the earliest that work can start is 2018, with a projected opening date some time late in 2021.
At massive public expense, the area has been CPO’d within an inch of its life for the Hammersfield scheme, which already has permission for one version of its plans.
Trouble is, last year Westfield got a bit greedier and decided that they wanted to almost double the number of money-spinning “executive apartments” to be built as part of the project.
That revised plan was not warmly received when first revealed, as it was felt some of the proposed new towers were too tall and represented too dense a development close to some of Croydon’s heritage buildings, including the Whitgift Almshouses and St Michael’s Church.
But there’s little prospect of the planning committee doing anything but simply rubber-stamping the billion-pound scheme.
The council’s planning department and committee has limited powers to intervene or order significant changes to the developers’ scheme and besides, after five years of development blight in the town centre affecting other businesses there, the council is desperate for some progress to be made. Any progress
The Croydon Partnership has also made it plain that it has no intention to have its scheme overseen by Croydon’s Place Review Panel, a group of architecture and design experts, paid by the council to provide an independent view of significant schemes. The £1.4billion Hammersfield is the most significant development in Croydon for 50 years.
This latest hitch is believed to have been caused because the council’s planning department, under-staffed and under-pressure, could not turn around the masses of paperwork in time. With bank holidays and other council commitments, the next scheduled planning committee date is Star Wars Day – May 4 (May the fourth be with you…). No agenda has yet been made available.
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