£1.4bn Westfield keeps planning committee waiting, yet again

There is, of course, one much-anticipated development application missing from tonight’s meeting of the Croydon Council planning committee: the £1.4billion Westfield project to re-mould the centre of town into a shiny new supermall.

This is at least the second time that the resubmission for planning permission by Westfield and Hammerson, aka Hammersfield, has been postponed.

The developers were originally brought to Croydon at the behest of the landowners the Whitgift Foundation, with Tory MP Gavin Barwell and then London Mayor Boris Johnson pulling some strings, in 2012. But they have since been slow and indecisive in quite how to progress the scheme to redevelop the existing Whitgift Centre and Centrale, owned by Hammerson on the opposite side of North End.

The scheme already has planning permission, but last year Westfield decided that, probably because of the state of the retail market, they would prefer to have a housing estate with a shopping centre tacked on, and so almost doubled the number of flats, aka “luxury executive apartments”, included in the scheme, to 1,000.

Combine the developers’ greed for profit with the council’s planning department being under-staffed and over-burdened with work, and a situation has arisen whereby the detailed application has been repeatedly delayed.

Originally it was going to be a supermall with some flats. Now it is a residential scheme with retail tacked on

Councillors were advised as recently as a fortnight ago that the Hammersfield scheme would be put before the planning committee tonight, at an additional meeting apparently arranged especially for the purpose. This is despite the pre-election purdah period being enforced by the council, and the potentially highly politicised nature of this application.

But when the agenda for tonight’s meeting was published last week, Westfield wasn’t included after all. It is now assumed that it could be included on the agenda for June 14, meaning that the plans might be published just before the General Election on June 8, and so might not get the full attention of councillors and the public which they might deserve.

Westfield and Hammerson, in their joint venture called The Croydon Partnership, have conceded for some time that their temple to retail consumerism won’t be opening until 2022, with work due to begin in 2018.

Given the widespread assumption that Croydon’s planning committee, with an in-built majority of Labour councillors, will prostrate themselves to fulfill every whim of the developers, it seems likely the developers have assumed planning consent will be granted and have been preparing for demolition work early next year.

When originally unveiled by Barwell and Johnson, Hammersfield was expected to open in 2017.

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6 Responses to £1.4bn Westfield keeps planning committee waiting, yet again

  1. I am sure that if the planning application was submitted on the back of a fag packet, Scott and Negrini would be more than happy to approve the new Whitgift Towers without question. As they have put all their eggs in one basket from a reputation perspective, they clearly are worried about getting a lot of egg on their faces (that is enough puns for now)

  2. I think that it is beginning to dawn on Westfield that they have missed the boat as far as large scale shopping developments go, things are moving online and there is no stopping it. Look at Marks & Sparks disappointing results today. I suspect that their new centre will be mostly nail bars, hairdressers and various coffee and fast food outlets.

  3. derekthrower says:

    They know the bust period is starting to happen and the UK economy is now moving into deep uncertainty with a massively over valued property market. They will do their damn utmost to stall development now for a few more years until they have an idea of how to get a return on this project. Probably by asking for planning permission to over develop the site and then sit still and hope to attract other investors to offset their risks.

  4. dave1152 says:

    It doesn’t matter who is at fault, Croydon’s town centre remains a dump. Our incompetent council have totally missed the boat, as usual.

  5. Lewis White says:

    I can’t help thinking that the addition of Centrale added too much shopping to Croydon, albeit that the three traditional department stores of the past -Grants, Allders and Kennards– all went out of business over a 30 year period. Was there a nett addition of shopping floor space, or a nett loss?. It would be useful to see some statistics, as it would give some clues.

    Where did those shoppers go, who frequented those lovely old stores?. Some, like me, just stopped coming into Croydon very often, and started to buy my shoes on line—- which was why I used to visit the Whitgift Centre. Thus, spin-off purchases have stopped too. Over the years it seems to have lost quality and variety in the shopping “offer” and now –with a few brave exceptions, which I support when possible– is not an exciting retail destination. I have only been in Centrale twice in the several decades since it opened, so

    Like thousands of others, I don’t find the multi storey car parks cheap enough to entice me into the town and then slog round the shops, when shopping for bulky items, so go instead to the Purley Way, to buy essential things like computers, washing machines or vacuum cleaners. It’s just far less hassle to drive there, park, go in to the shop to buy the necessary thing, and go home quickly to have a nice cuppa and enjoy the garden.

    I personally would like to see a mixed and much greener development of flats and new open spaces, at Westfield, like that now being built at the Elephant and Castle, replacing the enormous and inhuman blocks of the Southwark Council Heygate Estate.

    Croydon is of course, not located in almost central London, but if yuppies need flats, let them come to live in Croydon town centre, which might get more prosperous as a result.
    I agree that we may well have reached the too many shops scenario in Croydon.
    Flats must be the only economic alternative — unless we want nothing, with US style down-town dereliction, and abandonment.

    Bring back the cattle market. Clean up the Wandle, so that trout may be fished for at the bottom of Old Town, Have a real brewery, whelk stalls, decent cafes, and a real bakery–yep, that would get me back into town!

  6. Lewis is 100% right….and I think Westfield is doomed as I have said, tediously, many times in the past. If it ever comes to be it will simply be a stack of expensive and difficult to sell flats above a few odd shops, nothing special. The world of commerce has changed totally over the past few years and in the next few it will change even more and exponentially so. Our blinkered planners can only perceive the future as a vista of £££ in the short term. What they obdurately refuse to do is to actually sit down and think about comprises a town and a community. Their only real model is Trumpeconomics, hoping that the benefits of attracting rich folk to our scintillating and exciting town will eventually trickle down to the mere masses who are the actual electors and voters. Vulgar and silly. The whole farrago of the town centre and the artificial and temporary hysteria around Boxpark is just a mirage, a sort of corporate South Sea Bubble.

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