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.
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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