Negrini refuses questions on latest £1.4bn Westfield delays

BARRATT HOLMES, our housing correspondent, on the continuing and protracted wait for multi-billion-pound developers to submit their finalised plans for the town centre

Revised plans for Westfield’s 1,000 flats in five tall towers were first expected to be presented at the council planning committee six months ago

A planning committee meeting scheduled for the Town Hall for tonight specifically to review the revised plans for the £1.4billion redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre and Centrale has been scrapped by Croydon Council, without any explanation given to some of the elected councillors who form the committee.

And next week’s planning committee meeting, on June 22, has no sign of the application from Westfield and Hammerson – better known as Hammersfield – for their 1,000 poky flats (“luxury executive apartments”) in five tall tower blocks, which potentially will offer a bird’s eye view of any future gang assassinations and shootings on the Wellesley Road.

Croydon town centre has been enduring planning blight for five years since the Whitgift Foundation, ably assisted by the then MP, Gavin Barwell, brought Westfield to Croydon in 2012, creating an “shotgun wedding” with rival shopping centre developers Hammerson, the owners of Centrale and who had been appointed for the redevelopment by existing leaseholders.

Westfield and Hammerson came together to form Croydon Partners for the purposes of the scheme, and although they obtained planning permission for one version of the project in 2014 and have since seen much of the area acquired through a Compulsory Purchase Order, there’s been next to no progress for almost two years.

A revised scheme, with additional residential elements, was revealed in early 2016. Since when… zilch.

When first announced five years ago, the developers confidently predicted that Croydon would have a wonderful new temple to retail open for business in 2017. Now, the earliest Hammersfield might all be finished is late 2021 – and that’s if they get planning permission this year and start work promptly in 2018.

Tonight’s planning meeting was understood to have been called specifically for the purpose of considering Westfield plans. It was removed from the council planning website last week without explanation. It is at least the third planning meeting in the last six months at which committee members had been primed to expect the revised plans for the scheme, only for nothing to materialise.

“It’s always the risk when you deal with Westfield. It’s how they operate,” one senior figure in property development familiar with the Croydon scheme told Inside Croydon.

“They won’t push through anything if the market conditions are not right for the maximum profit for them. And if they choose to, they’ll walk away altogether, just like they did to Bradford.”

Inside Croydon approached Croydon Partners for an explanation for the further delay in the scheme seeking planning permission. None was coming.

From the Croydon Partners website: they don’t appear to have anything planned for 2017, at all

We also contacted Croydon Council’s £185,000 per year chief executive, the Australian-born Jo Negrini, who has lengthy experience of working closely with the Australian-based Westfield from her time at Newham Council.

But Negrini has not responded to our enquiries.

Rather than actually doing the job for which she is paid so handsomely, Negrini’s too busy pimping out slices of Croydon to other multi-national billionaires at something called the London Real Estate Forum being staged in Berkeley Square this week.

There have been suggestions that part of the delay in the re-submission of the Hammersfield plans (no one seriously expects the committee of pliant councillors to reject the scheme, however overblown or unsuitable it might be) is that the planning department in Fisher’s Folly, which has been badly under-staffed since Negrini was in charge of it, has been struggling to cope with the massive workload and huge complexity of the proposals.

Jo Negrini: out chatting up developers again this week

At this week’s Grosvenor Square event, Negrini is to be accompanied by her tame art gallery owner, Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison, who she wheels out whenever she wants to persuade developers that she has firm intentions to “artwash” the borough, gentrifying it to suit property owners. Zuchowski-Morrison was responsible for spending thousands of pounds of public money on the controversial Soldier Boy sculpture in Surrey Street which was unveiled last week, just days after the terrorist attack on Borough Market.

“This session will provide an update on planning and development activity in the London Borough of Croydon,” the London Real Estate Forum’s website says of a session for property speculators tomorrow entitled “Opportunity London”, where Negrini is the star turn.

Let’s hope she’s able to tell the billionaire property developers what’s going on with the Westfield development, even though she’s been leaving in the dark elected councillors, the struggling businesses trying to trade in the left-to-rot Whitgift Centre, and the residents of Croydon who pay her wages.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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10 Responses to Negrini refuses questions on latest £1.4bn Westfield delays

  1. It’s feeling more and more like Bradford to me, what with the pound tanking, BREXIT, slow growth etc. Let’s hope they pull the plug BEFORE they bulldoze the site and we’re not left with a crater for 5 years.

    • Croydon is so much more attractive to Westfield than Bradford. If they pull the plug then Croydon will dip further in to the mire.
      Westfield will make a great success of the Whitgift Centre, they just need to make sure the conditions are right to press the button.

      • But not attractive enough for Westfield to, after nearly six years and a very expensive CPO for the local authority, actually start any building work on site, nor to present their revised plan. Funny that…

  2. derekthrower says:

    I think we are now getting to the stage of returning the dead parrot to the shop. That is of course unless the marvel in Number 10 can magic up some government influence and support, but have a funny feeling he may be more pre-occupied with other matters for some time in the future.

  3. Well, these developers flogging overpriced executive apartments overlooking a petrol station and backing on to Factory Lane won’t be happy, as their location map clearly shows Westfield Shopping Centre as an attraction.

  4. arnorab says:

    The whole project is like an ice cream cone in hot weather, delightful to look at and, if consumed quickly, very nice indeed. But if left too long, like Hammersfield, it just melts and disappears in front of your very eyes…..forever.

  5. Regular instalments of poor high street trading figures ie M&S (due to Internet purchases?), reducing tickets sales in cinemas (due to Netflix etc?) and caps on social housing payments all conspire to make Super Mall developments less attractive. The recent election has removed any kind or certainty about political direction for some time so I suspect Hammersfield will play the ever lengthening waiting game. The slogan “our time is now” is begining to rank with “strong and stable”.

  6. croydonres says:

    How about refurbishing the Whitgift Centre, ripping off the roof, letting the daylight in to restore a more humane environment to sustain the poor shop workers who live their working lives under artificial light, like battery chickens, and returning it to a 1960’s architectural original state, re-launching it as a theme park entitled “The way we shopped then”. It might just work.

    What a shame that the old Whitgift School– a characterful Hogwarts type Victorian building– was demolished, and its green playing fields all built on. Not much chance of getting it back, although some green roofs and open spaces at ground level would be good, and should be insisted upon, in the redevelopment.

    It really raises a question about land values, and the game of musical chairs of increasing values on paper, but as the above comments note, maybe the heady days of “peak shopping” are over, and the mall end game now with us.

    Poor old Croydon, if this site remains in limbo, or is redeveloped in an ugly way.

  7. In fairness Westfield need to be able to get the maximum amount of flats in this development. As shops begin to show a slow down due to internet shopping, then need to ensure they make their profits through other means.
    I would also say that as they are apparently looking to add a third row of shops to the existing plans it would seem to me that Westfield are perhaps more optimistic than this sites author for example.
    These are trying times and Croydon is in massive need of regeneration. This Westfield project is our best hope for that. We need to be just a little more patient, as I am sure it will happen and it will do so much for Croydon business, homes and jobs.

  8. The silence is deafening… Considering how much the council spent on the CPO you would expect them to be bending over backwards to get this sorted. A public statement on the status of the project is the minimum they should be providing. Transparency would be much better right now from a PR perspective rather than hiding away and dropping a bombshell at a later date. I’ve contacted our shiny new MP as should everybody else. Try and get some answers!!

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