Council to drop licensing restrictions to make way for Westfield

KEN LEE, our Town Hall reporter, on the latest move by the council to make it easier for Westfield to rent out space in its supermall to boozers, bars and places flogging £10 burgers

There’s an estimated 17,000 people moving into new homes in the centre of Croydon over the next five years or so. And the brains trust at Croydon Council has decided that they should all have the convenience of a night club or bar right on their high-rise’s doorstep.

There’s not enough bars in the town centre, according to Croydon Council

That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the latest missive issued from the press office in Fisher’s Folly last week. That, and the fact that the council which is supposed to represent the interests of all residents and all businesses in the borough is preparing to alter a long-standing policy for the benefit of one business: Westfield.

“Changes to people’s social habits and a drive to boost the night-time economy are behind Croydon Council’s decision to conduct a review of licensing requirements in the town centre,” the council’s media office’s intro announces, clearly struggling for inspiration. Maybe it was drafted after a lunch-time bevvy?

“First written in 2004, the licensing policy contains a section relating to premises within the town centre’s defined area, which states that, because of the high concentration of pubs, bars and clubs in a relatively small area, there is a presumption to refuse new applications from premises used exclusively or primarily for the sale of alcohol and/or with loud amplified recorded music.”

You still with us? Basically, the council has tended to refuse new applications for boozers in the town centre for the past 13 years – unless, of course, your name is Roger Wade and you have a £3million loan from the council for Boozepark tucked into your back pocket.

Westfield, if it ever happens, may depend more on bars and clubs than on retail

The council press release’s dry prose continues: “There were concerns that a concentration of such licensed premises could result in an increase in crime and disorder.” And of course, the licensing ban has made great strides in addressing those concerns. Or not… Ask the residents and businesses on Surrey Street.

The council’s press notice continues: “In the ensuing 13 years, however, there has been considerable change in consumer habits and an accompanying decline in the number of pubs, bars and clubs in the town centre, in favour of a broader range of premises offering food and entertainment in an effort to meet customers’ evolving tastes.

“The policy review seeks to remove the special town-centre section of the policy as it is no longer applicable. If, however, an application is met with relevant objections, it will continue to be referred to the council’s licensing sub-committee for decision.”

Why is this significant? Why is the council bringing this forward now?

In a word: Westfield.

The chances are, if the £1.4billion supermall on the site of the Whitgift Centre and Centrale ever does ever get built by Westfield and their “partners”, Hammerson, then the mix of retail and bars may well lean away from the former. Retailing habits are changing, with ever-increasing amounts of shopping now going online. The public don’t need shops any longer.

Westfield flagged up its re-jigged outlook to deliver an over-sized bar and restaurant centre earlier this year when one of their executives, speaking to property speculators at a conference in the south of France chaired by Croydon’s £185,000 a year CEO Jo Negrini, expressed some thanks to Boozepark “for getting Croydon ready for the ten-quid burger”.

Yep: unhealthy food, unhealthily overpriced, is all part of the Westfield masterplan now.

But to be able to rent out space to a prolifieration of bars and clubs in the supermall space beneath the 1,000 flats Westfield plan to build, Croydon Council first needs to relax its licensing restrictions in the town centre.

Hamida Ali: easing licensing restrictions for Westfield

Because what Westfield want, Westfield gets.

Hence last week’s announcement. “The council’s obliged to review its licensing policy every five years,” said Hamida Ali, the pliant Labour-run council’s cabinet member responsible for policing and licensing matters. “Croydon’s would have been due for review next year, but given the changes we’ve seen to the evening economy, and the vision we have for Croydon over the next five years, we wanted to bring the review forward.”

In other words: Westfield.

“We’re keen that our licensing policy better reflects the aspirations we have for Croydon as a place and a destination of choice.” Westfield.

“We believe the proposed changes will make the application process simpler for licence holders and potential licence holders…” Westfield, “…and result in a more vibrant and diverse offer for anyone coming into Croydon for a night out.” Or Westfield.

The council, on behalf of Westfield, is staging a consultation on the matter until November 13, “inviting comments from licence-holders and the public on the review’s proposals”. And then it will go ahead and do exactly what it wants.

Details of the review proposals can be found by clicking here.

Anybody wishing to comment can do so by emailing or by writing to: The licensing team
Place department
Croydon Council
6A Fisher’s Folly
8 Cost A Mint Walk
Croydon CR0 1EA

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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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29 Responses to Council to drop licensing restrictions to make way for Westfield

  1. In a way I’m glad to see that the penny is finally dropping and they are beginning to see that the only hope for this development is to cater for thousands of yuppie flats along Wellesley Road. Whether this will actually work, or is what we want for the town centre, is another question.

  2. Westfield is the single most important thing to happen to Croydon in decades. It is utter vital that it is built and is allowed to be built to a model that has proved successful for them in the past.
    I have no problem with making sure they can get the necessary licencing for new restaurants and bars. It is an integral part of the regeneration of Croydon.
    Westfield is a very long term solution to the essential regeneration of the appallingly tired looking Croydon. We should support them in every we can. I’m afraid this sites long held opposition to Westfield ensures that whatever they do or try, it will be opposed.
    Well I for one am massively in favour of it and the wonderful knock on effects it will have to Croydon.

    • When you say, “the single most important thing to happen to Croydon in decades”, David, in which decade is it likely to happen?

      • I fully appreciate it has dragged on. I genuinely believe we will have the new plans in front of Croydon Council before this Christmas and that towards the end of next year work will commence.
        In these trying times it is vital that Westfield get this right financially. I can understand why they want other revenue streams outside of the shopping, like the huge amount of homes for example.
        Yes there will be plenty of disruption and yes there will be things approved that some may not like. However I am so certain of the massive benefit this will be to Croydon. You really must share the prospect even if you do not enjoy the process to get there.

    • The key point in your post is ” a model that has proved successful for them in the past.” I want to see Croydon regenerated as much as anyone, but I’m seriously worried that basing it all around a fading retail sector is not the answer.
      It’s difficult to see where to go with this, I suppose if I knew the answer to that I would be making a fortune in property development.

      • I Geary says:

        They’re all fair points, but is there a queue of developers lining up outside Croydon’s town hall? I don’t think there is.

        If Croydon has any hope of improving its local economy, finances, appearance and infrastructure (which, I think covers most people on here) then the reality of the situation is its Westfield or no-one.

        So, in the absence of any likely alternative, the opposition to a Westfield development only makes it look like opposition to all of those benefits.

        If Inside Croydon is aware of a way to see billions of pounds of investment into the centre without any downsides of having to work with a profit led developer who can actually get billions of pounds together, please, don’t keep it a secret.


        • Not quite a queue, perhaps, but back in 2011 Hammerson was prepared to go ahead with a scheme, backed by the lease-holders, until they were elbowed aside by the Whitgift Foundation-backed Westfield, cheered along by Barwell and BoJo.

          It’s worth recalling Boris Johnson’s record on large-scale projects when London Mayor: the Garden Bridge; the failure that is the Boris Bus; the no-passenger Dangleway; the Chinese takeaway of part of Crystal Palace Park; the under-regulated Uber. Disaster after disaster. And it looks like he’s helped to inflict another on Croydon.

          No one has ever argued against the need for redevelopment. But there’s a difference between a development which works for the many, and one that works for a few multi-billion-pound property developers.

          Having our council in complete thrall to developers Westfield has done nothing to accelerate the pace of the development, and will do nothing to deliver lasting improvements to the vast majority of the borough’s businesses and residents. This abandonment of a policy which has served the town centre well for more than a decade is just another example of such folly.

  3. davidmogo says:

    Online shopping in it’s modern, convenient format has been with us for over a decade. However, there is still a big place for physical retail shopping. This is evident when visiting the more successful (and pleasant) shopping centres around the country.

    Let us not underestinate how important the Westfield development is for Croydon.

    I am pleased to see the council is doing what it can to accomodate the development.

    If it means that it actually happens then great – as the alternative will mean the further decline of my home town that I was once proud to call home. I hope to be just as proud to call it home again in 10 years time.

  4. derekthrower says:

    I am confused about this latest bit of desperation. Perhaps they are trying to enthuse JD Wetherspoon to be the anchor tenant of the new Whitgift Frankenstein Project. They will close down all their pubs in South London in a range of 10 miles and attract all their clientèle to congregate for their wetherbreakfast at one location?

  5. Just Google “demise of shopping centres”. Approx 25 % of those in the USA are closing or at risk. The best ones diversify and offer more than shopping. Westfield will know the risks and no doubt will be seeking to use best practice. The flats help their business case but I’m not sure what happens if Croydon gets hundreds of flats above an empty Mall.

  6. The business model that Westfield Croydon was initially based on has significantly weakened in the current retail climate with less profit being made from retail, and more being done online. This makes it harder to fill a store with retail outlets who themselves struggle to make money. Basic supply and demand.

    Hence the delays. What is failing to be understood is that the project always has to be economically viable for it to go ahead. People are getting on at Westfield as though they are “obliged” to build here. They are not and they won’t be doing us any favors if they do or don’t… It will be down to viability. They are still a business and not a charity last time I checked.

    We can ask for all the stuff we want, but for example with affordable housing, we are in danger of getting 50% of nothing, rather than 20% of something. You do the maths on that with a potential 10,000 housing units. Sadiq Khan can blissfully say that he is going to make sure those evil developers make 50% affordable houses for the houses “that Londoner’s need”, and then when they don’t build he’ll wonder why. You wonder why extra storeys are built in high rises and then object to them, but if a develop is asked to make x amount of the building classed as affordable then it has to go up higher to make a return by selling more units. It must make a return, or just leave their money in safe government bonds of 1% interest per year, better than making a loss, or risking your money for little more than that.

    It’s a chicken and egg situation. When the housing is built that will bring in the extra businesses and extra business rates and home dwellers and council tax and jobs and economy to the borough. This will then give the council more funding to pay for it’s priorities such as better sustainable infrastructure and all the rest of it. Money coming into the borough from outside the borough far and wide. Westfield.

    But Westfield is the big win for Croydon. A lot hinges on the very fact that it will get built. There should be an announcement within the next 2 weeks or so, but if nothing has happened by September 2018 (next year) when the Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) have expired then the whole thing will be off, and Croydon will be left with the corpses that are Whitgift and Centrale and all the problems that ever plagued the borough.

    Live in a fairy tale world where people give you exactly what you want because you say you want it or demand it. Call names such as “greedy developers”, and “speculative investors”, “only here for the profit”, and “blah blah blah”. Call the shots, go on, you must.

    But when Westfield decides that it is no longer viable to settle here in our town (one of the few in the UK it’s ever chosen), then you’ll again have to wonder why businesses need to make a profit and not a loss, and why that determines whether they do or don’t.

    • This comment has been substantially edited to remove the countless baseless assertions and lies it originally contained.

      One example, which residually remains, is the suggestion that there is some kind of requirement for 50 per cent affordable housing in the homes Westfield wants to build. It is also suggested that Westfield is to build 10,000 homes.

      Neither of these assertions are correct.

      Westfield has only ever proposed to build 1,000 homes.

      And the requirement for social housing, which was set before 2014, has never been more than 30 per cent.

      It was Barwell and Croydon Tories, with their extensive connections within the Croydon Establishment and the landowners, the Whitgift Foundation, who invited Westfield into our town centre in 2012. It is only now, with the Westfield scheme badly – if not terminally – stalled, that the Tories are trying to pin the blame for the disaster that is the current state of the town centre on the Town Hall administration, which inherited the consequences of their get-rich-quick scheme.

      As Inside Croydon warned our loyal reader, and the Croydon Labour group, in 2012: remember Bradford.

      Croydon might just be five years into a decade-long, Tory-enabled Westfield nightmare.

      • It would seem that I have entered an echo chamber whereby comment that doesn’t fit the narrative (and “too harsh” on Labour) is “edited”/”censored”, thumbs up given are for comments with an anti Westfield slant, thumbs down for a pro Westfield stance, and an anti tory bias, which is clearly perpetuated via comment from the site author.

        “Moderate” as deemed “necessary”.

        • Have no worries on that score. We will. We have.

          Go read the site rules on comments and moderation.

          Save you the trouble:
          We welcome comments from all sections of society, and of varied opinion. Debate – by its very definition – requires disagreement. So we will always welcome divergent views and we encourage people to express where they agree and disagree with others.

          But do not confuse the notion of “freedom of speech” with some misguided idea that you can write anything without responsibility – you cannot.

          Inside Croydon, as publishers of this site, carry the responsibility for what is published.

          Comments don’t appear until they have been moderated.

          We will not allow comments that are abusive, defamatory, racist or sexist. Or palpably untrue.

          Your claims of "an anti-Westfield slant" are also a load of old tosh. What we report are the facts, and that these are inconvenient to your world view is, well… tough.

          If you want to spout complete bollocks, see if the local Tories have a website that operates as an "echo chamber" for their distorted version of reality. Oh yes, they do…

      • davidmogo says:

        Why edit and remove parts from people’s comments?

        This will probably be edited out!

        • The site rules on comments and moderation state quite clearly:
          Do not confuse the notion of “freedom of speech” with some misguided idea that you can write anything without responsibility – you cannot. Inside Croydon, as publishers of this site, carry the responsibility for what is published.

          Comments don’t appear until they have been moderated. We will not allow comments that are abusive, defamatory, racist or sexist. Or palpably untrue.

          • Peter Bell says:

            Well I am secretly pleased that the editor is er….. editing. While opinion is compounded of fact interpretation, latent conservatism and historical bias mixed with ignorance and intolerance, stated facts are there to be held up so as to inform others. I form some of my opinions based on what I read on here and also say the BBC news site, I like to think that “a journalist” has spent some of their precious time checking any factual assertion I make is accurate and I hope this goes for all other correspondents too. (I also like the fact that a certain spellchecking is done too – few things are more irritating than a poorly spelled missive) – so “carry on please “ you massive team of journos at IC with my blessing

          • davidmogo says:

            I want Westfield to be a success (bad man)

            I am happy for the council to be accomodating of Westfield’s ever changing requirements, within reason, to ensure that it actually happens (bad man)

            I happen to believe that the physical retail sector has a future alongside internet retail (bad man)

            I happen to think that the Westfield Centre will massively improve Croydon overall (bad man)

            And lastly, what alternative to Westfield do all of the Anti-Westfield bloggers suggest for Croydon town centre? I would love to know.

          • “I want Westfield to be a success (bad man)”.

            We haven’t encountered anyone who doesn’t want the redevelopment of the town centre to be a success. Be interested to meet anyone who doesn’t. But sensible people ask “At what cost?”, and “To whom?”, and they also ask, “To whose benefit?”, and – increasingly – “When?”

            Because make no mistake, Westfield’s delays – and it is they who have been delaying, for two years now, since the council granted them planning permission and conducted a massive CPO at their behest – are costing this borough hugely.

            “I am happy for the council to be accomodating [sic] of Westfield’s ever changing [sic] requirements, within reason, to ensure that it actually happens (bad man)”

            Bully for you. And where do you draw those lines to define “within reason”?

            Since she was installed to her position on the council, Jo Negrini has ensured the Croydon has bent over backwards to accommodate Westfield. Yet even that is not good enough for her mates from Australia.

            There is a school of thought that the council ought to be representing the interests of the broadest number of residents and businesses in the borough, not just one multi-billion developer.

            “I happen to believe that the physical retail sector has a future alongside internet retail (bad man)”

            Not bad, per se, just foolish for ignoring all the warning signs that have been there for a decade.

            “I happen to think that the Westfield Centre will massively improve Croydon overall (bad man)”

            Again, you’re hardly unique in that. But at what cost? To whom? And when?

            “And lastly, what alternative to Westfield do all of the Anti-Westfield bloggers suggest for Croydon town centre? I would love to know.”

            You really haven’t been paying attention properly these past five years. Or even the past couple of days.

            There was an alternative to Westfield from the very start. Hammerson, who were elbowed aside by Boris and Barwell at the behest of the Whitgift Foundation in order to “accommodate” Westfield.

            The problem now is that we are where we are, and the Whitgift Foundation and Westfield have led us so far down this merry path of theirs that we are now stuck with a pig in a poke.

            Westfield use that as their negotiating technique. It’s somewhat akin to putting a gun to our heads.

            Like it or lump is what Westfield – and you, apparently – want us to think.

            To many people, impatient at this brinkmanship, that is unacceptable.

            But not to you. Bad man.

          • davidmogo says:

            Thank you for your lovely reply and thank you for continually editing or just not publishing my comments.

            It is a great website and you are clearly a lovely man.

            I hope we can all meet up in the westfield for a coffee or a beer in 2021 / 22 / 23 or whenever it gets built and talk about how awful it is.

          • You could be in for a long wait if you think it’ll be open by 2022.

            Even Westfield aren’t saying that any more.

    • mraemiller says:

      I have never understood why the Whitgift foundation need to CPO a whole load of land they don’t own in order to build flats on it. Nor why the whole site has to be demolished in one go rather than undergoing gradual restructuring like when it was built over 3 years. I’m sure it’ll really help the retail sector to lay off the remaining retail works en masse in one go. Moreover Westfield have played a nasty game… Giving the Council one set of plans to get the CPO then resubmitting another set of plans with increased housing at the last minute. I dont think it’s right for commercial enterprises to CPO other commercial enterprises. This is not what CPOs were designed for. They were designed to widen roads, build motorways and train lines and knock down derelict buildings. They were never designed for big buisnesses to buy small businesses premesis at below market rates.

  7. derekthrower says:

    You appear to believe this scheme is the only option available for Croydon. It has stalled now. While such a super sized Hammer Horror Frankenstein scheme is the only option, it’s development is always going to be marginal and is increasingly dependent on improving transport links and future expectations of economic growth which now seem to be disappearing further beyond the horizon. In the meantime good useful small and medium size alternatives have been blighted and condemned Croydon to this purgatory of decline which has occurred by only following this option.

  8. i have only one word to say…well, ok, four:
    St Georges Walk.
    There is an eerie and threatening similarity of scenarios: gullible and greedy council , duplicitous developers, planning myopia caused by delusions of grandeur, staggeringly slow progress likely to end in deadlock and dereliction. And no St John Lewis riding to the rescue…as if there ever was!

  9. When this scheme first started being discussed many people raised the issue of what happened in in Bradford when Westfield re-developed the Town Centre there. It took 11 years from start to finish with a hiatus of 4 yeas leaving a hole in the ground.

    Croydon was warned:

    And this, from Inside Croydon in 2012:

  10. Lewis White says:

    It will be interesting to see how the Westfield redevelopment is designed. Will it be original, landmark architecture and some good landscape, with big and sunny outdoor spaces as well as indoor walkways?

    My worry is that it will end up looking very like the Whitgift Centre, with a few residential tower blocks, all indoor shops and walkways, and rather boring, like most provincial UK centres, and US examples .

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