WALTER CRONXITE reports on the modest little announcement about what is supposed to be the biggest thing in the borough for half a centuryAnyone would think that they were smuggling it out when they hoped no one might notice, just before the end of the working day on a Friday before the kids are off for half-term week.
But there we have it, in black and white from Croydon Council’s press office bunker, a 210-word announcement that the revised £1.4billion redevelopment of the town centre by Westfield and Hammerson would go before the Town Hall planning committee on November 14.
That’s about three weeks later than was originally scoped, though someone in the council’s IT team diligently removed the “provisional planning meeting” scheduled for next Thursday from the council’s website today.
There had been suggestions, too, that there might be some big “announcement” of the finalised, revised plans this week. This certainly was not it.
The first some councillors on the council’s planning committee knew about the date was from the council press release. They may have to wait now until five working days before the meeting – November 8 – for much more information. That is, legally, the latest that it can be left for publishing the report to the committee.
The hacks in the council press team seemed to have been trying ever so hard not to give away too much real information tonight. Maybe that’s because the Hammersfield arranged marriage between Westfield and Hammerson, forming the Croydon Partnership, has been reluctant to release any information about their intentions.
“The £1.4billion redevelopment proposal for the Whitgift Shopping Centre is set to go before a special meeting of the council’s planning committee on Tuesday 14 November.” They didn’t mention that this would be the third time this year that a date had been set aside for such a meeting.
“Croydon Council has been working closely with the Greater London Authority (GLA), local MPs and the Minister for London to do all it could to ensure the Partnership’s proposals made it to a planning committee,” the press release states, presumably to update anyone who doesn’t read Inside Croydon.
“If given the green light…” Ha! “If”?! Like that’s ever going to happen….“… the exciting development will bring 5,000 new jobs and 1,000 new homes to the borough.”
So more than a year after they submitted outlines for a revised scheme, that’s formal confirmation that Hammersfield will be applying to almost double the number of executive apartments they want to build in high-rise towers along Wellesley Road. The 5,000 jobs? They’ve been promised since 2012, though after five years, no one’s any the wiser what type of jobs these might be.
But there was no mention of the proportion of affordable housing to be included within the scheme. Sources at City Hall have indicated this week that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, “is minded” to use his city-wide powers to call in the planning application.
Tonight’s announcement contained not a peep about any retailers taking space in the development, other than dear old Marks and Sparks.
Nor were there any gushing quotes from any of the Town Hall’s thrusting politicians about what a triumph this will be for their administration. And not a peep from the council’s usually attention-seeking CEO, Jo Negrini.
Probably just as well. After three and a half years in power at the Town Hall, maybe Labour council leader Tony Newman has finally realised what a toxic legacy the whole Westfield adventure, inherited from the Whitgift Foundation and their Tory mates, has proved to be.
Because there was no mention, either, of the planning blight that the town centre is suffering because of the lengthy delays in Westfield pulling their fingers out. Nor was there anything about how the supermall that was supposed to be a panacea to all the borough’s problems was supposed to open in 2017. And – perhaps most significantly – no date was suggested in the press release of when the developers intend to start work on the project, nor when it might be completed. But that would just be tempting fate.
So maybe the council had good reason not to want too many people to notice the underwhelming announcement.
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