Mayor’s ‘affordable’ rents in Westfield will be £1,157 per month

BARRATT HOLMES, our housing correspondent, reports on the likely rents for the ‘affordable’ flats in the towers to be built over the top of a shopping mall car park

It is a rarely mentioned – by everyone except Sadiq Khan – that the present Mayor of London is the son of a bus driver. Young Sadiq was brought up in a family flat in social housing on a Tooting estate.

Westfield’s plans for Wellesley Road include lots of tower block flats and lots of car parks

Any south London bus driver looking for a flat in central Croydon where they can raise their family could soon be looking at having to pay £1,157 per month in rent. This is what is described as a “London Living Rent”.

That’s the unhappy consequence of a decision announced by Mayor Khan last night, when he gave approval for plans from Hammerson and Westfield for the redevelopment of the centre of Croydon, including 967 new homes. The Mayor’s approval is likely to make it almost impossible for him to impose more demanding quotas of affordable housing on property developers elsewhere in the capital.

Croydon was the first real test of the Mayor’s recently announced policy, which was to insist that at least 35 per cent of all new housing developments should be “affordable”.

But with Croydon’s long-delayed Hammersfield project, the Mayor has agreed that only 20 per cent of the 967 new homes need to fit that criteria. That’s because the multi-billion-dollar international developers snivelled that their £1.4billion scheme would not make them big enough profits if they were forced to provide an additional 140 flats at rents below the market rate.

Sadiq Khan with Croydon council leader Tony Newman: a bus driver’s wage will be stretched with rents in the Westfield flats

In a less-well-published portion of the Mayor’s announcement last night, it said, “The level of affordable housing offered in the application was supported by a viability assessment. This was scrutinised City Hall planners, who concluded this was the maximum amount which could be delivered while ensuring the project remained financially viable.”

To be fair to Khan, his Labour colleagues in Croydon Town Hall have done him no favours, since their own house-building scheme, Brick by Brick, using publicly owned land and public funding, is struggling to get above 36 per cent affordable. Tony Newman and Alison Butler, the Blairites who control Croydon Council, initially set a target of 50 per cent affordable among the 1,000 homes being built through their controversial scheme.

With the Westfield-Hammerson “Croydon Partnership”, according to City Hall’s announcement, “The application to redevelop the Whitgift Centre includes the delivery of up to 967 new build-to-rent homes, of which a minimum of 20 per cent will be provided at below market-rent levels – the majority of which will be for London Living Rent (based on renters paying one-third of average local incomes).”

That should mean, according to 2018 figures provided by City Hall (given that by the time the development is finished, 2022 figures are likely to be in force), a London Living Rent one-bed flat in the Hammersfield development will have a rent of £947 per month. Two-bedroomed flats will cost tenants £1,052 per month, while any three-bed flats made available under such a scheme would be rented out at £1,157.

Which could be a bit of a stretch for the average Croydon bus driver and their family.

However, in contrast, across the Wellesley Road from the Whitgift Centre, there’s a three-bed “luxury apartment” in the Saffron Square tower available this month on the private rental market for annual rent of £62,400 – a cool £5,200 per month.

It was notable that Khan and City Hall has also started spouting the empty stat that the shopping mall “will create 7,000 jobs”, a mantra of developers, local politicians of both hues and the land-owners, the Whitgift Foundation, though which has never been supported with any evidence of how, or what sort of jobs these might be. When first announced, the figure offered then was 5,000… 7,000 must be, in some way, viewed as more impressive.

How Blairite council leader Tony Newman greeted the announcement

“Today marks a crucial step forward in the regeneration of Croydon town centre,” Khan is supposed to have said, presumably reading from a script carefully provided for him by Westfield.

“This development will play a key role in unlocking the borough’s potential and is set to deliver huge economic benefits to residents and businesses in the borough. As well as the creation of 7,000 jobs and the delivery of almost 1,000 new homes, it will also attract many visitors to its brand-new leisure facilities and public spaces. I’m confident the benefits of this scheme will be felt for generations to come.”

And as for Croydon Council, Newman – 44 months into a 48-month administration – tried to claim that he is “actually making this exciting scheme happen”, while Butler said, “Today’s green light brings us a step closer to the works getting under way.”

For context: the land-owners and developers have been promising to get works under way for six long years now. Demolition work will not begin before 2019, and the finished shopping centre will not be open for business before 2022.

Compared to the other two Westfield shopping centres in London – one in White City and the other in Stratford – Croydon’s will be the smallest. The flagship tenant announced so far is a large Marks and Spencer store.

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17 Responses to Mayor’s ‘affordable’ rents in Westfield will be £1,157 per month

  1. Recent media announcements report a survey showing a 10% reduction in retail footfall in Dec 2017. There are mixed results to date re shops themselves with House of Fraser looking in difficulties with rents. More results are due later this week. Internet sales continue to rise and NEXT have only done well due to such sales. Unless these trends change, which many would say is unlikely, then Westfield’s financial model must be somewhat fragile.

    • davidmogo says:

      Why the continued reminders in the comments section that the internet exists?

      Internet shopping has been with us for over 2 decades.

      There will always be a place for physical retail centres such as Westfield. Click and collect. Trying on clothes. Plus these places are much more than just “buying items”. They have food outlets, bars, they are a social occasion for many. A place to meet people etc.

      I do a lot of internet shopping. I also use click and collect. I also go to town. I think there is a place for all of them.

      I am optimistic about Westfielf for Croydon. What saddens me most is that seemingly a number of fellow Croydoners on here are not.

      I shall await the inevitable “dislikes” to build up for this all too positive comment 🙂

      • Why not mention it? What have you got to hide… oh, it’s the truth…

        Look: it’s entirely expected that multi-billion dollar Australian property developers will want to put the rosiest glow on their project. They have to sell it, after all.

        But that is not the role of elected politicians, whose job first and foremost is to represent the people, and the people’s interests. These interests may sometimes coincide with those of developers. But the public interest is never served by politicians, such as Khan and the third-rate Newman, simply regurgitating developers’ PR bullshit without providing any justification or evidence for their claims.

        The reason you are in a growing minority of people who are less optimistic about the Hammersfield development is that many other Croydon residents have heard it all before, over the past six years with this scheme, but also previously with the St George’s Walk development (which never happened) and the Croydon Gateway development (which never happened in the the form presented).

        We’ve all been sold that pup before. It seems that this time round, you’re buying it again, only this time you’ll end up buying it online.

      • Nick Davies says:

        Look at John Lewis’s growth in internet sales since 2011. Then extrapolate a year or three. Then wonder why they may have built their last bricks and mortar store.

        Internet shopping has been around for over two decades, but it hasn’t stood still, even if you have.

        Please feel free to reciprocate a down arrow…

        • davidmogo says:

          Oh dear the dreaded statistics that can prove anything in isolation.

          Let’s looks at John Lewis’ growth in retail “selling space” since 2012. It has grown year on year. Same website for the stats:

          What does this tell us?

          John Lewis are doing well. They are doing well online and they are doing well in their retail outlets.

          Good for them.

          • What does it tell us?

            That John Lewis is a well-run business.

            Now ask yourself another question: why won’t they, despite lucrative financial offers, take up a flagship store in Westfield Croydon?

          • Nick Davies says:

            That doesn’t show growth in selling space: it shows us sales per square foot of selling space. An increase most years, but then there’s inflation to consider.

            Online sales more than tripled in the same period.

          • davidmogo says:

            Yes so we agree that the stats tell us that John Lewis are doing well.

            I can’t answer as to why John Lewis dont want to choose Croydon as their flagship store.

            Does the fact that they won’t tell us anything? We can read in to that whatever we wish to. That would be pure speculation.

            Does Westfield Croydon require John Lewis to succeed? I think not. You probably think differently. Another person may have another theory also.

            Roll on Westfield so that we can all speculate on something completely different….

          • Yawn…

            Actually, you’re wrong. It is not “pure speculation” why John Lewis has turned its back on having a store in Croydon’s Westfield. We know why, because the company MD said in a lengthy interview in the Sunday Times in August (around the time Westfield were briefing that they were on the verge of securing JLP for their scheme). It’s because of the changed retail environment… the impact of the interweb.

            What is “pure speculation”, though, is Westfield’s 2019 date to begin demolition of the Whitgift Centre. Every other start date they’ve offered in the past six years has been proven wrong.

  2. Nick Mattey says:

    Creating 7,000 jobs in the retail sector is a very ambitious prediction. My view is that these figures are inflated and should not be bandied about without some supporting assumptions.

    Amazon’s Croydon depot is on the Purley Way. Its drivers deliver thousands of items every day at prices that undercut most retailers. Amazon and other online retailers are squeezing the profits from non-food shops.

    The Westfield employment creation target might have been achieved five years ago, but things are very different now.

    • Nick Davies says:

      Have we ever found out if the 7000 jobs are on top of those currently employed in the Whitgift? Or do they include all the posts which will be made redundant while the works take place.

      • It is one of the more obvious and often repeated questions which no one, at Westfield or the council, have ever bothered to answer.

        Will they be full-time or part-time jobs?

        7,000 shelf-stackers? Or 7,000 till operators? Or 7,000 restaurant waiting staff?

  3. derekthrower says:

    This is all still hypothetical. The final detailed plan of this development has not been provided. All just seems to mean that horse trading is still going on and so still unlikely that we will see a start to this during the current decade. Whatever happened to the extra terminating rail platform at East Croydon station? It is still there and until we have firm commitments in place we will not hear anything more about it or any real news about this scheme.

  4. veeanne2015 says:

    No one mentions the 1000’s of jobs that will be lost for years with resulting hardship, and the knock-on effect of loss of income, family break-downs, evictions and home repossessions, and loss of rates to the Council which will affect all eventually, because Westfield are knocking down the whole complex in one go, instead of in stages, as originally stated.

  5. Almost everything that is being said about Westfield, from its likely opening date to the number of jobs it might create, is Post-Truth hypotheses.

    Lies basically, based on the need to get people to believe in an unlikely fantasy.

    It’s in the same league as the zillions of pounds that will go to the NHS consequent on us leaving Europe. Just nonsense designed to confuse and temporise and with no hint of veracity, part of an epidemic of adventitious mendacity that is really destroying much of what we used to hold dear in public life.

    Honesty has disappeared and rubbish has replaced it. As the great Trump, the best practitioner of them all, would say: Sad!!

  6. croydonres says:

    Very stimulating debate above. Just to add my 2 p`s worth…..
    The fact that the whole of the Whitgift centre is being renewed at one time is a big blow to employment for those currently employed . Could it not be phased into three phases, with one end being built and opened, then the other end?

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