The Tories have shaken the Magic Money Tree for a public subsidy to Westfield which might just secure a John Lewis store in the town centre. BARRATT HOLMES reports
Croydon South’s Conservative MP, Chris Philp, is claiming credit for getting the Conservative Government to shake the non-existent Magic Money Tree to find £10million-worth of “Housing Infrastructure Funding” to provide a public subsidy for Tory Party donors Westfield and their residential and retail scheme in Croydon town centre.
The money for Westfield is coming from the department run by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
This is the same Javid who has refused to provide any public subsidy whatsoever towards the £10million cost of installing life-saving sprinklers in Croydon Council’s residential tower blocks, a move taken by the Labour-run local authority following last year’s Grenfell Tower tragedy.
But the £10million of public cash might finally secure a John Lewis department store as the anchor tenant for the development by Westfield and partners Hammerson. Which is nice.
Philp did not respond to Inside Croydon’s questions about whether he managed to raise the issue of the Tory Government’s failure to support Croydon Council over the sprinkler retro-fitting, while at the same time managing to find cash for a multi-billion multi-national development company.
As Inside Croydon has reported elsewhere, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has also managed to drop his policy of developments providing at least 35 per cent “affordable” housing in Westfield’s cash, a decision which could be worth at least £6million to the Australian-based developers in additional revenues from the sale of private apartments.
In a press release, Philp said, “This much-needed support will help deliver the transformation of Croydon town centre and make sure that Westfield goes ahead. The Westfield scheme will deliver 1,000 new homes and 7,000 new jobs. It will help make Croydon the leading commercial centre of south London. This is a huge vote of confidence in Croydon.”
Philp says that it was after he had lobbied Greg Hands, when he was Minister for London, to get the support package.
Also believed to have been involved in some of those discussions was Gavin Barwell, the former Croydon Central Tory MP, now chief of staff to Theresa May, the Prime Minister. Barwell is a former member of the governing board of the Whitgift Foundation, the Whitgift Centre’s landowners who originally brought Westfield to Croydon in 2012.
Then, the new shopping mall was due to open in 2017. Now, work on Westfield is supposed to start by early 2019.
In his press release, Philp said, “I am delighted that the Conservative Government has made this vital investment in Croydon. This is fantastic news for Croydon. It will provide world-leading retail facilities in the town centre, and act as a spur to other much-needed regeneration projects there.”
And Philp took it upon himself to reveal a piece of commercially sensitive information regarding the stores to be featured in the supermall: “We are hopeful that John Lewis will be confirmed as the anchor store before too long.
“This news will make Croydon town centre one of Europe’s leading growth areas in the coming years.”
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So the bungs from Central Government are coming in. Now housing infastructure funding. That is a rather vague term. The assumption must be that all the utility services in the local environment are completely inadequate for large scale development and have to be replaced, but even then £10 million is rather an insignificant shake of the magic money tree in this context when so many problems could emerge. Will this backhander be enough to get Westfield going or just so insignificant that it is not seen as a big enough commitment to the risk averse developers.
So the MP for not Central Croydon is happy to have a massive development in central Croydon but not some flats in Purley? Surely this shopping centre would be more suitable in , say, Coulsdon with its easy motorway access and far more disposable income?
No way ! Croydon town centre needs its dying core to be redeveloped before it dies totally. Flats and modern shopping, and redeveloped offices, are the only commercially viable land uses, much as a new Garden Suburb with solar powered thatched cottages on the site of “Centrale” might have appeal.
The last thing Coulsdon needs is to play host to a suburban USA style shopping centre fed by motorway . It is getting what it needs– more homes, both houses and flats, with the Cane Hill redevelopment. Let s hope that the new residents spend a good proportion of their disposable income in Coulsdon, to secure the viability of Coulsdon`s shops and supermarkets.
It would have also been helpful to the town if some decades ago, the Council had not given planning permission to the Purley Tesco super store, which even now bleeds a lot of trade away from Coulsdon.
You don’t do sarcasm, do you, Lewis?
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