JEREMY CLACKSON, transport correspondent, on the vanishing millions which Westfield were supposed to provide for improving local infrastructure
Westfield and Hammerson have pulled a promised £15million investment in Croydon town centre.
The money was to have gone towards the cost of the “Dingwall Loop”, some extra track near East Croydon on which trams could be diverted to make it easier for cars to enter the car parks of the long-promised supermall.
With Transport for London budgets being squeezed, it seems likely that without the cash from Hammersfield, the £28million Dingwall Loop will now be scrapped altogether.
An internal TfL memo, seen by Inside Croydon, conveyed the news of the demise of the widely disliked tram scheme.
“The application for a new Westfield shopping centre has been approved by the London Borough of Croydon and the Mayor of London, however, it now provides no direct funding for the Dingwall Road loop,” the memo stated.
“With recent changes to its funding streams, the project is now due to be fully funded by public sector sources. In light of this, we are currently reviewing the preferred option to ensure affordability.”
Or, as a City Hall source said, “In other words, they’re ditching it.”
Developers requiring planning permission are usually encouraged to make payments into civic projects, whether for the public realm, or through providing a proportion of affordable housing, or in chipping in to other infrastructure, such as improved public transport.
The Dingwall Loop was an inelegant, and somewhat dubious, solution to the shopping centre’s perceived inconvenience of road traffic having to give way to trams as they cross the Wellesley Road.
The £1.4billion Hammersfield redevelopment of the Whitgift and Centrale shopping centres was first announced in 2012, and was originally due for completion in 2017. Since being granted planning permission for a second time, Westfield and Hammerson have been given a £10million subsidy from the Tory government, and the Mayor of London has waived his requirement for 35 per cent affordable housing in all schemes, instead permitting the developers to include just 200 affordable flats among their 967 new homes.
Now, Hammerson and Westfield have been let off the hook for a £15million infrastructure payment, too.
On Tuesday at Croydon Town Hall, the scrutiny committee staged a special session on the tram network, where a planning officer described that situation as, “They drove a hard bargain”.
TfL now say they are looking at “cheaper options”, though practical options, such as longer trams, do not appear to be up for consideration.
As one transport expert who attended the scrutiny session said, “TfL simply have not properly checked out the costings on anything, as nothing has been seriously approved.”
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