Tony Newman, the leader of Croydon’s Labour-controlled council, wants the new Westfield supermall in the town centre – if it is ever built – to have “considerably less” than the 3,000 car parking spaces for which his own council has granted planning permission.
Newman was speaking on BBC Radio London last week, in what was less of a car parking discussion, and more of a car crash of an interview.
His apparent support for better environmental policies, prompted by the Mayor of London’s ULEZ (or ultra-low emissions zone, which was launched earlier this month), saw Newman trap himself into answering that he wanted the proposed £1.4billion Westfield scheme in Croydon to be “a sustainable development”, with “considerably less” car parking spaces than the currently proposed 3,000.
Newman’s public utterance represents probably his first expression of opposition or reservation about the Westfield project since the Tory-backed scheme was announced in 2012. The borough’s Town Hall politicians, red and blue, together with the Westfield-friendly chief exec, Jo Negrini, have spent most of the past seven years bending over backwards to accommodate anything and everything which the developers have demanded.
Indeed, it was Newman’s close mate, and fellow Woodside ward councillor, Paul Scott, who was chair of the planning committee which in November 2017 eagerly pushed through the permission for latest iteration of Westfield’s plans to redevelop the decrepit Whitgift Centre and the neighbouring Centrale.
Those revised plans (Westfield had already been granted planning permission for their large-scale project two years earlier) include nearly 1,000 “luxury executive apartments” perched in tower blocks over the gigantic car park and alongside the six-lane urban motorway that is Wellesley Road.
Little, if anything, was said during the planning committee discussion about the damaging effects on public health and the environment of emissions from motor cars being encouraged to drive in to Croydon’s town centre, where air quality is in any case already regularly in breach of European air pollution limits.
Which is why Newman’s apparently off-the-cuff response to BBC Radio London presenter Eddie Nestor had a whiff about it, though not of carbon monoxide, but of bullshit… as if the local politician was making things up as he went along in order to duck the broadcaster’s keen questioning.
It could also just be that any Croydon Westfield will indeed have considerably fewer than 3,000 car parking spaces. It could have none if, as is increasingly widely feared, the whole thing is abandoned.
In February, Westfield and their “Croydon Partners”, Hammerson, the owners of Centrale, separately announced that they were to “review” their plans for development in Croydon, further delaying a project which was meant to be open for business in 2017.
Newman says he has a letter from the developers, who are now known as Unibail-Rodamco Westfield, which assures him of their firm intention to go ahead with the project, despite the parlous, and worsening, state of the retailing sector, in the face of the shift to online shopping, Brexit uncertainties and a less-than-thriving economy.
But Newman has so far failed to publish the letter, unredacted, and neither he nor Sarah Jones, the Labour MP for the area who has had meetings with the corporate suits, have said how long the “review” might last for, nor given any indication of the revised date for demolition work to commence.
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Tony Soprano really ought to continue writing his long-awaited manual “How to Shoot Yourself in Both Feet in One Easy Lesson”.
He really is a past master in the art and I am sure that publication would be welcomed by all aspiring self-injurers.
The logic displayed here is just so faulted it is a Meisterstück in its own right.
Cutting down on parking in Westfield, if it is ever started and finished, would produce an instant death knell. People go to supermalls for convenience. In London, the Westfields in Stratford and Shepherd’s Bush have superb public transport connections. Our threatened Westfield will not.
Yes, cutting down the number of car parking spaces will cut pollution. It will do so mainly and simply by cutting down the footfall to the point where failure of the project is inevitable.
The number of factors working agains the success of the project – doomed anyhow- is multiplying exponentially.
Newman’s faulty logic is one link in a long chain of these silly things.
Take, for instance, the mantra that if you don’t supply parking in the zillions of new flats going up people will immediately forsake their cars. That ignores the dendritic relationship between many cars and owners. People will not easily relinquish the convenience, and for some, the pride of ownership of a personal mode of transport. Instead they’ll park it wherever they can… on every single yellow line in the evenings and weekends, in the housing estates within walkable distances, wherever a loophole can be found, wherever someone can be persuaded to rent out drive space and so and so on.
The outcome is not going to be fewer cars cluttering up our idyllic mini-metropolis, but the exact opposite.
I would beg to differ on one point – Croydon does have very good public transport links both from London and, crucially, the south east. There is an argument that car use might not be as crucial going forwards as it has been in the past.
Sorry to disagree, really. True there is good transport available to and from West Croydon, the nearest station. However, from the affluent South there is only bus and connections to East Croydon Station and people are just not going to want to walk all the way from there, they really won’t.
East Croydon station (new bridge exit) is about a 3 minute walk to what will be the entrance to the Westfield.
Most people will be OK with that I would have thought…
There’s more to it than that. The “south east” isn’t just London: public transport works differently out of town.
If you live in, say, Reigate, it’s unlikely you live within ten minutes walk of the station. Chances are you’ll drive to the station and park there. Fine for commuting but if it’s a family shopping trip once you’re in the car you’ll stay in the car. It’s simply less faff. And then it’s far less faff to drive to Bluewater than crawl along the A23 for an hour.
I might be a different generation to you guys 😉 but most people I know don’t own a car and certainly travel to shopping centres (and other destinations) by public transport. You’ll be surprised how many people in their 20’s and 30’s dont drive – and would likely fit the demographic of the type of shooper that would (and already do) go to Westfield to shop, eat, drink etc.
David: there are more cars on our roads than ever before.
Outside the bubble of you and both your mates lies a whole world of reality.
David: I’ll try again. I know a lot of people *in London* who don’t own cars. And not just people in their 20s and 30s. That’s because there’s something approximating a decent public transport system. But I also know a lot of people in their 20s and 30s who don’t live in London who’ve all got cars. You don’t have much choice when the last bus from town leaves at 6pm or the nearest shop is a mile away. If Westfield wants to attract custom from Surrey and Sussex it’s got to expect most of them to travel by car.
We shall agree to disagree. Most of the people I know in my age group are young professionals living in shared houses and don’t own cars (just a few do). They live in Guildford, Epsom, Bromley and Croydon. Not what I would call “London”.
I do appreciate that this is far from representative of the population of the south east – and that typical families in Surrey and Sussex most certainly drive. The point I was trying to make, however badly, is that times are a changing and homeownership and car ownership are becoming less acheivable and necessary so perhaps going forwards.
I used to have a dinky car toy set with a ramp up to the top level, Tony can play with it if he is a good boy.
Newman has a piece of paper that says the developers are going ahead, but all the plans seem to have been made on the back of the envelope it was sent in.
….and even that envelope had been used once before!
I read with interest — and some delight — about what David Mogoh says about low levels of car ownership among the younger generations. My guess, reluctant as it is, is that some of these currently car-less people will eventually start driving, albeit — now for the good news- that by then we should be closer to an electric vehicle future with much less pollution in the streets.
I also agree with Nick and Arno about car ownership, so, I think we need to do three things– First, provide excellent public transport, to get people out of their cars.
Two- Government and manufacturers must make sure that we do get the electric vehicles we need , at affordable prices, in the 2020’s.
Third– really recognise the fact that we do need adequate car parking for Croydon and its local centres. Most of us do not want to go shopping every day. We want to go and buy a weekly shop in one hit, by car, as few people can walk or get the bus home with a whole week’s shopping
In Coulsdon, we are going from a huge former over -provision of parking in the enormous desert-like Lion Green Car park, to an under-provision, as most of the car park area is being redeveloped very soon by Brick by Brick for 5 blocks of flats. Nice-looking blocks, with good landscaping, but with a tiny allocation on site for the cars belonging to the future residents of these blocks. The adjacent allocated “preserved” public car parking will likely fill up with these residents–so where are the shoppers and businesses going to park ?
We really need to stop being politically correct about parking– and provide enough parking, sensibly priced, to encourage free 1 hour parking, low cost 2-3 hour parking and high cost all day parking, with non-punitive tariffs for businesses. This would encourage shoppers to do the shopping trip, and include a coffee in a cafe or drink in the pub.
In much of East and South Croydon, the world is very hilly. Holland is nice and flat, thus good for bikes. We are not . It’s that simple.