Westfield boss says Croydon scheme could take 15 more years

‘Sustainable’ plans for redeveloping the town centre could see as many as 30,000 new flats built, according to one council figure, but a scheme that was originally due to be completed in 2017 now might only be finished more than 20 years late. By STEVEN DOWNES

Sky high: No previous Westfield proposal for the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre has proposed more than 1,000 homes. The new scheme calls for ‘thousands’

The £1.4billion project for Croydon town centre that was first announced in 2012 now may not be finished until 2038, according to one of the bosses at Westfield, the shopping mall developers.

Scott Parsons made his remarks to the Evening Standard, admitting that the planning proposals that had been promised to be completed and submitted for this autumn won’t now be ready until 2025 (at the earliest), as Inside Croydon was first to report.

The revised scheme, when it is finally unveiled, is likely to include “thousands” of flats in the town centre – with one veteran councillor suggesting as many as 30,000 new dwellings could be built in the area over the next decade.

That will be 30 times more than was ever proposed in the first couple of iterations of the Westfield plans, but would meet the new “sustainability” focus of parent company Unibail Rodamco Westfield that was announced by the Paris-based developers earlier this year, according to Croydon councillor Sean Fitzsimons.

Hard hat: Scott Parsons sports Westfield headgear that has never been seen in Croydon

Parsons, Westfield’s chief operating officer, used his interview in the Standard to talk up the post-covid business prospects of his company, at its existing large-scale malls, at Shepherds Bush and Stratford. Or, as they are described in the article, “W12 and E20”.

In doing so, Parsons underlined that Westfield is moving further away from its high street retailing model, and instead towards offering health and well-being outlets in the existing centres, as well as what he described as “competitive socialising”: Boozepark-style gimmick bars, like axe-chucking and football penalty-taking. Or chucking and chucking-up.

While W12 and E20 are back to pre-pandemic footfall levels, there are massive problems in CR0, where the Standard describes the “interminable Croydon shopping centre regeneration saga”.

It is clear that Westfield now will never deliver the kind of centre that they have in west and east London, and as they promised in 2012 to build in south London. Significantly, in his Standard interview, Parsons repeated his description of previous, now-rejected, plans for Croydon as being like a “‘death star’ mega mall”.

“We’ve talked a lot about sustainability and community and that we’re aspiring to do something much better much more suited to the needs of the future,” Parsons said.

“We’ve beefed up our development team, gone out and hired some fantastic people across the piece to do everything from asbestos surveys to structural surveys, because rather than take the bulldozer out and obliterate the town centre of Croydon and start again, we really want to make sure we do what’s right from a sustainability point of view and also from a need point of view.”

Some would suggest that Westfield don’t need any bulldozers to obliterate the town centre of Croydon”: they’ve achieved that already with a decade of inertia, inaction and development blight.

Parsons said: “There’s a lot of concrete there, so we’ve hired just a vast array of consultants to look at every square inch of our 26 acres of Croydon to see what can be repurposed and reused and made fit for the future.

“It’s a really interesting exercise, so I would say the period from now until the year-end is ‘let’s get the right brain cells on board, the right range of resource both internal and external to set up the team’.”

And Parsons confirmed to the Standard that his company won’t be delivering its latest version of plans for Croydon until 2025 – at least 18 months later than the borough’s gullible Mayor, Jason Perry, had claimed.

“I’d say 2024 becomes the engagement period…and then in early 2025 that will be new masterplan submission,” Parsons said.

Christmas presence: Westfield’s two existing London malls are reporting pre-covid levels of business

And the Standard reports: “Parsons calls it an ‘accelerated time scale’, but concedes it will be another 15 years before the good people of Croydon will see their long-awaited town centre transformation completed.”

But that’s what sits most comfortably with URW’s new sustainability mantra, which includes such measures as not turning on escalators until 10am to save energy, rainwater harvesting, a huge wormery and a switchover to LED lighting.

It is this shift in corporate awareness of the global climate disaster and big businesses’ efforts to scale down their impact on the planet that makes Labour councillor Fitzsimons suggest that plans for Westfield Croydon will see a much bigger shift away from people driving into the town centre by car.

In a series of tweets following the reporting that Westfield would not now be publishing their mastplan this year, Fitzsimons wrote, “If URW sustainability principles are applied, it means a move away from a car-led development towards one based on more sustainable transport options.”

In previous plans, Westfield put up £12million for public infrastructure to build a new loop for the trams, so that they would no longer delay motorists driving into the shopping centre car parks. It seems unlikely that such indulgences will reappear.

“Ideally,” Fitzsimons noted, there will be “a rethink of Wellesley Road, a long-term blight on Croydon’s town centre.

“It will also accelerate the repopulation of Croydon town centre, where no one lived for decades following the 1950s redevelopment, and which has seen massive growth these last 15 years…

“We may see 30,000-plus residents within the next decade.

‘Terrible legacy’: Labour’s Sean Fitzsimons only now says that the Westfield deal was a disaster

“Remodelling of the Whitgift Centre is likely to deliver thousands of new homes. These can’t just be delivered by build-to-rent developers. If we are to build sustainable communities in the town centre, the new homes must deliver social housing and opportunities for aspiring home-owners.”

Fitzsimons is a long-standing councillor for Addiscombe, and for several years was on the payroll of discredited council leader Tony Newman, effectively paid to look the other way as disasters such as Brick by Brick, children’s services and the Whitgift Centre non-development unfolded.

But he also has a background of working in housing, so while he will not have been taken into the confidence of Mayor Perry and the Town Hall Tories over the proposals for the area, it seems that the developers have not exactly been sharing all their intentions with the Conservative administration, either.

“The failure of the 2012 Croydon Partnership between Australian Westfield and Hammerson, birthed by the Whitgift Foundation and Boris Johnson, leaves a terrible legacy,” Fitzsimons wrote this week, remarks that he never made between 2014 and 2020 when he was among the Newman Numpties who acted as cheerleaders for the scheme.

“With Hammerson gone, URW has a greater financial incentive to tackle the decline of Croydon’s retail centres.

“Piecemeal development is likely to deliver quicker change, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a retail-first approach. The financial hole could be filled by new homes,” Fitzsimons said.

Jason Perry’s term as Mayor of Croydon ends in May 2026

Read more: Hammer blow for Whitgift Centre with new delay to masterplan
Read more: What will the ‘new’ Westfield deal really mean for Croydon?
Read more: Perry blasted after trying to take credit for Westfield’s new deal

  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at inside.croydon@btinternet.com
  • Our comments section on every report provides all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content
  • ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in "Hammersfield", Allders, Business, Centrale, Sean Fitzsimons, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Whitgift Centre and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Westfield boss says Croydon scheme could take 15 more years

  1. Ian Bridge says:

    Surely it will reach saturation point for people wishing to live in flats, people will want houses with gardens etc, in the next 10 years
    Least the developers know that planning permission will be granted in 24 hours, given all the promises by the council.

    • Chris Flynn says:

      I think the reality is that houses with gardens are unavailable/unaffordable. Years ago there was a choice of a cheaper flat, or a nicer house; but now it’s Hobson’s choice of an expensive flat.
      As a layman, I’m always slightly amused that this is caused by the private sector free market, but one of the main defenders against this are right-leaning RAs and MPs – thank god for the (public-sector-employed) Tory MPs protecting us from the free market!

  2. Derek Nicholls says:

    So let’s have some of the shops renovated and re-let for, say, 10 years in order to give residents in the suburbs a reason to travel into Croydon town centre.

  3. derek thrower says:

    So the plan is now to build a town with a population of 30,000 in a small area of central Croydon. This will require huge supporting public sector investment to provide supporting services at some time in the long term future, three decades after a completely different scheme was envisaged. Doesn’t this indicate there is little certainty that the latest proposal will see the light of day as much as the previous ones. The developers are still delaying and hedging their proposals hoping things look different down the road than they do now. The way the economy is heading things may be even worse than they are now and so there still will not be the opportunity to make the return they require.
    Isn’t it time to bite the bullet. A mega scheme of whatever configuration is not a realistic possibility and only further delays will be the outcome of allowing the likes of Perry and Fitzsimmons to try to complete the fiasco they were involved in starting.
    If any form of redevelopment is to take place in a timescale within a decade rather than waiting for more decades now requires Westfield to be abandoned as a solitary mega site developer. The blight of Central Croydon cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely.

    • “A mega scheme of whatever configuration is not a realistic possibility and only further delays will be the outcome of allowing the likes of Perry and Fitzsimmons to try to complete the fiasco they were involved in starting”
      100% right. Bravo!!!

  4. For decades, Croydon council’s politicians and planners repeatedly attacked and have now almost destroyed the town centre retail sector. They’ve done this by encouraging and allowing massive shopping developments to be built along the Purley Way, from Lombard Roundabout to the playing fields.

    These places have huge free car parks which means local people drive and clog the A23 rather than pay to park and visit the few outlets that North End now has left. Wellesley Road’s outdated 1960s multi-lane highway is like a huge scar on the landscape and is a waste of space.

    With the loss of the George Street Waitrose and Whitgift Centre Sainsbury’s and the doubts about Marks & Spencer, we could end up with the occupants of these new flats having to do their weekly big supermarket shop a mile away from their town centre homes.

    Planning regulations means there will be very few places to park cars, if they choose to own one. If they try walking, cycling or taking a bus or tram to these edge-of-town places, they’ll find the developers and council have little regard for their safety, priority, accessibility or convenience.

    A radical rethink is required. It definitely won’t be coming from Mayor Perry’s office

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Many of the point are on the mark
      But you might want to consider that the re-think has been done already.

      Croydon’s reality is the present and the future of the town centre are exclusionary. Not suitable for disabled, eldery or anyone that is unable to confirm to the minimalist, digitised slimmed down service model they keep plugging. Neither Labour or Conservatives have shown any will to alter that and both are culpable in furthering this against residents wishes.

      Perhaps tey want 30,000 that do their shops online – Amazon fresh on site Uber Getir, Just eat and Deliverloo growth. Electric Motorcycles and bikes on pavements without regulation or enforcement as is the case today.

      Cycle lanes over pavements and the narrowing of main roads causing blockages and huge tailbacks. Who really thinks that design was an error? Who thinks it was intentional?

      The answer is the Council is fully aware of what it di and has no plans to alter that methodology let alone apologise for the misery it has caused.
      The agenda has been ofr years to reduce car usage and eliminate them and the quicker the better. Both parties are pushing that and so are the Greens and to some extent the Lib Dems. So the reduction in cars around the Centre will be a given no mater who is in charge until the electorate all vote not to by electing outside the party system.

      What makes you think those huge car parks wil remain free?
      They are lfree ike plastic carrier bags for life – that means shelf life at best. It always was the case and was just a fob to con the electorate into doing what as required to get rid of an environmental hazard.

      Many of those ”free”parks have for years fined people for very spurious infringements and a number of legally parked vehicles as well.

      Rules of 90 minutes does not mean at that site only but all sites that company operates as many drivers found when visiting thesite of the Range, Matalan and then went to Bensons for beds. Same site – read the small print.
      Disabled badges be dammed you are still going to be ticketed, no grace periods even when taken ill on site they care not and will still ticket the car.

      So is thisSocial engineering at its most deceitful? Yes perhaps. Will it continue – yes! They have repeatedly claimed this is neccessary to enact change that is required.

      They repeatedly fail to say required for whom and repeatedly fail to publish the Risk assessments for these plans beofre or after.
      From the Phillips building to West Croydon speculative landlords has cashed in on the public tit and Croydon North has a damn sight more than 30,000 crowded into its ward at Broad Green and West Thornton.

      A fundamentally well integrated and friendly very mixed community has been destroyed by this Council actions and both parties are heavily culpable for the root causes that have created a huge increase in anti social behaviours, crime, violance and murder and the destruction of integrated society.

      When you create an environment without civil thought for preventing conflicts, remove any kind of civil enforcement then pour in all your problems from other areas do not be surprised at the outcome and do not ever say that it is a police matter.
      No Police force in the world can work with a body so out of touch and incompetent in Town design and integrated public realms and environments that Croydon has made.

      I challange Labour, Conservative and Croydon Council to answer for what they have done and consider how their combined activities have created what those areas have become.

    • Anthony Miller says:

      You can get to Purley Way and Valley Park on the tram. Tram stops right next to Sainsbury’s… It’s not just the parking in the Whitgift Centre being expensive rather than free either. It’s appalling and unpleasant. No one cleans the stairwells , the lifts up the Allders end never work and they even switch off lights to save money . Contrastingly Q Park near Surrey street shows car parks don’t have to be insecure and dingy as NCP and yet can still be profitable and even have staff instead of being DIY ANPR torture. Wasn’t it Labour who sold off the Whitgift carparks? … Can’t remember now … anyway…

      As to what someone said about “re-proposing” the units in the Whitgift Centre – there’s very little actually wrong with them it’s just that you’d have to have the business acumen of Freddie Laker to open a shop in a location that’s always saying it’s going to be demolished wholesale. To promote anything you need at least a modicum medium term stability and there’s less than none… Instead of a sensible phased development…. The Council and the Whitgift Foundation threw all the retailers there under the bus with a plan to flatten the place and rebuild it in record time …and the businesses ran away… because the plan always obviously was to empty the site of retailers for housing which is another reason for the endless replanning as the number of flats multiplies with each iteration. They also emptied all the offices too which was absolutely cracked. There are still a few brave enough to invest in a shop there like Superdry but for how long?

      Westfield talk a good game, spend thousands drawing and promoting non-existent buildings but when it’s time to write a cheque the cupboard is always bare. Haven’t the Whitgift Foundation twigged yet this a …? Now the Foundation has virtually no rental income and it’s schools are going to the wall and they’re still buying the same old guff from Westfield. What’s wrong with them? Are they tied in with golden handcuffs? Are they paying for these endless useless replans? Someone must be. I’ll believe it when they build it.

      • If you try walking, cycling or taking a bus or tram to these edge-of-town places, rather than relying on your experience as a motorist, you’ll have a better understanding than you do now

        • Anthony Miller says:

          You can get to Valley Park and along parts of the Purley Way by tram and bus and there is much better pedestrian access than there used to be. I don’t think you can blame the Council for the fact it all became retail. Most of it was always industrial land and therefore as there’s no change in usage in making it retail so the planning authority has little grounds to object to whatever businesses want to do up there. It used to be rumoured that a reason for this was that a lot of the land had been contaminated by the old factories, gas works and the power station and was thus judged not suitable for housing. However I’m not sure how much truth there is in that…

  5. Tim Lewis says:

    Just an appalling continuation of this company effectively holding Croydon to ransom. Of course this goes back to the exclusive arrangements the Whitgift Foundation for some reason allowed the Westfield Group to have 12 years ago. Royal London Asset Management, which part owned the Whitgift Centre leasehold back then advised that they were aware of several other major shopping centre developers capable of delivering an excellent scheme in Croydon.

    If only they were listened to.

  6. Jenny says:

    As a Croydon resident, I am struggling to see how the new plan replaces the lively shopping centre we once had. I also struggle to envision what 30,000 flats in Croydon town centre would look like. How will these new residents be supported? There’s now a lack of green space in central Croydon. What with the queens garden and Fairfield being developed on.

    • John Kohl says:

      Couldn’t agree more with this. The plan won’t revamp the retail offering. Whomever owns the freehold of the land is interested only in obtaining and maintaining an income from the land.

      Croydon Council will waive this through because its the lazy, unimaginative and easy thing to do. No foresight; ignorant of the foreseeable unintended consequences.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Take a walk down London Road from the Hospital to Lidl and you will get a real eye opener into what 30,000 additional people does to a small area.
      Even today there were more Police outside the New builds (and LAS) than the rest of the premises.

      This is the result of Croydon Councils planning decisions and with knowledge beforehand of the impacts mostlikely to happen.

  7. Bex says:

    Whatever it is and will be that is replacing the tried and tested retail first approach to the local Town Centre redevelopment.
    It doesn’t sound Exciting……just filling up the space….with whatever.

    Not impressed…

    Too far into the future really to become a concrete reality.

  8. Ian Kierans says:

    Westfield talk a good game, spend thousands drawing and promoting non-existent buildings but when it’s time to write a cheque the cupboard is always bare.
    Sounds like a business method that has been used time and again to inveigle the greedy the gullible and the just plain desperate gamblers into taking on risk and subsidising a build solely for the private sectors business benefit only to find that the goalposts change and busines has changed hands. Oops

    The Whitgift got royally rogered – as did many others including the Borough by default.

    The use of a Public Compulsory Purchase should never be used in advance nor until enough money has been put in to enable the project to at least be 60% built.

    But the desperate the greedy and the gullible always get burned. Looks like Croydon Council and its elected politicians suffer from at least two of those malaises

Leave a Reply