Millionaire pulls plug on Mayor Perry’s ‘big idea’ for Allders

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The businessman behind Secret Cinema folded five companies in August, as ambitious plans for the ‘turning point for the future of entertainment’ in Croydon’s dilapidated town centre are abandoned. By STEVEN DOWNES

Jason Perry put on his best suit and stepped up on to the stage of the latest Develop Croydon conference this morning to waffle on about how he will “restore pride in our town centre”.

Piss poor: Mayor Perry’s little pep talk for property speculators and estate agents was distanced from reality

“The time is now and the place is Croydon,” said part-time Perry, Croydon’s Mayor.

“Let’s make it happen!”

As far as saying quite what he will “make happen”, Perry wasn’t so forthcoming.

His last “Big Idea”, of a big-ticket immersive experience, staged inside the empty Allders department store, never happened. Due to have begun in autumn 2022, the company behind the scheme that Perry brought to Croydon went into liquidation three months ago, not a single ticket for a single show ever being sold.

This morning, piss-poor Perry was delivering his tired old script to a decent-sized audience made up mostly of estate agents and property speculators, gathered together in a large empty space within the mostly empty Centrale shopping centre.

Perry might have an issue with his timescales.

As far as Westfield are concerned, the time is most definitely not now. The developers who have kept Croydon waiting for a decade on a promised £1.4billion redevelopment of Centrale and Whitgift shopping centre have said it could be 2038 before “the time is now”.

Even the masterplan that Perry said Westfield would be presenting this autumn now is unlikely to make any kind of public appearance until 2025.

Lost: Fabien Riggall

Just across the other side of the North End pedestrian zone from Centrale is, of course, the run-down Whitgift Centre.

Alongside it is the old Allders building, which has been left to rot for almost five years, ever since the then Labour council sent in the heavies at the behest of Westfield to evict the various smaller businesses that had been legitimately operating in the former department store.

Back in the summer of 2022, just a couple of months after Perry had been unexpectedly thrust into the role of Mayor of Croydon, he was full of enthusiasm for a venture devised by millionaire Fabien Riggall, the businessman behind the successful Secret Cinema entertainment concept.

Working together with Westfield and their erstwhile partners Hammerson, former film producer Riggall was applying for an initial 12-month licence to operate across two floors of Allders as a venue for dance, music, theatre and cinema.

“A new format of entertainment” Riggall called it then, “a turning point for the future of entertainment”.

It would be “a new cultural movement looking to regenerate former retail districts into art and entertainment spaces”.

Perry said then that he “can’t wait for residents and visitors to discover what’s in store for them at the Allders building”.

Perry said, “The arrival of this project will be the start of the change we want to make and an important boost for the local area, as a strong vote of confidence in the culture, communities, and connectivity that we know our borough has in abundance.”

Since when, nothing, nada, zilch.

Perhaps it was an omen: Riggall’s Croydon project was called Lost.

Empty: Croydon Mayor Jason Perry’s promise of ‘exciting’ meanwhile use for the Allders building has come to nothing

Not such a vote of confidence in the area, then. None of that “important boost” Perry promised.

Some local businesses have contacted Inside Croydon to say that they have been left out-of-pocket to the tune of thousands of pounds for work they were commissioned to carry out on the Riggall project. There is no prospect of them recovering the money or being paid for their work.

According to Companies House records, Aerodrome Entertainment Ltd, which had been registered in March 2022 (sole director: Fabien Riggall) went into voluntary liquidation in August 2023, as did Aerodrome Properties Ltd, Aerodrome Croydon Ltd and Aerodrome Ltd (this company had existed since 2019), while Aerodrome City Ltd was dissolved. Riggall held directorships in all of the companies.

Lost Ltd, another company of which Riggall is sole director, continues to exist, though only in dormant mode.

In September 2022, according to Variety magazine, TodayTix acquired Secret Cinema in a deal worth more than $100million.

Mayor Perry, meanwhile, does not appear to have learned much from his own Lost experience.

This week, in another press release from the council’s propaganda bunker, Perry is supposed to have said, “While we want the town to be a vibrant shopping destination and workplace for the many businesses here, Croydon’s offer needs to be more than just shopping and offices, it also needs restaurants, cultural and entertainment venues, education and housing, to offer a unique experience for locals and to draw visitors in.”

Which is the same tired old message we have heard for more than a decade, from Perry when he was the Tory cabinet member for development when Westfield were first invited into the borough, from Jo Negrini – who Perry helped to recruit and hire as a council director – and from Tony Newman, the Labour council leader who ran the borough’s finances into the ground.

It is the same kind of message that the charlatans at Develop Croydon and their cheerleaders at Grey Label have also been peddling all that time, too. This year, they have at least partially admitted that development in Croydon has come to a grinding halt. They have called their money-spinning conference “Restart Croydon”.

Perry, meanwhile, continues with his waffle.

“I am committed to working with businesses and residents to develop a new, sustainable plan to regenerate the town centre, attract investment and restore confidence in Croydon,” he said, without once specifying how he might achieve any of that.

Read more: Founder of Secret Cinema makes bid to move in to Allders
Read more: Westfield boss says Croydon scheme could take 15 more years
Read more: Old Palace closure brought on by shaky Foundation finances
Read more: How ‘Lost’ soon became an apt metaphor for Perry’s mayoralty

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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
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15 Responses to Millionaire pulls plug on Mayor Perry’s ‘big idea’ for Allders

  1. Turns out that F. Riggall did frig all. I bet the people his company owes money to are less than pleased

  2. David Wickens says:

    Has Perry been researching old Inside Croydon articles? Back in Nov 2014 Tony Newman is quoted as saying “our time is now”. I suppose that if this mantra is repeated often enough it may correspond with something happening.

  3. Jack Griffin says:

    Looking at Develop Croydon/ Grey Label’s output on LinkedIn, it is hard not to conclude that they inhabit some sort of parellel universe – where Croydon is a cross between the Truman Show and the bright, modern, cheerful town where Mary, Mungo and Midge used to live.

    If they ever took a stroll from ECR to, say, the Royal Standard, they’d realise it’s a bit more apocalyptic than that: and nothing they’re saying – or doing (if anything at all) – is changing it one bit.

  4. Liam Johnson says:

    Can anybody with knowledge in this area explain how it can be Westfield’s best option to sit and let the site rot for another 15 years before doing anything? I can’t wrap my head around how this can be a positive course of action for them?

    • Laurence Fisher says:

      Look at Shepherd’s Bush. Westfield waited until the last second before building there, and look what a shithole that was when they started laying the first brick. With Croydon being a bigger, nastier and grimmer shithole, I don’t think we will have to wait much longer.

      • Angus Hewlett says:

        Shepherd’s Bush in the 80s was every bit as grim as Croydon is now. It had already turned the corner long before Westfield opened.

        Don’t get me wrong, Westfield was a massive boost to the area (although not for everywhere else along the Uxbridge Road / Central Line corridor from Ealing Broadway to Oxford Circus – arguably it’s what finally shoved Oxford Street over the precipice from gentle decline to the hollowed-out shell it is now). But gentrification had been picking up there since 2000 ish – Notting Hill, the film, caught the turning point almost uncannily well.

        Rye Lane is this decade’s equivalent I guess, but it doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to see Croydon as a backdrop for something similar. Just needs someone to figure out how to get a bit of night-life going without causing the kinds of issues that led to what was there before being shut down. If you’ve got 20somethings in the area with a few quid to spend (and the more they finish the new flats, the more we will) the restaurants and bars will follow.

    • John Kohl says:

      Usually these things are all about tax.

      Corporation tax in most mature economies allows companies to deduct “allowable” losses, which mean less tax is paid in whichever jurisdiction the company has to pay tax.

      Usually the allowances companies can deduct are generous; far more generous than allowances individuals receive.

      Perhaps Westfield is able to deduct any losses it is incurring from not developing the site which reduces its overall tax bill.

      • Its a classic Catch 22 situation. The clever thing for Westfield to do is to leave all its sites fallow. Ultimately that will reduce their tax bill to zero. They won’t make any profits during this process. That’s the catch. Then, when the economy is more robust, they can sell sites selectively. There’ll be tax to pay on that but that is why firms have accountants.

  5. Kevin Croucher says:

    Does he sell bus shelters as well?

  6. Ian Kierans says:

    No one lets a site rot for 15 years. That is a statement with respects to a negotiating position.

    They want to spread the risk to themselves and want the Borough to invest and remove costly conditions and make any compulsive purchasing easy and less costly so the bottom line is not impacted. It also puts pressure on the Local government minister to make it easier to give a funding solution to enable the town centre to grow.

    Frankly I expect them to stall for a while but if there is no movement to invest by the public purse then they will sell up to another or use parts to just have it tick over until there is profit in developing the site. Not much use to us though

    • There have been many factors which have diminished Westfield’s interest in Croydon: the continuing decline for retail (predictable); covid (not predictable).
      But when they were told that the Mayor of London insisted on 30% affordable housing in their second application, Westfield went right off the idea.

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