Whitgift Trust, group that manages Croydon town centre's Whitgift Centre, applies for judicial review of Hammerson and Westfield's £1bn redevelopment plans
The group that manages and part-owns the Whitgift Centre has applied for a judicial review of the planned £1bn redevelopment of Croydon town centre.
The Whitgift Trust, which owns a 25 per cent stake in the shopping centre's freehold and overall management control, has filed papers with the High Court calling for a senior judge to scrutinise the council's approval of the plans.
The trust, controlled by the Anglo Irish Bank and unconnected to the Whitgift Foundation charity, objected to the consent granted to Westfield and Hammerson's proposed retail development by a planning committee in November.
The group cites several concerns about Croydon Council's approval, claiming it was deprived adequate time to review aspects of the application, developers "failed to meaningfully engage at all with the trust" on their proposals, and that errors and ommissions "seriously misled" committee members.
In a letter to the council, Ashley Damiral, of the trust's legal firm Cameron McKenna said: "The consequence is that the trust will not consent to the sale of its land and, as a result, the scheme cannot be delivered."
However, Croydon Council's lawyers dismissed the judicial review application as "entirely without merit" and both the council and the Croydon Partnership - the trading name for the retail giants' joint venture - are confident it poses no serious threat to the development.
Mike Pocock, the council's legal advisor at Pinsent Masons, said: "There was no legal error in the council's decision. Any claim for judicial review will be contested in full."
The council's cabinet will meet on Monday to consider whether there would is sufficient public interest to justify using compulsory purchase order (CPO) powers to buy land any needed should owners refuse to sell to developers.
Under the proposed order, the council could legally obtain the Whitgift Centre and surrounding land, inluding parts of Poplar Walk, Wellesley Road, George Street and North End, without the consent of landowners.
A map showing of the planned development, with land covered by proposed CPO in pink
The CPO, which could be served this month, would have to go before a public inquiry in which the council would need to demonstrate the purchases were needed for a development of significant public benefit.
Landowners would receive market value for their properties if the CPO was approved by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
In a report to cabinet, Jo Negrini, the council's executive director of development and environment, said there was "a compelling case in the public interest sufficient to justify" the CPO.
She said: "Officers consider that there is a reasonable prospect that the scheme will proceed and that there are no likely realistic alternatives to compulsory purchase to achieve the purposes of the proposed order.
"In officers' view, the considerable public benefits to be derived from implementation of the scheme outweigh the harm caused by interference with the human and other rights of those likely to be affected by compulsory purchase."
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