MP Gavin Barwell believes resolving the impasse over development of the Whitgift Centre is the key to sparking regeneration in the borough.

Australian developers Westfield and the owners of Centrale Hammerson are embroiled in a dispute over who has the right to redevelop the North End shopping centre.

Speaking at a public meeting on Thursday July 12 called to discuss the town’s future, Mr Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, said the project would inspire confidence in potential investors to begin work.

He said: “The good news is we have probably the two most prestigious retail companies in the country wanting to be a part of Croydon. The single most important thing is to transform the retail core of Croydon. What we need to do is get people who used to shop here back, and to do that we need big brands like John Lewis, Apple and Gap to be involved.”

During his presentation Mr Barwell pointed to a downturn in trade in Croydon which has seen the annual amount of money spent in the town centre drop from £909m per year in 2005 to £770m in 2010.

This has seen Croydon drop out of being one of the country’s top ten retail destinations, though it remains in the top 25.

The Conservative MP, elected in 2010, listed the economic decline of the town, dated office stock, depreciation of land value on long term projects, car parking issues, and the closure of cultural attractions of the David Lean and Warehouse theatre as major problems in the town.

Asked for his opinion on the merits of either of the schemes, Mr Barwell declined to pick a favourite.

He said: “They are both good schemes. If I were to express personal opinion it would be Westfield brand would give an immediate impact while Hammerson’s is a more permeable scheme for the long term. If either comes it will be good for the town.”

Westfield will take an updated proposal following an initial consultation in May to Croydon Council on Thursday July 19 as part of the Strategic Planning Committee.