Westfield ups pressure over Croydon development
Westfield bosses have unveiled plans for Croydon and argue aggressive tactics are key to quickly breaking the deadlock over the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre.
A public consultation was held in the town centre between July 5 and 8, where the retailer set out its £1bn masterplan, including 1.5m sq ft of retail space, a cinema and bowling alley, about 500 homes and 5000 new jobs.
The Australian company faces competition from rival retail giants Hammerson for the right to the North End site, but despite being rejected by the majority leaseholders of the site, have ploughed forward with preparing plans, set to go before the council later this month.
John Burton, Westfield’s director of development, said: "This just increases the pressure, not just on Hammerson but on everyone, including us.
"There were two ways to do this, sit and wait around for the dispute to be settled, which could have taken years, or push on.
"Croydon doesn’t have years, it needs this development now."
The impasse between Westfield and Hammerson arose after the land owners The Whitgift Foundation agreed Westfield should be the developer.
Leaseholders Royal London Asset Management and Irish Bank Resolution Company disagreed and following a bidding process including both Hammerson and Westfield, chose the former as their development partners.
Mr Burton admitted by pushing forward with the plan his company risked losing millions.
He said: "This sort of thing, to get through planning contractors, architects just to get something before the council, you are talking about millions, but the same is true of both companies.
"Everyone knows what is at stake here which is just another reason for us to move forward.
"All the parties are acutely aware of the need to get some serious dialogue going."
As part of the public consultation, 150,000 leaflets were distributed across the area inviting a response from residents, and thousands of questionnaires were distributed.
Defending an incident at Westfield Stratford on June 29, which saw a man stabbed to death, Mr Burton said: "That was a terrible incident, but since we opened we have worked with Newham and the police and crime is down significantly in the area.
"The fact is this wasn’t a random shopper this was two gangs choosing to have their fight in our centre."
The company has promised if picked to develop Whitgift, it will work with Croydon BID, the council and the police to provide additional security.
To view Westfield’s plan visit www.westfield-croydon.co.uk