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Conference 2017: Westfield chief counts down to start of construction

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The hurdles which need to be jumped before work can start on developing the capital’s third Westfield were outlined at the end of the Develop Croydon Conference.

The Croydon Partnership, a joint venture between Westfield and Hammerson, has just received planning consent for its £1.4billion retail-led scheme which will transform the existing town centre.

Demolition work will not begin until 2019 and Steve Yewman, director of development for Westfield, admitted he had often been asked whether the scheme remained on track.

“The key thing for us now is during 2018 we’ve got to draw down the last pieces of land,” he said.

“We own the majority of the site, and there’s a procedure that takes us all the way to September next year. But during that we’ve got to do site surveys, we’ve got to do asbestos stripping, but what we’ve got to do is to keep the town functioning all the way through that process.

“A key thing is how do we keep the town running when we literally demolish the Whitgift Centre.

“We’ve talked to all of the major retailers and we want to relocate all of those that want to move into Centrale, including M&S, and that’s a key thing because we are dealing with people, we are dealing with jobs and we’re dealing with a town centre that is an economic powerhouse.

“We’re into reality now and the earliest we can start on site is 2019. If you talk to my technical team that’s really quick.”

Mr Yewman said the Partnership was looking for quick decisions as it goes through the detailed design process with the council which will include its plans going before the borough’s design review panel, joking that “the boxset’s coming out” of the marathon planning meeting that ended with a unanimous verdict in favour of the scheme.

“I can vouch for pre-planning,” he said. “Paul Scott (the planning committee chairman) is very consistent on the messaging – you must have this, you must do that and I think it’s a very good discipline to go through.

“It does take some time but I think the end result is good. We got a unanimous vote – I wasn’t expecting a unanimous vote – and a lot of real positivity for the development last week.”