Thousands of jobs and millions of pounds are to be injected into Croydon’s economy after a £1.4billion shopping centre got the go-ahead.
The town centre will be transformed after the Croydon Partnership, a joint venture between Westfield and Hammerson, secured unanimous approval from the council’s planning committee for its ambitious plans.
It will provide south London with a retail destination to match those elsewhere in the capital – adding to the existing Westfields at Stratford and West City and Hammerson’s Brent Cross in north London. Hammerson is also behind the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham.
Work on the 1.5m sq ft development is now scheduled to start in 2019.
Planning permission was initially secured in 2014 but an enhanced application was submitted last year to allow for more retail and restaurants, a new flagship Marks & Spencer store and hundreds more homes. The developers intend to secure further anchor tenants and complete the land assembly process over the next 12 months.
Features of the newly-approved plans include:
- A third storey of retail and restaurants with 45,000 sq ft of extra retail space compared to the existing Whitgift Centre
- Space for around 110 shops and restaurants plus a multiscreen cinema and a bowling alley
- Either a 250-bedroom hotel or accommodation for around 500 students
- A minimum of 626 new flats, with the possibility of 967 across five towers – with 20 per cent priced below market rates – overlooking Wellesley Road
- A 24-hour pedestrian route through the centre, called the Galleria, linking East Croydon with North End
- The incorporation of the Green Park House office site, which was acquired by the Croydon Partnership in February 2016; allows for better integration with West Croydon
- Improved public realm on Poplar Walk
- 3,140 car parking spaces are planned plus an initial 300 spaces for cyclists.
Due to the size of the scheme it now awaits final approval from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan but the intention is for the existing centre to trade over the 2018 Christmas period before a year-long demolition programme can begin.
John Burton, Westfield’s head of development, said: “The approval of the plans to redevelop the Whitgift Centre represents a significant milestone for the project and for Croydon.
“Retail-regeneration projects have a proven track record to deliver transformation and regeneration which is evidenced by the £5.25bn of inward investment planned for Croydon.
“The positive response from the London Borough of Croydon provides confidence to retailers, investors and the community, enabling the Croydon Partnership to create South London’s best retail, dining and leisure destination and deliver new homes and 7,000 jobs.”
Peter Cole, chief investment officer of Hammerson, said: “Our goal remains to deliver a world-class retail and leisure destination to attract new visitors to Croydon and enhance economic growth in the town.
“We are pleased with the level of retail demand which has driven the evolution of the design and layout of the new scheme, and we look forward to progressing our plans and transforming Croydon into one of the UK’s top 10 retail and leisure destinations.”
The first two residential towers will be constructed at the same time as the retail scheme with the others being delivered at a later date. Following detailed discussions with the council and GLA the proportion of affordable housing will be a minimum of 20 per cent.
The development will also contribute over £30m to the provision of local infrastructure via the Community Infrastructure levy, together with around £7.5m for scheme specific measures including £2.5m to support employment and training initiatives to assist with providing jobs for local people.
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of Croydon Council, said: “This is fantastic news for Croydon and we have been doing everything we can to bring the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre to fruition so local people can benefit from its wealth of offerings, including the creation of 7,000 new jobs.
“The new homes and the thousands of jobs this development will bring shows investors are rightly confident about Croydon as a place to live, work and spend free time. I am delighted contractors will be on site in 2019 to kick-start the exciting transformation of the heart of our town.
“I am pleased we have reached this major milestone in the delivery of a world class retail and leisure facility and it’s another step to reinforcing Croydon’s growing reputation as one of London’s top destinations.”
Mr Newman also expressed thanks to the Greater London Authority and the Minister of London Greg Hands for supporting the project.
Mr Hands said: “I am delighted that after convening two meetings of all concerned parties, here at the Department for International Trade, we will now see construction taking place.
“This major redevelopment of the Whitgift site will bring huge benefits to Croydon and London with thousands of new homes and jobs.
“This is a great example of local and central government working together with private investors and it shows once again London’s enduring appeal for international investment. As Minister for London I’m delighted to be supporting the project, and seeing it secure planning approval.”
The decision was welcomed by Matthew Sims, chief executive of Croydon Business Improvement District, which represents businesses throughout the town centre.
“There is no question that this is a welcome decision by the planning committee that offers the opportunity for Croydon to develop a centre for the future with a vastly improved offer for those that work, live and visit our borough,” he said.
“We will, as a town centre and borough, experience a challenging time as the scheme takes shape but the increased investment, growth in employment opportunities and greater economic benefits will make a real difference to Croydon as a destination of choice.”
Richard Plant, chairman of the Develop Croydon Forum, hailed the announcement as the most import planning consent for a generation.
“Since Develop Croydon was formed in 2010 we have been committed to promoting a collaborative approach for the greater good of the town and there can be no greater example of that than two rival retail giants, Westfield and Hammerson, reaching this stage with the support of Croydon Council, the GLA and central government,” he said.
“The creation of a world-class shopping centre will really help to put the town on the map and help to guarantee the success of the £5.25billion regeneration scheme which will transform Croydon for generations to come.
“This is more groundbreaking even than the opening of the original Whitgift Centre in the late 1960s which provided a blueprint for shopping malls around the country.”