This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 17/11/2017.
Croydon Council Planning Committee approves Westfield in unanimous vote
The Croydon Council Planning Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday night to approve a Westfield shopping centre and surrounding buildings for development in Fairfield.
The new complex, which developers are aiming to open in 2022, will include shops, leisure facilities, and restaurants, among other new locations that supporters hope will rejuvenate Croydon’s town centre for years to come.
It is estimated to bring a total investment of over £1.4 billion pounds to the town centre, create thousands of new jobs, and 967 new housing units, 193 of which will be sold as affordable Discount Market Rent units.
Speaking in front of a packed public gallery of spectators, the committee deliberated over matters that could make the centre more consumer-friendly, such as charging points for electric cars in the parking lot, and child-friendly areas in the complex.
A few council members seemed to be concerned that there were still so many details as of yet undecided, including councillor Joy Prince.
“I do appreciate with a scheme like this you have to have very often go with outline permission… but after all this time to not even know whether you are going to have four towers or five?” Prince said.
However, there never seemed to be any doubt that the council would approve the long-awaited development. When it was approved unanimously, there seemed to be little surprise, either from the council or the public.
The only vehement opposition present at the meeting came from local resident and Citizen contributor Sean Creighton.
Creighton, who said he was also speaking on behalf of Andrew Kennedy and Mark Samuel, disputed the notion that the plan would help Croydon Town Centre.
Creighton said the main question was whether the new construction would make the town centre more attractive, voicing scepticism about the “economic viability” of the affordable housing and the nature of the jobs created.
“It’s offering very little in the way of benefits to the town centre,” Creighton said.
Creighton also said that the new construction and demolition process could take the “heart” out of the town centre, which Creighton caused could potentially cause an increase in crime.
John Burton, Head of Development for Westfield, heralded the plan, saying that among other positives, it had the potential to bring large-scale investment to in and around Croydon.
Burton also emphasized the importance that the centre would have to young people.
“The next generation is more concerned about experiences and how they share those experiences,” Burton said. “That will be an incredibly important feature in making this relevant.”
Niall McNevin, who said he has worked in regeneration for more than three decades as a town planner, said he was very pleased about the unanimous vote.
“This is a decision which is a major step forward for the whole health of the subregion and Croydon as a settlement,” McNevin said.
Reached for comment after the vote, Planning Committee Chair Paul Scott was more than happy about the unanimous vote, emphasizing the positive changes it will bring to the centre.
“This will make a huge difference, not only to the Whitgift Shopping Centre but to the whole town,” Scott said. (It will) make it a real destination place again, somewhere that will have not just shopping, but dining, leisure, and all sorts of opportunities. Plus it’s adding more homes.”
Scott urged developers to get going on the project so those benefits could be realized as soon as possible.
“We’re just now urging the developers to get on with it,” Scott said. “Let’s get going.”