This post was first published by The Croydon Advertiser 14/11/2017.
Westfield Croydon development is unanimously given the go-ahead by councillors
After what has been a long wait, the town’s Westfield/Hammerson development has been approved by Croydon Council and according to the council leader work will begin in 2019.
Councillors, residents and Westfield’s head of development attended a Croydon Council planning committee meeting tonight (Tuesday, November 14) where a decision was made on whether the council would give the £1.4 billion scheme the green light.
After each member had the chance to share their views on the project – with a Westfield representative and a worried member of the public also having their say – councillors unanimously voted to approve it.
The development will include a new flagship Marks & Spencer (M&S) store, as well as another unknown anchor store, and an increase of 45,000 square feet of retail space over what is currently available in the Whitgift Centre, which Westfield will replace.
It is estimated that between 6,270 and 7,048 full-time-equivalent jobs will be created, while a minimum of 626 flats will be built, though that figure could rise as high as 967 in up to five tower blocks – 20 per cent of which will be available at rents below market rates.
Councillor Paul Scott, the chair of the council’s planning committee, said: “I’m not really surprised about [approval being given] to be honest. It is clear that everyone realises the importance of the scheme for Croydon.
“It will lift our town centre up from being rather tired and unloved. It will bring that mix of living, shopping and dining to Croydon.
“I just really hope it happens soon.”
This is the first of two major hurdles that the development needs to overcome to be able to go ahead.
After getting the green light from the council, because of the scale of the plan the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan will have the final say on whether permission should be granted.
It would be a huge surprise, though, if he were to turn down the application now that it has got this far.
Croydon Council leader Tony Newman, MP for Croydon Central Sarah Jones and councillors all gave their support to the project.
Mrs Jones said: “Croydon is one of the most exciting places to live in London right now – with Boxpark, the Fairfield Halls development, street art, huge musical talent and Tech City.
“The one piece of the jigsaw that we have all been working towards is for the town centre to become the vibrant heart of Croydon once again.
“I know my constituents will be delighted with today’s announcement. We have the largest young population in London and this will create thousands of job opportunities, setting our young people up for a bright future.
“Croydon has waited years for our new town centre so it’s important we now get to work as soon as possible.”
Cllr Newman said he was “delighted contractors will be on site in 2019 to kick-start the exciting transformation of the heart of our town”.
It was believed work would begin next year and it isn’t yet clear if there has been a change to that plan.
The council received 15 objections to the development and there were words of caution at the meeting.
Resident Sean Crieghton was one to share his concerns, saying the planning committee needed to decide if the scheme would bring “real and substantial” benefits to the town.
He added: “The demolition and construction process will take the heart out of the town centre and it could reduce its economic viability.”
He is also worried “levels of crime could increase”.
Councillor Joy Prince said the council would have to keep a “close eye” on the development and “insist on quality”.
It is not yet known what the development will be called.
Councillor Jamie Audsley asked if it would follow in the footsteps of Westfield Stratford and Westfield Shepherd’s Bush by being called Westfield Croydon but council officers said the name is yet to be decided.