This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 16/11/2017.
Here’s what stores in the Whitgift Centre think about Westfield coming to Croydon
Following the “momentous” decision to give Croydon’s Westfield shopping centre the go-ahead this week, staff working at businesses in the Whitgift Centre have given their verdict on the news.
Work on demolishing the Whitgift Centre – so the bigger Westfield super-mall can be built in its place – won’t start until 2019.
Many stores in the existing centre will be moved elsewhere in Croydon, such as into Centrale when construction work begins.
And the complexities of doing this has been blamed as the reason for work not being able to begin until 2019. This is despite previous pledges that it would begin in 2018.
It has also been suggested that many traders wanted to be able to spend this Christmas and next where they are before having to move.
Westfield development director Steve Yewman explained: “This is a very, very complex scheme.
“One of the key things that we want to make sure happens is that Croydon continues to trade throughout the whole development.”
Mr Yewman added that the process of moving all the stores must be slow in order for them all to still trade successfully.
So how do staff in the stores in the Whitgift Centre feel about the future?
Jason Smith, store manager at Zucchi Shoes, claims many traders are feeling uncertain at the moment.
He said: “It’s been a very, very long drawn out process. No one really knows what’s going on, what it [the development] is going to look like or what shops are going to be there.”
He added: “We were told [previously] this Christmas would be the last one and we would be out by March next year possibly.”
Mr Smith added that he thought none of the current stores should be in the Whitgift Centre now, and he is expecting further delays.
Wafula Frost, the manager of hair salon Trade Secret, said she had “mixed” feelings about the Westfield development.
She said: “In one way I am happy about it [having two Christmases at Whitgift] but on the other hand I am not because the centre is quiet at the moment.
“We want it to be busy, so it’s mixed feelings.”
She added: “I’ve worked a long time in the company so I hope we do have a space [in the Westfield development] but I just want to make sure that we have a great Christmas.”
The manager of picture frame shop Image Framing, who did not want to be named, agreed that the Whitgift Centre is generally quiet at the moment
She said: “The public just aren’t coming into the centre, I think people don’t think they can come here and make a day of it.”
She added that it felt as though some of the shops are in “limbo” as they aren’t sure if there are more delays to come.
“I don’t mind having another Christmas,” she said. “We have a service that people come for, so we should be alright.”
The manager of aquatics shop Aquazoo, Jamie Berrinder, inherited the store from his father and because of the nature of the shop he doesn’t envisage the business moving anywhere else in Croydon.
He said: “I was aware that I would not be here and I would not be relocating because of the nature of our store.
“I acknowledged a long time ago that this would be my last store.”
While demolition and construction work won’t start until 2019, Mr Yewman says we will see people in “yellow jackets” surveying the site over the next year.
Confirmation of when stores will be moving, and which new ones will be arriving, has not been announced as of yet – although it is expected some new stores will be named early next year.
After the planning committee’s approval, it is now down to the council to prepare and refer the development application for the Mayor of London.
Once that is done, the mayor will have 14 days to make a decision on whether to approve it.
Given the meetings that have already taking place, and the work that has been done to get to this stage, it would come as a huge surprise if Sadiq Khan didn’t give it the go-ahead.