This post was first published by My London on 25/02/2020.
Traders in Croydon town centre say they are in ‘limbo’ now that Westfield has been delayed again.
The redevelopment of the town centre has been on the cards for years but the company behind the plans is reviewing the scheme to include less retail and more offices and restaurants.
It is meant to see the demolition of the Whitgift Centre and now many traders there say they are struggling to make a living with declining footfall.
Steven Boros said that retail is changing, with the younger generation choosing to shop online.
His luggage shop is one of the original retailers in the Whitgift but he says that it has been slowly declining over the past few years.
“I think [the development’] will happen but it won’t be the original scheme, retail is finished now,” said Steven.
“We thought we were going to go last year and then again this year, we are in limbo now.
“Further delays are going to happen but we can’t carry on much longer, nobody is coming to Croydon it is a disaster.
“They had good intentions but in eight years the whole demographic of shopping and retail has changed.
“The best they can do is shut the centre down and put everyone out of their misery and pay compensation to people who have been here for a long time.”
Rama Thasan has run Paris Climate in the Whitgift Centre for the past 10 years.
He said: “The council isn’t interested, if they reduced the business rates a lot of shops would have stayed here. We will leave when they want us to leave but I don’t think Westfield will come.”
And this is reflected at Camden Coffee which has been there for 11 years. Manager Jay Popap said she wouldn’t come shopping in the Whitgift herself.
“My business is dead, this year even at Christmas the centre was completely quiet,” she said. “As a customer I wouldn’t come here, there is nothing you can buy in one place.
“They need action. They need to say if it will happen or not.”
As more and more shops close it only reduces customers in the shopping centre even more.
Del Delicata of Image Framing is losing hope with the scheme and says there is very little footfall these days on the second floor of the Whitgift.
He said: “Personally I think it is disgusting, why are they letting this drag on?
“Business was phenomenal, they killed it by starting all the rumours about Westfield.” Del said after being in the Whitgift for 19 years he has regular customers, but now many call in advance to check that they are still open.
He added: “I think they need to stop messing about and just do something, even if they knock it down. Nobody is making money here, people have put their lives into it.
“If they keep it open the roofs should be fixed, they have been leaking for the past 10 years.”
In July last year the Croydon Village Outlet was taken over by Croydon Council, this compulsory purchase order (CPO) was the final step to securing land for the scheme.
But it meant that traders in the former Allders building were forced to move to the Whitgift Centre.
Hash Yusofzai who runs a homeware shop was one of the traders that moved over last year. He said: “Here many shops are closed, footfall is low and rates and service charges are considerably higher.
“We don’t know how long we will be here, not only us as a business but the whole shopping centre.
“It used to be very, very busy and people were coming here from all over, but now people just use it as a route from East Croydon to West Croydon.
“I know Westfield isn’t going to happen quickly so Croydon Council should support small businesses to trade until it happens. I think there should be business rates relief.”
But the Croydon Partnership – the joint venture between Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Hammerson which is in charge of the redevelopment – said that it wants to improve things for businesses in the town centre.
In a statement in November, a spokesperson said: “We are working closely with both the Croydon Business Improvement District and the Council to deliver a range of measures to help increase footfall, improve the environment and introduce more activity in the town centre.”
It also says it is encouraging charities and community groups to use for space in the shopping centre.
While Croydon Council leader Tony Newman has said that it is important to look after existing traders . He added: “I am aware that it has been promised that existing businesses will get support.
“We need to make sure that this short term support is in place.”