This post was first published by My London on 17/11/2019.
‘Westfield delays to blame for horrible decline in Croydon town centre’ says record store manager
Duncan Barnes says empty shops were unheard of ten years ago
There has been a ‘horrible decline’ in footfall for Croydon town centre according to one business owner who blames Westfield delays.
Duncan Barnes runs 101 Records which moved to North End in 1991, it was previously based near East Croydon station.
He said that 10 years ago empty shops in Croydon were unheard of, and you just need to walk through the town centre to see that is not the case today.
Duncan said: “Footfall has declined horribly in Croydon for years. It used to be a thriving cosmopolitan place and it was always busy.”
And he believes that Westfield delays are partly to blame and does not think the billion pound shopping centre will ever be built.
He added: “North End has been declining for years and very little has been done about it.
“It is frustrating. The writing has been on the wall for a long time. It is frustrating that the council and the partnership seem to have two speeds dead slow and complete still.”
On November 1, the Croydon Partnership, a joint venture between Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Hammerson announced that plans for the shopping centre could be different from what was originally planned.
The team behind the regeneration had a meeting with Croydon Council where it was revealed that a hotel, more offices and fewer parking spaces and more co-working office spaces could all be a feature of of revised plans.
Council leader Tony Newman described the meeting as ‘encouraging’ and said the changes are more sustainable.
While the Croydon Partnership said it will continue to “invest and improve” the town centre while a revised scheme is worked on.
And Duncan thinks more needs to be done to encourage people to shop in Croydon.
He said: “They need to get traders into empty shops and tidy up North End to make it attractive.
“I think the partnership should get a group of positive-minded retailers together – We are all here for one reason, to make a living.
I am in my early sixties but I’m not planning to retire just yet. Running a shop is an expensive business and I make far more on the internet.
“I like running a shop, there are plenty of shoppers who want to browse.”
But at the end of the day, like many in Croydon he is not convinced that the scheme, which has faced a number of delays will happen at all.
He added: “I personally don’t see Westfield happening. Initially there was a lot of enthusiasm for it – Croydon has been crying out for something to be done.
“But after a while and promises and promises you realise nothing is going to happen.
“I am still for something happening but after the meeting, I can’t help thinking we will be having this conversation in a year’s time.”
A spokesperson for the Croydon Partnership said that it is working on plans to improve the town centre, but added that footfall in Croydon is up compared to last year.
“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,” said the spokesperson.
“These initiatives include engaging with local charities and community groups to utilise space for events and activities, delivering activity in key parts of the centres, renovations including enhanced lighting, improvements to signage and display windows in the former Allders building.
“We are committed to making the town centre an attractive destination for shoppers and visitors, and the latest data shows footfall in the town centre is up 2.6 per cent on last year. This compares favourably to the rest of London and the UK, which is down 1.5 per cent.”