Croydon Council chief executive Jo Negrini spoke out about the time being taken to bring forward the new Westfield development at London Real Estate Forum admitting: “It really frustrates me.”
The Croydon Partnership, a joint venture between Westfield and Hammerson, agreed to deliver the regenerated Whitgift shopping centre in 2013 but the scheme is still in the planning process.
In the meantime, the existing Whitgift remains open but with a number of empty units and with shoppers even being forced to contend with leaks and puddles.
Ms Negrini told the Croydon panel debate that one of the biggest hindrances to the town’s redevelopment was that it is “grimy” in places.
And on the landmark £1.4billion scheme, she admitted: “Yes it is frustrating. This is the thing about big-scale developments in my view, they take forever.
“You can see it all over and that’s the thing about Brick by Brick (the council’s development company which is building 1,000 new homes on a range of infill sites throughout the borough). It’s about nimble, it’s about quick, it’s about quality.”
And Ms Negrini stressed that Croydon’s regeneration was about much more than the offer Westfield and Hammerson are scheduled to complete in the early 2020s.
“While they are (Westfield and Hammerson) are doing that we’re building houses, we’ve got the big cultural thing, we’ve got new businesses coming, HMRC are bringing 2.500 members of staff. We’re getting on with it,” she added.
“Whtgift is terrible at the moment because all of the businesses are moving out of that and relocating to the other side of North End in Centrale.
“So, we will still have the offer and all the major brands and all the major stores that are currently in Whitgift, while we develop on the other side of North End. So the retail offer will be there.
“The other thing is that Croydon is so big as a metropolitan city, if we were a metropolitan city we’d be the seventh biggest in the UK, it’s big enough to have pockets of retail and A3 type use in different parts of it.
“We don’t want everybody to get sucked into Westfield, we want to be able to create nice bits of place in and around Fairfield Halls, in and around the Hub development, in and around Surrey Street and RISEgallery, so that we’ve got a really lovely complimentary offer to Westfield. It’s not all about Westfield.”