Croydon could become the third site in London for a giant shopping complex by Westfield, the Australian company behind the new Olympic Centre in Stratford.
Westfield today confirmed that it was in talks to take over Croydon’s Whitgift Mall in the town centre. The development would be a significant boost to the town in the wake of the devastation caused by the August riots.
The Whitgift Foundation, who owns the freehold to the site, also confirmed that it is currently in negotiations with Westfield.
If the talks are successful, the North End mall and part of the town centre could be transformed into a lucrative retail and leisure location.
Over 6 million people have already visited the Westfield site in Stratford since it opened on September 13, and there are high hopes that a Croydon development could stimulate equally impressive numbers. Westfield considers Croydon to be a ‘strategic location’, with excellent rail and air links and they believe there is potential to attract up to 3 million customers to the borough.
With many local businesses destroyed in the summer riots, and big retailers such as Carphone Warehouse pulling out of the region, the new shopping centre could provide locals with many welcome job opportunities. It could also be a decisive factor in Croydon’s 2012 city status bid.
Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher said he was hoping that the news could mark the start of a process of regeneration in the borough. Speaking to local news site This is Croydon (www.thisiscroydontoday.co.uk) he said: “Westfield’s proposed investment is the latest exciting development for Croydon and a further sign of the growing business confidence in our borough.”
Local residents are already divided over the proposals with the issue attracting a great number of comments on This is Croydon.
One resident, ‘MrsDeeGee’, said that a Westfield shopping centre “will ruin any small independent shop that is left… I am all for regeneration, but aren’t they taking this 5 steps too far?”
As part of a post-riot regeneration scheme, Croydon is sharing £20m of funding from City Hall with Tottenham.
Croydon Council have also recently announced plans to revamp the centre of the borough, including the area around the Whitgift.
Further announcements on Friday suggest plans may have to be put on hold, following revelations by Whitgift’s leasehold owners that they are unaware of the ongoing negotiations.
Royal London Asset Management said it was surprised to learn about the reported discussions with Westfield. RLAM confirmed that they are keen to find a developer for the site, but have stressed that no deal has been made with any one shopping centre developer.