A £1bn plan that will transform the centre of Croydon has been approved after council members voted unanimously in favour at a planning committee meeting on Monday.
Croydon Partnership, a joint venture between the developers of Westfield Stratford City, Westfield Group and retail property specialist, Hammerson, made the proposal.
Over 136,500 square metres of retail space will be developed, in what the committee have described as a “once in a lifetime opportunity”. The plans are expected to create 5,000 jobs in Croydon centre as well as 400-600 new homes in a set of multi-storey apartment blocks, 15 per cent of which will be affordable housing.
Peter Cole, Chief Investment Officer of Hammerson, said: “Our scheme will re-establish Croydon as the retail destination of South London which will attract further investment and development. Our goal is to deliver a world-class retail and leisure destination to attract new visitors.”
Martin Corney, chief executive of the Whitgift foundation added: “I think this will be the catalyst for great change in the town.”
While the development has been widely recognised as a necessary initiative, people in the local community stress the fact that this is merely one step on a long road to restore the prosperity of Croydon.
Bieneosa Ebite, political and social commentator, and presenter on the local Croydon radio, while a supporter of the development, voiced concerns about the projected employment figures: “I hope this impacts the whole of Croydon. But we need to be realistic about the prospect of these 5,000 new jobs, likely to be ‘low-paid’ retail jobs, and recognise that the underlying social issues of Croydon are not going to be solved by this development alone.”
Asha Kalingen, 21, who works at a local independent just off the street from the Whitgift Centre, said: “If they ensure that mostly young people from the area get a job at the new shopping centre, then that would definitely be a good thing for the community. Many of my friends are still looking for work in the area to fund their studies and other things. This could get them on a regular payroll.”
She added: “I think a development of this size would affect the local stores but it would also attract more people to the area. I would go there to shop if it meant a wider selection to choose from.”
As part of the plans, the existing Whitgift centre and the multi-storey office buildings behind it will be demolished, but the historic Allders building on George Street will remain.
Planning control officer Ross Gentry showed an animated video of the current development plans, though it was stressed that the illustrative scheme is not yet final.
According to a Croydon Partnership spokesperson, the public will be invited to voice their opinion on the further development of the project.
Work is due to commence in 2015 and is estimated to take five years to complete.