The future of the planned Westfield Centre in Croydon was thrown into doubt last week after developers announced they were going back to the drawing board.
This latest delay has put the development – which would see the Whitgift Centre remodelled – in the most doubt since the project was approved in late 2017.
Last night the developers said they were opening a consultation to create a new masterplan to redevelop the town centre.
A spokesperson said: “We will consult with businesses and residents on their needs for the town centre which will also inform the review. The Croydon Partnership is still committed to ensuring a dynamic town centre and will work together with all stakeholders and the community to support its existing assets in Croydon.”
The announcement came after the developers, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, took the project off their list of “active development projects” while a review takes place. The move promoted some to question whether the redevelopment will happen at all.
Conservative councillors responded with disappointment to the announcement, calling it a disaster for the town.
Hammerson, who are joint developers along with Westfield, say they remain committed to redevelopment in Croydon.
But they admitted that the review could lead to significant changes to redevelopment plans.
A spokesperson said: “We remain confident in Croydon as a destination and its potential for mixed-use development. As part of this review, we are focused on right-sizing the retail.
“We are also working with the council and local stakeholders on the scheme and to ensure the town centre remains active and are looking at opportunities to reuse some of the existing buildings to ensure a more sustainable development”.
The latest delay is blamed on a rapidly changing UK market, and it comes on the heels of a string of other setbacks dating back to 2018. Last year there were warnings that there may be further delays.
It was hoped that the development would have finally got underway last November with a target of opening in 2023. The latest review has no set completion for Westfield, leaving those who work in the centre left in limbo.
The Whitgift now hosts many empty shops some of which had relocated in anticipation of the development – although some are victims to the current downturn in retail those who remain have been left uncertain as to what the future will hold for them.
Anand runs a watch repair store with his father who has been in the centre for over 35 years and said communication from the council had not been good enough with traders.
He said: “It doesn’t help that retail is going down anyways but nobody knows what is going on you would think that we should be the first to know but we don’t.”
“The talk about changing markets and Brexit it’s just an easy escape for them the feeling we get is that until there is money to be made we’re just going to be left in limbo”.
Croydon council have said they remain committed to delivering regeneration to the town centre and have arranged a meeting for tonight to discuss the latest developments.
But local traders say the centre is dying and that people are beginning to go elsewhere.
Sajjad works at Mobileblitz an accessory and repair shop and said that the decline of the mall in recent years was staggering “If they do not look after this mall properly soon it will die because all the shops are closing there is no business”.
“When I started working here it was like you could barely stand it was so busy every shop was open the people were coming everyone is happy.”
“It was great for business because people knew they could come here and find every shop they needed but now you look around and everything is closing down there’s only a few big shops left Marks and Spencer’s, Sainsbury’s, Boots but you can find these shops anywhere so people now they’re going to Bromley or Epsom to do shopping and it’s hurting the small businesses because if all of the shops were open we wold get some of the windfall but now we are struggling.”
“It’s not good enough there just isn’t enough information”.