This post was first published by My London on 11/04/2019.
The Government could step in to ensure Croydon’s Westfield shopping centre gets built
MP Sarah Jones has revealed that Chancellor Philip Hammond is ready to step in and offer help that could finally get building work started.
Delay after delay after delay after delay.
It’s no wonder that so many people are so sceptical whenever fresh reassurances are given that Croydon’s Westfield shopping centre will be built.
But there is fresh hope after Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central, revealed that she has been assured by the retail bosses behind the scheme this week that they remain “absolutely committed” to finishing the project.
And she has also revealed that the Government could step in to help any remaining hurdles be overcome.
“We know that they [the team behind Westfield] are having a look at the scheme, and having a review, but what I heard very loud and clear was that they remain absolutely committed to Croydon, which is really good,” said Mrs Jones.
“They just need to make sure they’ve got the right fit of shops and other offers in the centre of town because we know that the nature of retail is changing and we know there is a lot of economic uncertainty but they remain absolutely committed.”
The MP met with two Hammerson representatives – David Atkins and Peter Cole – as well as two Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield representatives – Christophe Cuvillier and Olivier Bossard – on Monday (April 8).
Although understandably “frustrated” by the constant delays to the scheme, Mrs Jones said she came out of the meeting feeling “positive”.
And she added: “I spoke with the Chancellor Philip Hammond [on Sunday] who’s very keen to meet with Westfield to talk about some of the challenges they are facing and whether the government can help in some way.
“So although we all regret that this is taking longer than it should, it’s very much still on track, it’s something that I believe is going to happen, and I’m going to keep talking to these companies to make sure we get the best for Croydon that we possibly can.”
This will be welcome news given the transformational impact it is expected to have on Croydon’s economy.
And the longer and longer the uncertainty has dragged on, the more and more rundown many people feel the town centre has become.
Work should already be well under way but there have been a series of delays and the latest admission was that work will now not start until 2020 .
Two months ago Westfield said it was “reviewing” the future of the long-awaited but also long-delayed shopping centre.
A spokesman said: “There are challenges surrounding the UK economic and political outlook and the structural changes facing retail have put some UK retailers under pressure.
“We are reviewing the scheme to ensure it responds to changing retailer requirements and is appropriate for the future.”
MyLondon understands the Croydon Partnership [which is made up of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Hammerson] remains hopeful the shopping centre will open in 2023.
“The joint venture partners remain committed to the project and the town centre and believe that Croydon has strong potential with flagship destinations outperforming over the long term,” the spokesman added.
“We will continue to review the development timetable and work closely with all stakeholders.”
Also in February, Hammerson released its 2018 financial figures which showed the company has been selling off property assets to pay off debts.
The bleak financial statement showed the firm had been forced to sell off £500m in assets over the past year to help balance the books.
Years in the making
The original masterplan for the £1.4 billion super mall was approved by Croydon Council back in 2013.
As well as 173,684 square metres of shops and leisure space the plans for Westfield include more than 3,000 square metres of office space and 3,140 parking spaces.
The development will also include up to 967 new homes.
The shopping centre will replace the current Whitgift Centre and a joint Waitrose and John Lewis store and a Marks & Spencer have been confirmed as the anchor stores.