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Council admits to secret talks to resolve Croydon Gateway dispute

The three dominant parties in the ongoing row over the contentious Croydon Gateway site are in secret negotiations to resolve their problems, the AJ has learned.

Croydon council and developers Arrowcroft and Stanhope - which have employed Michael Aukett and Foster and Partners respectively to draw up competing schemes - have met several times to try to bring the dispute to an end.

The three sides are determined that the row should be over within the next month to six weeks.

It is understood that several possible solutions are on the table, including the two opposing developers working together on a combined scheme.

It also emerged last week that Stanhope and Fosters have dropped their long-standing opposition to having an arena on the site, proposing a 6,000-seat venue instead of Arrowcroft and Aukett's 12,000 seats.

Speaking at the MIPIM property fair last week, Croydon council's planning chairman Adrian Dennis, who is a long-term supporter of the Arrowcroft plans, said that the secret talks had been under way for some time.

'We have been having confidential conversations about finding a solution to our differences, ' he said.

'The three different groups have been attempting to find some kind of middle ground.

'We will undoubtedly continue with these discussions. We are more than willing to talk things through, with the aim of coming to a solution that we can all agree on.'

However, Dennis said he did not hold out much hope for a successful outcome. 'It is not realistic to go into negotiations of this kind believing that they will not work, ' he said. 'The trouble is that Stanhope and Foster have never produced anything we like and we believe we can simply push the Arrowcroft scheme through by the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders.' A source at Stanhope - which is taking a second scheme to appeal after its first was rejected at inquiry last year - told the AJ he was annoyed that the negotiations have become public, but insisted that they would still continue. 'These are important meetings, ' he said. 'We hope there might be a way for them to reach a conclusion.

'The next four to six months are key, ' the source added. 'We need to make sudden progress, otherwise this dispute could go on for a few more years'.

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