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All systems go for Croydon as long-awaited retail redevelopment gets go-ahead

£1 billion joint venture agreement between former rivals Hammerson and Westfield set to unleash massive programme of investment in south London metropolitan centre

Croydon’s long-awaited revival has reached a ‘tipping point’. That is the view from inside Croydon Council, which earlier this month officially validated an outline planning application for London’s third Westfield Shopping Centre.

The Whitgift Centre redevelopment scheme, which has been designed by Allies and Morrison, represents the largest regeneration proposal for Croydon since Will Alsop unveiled proposals to transform the capital’s ‘Third City’ six years ago.

The move follows the signing of a £1 billion joint venture agreement between long-standing rival developers Hammerson and Westfield – both of which had separate visions for the plot.

The alliance ends an 18-month stand-off between the two and the decision to press ahead with the new mega-mall has removed a major blockage to town centre development. The partners have promised ‘comprehensive and transformational change’.

Unfortunately, the historic settlement south of London – ‘Crocus Valley’ in Anglo-Saxon and once a pastoral home to medieval archbishops – has been here before. Thwarted by unsympathetic post-war development and a hostile public realm, the well-connected retail hub has seen successive transformative promises fall down.

But now the local authority, which is seeking 7,000 new homes in the town centre, has already reported a surge of interest in new and existing projects in the wake of the Whitgift resurrection.

‘The Westfield [go-ahead] is pretty much the tipping point’

Finn Williams, deputy team leader of place making at Croydon Council, said: ‘The Westfield [go-ahead] is pretty much the tipping point. Developers were waiting to see what would happen with the Hammerson/Westfield site.

‘As the Whitgift Centre project starts to become more real, those funding the schemes start to have more confidence that they can actually put money behind projects that already have consent.’ Williams said there had been a jump in pre-application discussions for major schemes following the joint venture announcement.

Croydon head of spatial planning Tim Naylor added: ‘The Whitgift Centre redevelopment will begin to lift the centre in terms of land value and enable some of these sites to have the edge to have more viability and get delivered.’

Croydon in 1969 - the Anglo-Saxon ‘Crocus Valley’ was rebuilt as England's Manhattan following heavy bombing in the Second World War

Source: RIBA Library and Photographs Collection

Croydon in 1969 - the Anglo-Saxon ‘Crocus Valley’ was rebuilt as England’s Manhattan following heavy bombing in the Second World War

Major projects moving forward in the area include EPR’s recently consented residential conversion of Nestlé Tower for Legal and General and the 3.7 hectare Ruskin Square redevelopment, for which AHMM submitted residential plans featuring a 22-storey residential tower last week.

Adam Challis, head of residential research at Jones Lang Lasalle said: ‘The Whitgift Shopping Centre and Ruskin Square are the two key elements in getting Croydon going again. You are seeing some real activity in the retail and leisure spaces, which becomes an emblem for the residential schemes.’

Commenting on the legacy of failed regeneration in the area, he added: ‘We’ve been here before with Croydon, so if these schemes come to fruition it will be on its way to realising itself as a proper out-of-London node in a way it hasn’t been in decades.’

Will Alsop – whose 2007 ‘Third City’ vision proposed demolishing Whitgift to make space for blocks of permeable retail – said overhauling the 1960s shopping centre would be a ‘huge advantage’ to Croydon (see Comment below).

‘It will make city living seem sexy in Croydon’

Piers Gough of CZWG agreed, and said improving the retail offering was key to making living in the town centre desirable. He said: ‘It’s fantastically helpful. It will make city living seem sexy in Croydon.’

He suggested the Westfield shopping centre could do more for Croydon than similar mall developments at Acton or Stratford. He added: ‘Because of its central position relative to Croydon, [the scheme] is likely to have more impact [on the surrounding area].’ CZWG’s 55-storey mixed-use tower next to the Whitgift, he added, would go forward as a result.

He said: ‘There was uncertainty with the shopping centre, but one can pretty surely predict the funding will now be forthcoming for our building.’

He added: ‘Instead of the client begging for money from investors it will be the other way round with people begging to finance it.’

According to Make partner Cara Bamford, the shopping centre joint venture has added ‘significant momentum’ to the area’s regeneration, which was already being pushed forward by a council-led programme of public realm improvements.

The developer behind Make’s 55-storey residential tower at East Croydon, Menta, now plans to ‘invest further’ in Croydon and the £250 million scheme’s first phase is scheduled to start next year.

The council’s place making team has been a key driver for regeneration in the area. Following the scaling-down of Alsop’s Third City vision, the department worked with developers to create a series of masterplans for East Croydon, West Croydon, Mid-Croydon, Fair Field and the Old Town.

Employing firms including East, Studio Egret West and Allies and Morrison, the masterplans helped to shape a more permeable public realm, while also boosting developer confidence in the area (AJ 03.12.09). Early successes include a new £17 million footbridge at East Croydon Station by Studio Egret West and Hawkins\Brown. A community infrastructure levy, opportunity area planning framework and local plan strategic policy have also been approved.

‘Working in the post-boom lull has allowed the council to set the scene for what will come’

Croydon place making team leader Vincent Lacovara said both Hammerson and Westfield took confidence in the council’s proactive planning. ‘Working in the post-boom lull has allowed the council to set the scene for what will come,’ he said. ‘[Hammerson and Westfield] were obviously interested in the fact we were building the bridge, creating the masterplans and upgrading the public realm.’

Following the unprecedented 2011 summer riots, which saw major disruption in West Croydon, Old Town and South End, the council landed £23 million from the Greater London Authority to fund regeneration schemes.

Council-backed schemes in the pipeline include £2.8 million improvements to South End by We Made That with Hassell, and a new £5.4 million public realm at East Croydon station by John McAslan and Partners.

‘This investment in infrastructure supports value and gives people a sense of improvements and uplift around the space,’ said Challis. ‘If you prop up values, you can increase the viability.’

Analysis: Will Alsop on Croydon’s regeneration

In 2007 Will Alsop heralded ambitious plans to transform Croydon into London's Third City'. His vision was to encricle Croydon with parks, replace the Whitgift Centre with permeable retail and construct a 30-storey greenhouse visitor attraction

Source: Image by Jason Alden

In 2007 Will Alsop heralded ambitious plans to transform Croydon into London’s Third City’

It’s better to have a Westfield than nothing at all. If you put Croydon in East Anglia it would be a significant city with a significant population. But to have it where it is, near Gatwick, the sea and London, it should on paper be extraordinary. So you have to ask the question why has Croydon been limping along trying to reinvent itself for so long?

All the existing infrastructure runs north to south, not east to west. This means development has been torn up in north-south strips and it has been very difficult to create a rich sense of place. There’s a park right in the town centre that no one goes to. It’s one of the most beautiful parks in London. It could have residential on the edge to create a sense of enclosure and have people going into it.

The old shopping centre was a huge barrier for east-to-west travel in Croydon. As long as the new shopping centre is more permeable from east to west for 24 hours a day, that will be a huge advantage to Croydon. Personally I would rather have a large number of small investments. But who is going to deliver that in the current climate?

Alsop's abandoned proposal included encricling Croydon with parks, replacing the Whitgift Centre with permeable retail and constructing a 30-storey greenhouse visitor attraction

Alsop’s abandoned proposal included encricling Croydon with parks, replacing the Whitgift Centre with permeable retail and constructing a 30-storey greenhouse visitor attraction

 

Croydon: What is happening and where

 

Private development, planning frameworks and public realm improvements in Croydon - click to view

Private development, planning frameworks and public realm improvements in Croydon - click to view

  • Selected developments

 

Whitgift Centre redevelopment, £1 billion
Architect Allies and Morrison
SchemeShopping centre with 600 apartments
Client Westfield and Hammerson
Status Submitted for planning


Ruskin Square, £500 million
Architect AHMM, ShedKM
Scheme
Mixed-use Client
Stanhope and Schroders
Status Outline approved, reserved matters application pending


Cherry Orchard Road, £250 million
Architect Make
Scheme Mixed-use
Client Menta
Status To start on site 2014

St George’s House (Nestlé Tower), £n/a
Architect EPR
Scheme Office to residential conversion
Client Legal &General
Status Consented

Station Road, £n/a
Architect Assael Architecture
Scheme Residential mixed-use
Client Barratt
Status Pre-planning

 

  • Planning framework

Croydon Council's East Croydon Masterplan proposed a new pedestrian footbridge with pedestrian links through Ruskin Square and wider public realm improvements. Design team: Studio Egret West, Hawkins/Brown, KMCS, Martin Stockley Associates

 

East Croydon Masterplan
Design team Studio Egret West, Hawkins/Brown, KMCS, Martin Stockley Associates
Status Adopted 2011


The West Croydon Masterplan improves access to the train station and reconfigures an existing bus station to allow further development in the area. Design team EAST, Alan Baxter and Associates, Maccreanor Lavington, GVA Grimley, Davis Langdon

 

West Croydon Masterplan
Design team EAST, Alan Baxter & Associates, Maccreanor Lavington, GVA Grimley, Davis LangdonStatus Adopted 2011


Mid Croydon Masterplan Design team GVA Grimley, EAST, RHWL Architects, Alan Baxter &Associates, Buro Happold, Davis Langdon
Status: Adopted 2012


The Fair Field Masterplan improves permeability through Croydon College and promotes further development in the district. Design team Make, Kinnear Landscape Architects, WSP, AECOM

 

Fair Field Masterplan
Design team Make, Kinnear Landscape Architects, WSP, AECOM
Status Due for adoption 2013


Old Town Masterplan
Design team Allies & Morrison/ Urban Practitioners, Arup, Colliers, Adams & Sutherland
Status Due for adoption 2014

OAPF Design team Croydon Council, GLA, TfL
Status Due for adoption April 2013


  • Public realm projects


Wellesley Road
Design team OKRA Landscape Architects, Peter Brett Associates
Cost £6.6 million
Status Design phase


West Croydon Public Realm
Design team EAST, Alan Baxter & Associates, Infrastructt CS, Landolt Brown, Mendick Waring Ashley McCormick, Dekka, Jonathan Cook Landscape
Cost
£4.6 million
Status Design phase


East Croydon Public Realm
Design team John MacAslan & Partners, WSP, NLP
Cost £5.4 million
Status Design phase


College Green Paving
Design team Kinnear Landscape Architects, The Decorators
Cost £570,000
Status Design phase


High Streets
Design team TBC
Cost £5.6 million
Status Procuring design team
 

Connect2
Design team OKRA Landscape Architects, Peter Brett Associates
Cost £3.4m
Status On site


South End Public Realm
Design team Hassel, We Made That, Objectif, Buro Happold
Cost £2.8m
Status Design phase

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