Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a very strong supporter of Westfield and Hammerson’s plans to redevelop the Whitgift Centre. Not only will it transform Croydon, giving us a modern shopping centre with all the top brands (and reasonable parking prices!) and create thousands of jobs in the process, it will also help to change Croydon’s image encouraging other major firms to invest here.
This week, we had some great news. There was one remaining legal obstacle to the scheme progressing. Westfield and Hammerson already control much of the land involved, but they have been unable to acquire some of it. Croydon Council therefore made what is known as Compulsory Purchase Order, a legal instrument that can be used to force people to sell land if that land is necessary for a scheme that is in the wider public interest.
On Wednesday morning, the Government announced that it had approved this Compulsory Purchase Order. The Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government agreed with the inspector who considered these matters in detail at a public inquiry earlier this year that Westfield and Hammerson’s scheme “fits in with the adopted planning framework for the area”, that it will “contribute to the economic, social or environmental well-being of Croydon”, that there is a reasonable prospect that the scheme will happen and crucially that the purposes for which Croydon Council was seeking to acquire the land “could not realistically be achieved by any other means” and “sufficiently justify interfering with the human rights of those with an interest in the land”.
This is a big step forward and a vindication of the decision by the then Conservative controlled Council to proceed with a Compulsory Purchase Order. As with all legal decisions, we now have to wait six weeks to see if those who have tried to block the regeneration of our town at every step will appeal, but if not the last legal obstacle is out of the way and work should hopefully get underway next year.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the officers at Croydon Council who have worked hard to get us to this point. I hope they will consider using further Compulsory Purchase Orders to ensure that other parts of our town centre like St George’s Walk aren’t allowed to remain in their current condition.