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Nestle announcement a blow - but there are grounds for optimism
07/01/2012 08:46:00

At the end of 2011, I felt more optimistic about Croydon’s prospects than at any time since my election as a councillor in the late 1990s:

- we had secured nearly £25 million from the Government and the Mayor of London to improve the public realm in the town centre and incentivise new businesses to locate here.

- Westfield and Hammerson’s, two prestigious retail centre operators, had publicly announced their intentions to invest in the town.

- the partnership between Croydon College and Sussex University is developing well with the prospect of Sussex opening an innovation centre in the town.

- work was underway on a new entrance to East Croydon station at the other end of the platforms, which won’t just relieve congestion in the main ticket hall and improve disabled access to the platforms but also improve pedestrian links between the station and the heart of the town.

- businesses in the town centre had voted to extend the Business Improvement District under which they pay additional business rates to fund extra street cleaning, police officers and promotional work.

- work was underway on developments like Saffron Square and it was clear at the Develop Croydon conference in late November than we can expect other major planning applications in the near future; and

- companies like Zurich had recently made significant investments in the town.

The news earlier this week that Nestle are leaving the town was therefore particularly disappointing. This decision is primarily the legacy of the disasterous arrangement that the previous Labour Council entered into with Minerva to redevelop Nestle’s headquarters and the surrounding St George’s Walk (and, if I am honest, of the time it took the Conservative administration of which I was until recently a part to get out of this arrangement).

Since 2010, when Nestle first publicly expressed the possibility that they might move, the Council has bent over backwards both to put in place new plans to regenerate the area and, given that this would not deliver a new building on the timescale Nestle had in mind, to try to find them an alternative location in Croydon, including offering to buy their current building as part of any such deal. I have been party to those efforts. I don’t believe there is anything more the Council could have done since 2010 - the mistakes were made in the previous decade. The truth is the senior management at Nestle had by then made the in principle decision to move elsewhere.

There is no denying that this is a significant blow to the town centre. There are however, as I set out above, grounds for optimism and the Council and my fellow MPs and I must now focus on bringing new employers to the town to replace the jobs that we are losing, both private sector jobs and public sector jobs from expensive SW1 - an area where we did not achieve the progress we hoped for in 2011.

Comment on this blog

 

Readers' Comments

On 26/01/2012 23:04:00 John (CR0 6AE) wrote:
Nestle are relocating their 840 staff from Croydon to 1 City Place, Gatwick Road, Crawley. This building was completed in 2002. How many office blocks have been completed in Croydon, since 2000?

I can only think of the Land Registry building, Trafalgar House on Bedford Park.

Croydon has a lot of office blocks, but the vast majority of them were built in the 1960s, 1970s & 1980s.

Nestle Tower 1964

Leon House 1966

Taberner House 1967

Southern House 1967

Apollo House 1970

Lunar House 1970

NLA Tower 1970

Whitgift Centre Tower 1970

Ryland House 1974

Carolyn House 1984

Delta Point 1985

Less than 6% of the office space in central Croydon was constructed after 1990 and therefore can be classified as “modern”. The comparative statistic for Crawley is 60%.

It is utterly staggering how little new office space was built in Croydon in the boom years up to 2007, considering its location.

Nestle (Croydon’s largest private sector employer) may have stayed in Croydon if a modern office block similar to Trafalgar House had been available. The land to the west of East Croydon station has lain derelict for over 20 years, mainly because of past small-minded squabbling between Conservative, Labour & Liberal Democrat councillors.

It is highly unlikely that a major private sector company will relocate to any of Croydon’s existing aged office stock.

 
 

 

 

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