Last week Croydon Council signed a Section 106 agreement with the Croydon Partnership formed between two of the country’s leading developers, Westfield and Hammerson.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Partnership will be required to deliver a range of initiatives to ensure that as many as possible of the 5,000 jobs that will be created by their development go to Croydon residents, particularly those who are long term unemployed. They will provide apprenticeships and internships, support local contractors and back new business start-ups by providing test trading spaces in the shopping centre. With the economy recovering fast, unemployment in the town is already falling sharply and this development is a huge opportunity to reduce it even further.
The agreement also provides for significant investment in Croydon’s transport system. Westfield and Hammerson will provide £15 million for enhancements to the tram system, £10 million for additional bus services, £2.5 million for local highways improvements and £1.6 million for sustainable transport. Streets and public spaces in North End will benefit from a revamp with £2.1 million spent on new lighting and other environmental improvements and £150,000 has been allocated for public art within the scheme.
The signing of the Section 106 agreement is the final stage in the planning process and so a big step towards construction getting underway. What remains is for Westfield and Hammerson to acquire the remainder of the site. This is already underway but they still need to acquire the sub-lease to the Whitgift Centre. They can either acquire it on the open market or, if those who currently own them seek to frustrate the future of our town by refusing to sell, the Council can use its powers to issue a Compulsory Purchase Order. I hope we’ll hear more news on this front in the coming weeks. There’s a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes, in which both the Conservative administration at the Town Hall (who deserve a huge amount of credit for getting us this far), the Mayor of London and I are heavily involved.
When Westfield and Hammerson announced their intention to invest in Croydon just over a year ago, a lot of people were sceptical. I don’t blame them - I’ve lost count of the number of plans for the town centre I’ve seen announced only for nothing then to happen. But last week’s agreement is further evidence that this time it’s for real.
This column first appeared in the Croydon Advertiser on Friday 14th February.