Westfield Croydon plans delayed again, question marks remain
It looks like anyone hoping for an alternative to shopping at Bluewater in South East England sometime soon is going to have to wait a bit longer as news has emerged that work on the planned Westfield in Croydon is unlikely to start this year. And some are even questioning whether it will ever be built, although the official line remains that it will.
It looks like Bluewater will remain the dominant mall in the South East for longer as it had been assumed that work would start in Croydon this September, but a local councillor has said that it's unlikely to begin until 2020.
The shopping centre has been at planning stage since 2013 and has seen a series of delays in that time. But in late 2017, Croydon Council approved the development, which is a joint venture by Westfield and Hammerson, and this was later followed by approval from London's mayor so it looked like it was all set to go.
So does the latest delay bode ill for the £1.4 billion project? That's unclear. The local newspaper, the Sutton & Croydon Guardian, reported that Croydon council leader Cllr Newman has said he doesn't know exactly when development will start.
Traders operating in the current Whitgift Centre, which will be demolished to make way for the new development, haven't been told when they will have to leave either. However, the uncertainty around the existing shopping centre is causing more and more independent retailers to leave and is therefore denting footfall to the location.
Westfield and Hammerson have said little and given that both companies are in a closed period ahead of each company’s full-year results, no comment is expected for a while.
The last we heard from the two companies was that construction work would start this year and that the mall would open at some point in 2023 with John Lewis as an anchor store. The finished product is planned to have over 300 shops restaurants and cafes and would also include the building of almost 1,000 new homes.
Since the plans were announced, French company Unibail-Rodamco has acquired Westfield Corporation for £18.5 billion, but Cllr Newman said the new owners have assured him that they’re “committed to investing in Croydon”.
Of course, Brexit could be having an effect. This isn't the first giant building project in the UK to be delayed due to uncertainty around the country's exit from the EU. And given that retail has been hit particularly hard by the Brexit effect, any connection to this project being delayed wouldn't be a surprise. But it has to be said that many businesses are delaying plans more due to short-term Brexit fears and by 2023, it would be hoped that the UK economy would be back on an upswing.
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