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10th April 2015
Author: Sue Spencer – Glenigan retail expert (@Sue_Glenigan)
Despite market conditions remaining tough for retailers, a more positive economic outlook has motivated developers to proceed with a raft of new shopping centre projects this year. This marks a move away from the trend for extensions and improvements to existing schemes, which had been favoured in 2014.
With increasing concerns over fading high streets and struggling local retailers, shopping centre developments are inevitably often accompanied by controversy. One such high profile scheme is the Whitgift Centre, which includes land bound by Wellesley Road, George Street and North End in Croydon (Glenigan Project ID: 12246760).
The £1 billion development by Croydon Partnership, the joint venture between Westfield Group and Hammerson Plc whose proposals includes retail, residential, leisure, office and community facilities, has attracted many objections.
In January, more than 140 interested parties registered their objections to the proposals for the regeneration of Croydon town centre. Huge high street brands, independent traders and those with interests in and around the Whitgift Centre objected ahead of February’s public inquiry into the compulsory purchase order (CPO) on the land. The CPO had previously been approved in April 2014, with outline plans had been granted in November 2013. The inquiry closed on 13 March and the outcome is expected to be confirmed by the Secretary of State in the autumn.
With no confirmed start date for the project, the task of negotiating with objectors could slow the process. However the Croydon Partnership has now acquired Whitgift Trust’s 50% long leasehold in the development, one of the main objectors to the scheme. The trust had questioned whether the proposals from the partnership were viable and whether it would deliver a reasonable proportion of affordable homes. However in February the Court of Appeal stopped it from appealing the High Court’s dismissal of its claim for a judicial review of planning permission.
This transaction gives the Croydon Partnership ownership of the shopping centre alongside its freehold owner, the Whitgift Foundation, and direct management control. The Whitgift Foundation is wholly supportive of the Partnership’s wider 2 million sq ft vision to transform the retail town centre.
Although the Croydon Partnership now owns or controls the majority of the land interests required for the proposed development, they are continuing to negotiate with other landowners to buy up the land needed for the scheme.
Croydon Council is also trying to work with local independent businesses, holding a series of surgeries for any trader to discuss any concerns.
Another smaller building project which has attracted controversy is the £80 million scheme to redevelop the Leegate Shopping Centre in Lewisham (Glenigan Project ID: 14054984).
The shopping centre, which is owned by St Modwen, was built over 50 years ago and has slowly declined as shopping patterns have shifted and the needs of retailers have changed. St. Modwen proposes to redevelop the centre to create a mix of shops, leisure, employment and other uses including housing.
However residents from the Better Lee Green campaign group are vigorously opposed to the plans. Among the arguments they have made against the scheme is that the Asda store, which is included in the proposals, is too large and reduces the numbers of smaller shops and public space on the site.
St.Modwen has worked with local residents and other stakeholders, and the plans have evolved significantly as a result of the feedback. In February, detailed plans were submitted to Lewisham Council for the scheme and these are still under consideration.
For more information about retail construction, contact Sue Spencer at Glenigan on 0800 373 771.
What are your views on shopping centres? Do they boost local economies or sound the death knell for the high street? Get involved with the debate on our social media channels using the share buttons below.
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