• Croydon looks to play its part

London’s borough of Croydon has made a pitch to help solve the capital’s housing issues, as it seeks to transform its centre with an attractive new retail offer.
Borough representatives were out in force at the recent London Real Estate Forum, laying down their plans for action to develop key sites. And their enthusiasm is clearly rubbing off. Jane Groom, a board director at the London Communities Agency, headed a session at the event, noting of the Croydon team: ““Two points came across strongly – one is strong leadership and two is a feisty planning team.”
Acting chief executive Jo Negrini said the borough is well positioned to help the mayor deliver towards his housing targets, noting that Croydon and the outer boroughs have potential that is in danger of being ignored. “I was at James Murray’s session and it was interesting that when the panel were talking about dealing with London’s housing crisis they talk about central London and about green belt – it’s almost like they’ve forgotten that there’s a whole ring of outer London boroughs where a lot of the solutions can be delivered,” she said.
“Croydon is the biggest borough and we’ve got an incredible capacity to grow. But as with places like Ealing and Hounslow and Barking there’s a need for a policy response to look at how these centres become economic drivers for a bigger London.
“The solutions aren’t in Westminster because you’ll never get the kind of housing that numbers needs. The solution is in places like Croydon where we’re looking at increasing the number of homes that we have but also the nature of homes that we need for Londoners.”
The borough has already seen substantial office to residential conversions under permitted development, something it is keen to call a halt to, with an Article 4 direction.
“London’s housing crisis can be ameliorated through intensification,” added Negrini. “We’re using our land to deliver the homes that we know the people in Croydon need and we know we can achieve some of the results in terms of solving some of the housing crisis.”
“We’ve got a proactive planning department which everybody wants to hear, but we want the right kind of development – we’re not going to accept any old rubbish. We’re very clear that to tackle Croydon’s perception everything we do has to be high quality.”
The council has also established its own development company, taking forward residential development sites in the borough. The first of these, which will deliver more than 1,000 new homes, are set to go through planning approval later this year.
Also speaking at the LREF event was council leader Tony Newman, who said: “Croydon is on a journey of transformation and for the first time in perhaps a generation has started to get more good publicity than negative publicity. It’s an exciting time but also a hugely challenging to time to make sure we nail the success and really do this time, unlike 50 years ago , put people and culture at the heart of the regeneration of the borough and transform Croydon, not just in terms of the place but in terms of the reputation and the image and a place that people what to work in, live in and spend their leisure time in.”
Delegates also heard from representatives of both Hammerson and Westfield, the companies forming the Croydon Partnership which is behind the £1.4billion redevelopment of town’s retail core, who repeated their intention to start on site next year.
“Immediately after the West End the opportunity is there for Croydon to become the second destination for the London region,” said Robin Dobson, director of retail development for Hammerson.
“If you look at the opportunity for Croydon you’ve got a total catchment population of about 3.3million, a spend of about £17billion potential as total.
“If you look as an international retailer or leisure operator you look at the West End first which is becoming increasingly unaffordable, I would argue; you then look at the points of the compass and there is the opportunity for a new retail leisure hub destination for south London.”
Steven Yewman, development director at Westfield, added: “From a worldwide perspective Croydon for us as Westfield and from a Hammerson point of view is a really key investment
“What it really needs is a joined-up thinking and investment from many people. Regeneration is a word that is slightly over-used in some regards – what we are really doing is putting the new product in the right place.
“Currently Croydon clears out like a dormitory town at about 5.30pm but what we’ve found at Westfield London and at Stratford is that if you create the environment, the people who shop there in the daytime and the residents coming back in the evening, you extend the longevity of the day beyond 11pm or midnight.”
“We think we will add at least another 10 million visitors to the town centre and in terms of GDP for Croydon that’s phenomenal.”
Neil Meredith, Schroder UK Real Estate Fund’s head of asset management, spoke about the Ruskin Square development which includes 161 flats due for completion at the end of July and a 180,000 sq ft office building which will be ready for occupation before the end of the year.
“We’re very keen on Croydon. Integrating with the rest of Croydon is very important and that’s why we spent £1million on the path from the station running through to Lansdowne Road and it’s very important to have that quality,” he said.
“The other thing with working with the council is we’ve done a deal with Boxpark – it’s a very exciting development for Croydon– it’s all food and drink, it opens in September, we can’t wait for that it’s really exciting.
“Croydon’s population is estimated to grow to about 400,000 by 2021 and just under 25 per cent of that population is under 16. So the potential for the tech industry is amazing. Croydon really has a brilliant chance of becoming one of the major growth centres in London.

Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *