Monday, 20 January 2014

Assessing the Westfield/Hammerson Scheme

Croydon Town Centre Regeneration is the topic for the Tuesday 4 February meeting of the Croydon Council Scrutiny & Strategic Overview Committee. The Committee will review the project plans for the Westfield/Hammerson development, and consider the potential for disruption to town centre services, such as transport and access, and how this can be mitigated. It will also review the proposed allocation of funding from the Community Infrastructure Levy. Council Chamber, Town Hall, Croydon. Full agenda papers will be put on the Council website a few days before the meeting at should the Committee members be considering it? They can look at suggestions by New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies.

NEF and the Requirements of the National Planning Framework

Nearly two years ago the Government published the National Planning Framework. The New Economics Foundation commented at the time that whatever other drawbacks the Framework had it marked a victory for its seven-year campaign ‘against clone towns, - and to revitalise high streets as the beating hearts of local economies.’: ‘It is a slap down for those very powerful interests which have, in recent months, been calling for high streets to be abandoned.’ The retiring head of Land Securities, Francis Salway, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 in March 2012 ‘effectively admitted that it is in the business DNA of profit hungry retail chains to be fair weather friends to communities. For long term success and quality of life, town centres need local retailers who are bound by more than a desire to extract cash from consumers’ pockets.’ The Framework instructs planning authorities to ‘recognise town centres as the heart of their communities and pursue policies to support their viability and vitality’. But that is not all:
  • ‘Town centres will have to demonstrate their “individuality” and a “diverse” retail offer. Clone towns are clearly out.’
  • ‘Markets have to be enhanced and, where they can be, re-introduced. So the coalition has also listened to some of Mary Portas’ recommendations.’
  • ‘Bigger developments will require ‘impact assessments’ to see how they would affect “town centre vitality and viability” – not just now but five years ahead, taking a leaf out of the approach of several cities in the United States. The kind of superstore that corrodes the economy around it will not be allowed.’
However as NEF points out ‘This is all subject to local interpretation, and there can be many slips between cup and lip. It may not work out as expected. It may, for the time being, put money into the hands of lawyers. But in the right hands, an imaginative and far-sighted local council, this is a huge tilt of the balance of power away from the big retailers.  

CLES: Productive local economies: creating resilient places

In a report published in December 2010 Neil McInroy and Sarah Longlands argue:

‘Local economies aren’t simply an isolated silo of private sector activity that can be encouraged and shaped. They are made up of a network of social, public and commercial economic activity. These aspects are interconnected and dependent on one another.’ CLES believes ‘that local economic development in the UK needs to refocus on ‘development’ which works within environmental limits, the nature of the place, and fairness rather than just growth for its own sake.’ This view lies at the heart of many of the debates in Croydon over such matters as the Whitgift/Centrale redevelopment.

It is a report that is well worth reading and thinking about its application to Croydon. It can be downloaded at

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