By Daniel Hunter

Croydon town centre and its economy are set to be transformed with £1 billion of investment, the Mayor Boris Johnson announced today (Thursday).

With his assistance, international retail developers Westfield and Hammerson plc - who had been working up separate proposals to redevelop Croydon’s Whitgift and Centrale shopping centres respectively - have agreed to enter into a 50/50 joint venture and will now develop the centres together.

Both developers had been working with the Mayor, in his role as London’s Strategic Planning Authority, and Croydon Council on their respective schemes but the joint venture agreement marks a major step towards securing the future of Croydon's retail core through this £1 billion regeneration scheme.

The proposed redevelopment means that the many regeneration successes achieved by both developers can be repeated in Croydon once a successful planning application has been approved. Westfield and Hammerson plc have already delivered significant regeneration through retail development centres across London and in major UK cities including Derby, Birmingham, and Southampton.

It is expected that the proposals for Croydon would support thousands of jobs during the construction phase and a further 5,000 long term jobs after completion providing a massive boost to the local economy as well as attracting thousands of new visitors and transforming the riot-hit town centre for ever.

The Mayor, in his planning role, will continue to work closely with Croydon Council on the planning application that will eventually be referred to him for his decision to ensure that it meets the needs of Croydon and the capital as a whole.

The Mayor will therefore consider using all his planning powers as required to avoid any unnecessary hold up to the regeneration of this important commercial hub of London including taking over the planning application to determine it himself. This may also mean using some of his compulsory purchase order powers to ensure the regeneration benefits of the scheme are maximised. If necessary the Mayor will explore this option with Croydon.

The good news follows the Mayor's commitment in 2011 to invest £23 million towards the rejuvenation of Croydon town centre following the August riots. Croydon is also receiving investment from the Mayor’s £50m Outer London Fund designed to grow economic activity and drive employment in parts of London that are benefitting less directly from major infrastructure improvements like Crossrail and the London staging the 2012 Games.

The announcement follows the Mayor’s approval yesterday of a new strategic planning framework for Croydon which will help deliver 7,300 homes, revive its high streets and retail centres, increase transport and parking capacity and create new and improved public spaces as well as the social infrastructure necessary for the 17,000 new residents it is expected to accommodate in the coming years.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “Croydon has huge potential to return to its former glory as one of London’s most vibrant town centres, and a major driver of its economy. The redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre at its heart is crucial to this vision.

“Westfield and Hammerson’s innovative developments have breathed new life into long neglected corners of cities across the country, creating thousands of jobs and delivering growth that will soon be repeated in south London.

“It is great news that these two international developers are coming together to drive forward this vital regeneration and put Croydon at the heart of London’s future prosperity, building confidence for investors and local people in one of the capital’s most important town centres.”

Frank Lowy AC, Chairman of Westfield, said: “The £1billion redevelopment joint venture with Hammerson will provide certainty for the residents, local businesses and retailers of Croydon and the region. The delivery of a major retail regeneration scheme will re-establish Croydon as South London’s premier shopping district and will be a catalyst to further investment and development in the Croydon borough.”

David Atkins, Chief Executive of Hammerson, said: “We have shown our commitment to Croydon through our existing investments in the town centre and I believe that by working together with Westfield we can deliver a world class scheme for retailers and residents. Both we and Westfield remain excited and convinced by the opportunity in Croydon, which we can now progress with clarity.”

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