Last month's seminal announcement over Croydon's retail future led me, among many others, to ponder over what the exact specifications of the new joint venture project would be.
I suggested that a new application towards the end of 2013 might take on the guise of Hammerson's "Whitgift Quarter" proposals, spanning across Croydon's two mammoth retail developments, Centrale and Whitgift, rather than separate applications for each scheme.
It appears I was wrong.
Two weeks ago, Croydon Council registered (for the first time) the full application lodged in September by Westfield, after having put forward a scoping opinion a couple of months prior. The applicant is now listed on the (amended) application form as 'Westfield Shoppingtowns Limited & Hammerson UK Properties PLC':
Strangely, the applicant listed on the 'application details' has changed over the weekend from the above to simply 'Westfield Shopping Towns Limited'. What we read into that, I don't know.
All documents within the newly-registered application make occasional reference to Centrale's role in the Croydon facelift, and make almost no mention of Hammerson at all! It's also interesting that the Design & Access statement for 'Westfield Croydon' (!) makes a pointed reference to the successful regeneration of King's Cross as being a precedent for a redevelopment of this scale.
So it appears that Hammerson is happy to "piggy-back" onto Westfield's concept for the Whitgift Centre redevelopment, having already secured consent in May 2012 to part-redevelop Centrale into a distinctly mixed-use mall.
Can we conclude, therefore, that the project will move forward as a double-pronged concept? Will the Westfield-branded shopping mall outlined in the new application come to pass? Can the 170,000 sq ft of leisure space proposed by Westfield coexist with the 99,000 sq ft currently permitted at Centrale?
If the answer to all of these is 'yes', then the exciting announcement made in January may not, in fact, yield an organic regeneration brainwave concocted by two retail heavyweights - but actually simply serve as a catalyst to accelerate two separate projects which could possibly have come to pass independently.
I suppose I would just be a little disappointed that the 'vision' for Croydon might simply turn out to be a staccato amalgamation of separate concepts, as opposed to an inspired 'meeting-of-minds' development spanning over both malls which could truly rubber-stamp the identity of the unique joint venture on the south London town.
If the development is to be as described herein, then the key piece of cross-party co-operation will come in ensuring the complementary nature of the retail and leisure offer across both redeveloped schemes. 'Hammerfield' must ensure that the newly created "Quarter" evolves as a singular, functional retail core, and not as one entity prospering at the expense of the other.