Andrew Kennedy summarises the discussion at the 28 April Planning Committee meeting on the revised plans for the Whitgift Centre by Westfield Hammerson on 28 April. His comments are marked ED.
What did we learn?
Well the funniest moment was when the developers were asked what the name of the centre will be.
“Well now there is a 50/50 partnership we can’t call it the Westfield Centre”.
Q. So it’s the shopping centre with no-name then ? Q. Paul Scott “Can I at least request that it includes the name Croydon?” Answer. A begrudging faint nod.
£300 M has already been spent.
(Ed. presumably on acquiring the land and planning.)
Developers proclaim it as the same vision, just an evolution of the previous plan. Now includes a new M&S, they have acquired the Whitgift Car Park and green Park House.
The aim is to be “The Capitol of South London”
Developer. “The site is extraordinarily well served by public transport, far better than any of our other sites. It is envisaged that the main entrance will be on Wellesley Road at street level with a pedestrian crossing across the European boulevard from Lansdowne Road. No longer will there be entrances at different levels when coming from North End and Wellesley Road. There will now be a gentle 3 metre slope between the two.”
Poplar Walk will now be a main entrance upgraded from the previous minor entrance. There will be a small pedestrian square opposite St Michael’s Church and residential blocks above (to nine stories). A new building set back 6 metres from North End will replace the existing M&S which itself will move to the site where Green Park House now stands.
Spacehub and Hawkins Brown will be redesigning the public real in North End and George Street.
(Ed. Where is the consultation process here? Us locals have strong views on what should be done with North End and west end of George Street to develop it’s historic character. Why is there no Connected Croydon plan for these streets?)
The idea is to have permeability from North to South as well as East to West.
Street or Mall?
Councillors kept asking for a “street” and the partnership kept talking about a shopping mall. There was a problem of ultimate objective here. The expression “We’ll have to look into that” kept coming up.
To have a street would bring problems of connectivity between the sides and the fact that a continuous car park and residential buildings are on top of it prevents it from being open.
The developers want to keep the shoppers inside the shopping mall. The town councillors want to see an interconnected Croydon street.
Q Paul Scott Planning Chair. We request no more that 30% solid roof. Answer. Further dialogue required but it will be covered.
Q. Scott. Request for no doors at either end and a street like appearance. Another councillor. “It looks narrower than before.”
Q. Jason Perry. “A closed mall doesn’t reach out to the rest of Croydon.” Want to see it connect and reach out to the other spaces, North End, Old Town.
(Ed. Good placemaking practice is not to close off an area, not to defend it from all sides but to open it up to allow for movement, migration and permeability.)
A. The long term plan is to “Make Centrale and Whitgift Centre as one. Now that we are a partnership that is the aim. To explore the logic of connection.” (ed there’s our historical street in between, North End. Don’t deny that character, that place is separate and unique.)
When asked about provision of community space there was confusion here. Several councillors were asking about space for Asian weddings on the one hand and then space for community events such as parades and street parties on the other. The answer came back, “We are very experienced with community space and events. Look what we did for captain America in Shepherds Bush.”
(Ed. That’s more of an advertising PR extravaganza designed to boost the number of shoppers not to celebrate local culture.)
Concern about amenity space for people including families with children in the residential towers. More than just a TV and games room or a lobby area.
Q. Where do the children go? Outside space is required. There was then some misunderstanding about covering over the top of the car parks so that it all looked nice for the neighbours and this was interpreted by councillors that outside play space and biodiversity would be provided. This was not agreed upon by the developer ” Yes there are some issues. Further discussion with your officers is needed”
(Ed. behind closed doors)
Q. Paul Scott. We would like to see 50% but realise that is unlikely but on the other hand we don’t want to see only 15.1%.
A. “Now that residential property prices have increased in Croydon, we can think about providing some affordable housing. Two years ago when this scheme was first mooted this would have been impossible. The value of housing in Croydon now allows for this, however we have not yet begun that discussion.”
Paul Scott. “If you can design for some affordable housing in the first instance then this makes it easier to implement later.”
The councillors seemed to have no problem with tall buildings on Wellesley Road. (Ed. I would highlight both wind tunnel and shading problems.) The developers were not sure whether the towers would be 35 or 40 storeys high, “It doesn’t make much difference once you get above a certain height”. (N.B. 1 Lansdowne Rd will be 65 stories)
The residential blocks will rise from ground level on Wellesley road but the ground floors could contain community and leisure facilities such as a Gym and possibly a community hall suitable for Asian weddings and the like.
Try not to make this a “wall” of unused space. The entrances at either end to the car parks above and a goods delivery entry and exit at either end leading down to the basement should not be a black hole a gaping chasm. Street should be pedestrian friendly.
(Ed. Seems unlikely considering the number of service roads and vehicle entrances and exits, as now.)
Need to accommodate “click and collect” and to have “drop off points”. Developer “We need to work on that.”
(Ed. ie: They don’t have a solution for this given the width of the road and works now taking place).
The need to modify the tram lines.
(Ed. raised my eyebrows!)
Q. Paul Scott. Please don’t ruin the good landscaping works that are going on now.
(Ed. Seems an impossible request; at least some parts will have to be redone. Suggest you halt the work, save the cost now.)
Q. Paul Scott. Parking for disabled including shopping scooters, cycles, and motorbikes on the ground floor.
A. Developer indicated that he did not want to provide any parking for residents.
(Ed. This is nuts. People like their personal transport (soon to be mostly electric) and to limit a family to living in an enclosed flat and to public transport that mainly connects other urban areas is authoritarian thinking. Single people might be happy with just trains to London but families want to get out to Chessington World of Adventures, Windsor Safari Park etc.)
The request for varied and good architecture emerged as a major theme during these discussions. Cladding on the car park. Use of roof space for biodiversity and play. The IMAX cinema to be either pretty or hidden. “No more Croydon vernacular.” Should make a “positive architectural statement”. We don’t want a repeat of the blob on top of the Grants building.
(Ed. Architect is unaware of that issue. He could do with an escorted walk around Croydon)
Design Guidance, yet to be authored, must insist upon architectural variety. “No cookie cutter buildings”.
(Ed. Try employing multiple architects.)
Want to see the chimneys of the almshouses set against blue sky not the mass of tower blocks behind. (Modelling will solve this.)
Concern about “the wall” along Wellesley Rd. This is an opportunity for community buildings, a community hall, gym etc.
(Ed. But will require pick up and drop off facilities.)
Concern about massing around St Michaels Church, also a Grade I listed building.
The replacement for the M&S building should have architectural merit.
(Ed. Difficult one this. What’s it’s purpose. Office or retail? North End is mixed use lets keep it so.)
We want to see a variety of architecture. It is bigger than other Westfield sites and therefore should not be a mono design. We’re looking for some iconic architecture. This is a bigger challenge than Westfield Hammerson first thought they were taking on. They were and should be a bit shocked by this.
Paul Scott “Can we have a hybrid plan next time, in a couple of months?” Part full planning permission sought and part outline.