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Retail development battle looms in Croydon

Plans unveiled for a 150,000 sq m retail complex in Croydon are set to trigger a battle between two major developers.

Property firm Hammerson has proposed the mixed use development for the Whitgift Centre, Centrale and North End sites with up to 130,000 sq ms of retail and restaurant space.

The Whitgift Centre, which would be redeveloped to accommodate double-height flagship stores on two levels for major retailers, and its tower would be converted into residential use with 500 flats to be developed by Urban Splash. There would also be up to 10,000 sq ms of leisure space.

But a complex dispute is expected before any development can proceed.

Hammerson has formed a partnership with Royal London Asset Management, and IBRC Assurance Company, which between them own 75% of the Whitgift Centre’s lease.

Rival retail developer Westfield has though formed an exclusive partnership with the Whitgift Foundation charity, which owns the centre’s freehold and the remaining 25 per cent of the lease.

A Hammerson spokeswoman said: “Our partners own the asset management and development rights to the centre. We like to think that will prevail.”

Whitgift Foundation clerk Martin Corney denounced Hammerson’s partnership with the leaseholders as “inexplicable” when it was formed in April, and complained that leaseholders had excluded the foundation from the process despite it owning the building.

A foundation spokeswoman said it still has a binding agreement to redevelop the site with Westfield.

Hammerson said last month that it would sell its office portfolio to concentrate on the retail market.

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