Bradford plight a warning to Croydon's Westfield plans
Croydon was warned off a Westfield development by Bradford residents whose multi-million pound shopping centre remains a massive hole in the ground.
Westfield, which hopes to redevelop The Whitgift Centre , took control of a planned development in the centre of Bradford in 2004 with plans to create a £389m shopping centre anchored on department stores BHS, Debenhams and Marks and Spencers.
Following demolition of the existing Forster Square, the 12-acre site has remained empty ever since and is referred to as the Bradford Hole among residents.
The anger over the situation saw a masked group of protesters occupy the site in May to demand action to save the town centre.
They were evicted from the site last month. Alias Yousaf acted a solicitor for the members of the occupation group, made up of a number of business owners in the city.
He said: “There are a huge number of businesses that have closed down over the past few years.
“The problem is footfall has fallen and there are just not enough customers.
“With just a huge hole in the ground in the town centre there is not enough to draw people into Bradford. What I would say to Croydon is choose Westfield at your peril.”
The proposal promised to create 3,000 new jobs with demolition beginning in 2004 and construction in 2006.
Westfield bosses claimed a lack of anchor tenants delayed construction and the onset of the recession has led to stalemate.
John Burton, Westfield UK director of development, said: “In this tough economic climate, in some areas outside London, securing retailers can take longer.
“However our Bradford scheme is progressing and we will be making retailer announcements imminently.
“In Croydon, we are advanced with our discussions with retailers and leisure operators and we have received very positive feedback on our plans for the Whitgift Centre.
“If given the green light, we are confident we can deliver a completed scheme in less than three-and-a-half years while still allowing the Whitgift Centre to continue to trade.”