Westfield, Hammerson Win Approval for London Mall Project

Westfield Group, Australia’s biggest mall operator, and Hammerson Plc won preliminary approval to rebuild a mall in south London as part of a project valued at about 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion).

The companies would also develop as many as 600 homes, offices and leisure facilities after the borough council in Croydon voted in favor of the Whitgift Centre project yesterday. The redevelopment would create as many as 5,000 jobs, according to documents given to the members before the vote.

The project would create the largest retail and commercial center in south London, the developers said in a filing to the borough. U.K. retail property values grew by 0.3 percent in October from a month earlier as business outside of London improved, according to Investment Property Databank Ltd. Returns for stores and malls in London and southeast England rose, “but retailers and landlords in the North and Midlands continued to see more subdued conditions,” IPD said in a Nov. 14 statement.

“We’re ready to invest,” John Burton, development director at Westfield, told the council at the meeting. “Croydon will rise again to a place in London it has previously held, at the very top.”

Construction is expected to begin in 2015, Sydney-based Westfield and London-based Hammerson said in a statement today.

Croydon Return

The partnership’s plan will re-establish Croydon as a south London retail destination and attract further investment and development to the area, Peter Cole, Hammerson’s chief investment officer, said in the statement.

“This is a key milestone,” Cole said in an interview after yesterday’s vote.

The project was approved over an objection by Minerva Ltd., which is owned by funds advised by Ares Management LLC and a unit of DV4 Ltd. Minerva owns office buildings, a department store and other properties in Croydon.

“It is in the interests of Croydon that a comprehensive and sustainable solution to regenerate the whole of the town center is found,” Minerva said in an e-mailed statement today. “This decision fails to achieve this and risks constraining any future growth and investment plans,”

The mayor of London will now consider the proposal, according to the Hammerson statement. Croydon, birthplace of supermodel Kate Moss, was the location of a main airport during World War II and was heavily bombed. Whitgift Centre was part of an effort to rejuvenate the area in the late 1960s.

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