CRAWLEY will be able to compete with Croydon as a shopping destination even when Westfield/Hammerson's £1 billion project is complete. That is the bullish view of Crawley councillors amid fears that Croydon's new shopping complex will draw crowds away from the town. They hoped John Lewis would anchor their own, more modest, regeneration plans. The retail giant is now being linked to the prime spot in Croydon. Bob Lanzer, Crawley Borough Council's cabinet member for planning and economic development, said: "We have got a rising population in the south east so I think there is still a place for Crawley (as a shopping venue). "There are a lot of affluent areas in and around Crawley and people do not want to travel to Croydon and have to lug their shopping back here." The second phase of Crawley's regeneration scheme was due to be underway but the plan was put back by at least six months in June due to the failure to secure a store to build the project around. Westfield/Hammerson's plans for Croydon will replace the Whitgift Centre with 1.4 million sq ft of shopping space, leisure facilities and between 400 and 600 new homes. Peter Smith, Crawley's shadow cabinet member for planning and economic development, said Croydon's plans were a "potential issue" and has urged the council to keep pace. Ian Harper, of Crawley and Gatwick Chamber of Commerce, believes Crawley should focus on what it has to offer rather than worrying about what could soon be on offer in Croydon. He said: "Crawley needs to focus on its own local area and clearly explain to the likes of John Lewis, and the other names which have been mentioned previously, what Crawley has to offer." Croydon Council has given outline planning permission to the Westfield/Hammerson scheme, a decision later ratified by Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will have the final say, with a decision expected after Christmas.Additional reporting by Dave Comeau
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