Now instead of battling it out, the rivals for redeveloping the centre will work together to finalise a £1 billion project which is widely expected to kickstart the regeneration of the whole town centre.
Both companies admitted to the Advertiser last week that the council's threat of organising a public competition to find a preferred developer had been key in their decision to co-operate rather than get embroiled in a long and costly fight.
The competition would have involved the council setting down parameters for how it wanted to see the town centre develop and inviting Hammerson and Westfield, plus Allders owner Delancey, to come up with bids to meet those requirements.
Council leader Mike Fisher said this week: "I am very happy to say that the signs we were preparing a competition to secure a preferred bidder was a major factor in the thinking of Hammerson and Westfield in coming together."
He claimed that neither company wanted to get involved in a costly exercise which could see one of them ending up with nothing.
Cllr Fisher admitted he was "a little surprised" at the speed of the outcome and the fact the developers had managed to keep their negotiations under wraps for so long.
He added: "All the feedback initially was that the two parties wanted to develop the Whitgift Centre on their own but they have come together in a sensible and pragmatic approach for the benefit of the town."
He said he was delighted with the deal, which he was convinced would return Croydon to its role as the premier shopping centre in south London.
The Advertiser understands the decision to go down the public competition road was the result of originally immovable stances being adopted by the major players.
Up to a few months ago, the indications from Hammerson and Westfield were that they would never work together.
Apparently, if that was not enough, the Whitgift Foundation, which owns the Whitgift Centre freehold and has a deal with Westfield, was also suggesting it was in an unassailable position.
It was confident the council would never take on a 400-year-old Croydon institution by suggesting going down the line of a compulsory purchase of its interest.
But at this point it is believed the Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London got involved, backing the council view that the regeneration of Croydon was too important to be lost in an ownership battle.
It is understood that a message was conveyed to the foundation that if Croydon proved hesitant on the compulsory purchase order front, the GLA could take a very different view.
This, it seems, set a few nerves jangling in the Westfield/Foundaton camp and played its part in the start of the discussions which have led to what all sides now believe will be the best solution to ensure a prosperous future for the joint developers and the town.
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