DRIVERS are set to benefit from the £1 billion plan to regenerate Croydon town centre – with cash to sort out the Purley Cross traffic bottleneck on the cards.
Retail giants Westfield and Hammerson last week signed a joint deal to develop the Whitgift Centre - immediately signalling their intention to attract shoppers from the south of Croydon and beyond.
Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher said this week financial backing for a package to ease congestion at both Purley and the Fiveways junction on the Purley Way is likely to be high on the developers' wish list.
Cllr Fisher believes the Westfield/Hammerson partnership can be persuaded to commit money to proposals which he says will attract new customers to Croydon.
If those numbers were to be boosted seriously, people would have to be attracted from areas south of the borough and, inevitably, many would want to drive into the town.
Cllr Fisher warned: "These people are not going to be so keen to come here if they are going to face a three-hour journey along the A23."
Helping ease the traffic congestion problems, he added, was therefore in the interest of Westfield/Hammerson.
The idea of improvements to Purley has been widely welcomed in principle but there remains a widespread scepticism about how they would actually work.
Tarsem Flora, chairman of Purley and Woodcote Residents' Association, said: "We would welcome any contribution but we are asking do they really know how much it is going to cost?"
He added that while the deal between Hammerson and Westfield made improvement more likely, the options for what to do about the junction were limited.
Mr Flora said many people favoured a return to the simple crossroads which existed before the elaborate roundabout was introduced, while others backed the idea of an underpass.
Steve O'Connell, Croydon's London Assembly member, said: "Hammerson and Westfield will want the 'fat wallets' from north Surrey to come into Croydon and won't want them put off by difficult traffic blockages."
He agreed there was no consensus locally on how the problem of Purley Cross could be solved, but felt congestion could be eased by improving the phasing of traffic lights and removing the bus lane up to Old Lodge Lane.
Purley councillor Donald Speakman went a step further, saying there were few problems along Brighton Road outside of peak times, and that longer traffic light green phases had made even rush-hour travel easier.
Cllr Speakman added: "If there is going to be money available from Westfield and Hammerson, I would rather see it spent on improving Purley pool."