Uncertainty about when work on Westfield in Croydon will start has been expressed by the council leader.

The Croydon Westfield and Hammerson development was unanimously approved by Croydon Council’s planning committee in November 2017 and given the green light by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in January.

But at a meeting on Tuesday night Cllr Tony Newman could not assure fellow councillors that work would begin in September, as was previously expected.

He said: “The Westfield project with it’s new French ownership is looking very strong indeed.

“Are people looking hard at what is happening out there in the retail environment and what’s happening nationally at the moment? Yes they are.

“But in a very challenging retail environment Croydon is as well placed as anybody is at the moment both with projected future investments and retaining those stores we have.

“The council has absolutely delivered in terms of the planning process and the CPO process so I think on any major projects there is always going to be some challenges.”

When pressed by Cllr Andy Stranack whether work would go ahead in September seemed unsure.

Cllr Newman asked in return “was it ever starting in September?” only for council chief executive to answer “they were at one point”.

“At one point, their exact starting date, a lot of preparatory work as we speak is going on out there,” said Cllr Newman.

Last month Unibail-Rodamco bought Westfield Corporation for £18.5 million.

Cllr Newman added that he had already met with the chief executive of the new French owners.

“It was a private discussion but it was very very encouraging in terms of their commitment to what they are doing and they are globally looking to reduce some of what they’re doing to look at specifically in places like London and Croydon,” he said.

He added that they are still “committed to investing in Croydon”.

When asked again if he was not sure whether work would start this year by Cllr Stranack the council leader said: “For the last two years in terms of conversations being had by the Croydon Partnership with the retailers which is the same conversation which has taken place, if we’re honest, for the last two years in terms of when they start.

“70% of retail business is done over the Christmas period so do they start in September or October or do the existing retailers trade for a further Christmas I think is the retail discussion.

“I will support wherever we get to with that but I don’t think it is my role to comment on that.”

The initial master plan for the £1.4 million supermall was approved by Croydon Council back in 2013.

All being well it is set to be completed in 2023, ten years after it was first given the go ahead.

As well as 173,684sqm of retail and leisure space the plans for Westfield include more than 3,000sqm of office space and 3,140 parking spaces.

The development is also set to include up to 967 new homes in a build to rent scheme.

Of these 60 per cent are set to be at 80 per cent of market rent while the other 40 per cent would be prices at ‘London living rent’.

The Croydon Partnership has been contacted for a comment.