Launching his mayoral election economic manifesto, Boris Johnson has said he will work to mediate in the growing row over development of the Whitgift Centre.

This week, Centrale owners Hammerson was appointed to redevelop the town centre shopping mall, but rival bidders Westfield countered by stating they believe they still have a stake in the site, after reaching an agreement with freeholder the Whitgift Foundation.

Speaking at Christ Church, Purley at the launch of his manifesto this morning, Mr Johnson said the battle showed Croydon’s pulling power for business.

He said: “I chose to announce my manifesto for economic growth in Purley because of the potential exhibited by Croydon, London’s third city.

“That potential is clear. We have two retail companies going head to head and that shows the interest and commitment to Croydon.

“In other parts of London where either of these two have been involved it has created jobs and stimulated the area. That is why it is important to help facilitate this process.”

Mr Johnson said investing in the area’s transport connections was key to future growth.

He said: “I am proud to say we put another six trams, something that was only possible through continued support of TfL’s budget.

“Investing in Croydon’s tramlink is key. We are looking at expansion of the tram link and are determined to do it.”

He admitted taking the tram to Purley and the south of the borough was not a main priority.

Questioned on whether he would support the controversial incinerator, planned for Beddington Lane, Sutton, Mr Johnson indicated he was unaware of the details of the proposal.

The chosen site falls on Metropolitan Open Land, and any planning decision must consult the mayor of London’s office.

He said: “If it is within my power to block something that is not in the interests of the people of Croydon I will.”