The long-awaited £1bn Westfield and Hammerson town centre regeneration project came one step closer today after a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for the take-over of the Whitgift Centre and surrounding land was approved.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, today confirmed his decision to allow Croydon Council to purchase land earmarked for the redevelopment to make sure the project goes ahead.

The decision follows a public inquiry into the CPO held earlier this year, after objections were raised by leaseholders at the centre, led by the Whitgift Trust.

Mr Clark made his ruling on the recommendation of his inspector, Paul Griffiths, who led the six-week inquiry in February and March.

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A artist's impression of how the new town centre could look after the development is complete

Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council, said: "This is a day of celebration for Croydon residents and an important milestone for them.

"Today’s decision is a monumental step forward for Croydon, and a vitally important stage in our town’s transformation into a modern, European city.

"The redevelopment of the 1960s Whitgift Centre will reposition Croydon as the best place to shop, live and work in South London and the wider region in the 21st century."

Although today's decision does not guarantee a time frame for the project's completion, the council has hailed it as giving "certainty" that the redevelopment will now go ahead.

A spokesman for the Croydon Partnership, which represents Westfield and Hammerson's interests in the project, said: "The decision is integral to the site assembly process that underpins Croydon Partnership’s proposals for the major retail regeneration of Croydon’s town centre and represents another important milestone towards delivering the scheme which will bring 5,000 new jobs to the area and help unlock Croydon’s enormous potential.

"We will continue to work hard to reach agreement with those affected by the redevelopment and aim to achieve negotiated settlements with the vast majority of the owners and occupiers on the site over the coming months.

"The Council will lead the CPO process, in accordance with the legal framework that applies. Work on the scheme is progressing well, including the detailed design and negotiating with prospective retailers."

The proposed Westfield redevelopment is part of a £5.25bn council-led regeneration effort in the borough, which aims to deliver 23,500 new jobs and 8,500 homes in the town centre by 2031.

Croydon Partnership said it hoped to be on-site by late 2016 and begin construction early the next year.