Retail giants Hammerson and Westfield both spoke of their plans for the borough at a business conference today.

The two companies, who are both vying to take over the Whitgift Centre, were guests at the Develop Croydon Conference 2012.

A host of investors and businesses attended the event, which looked at the potential of Croydon as an attractive proposition for investment.

John Burton, Director of Development at Westfield and Robin Dobson, Director of Retail Development at Hammerson, were on a panel of guests speaking about the importance of retail.

Mr Dobson and Mr Burton both spoke of some of their ideas for the town and the potential of Croydon as a retail hub, including the fact that North End has the same footfall as Regent Street.

The pair both said Croydon is heading in the right direction, citing the new bridge at East Croydon Station as an example of catering for the growing needs of the borough.

Mr Dobson, of Hammerson, began by talking about why Croydon is such an attractive proposition.

He said: “The town is on the cusp of real transformation. Not many towns have two of the worlds leading retail giants fighting over the rights to invest in the town.

“There is a fantastic infrastructure here. There is excellent transport links, excellent consumer demand and a very much well led council.

“In terms of retail it is underperforming. Croydon should be in the top ten but at the moment it is in the mid 20s. There is a huge opportunity to bring it back up the rankings.”

Mr Dobson also cited their retail outlets in Birmingham and Aberdeen as examples of how they tailor their projects to the town’s needs.

John Burton, of Westfield, said he didn’t want his talk to be an advertorial on Westfield’s plans but explained that plans for Croydon had to be geared towards regenerating the town centre and beyond.

He said: “Regeneration is a word much used and much abused. To qualify as regeneration the development needs scale, repeated investment and has to have the capacity to radiate and exude confidence for the wider area.

“Ultimately I want people to be proud of the area they occupy. Regeneration is not a short term thing it is long term. Croydon is capable of doing this.

“I wonder what the general public feel about Croydon? We surveyed over 1,300 people recently and we asked them if they wanted to see the Whitgift Centre and the surrounding areas regenerated? 97 per cent said yes.

“How urgent is this regeneration? 72 per cent said it is urgent. We asked people if the development of the Whitgift Centre would kick start wider regeneration of the town centre. Interestingly 78 per cent said it would.

“86 per cent said that regeneration would change people’s perceptions of Croydon. Urgent regeneration is needed and needs to be done as quickly as possible.”