Residents are eager for Westfield to move forward with their development, Croydon Council's strategic planning committee were told last night.

More than 4,000 residents attended the retailer's four-day public consultation in the town centre earlier this month, sharing their views on the £1bn redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre, which would include 1.5m sq ft of retail space, a cinema and bowling alley in addition to 500 new homes and 5,000 new jobs.

The Australian company revealed 1330 residents completed a survey as part of the community consultation, in which 91 percent of participants said they wanted a Westfield in Croydon and 94 percent said they believed the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre and regeneration of the town was needed.

Nearly 80 percent of participants said they felt the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre would kick-start wider regeneration in the borough.

John Burton, Westfield's director of development said: "The initial response to our plans has been extremely positive. The people of Croydon have told us there is an urgent need for regeneration and we are working extremely hard to bring the scheme forward."

Councillor Sherwan Chowdhury questioned the developers over problems at Westfield’s Bradford project, which has seen the site remain undeveloped for eight years.

Mr Burton countered by pointing to the recent securing of Marks and Spencer and Next as anchors at the Bradford centre and offered fresh assurances the development of Whitgift would be carried out in phases.

He said demolition of towers at the site would start at the end of next year with completion of the project due three years after that.

When challenged about safety by Coun Jason Perry, Mr Burton said: "In terms of safety and security we want to work with the police and council, so our safety measures do permeate across the borough."

The survey highlighted the three most desired elements of the scheme were a major department store, high street retailers and good parking facilities.

Mr Burton said: “Many of the local residents have been to our two iconic centres in London and want a similar scheme for Croydon. “We will answer Croydon's requests for a department store and a greater range of shops but we will also ensure small businesses and independent traders are a key part of this regeneration.

"Westfield will create a centre Croydon is proud of."