Property developer Hammerson has turned up the heat on rival Westfield over their competing plans to redevelop Croydon by acquiring a 25% stake in the 155 year headlease of the Whitgift Centre.

The £65m deal with Royal London strengthens Hammerson’s position as it battles with Westfield to acquire the site for a new shopping complex in South London.

Hammerson already owns the adjacent Centrale centre in Croydon.

Last week Westfield revealed its plans for Whitgift, including bringing a new department store to the town .A public consultation programme on the Whitgift Quarter also began last week.

Croydon’s existing department store Allders is set to close on Saturday after collapsing in June.

Hammerson said its plans for the Whitgift Centre, revealed in July, “will restore the town to its rightful place as one of the UK’s leading shopping destinations”.

Hammerson chief executive David Atkins said: “We are absolutely committed to the delivery of our plans for Croydon, and we are confident that the development of the Whitgift Quarter will play a key role in the regeneration of the town.

“This transaction with Royal London is a key milestone in the development of our plans and our strategy to deliver a new retail core for Croydon. We are seeking to work collaboratively with all the owners and other stakeholders to bring forward this exciting scheme.”

Royal London senior fund manager Drew Watkins said: “Having been investors in the Whitgift Centre for many years, we are confident Hammerson is the right company to deliver the retail solution that Croydon needs.”