One of the biggest occupiers in Croydon has waded into the bitter battle over Croydon Gateway by signalling that it prefers the 1m sq ft Stanhope and Schroder scheme.

In a letter obtained by Property Week, AIG, the sponsor of Manchester United which has a 250,000 sq ft requirement for a new HQ in Croydon, said that it has ‘serious concerns’ about the arena-led rival scheme for the 13-acre site, put forward by Arrowcroft.

The letter, sent as part of the ongoing public enquiry into the future of Croydon Gateway, also says that AIG ‘formally objects’ to the CPO issued by Croydon Council on the land owned by Stanhope and Schroders. Croydon Council supports the 2m sq ft Arrowcroft scheme and needs the land to complete it.

AIG currently occupies the 135,000 sq ft at ALICO House in Croydon and has been looking for a new 250,000 sq ft HQ in the town for around 5 years.

A source said: ‘This shows which side AIG is on. I wouldn’t be surprised if they signed up to a pre-let at the Stanhope and Schroders scheme.’

If this happened, it would be a serious blow to the Arrowcroft scheme which is also known to be courting the occupier, along with the Terrace Hill development in the town.

AIG’s letter also states that Croydon remains its preferred location, but ‘if this proves not to be possible, we may need to review our real estate strategy and may have to give consideration to the possibility of looking for an alternative location outside of Croydon.’

The fourth enquiry into the scheme has been going on since 18 September. This enquiry is investigating the viability of the Arrowcroft arena-led plans. The next enquiry, which runs back to back and starts on 16 October, will see Croydon Council push for a CPO on the 9 acres that Stanhope and Schroders own. The Stanhope and Schroder scheme, which was renamed Ruskin Square on the eve of the enquiry, has planning from the Secretary of State but the Council prefers the other scheme.

Both sides have been giving evidence. A decision is due in March 2008.