Traders who have been serving customers in the Elephant & Castle shopping centre for years fear their businesses will go bust as the development slashes their income.
More than 100 firms are currently trading in the 75-year-old mall. But there will only be places for 33 of them in temporary buildings while 10 years of construction work continues on the scheme.
Southwark council’s planning committee on Wednesday decided to defer the application for Castle Square.
Traders representing Latin Elephant, the Elephant and Castle Traders’ Association and nightclub Distriandina told councillors the temporary “boxpark” would have been charging much higher rents than they currently pay in the shopping centre and that there is no place for a nightclub venue in the scheme either.
Tanya Murat from the Up the Elephant Campaign said: “The council should push Delancey to come up with a scheme that doesn’t leave the traders out in the cold.
“That means enough space, at rents they currently pay in suitable accommodation. Anything else would intensify the process of social and ethnic cleansing.”
Emad Megahi from Elephant and Castle Traders’ Association said: “My business is my only source of income and I need to keep running my business, so we want to see automatic rights for qualification and no arbitrary criteria to exclude us.
“We don’t want to see words like ‘affordable’ but precise figures on rent levels, with discount as per the policy.”
Patria Roman-Velazquez, founder of Latin Elephant, said: “The knock-on effects of Sadiq Khan’s final decision are yet to unfold.
“It saddens me profoundly to witness the consequences of such a decision, despite the several negative implications highlighted in the report by GLA officials.
“This development has never been about bringing benefits to the people of Elephant and Castle.
“The communities’ vision for a development that considered and matched their needs and aspirations was never contemplated. We’ve worked for over three years to make this vision tangible.
“But no one seemed to listen. We vehemently opposed Delancey’s plans on these grounds. All we could hope for were greater gains for the traders, users of the shopping centre and local residents.
“This opportunity has now been cut short, but all is not over yet. I’m confident that we are a strong, vibrant and resilient community.
We will remain strong and united.” Students at the London College of Communication (LCC) – which will have a new campus under the plan – have also backed the protests.
Sahaya James from Stop the Elephant Development said: “As students, we are proud to have been central to this campaign and in exposing the complicity of our university UAL in the further gentrification of Southwark.
“We are saddened and disgusted by this decision and the continued use of the new LCC building as an argument for this disastrous development when in fact staff and students have long been united against it and the consequent social cleansing of our neighbours, the area’s Latin and working-class communities.
“We stand in solidarity and will continue to fight for the defeat of any plan which places profit before people.”
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