One of South London’s most notorious landmarks is set to be bulldozed after planners last night voted through its demolition.
Developers Delancey will be allowed to demolish the 50-year-old Elephant & Castle shopping centre in the teeth of opposition from public housing campaigners and Latin American traders.
On the night Columbians were mourning the exit of their team from the World Cup at the hands of England in nearby Columbian bars, South American businesses were also being told they would have to move out of the centre to make way for almost 1,000 homes under the plans.
Councillors agreed planning permission for the £1billion project by just a single vote – four votes to three, with one abstention, after five hours of debate. It will take more than a decade to complete the massive scheme and involves moving the London College of Communications (LCC), part of the University of the Arts, London (UAL), across the road from its current ageing site on Newington Butts.
Delancey’s original offer of 33 homes at social rent equivalent drew protests from housing campaigners at a previous vote in January and was well short of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s target. It has been increased to 116 homes, which are likely to be owned and managed directly by the council.
The number of homes being offered at London Living Rent – pegged to average earnings – falls as a result from 158 to 53.
Another 161 of the “affordable” homes in the scheme – offered at a discount of about 20 below the current market rent – would go to households earning up to £90,000 a year.
The scheme could yet be called in by Khan.
Latin Elephant chairwoman Patria Roman-Velazquez said: “We are extremely disappointed that the application has been passed with little reassurances for the communities of Elephant and Castle. There is still a long way before final approval of this controversial scheme. The application still needs approval of GLA, and we will continue to advocate for a better deal for all the communities of #ElephantAndCastle.
“If it wasn’t for a strong and united campaign we wouldn’t have gained the concessions we did – the increase in social housing units; a relocation fund, a total of 10 per cent affordable retail space and a traders panel.
“Despite these gains there are many more things to iron out. We are extremely worried about the loss of affordable commercial and cultural spaces for the many traders, users and costumers of Elephant and Castle shopping centre. It is extremely worrying that to date only 411 sqm are available for relocation of current tenants of the shopping centre and less than 1,500 sqm will become available by 2019. Currently traders occupy approximately 4,000 sqm of floor space in the shopping centre. So it is utterly frustrating to think of the subsequent displacement and loss of a valued place for many Latin Americans and BAME groups in London.
“Together with many other local groups, residents, LCC students, local councillors and campaigners, Latin Elephant will continue to fight for a fair and inclusive deal for all BAME and Latin American traders who make Elephant and Castle our home.
“We might have lost one fight, but not the battle! Se pierde una batalla pero no la lucha!”
Jerry Flynn of public housing advocates the 35% campaign said: “We are bitterly disappointed that Southwark has approved an application where nearly half of the affordable housing will be at 80 per cent market rent. The local community forced Delancey to increase the number of social rented homes to 116. Southwark council could have got us 44 more, by forcing Delancey to use the Mayor’s grant of £11m on housing, but instead it allowed Delancey to keep the money as profit. Delancey admitted they are only paying £260,000 towards extra social rented housing. It is disgraceful.
“The Elephant now faces the loss of the traders and the people who make it unique, people from all over the world. Southwark and Delancey made a lot of promises to the traders and Latin American community and all the local campaign groups will be fighting to make sure they are kept.”
Delancey’s investment director Stafford Lancaster said this morning after the vote: “We are pleased that Southwark council’s planning committee has resolved to grant planning consent for proposals to create a new Elephant and Castle town centre.
“We are committed to delivering this project, in line with the council’s vision for the area, and since the initial planning committee in January, we have worked closely with the local community, ward councillors and Southwark council to listen to concerns.
“Our proposals offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver a new town centre for the area, with each of these elements dependent on being delivered together. This includes a modern transport system, and a commitment to maintaining the area’s unique and vibrant culture.
“The new town centre will include a range of high street and independent retailers, enhanced restaurant and leisure opportunities and much needed housing on a site where there is currently none. It is a huge relief to see the retention of LCC at Elephant and Castle, and upon completion to welcome the new headquarters for UAL to the area, bringing many more jobs.
“We know that the task we face going forward in delivering this project, in an inclusive and positive manner, is huge. We want to ensure all parties that we take our responsibility extremely seriously and know our reputation in Elephant and Castle will need to be hard earned in the long-run. We remain open to debate, and embrace the next stages with great optimism about what can be achieved for all.”
A statement from LCC said: “We are pleased that Southwark council has approved resolution to grant planning permission for UAL’s new building for LCC, part of the wider Elephant and Castle Town Centre Redevelopment plans. Having been at the heart of Elephant and Castle for over half a century, we are delighted to be able to continue our future in the area.
“We believe this building for LCC will not only benefit our students, staff and alumni for generations to come, but allow us to expand our ongoing work with local communities, neighbours, partners and schools.
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