Elephant regeneration gets approved by just one vote

BY TOBY PORTER toby@slpmedia.co.uk

One of South London’s most notorious landmarks is set to be bulldozed after planners voted through its demolition on Tuesday evening.

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 Colombians were mourning the exit of their team from the World Cup at the hands of England, in nearby Colombian 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 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 site in 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 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 per cent below the current market rent – would go to households earning up to £90,000 a year.

The scheme could yet be called in by Mr 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.

“If it wasn’t for a 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, we are 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 411sqm are available for relocation of current tenants of the shopping centre and less than 1,500sqm will become available by 2019.

“Currently traders occupy approximately 4,000sqm of floor space in the shopping centre.

“Together with many other groups, residents, students, 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 their home.”

Delancey’s investment director, Stafford Lancaster, said: “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.

“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.

“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.”

A statement from LCC said: “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.

“The deferral of the planning decision in January allowed for further consultation and discussions.

“Councillors and local groups worked hard to ensure that proposals for affordable housing, trading, transport and leisure facilities moved forward materially from the original application, and LCC believes the approved plans will bring many cultural, economic and educational opportunities for our local communities.

“Education plays a core role in addressing social injustice within and beyond Southwark, and we are pleased that it is recognised as a priority consideration in the area’s redevelopment.”

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