Development chiefs completely regenerating Elephant & Castle have admitted they misjudged the mood of locals about the £1billion project.
Builders Delancey have agreed they made mistakes by not having more consultation and not including more affordable housing in their first scheme.
But they believe their revised plans will meet the objections of the traders still in the mall and the campaigners demanding more inexpensive rental homes for less-well-off families.
The scheme is due to be discussed by Southwark council’s planning committee on Tuesday evening.
“The level of opposition did surprise us,” said Delancey’s investment director Stafford Lancaster.
“A significant group of people were coming back saying they were not happy with the 35 social rent equivalent homes.
“We had spoken to councillors, leaders and officers. We built up a genuine consultation.
“So the level of opposition towards the end of last year was a surprise.
“The trader process has been hard, too. The relocation has been challenging. We probably haven’t done enough around those relationships and processes.
“The concerns were valid. They came late, around the end of last year, but they were valid.
“On reflection we made some errors in that area.
“But we are doing our best to work out the concerns for the 48 traders.”
The original plans had only 35 social rent equivalent flats and 140 of London Living housing – a total of 175. But the new scheme has 116 social rent homes – or 35 per cent of the total development calculated in terms of habitable rooms.
The rest is discounted market rent, about 20 per cent below the going rate, available for households earning less than £90,000 – as in the previous plan.
Delancey has created an independent relocation panel for traders, adding a level of outside scrutiny. “The better the mix of traders and families, the more successful it will be,” said Lancaster. “Because it will be a better place to live and work.
“We were not getting that across. And if the profitabliity of the scheme improves, there will be a review mechanism to include more affordable housing. It will depend how the viabilty works out.
“We prefer independent retailers in our developments – the former Olympic Village in Stratford is a good example. They create a different environment and do a better job.”
The regeneration is expected to make £151m for Delancey, but Lancaster stressed that was only an estimate and it represented just 1.5per cent a year over the 10 yeasr of the development.
“Most people will never have seen a profit figure,” he said. “We are being transparent. In the past, developments like this have been too cloak-and-dagger – people having to go to court to discover the figures.
“But until now, no one has had the backing and the guts to do this regeneration.
“Southwark council and the GLA encouraged us to get involved because we had the ability to make a £1billion investment. Previous owners St Mowden could not do it.
“It is important people recognise the scale of our commitment – £1billion is a lot to risk.
“No one can guarantee we will reach a £151m profit. There are significant costs of the construction and its design. The builder has to make a profit. Costs can go up – they usually do. And 2,000 construction jobs will be created over that 10 years.
“And over 10 years, it is just 1.5 per cent a year. It is our job to manage that risk.
“Plus, we will not abandon the site. A lot of other developers and house builders are just there for the short-term. They sell and move on.
“We have not earned people’s trust yet. But apart from the university buildings – because they insisted on buying them – we will keep the freeholds.”
He said costs below ground might also escalate because of
– plant machinery and an energy station
– a new Tube station
– archaeological discoveries
The amount of office space has also been increased from the current total of 10,699sqm to almost eight times that.
A bingo hall will be offered in a 1,000-seater hall, though it is unlikely to go to current operators Palatial Leisure. Plans to provide a hall until the new one is built are also being drawn up.
“It is a very big site,” he said. “That is a big part of the reason it has not been developed.”
* Protesters write to London College of Communication head demanding it press for further changes – see this week’s South London Press.
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