London Mayor Sadiq Khan has decided to approve the £2billion plans for the redevelopment of the 75-year-old Elephant and Castle shopping centre.
His decision paves the way for developers Delancey to go ahead with the scheme, which will take 10 years to build and make them, according to their figures, a profit of £153million.
The development would mean the removal of more than 100 traders and the construction of 116 ‘social rented’ homes out of a total of 979 flats.
But protesters say the new project only has room for 33 independent traders and does not guarantee future space in the new development.
If the Greater London Authority had rebuffed Southwark council’s permission, granted in July, a public inquiry would have been held, chaired by a planning inspector, delaying the final decision for more than a year.
Tanya Murat, of Up the Elephant, said: “We are shocked and disappointed that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has approved this scheme. “It is a disaster for the local community.
“There is not enough social rented housing and nothing like enough money in the relocation fund for traders. “There are also unresolved problems with the access from New Kent Road.
Southwark’s planning committee could have scuppered the scheme by voting to refuse the Castle Square application on Wednesday. We called on all our supporters to protest at the council’s offices in Tooley Street.”
A spokesman for the 35% Campaign, which presses for social housing, said: “We are disappointed that the Mayor has not called-in this application and used his considerable powers to either get a much better deal from Delancey, or reject their plans.
“We wait to see whether or not there is any improvement to the scheme, beyond what has already being won by local traders, campaigners and councillors.
In particular, we desperately need an increase in the number of social rented homes above the 116 units Delancey has already committed to.
Traders will also be looking at the last-minute relocation strategy produced by Delancey and Southwark without any proper, detailed consultation with those most effected, the traders themselves.”
And London Assembly Member, Florence Eshalomi AM, said: “I wrote to the Mayor urging him to ensure that Delancey gets to grips with providing the necessary support to long-standing traders and supplying the level of social housing that Londoners desperately need.
“From an initial glance, City Hall’s intervention in this process appears to have seen some positive strides in securing more genuinely affordable housing for the community and valuable improvements to the public realm.
“However, I am yet to receive an exact breakdown of how far the scheme will benefit local people. Adding to this, I am still unconvinced that the level of support being pledged to the Latin American business community is sufficient.
“I will be following up these issues with the Mayor to gain his assurances that the newly approved plans will not come at the cost and fragmentation of the Elephant and Castle community.”
Councillor Johnson Situ, cabinet member for growth, development and planning, said: “We have always pushed for as much affordable housing as possible on this site and committed to do everything we can to support the existing traders.
“We welcome the Mayor’s decision and the enhancements announced by City Hall, which will mean increased support for traders.
“This is a complex scheme that will create a vibrant, new town centre, which is a key part of the wider regeneration of Elephant and Castle bringing new homes, jobs and opportunities to the area.
“We will continue to respond to the concerns raised by some local residents about aspects of the regeneration, and work with our residents, businesses, local councillors and Delancey to ensure the new development works for local people.
For the businesses, it has been agreed that 10% of the retail space across the sites will be affordable and Delancey has guaranteed a £634,000 tenant relocation fund to support traders.
The council is currently working with traders on the principles that will inform this funding.
“In addition, the council itself will provide new affordable retail at Perronet House and Arch Street, in addition to the affordable space already being provided by Lendlease and Delancey’s phase one developments.
“We know this is still a very difficult time for people directly affected by this significant change and the council will continue to work with the businesses to support them and help them not just find a new home but also grow and thrive in it.”
The GLA’s Stage 2 report, setting out Mayor Khan’s reason for approval, is expected in the coming days. The Stage 1 report last January had warned: “That Southwark council be advised that, while the scheme is strongly supported in strategic planning terms, the application does not yet fully comply with the London Plan.
“The applicant is, nevertheless, strongly encouraged to maintain its proactive engagement with existing leaseholders at the site, and to work with Southwark council to progress the detail of the proposed business relocation strategy.
“The viability of this build to rent scheme will be independently reviewed in order to verify the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing in line with London Plan Policy 3.12 and the draft Affordable Housing planning guidance.
“The applicant is, nevertheless, encouraged to explore options for further activating/ enlivening windowless sections of the shopping centre building along Newington Butts and Walworth Road.
The proposal would significantly improve the accessibility of Elephant and Castle town centre – including access to homes, jobs, leisure and educational space, as well as the public transport interchange.
“There are detailed transport issues to resolve with respect to: Northern line ticket hall and highway stopping up; public transport impacts; car parking; pedestrian permeability/ wayfinding; cycle connectivity and cycle parking; servicing, vehicular access and waste; demolition and construction management; taxis and private hire vehicles; infrastructure protection; and landscaping.
“The resolution of the matters could, nevertheless, lead to the application becoming compliant with the London Plan.”
A spokesman for Delancey said: “We have continued our constructive dialogue with all stakeholders since Southwark council’s planning committee approved the new Town Centre plans in July this year and have now reached final agreement on all legal agreements and procedures going forward.
“This discussion has been with the existing traders, Southwark council, local ward councillors and the Greater London Authority.
“This has built a positive consensus and we are pleased to see the Mayor’s decision to refer the matter back to Southwark council for its own determination.”
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.