By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter
Campaigners against the closure of the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre chanted “homes for people, not profit” at a protest on Thursday evening.
The shopping centre closed its doors after more than 50 years on Thursday night.
It was due to close in July but the date was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Developer Delancey plans to demolish the centre to make way for nearly 1,000 new homes, a pedestrianised town centre, a new college building for the University of the Arts London, leisure and office space, as well as a new railway station.
Of the homes proposed, 116 will be for social rent, charged at around £100 a week for a one-bedroom flat, while 53 will be available for the London Living Rent, at about £150 a week.
Another 161 will be available at up to 80 per cent of market prices.
The rest will be at market rent – a one-bedroom is expected to cost about £2,000 a month.
There has been a long-running dispute between campaigners against the plans and the developer.
Southwark council and Delancey said that all eligible traders have been relocated or offered new premises.
But groups such as the 35% Campaign and Latin Elephant said more than 40 traders have been left with nowhere to go.
Tanya Murat, from the Up the Elephant and Southwark Defend Council Housing, led a group of protesters around the roundabout in Elephant and Castle on Thursday.
After leading the group to the entrance of the shopping centre, she said: “We won’t abandon the Elephant and Castle to the rich developers and the people that care for nothing but profit.
“We say homes for people, not for profit.”
Jerry Flynn, behind the 35% campaign, also spoke to the crowds and said: “This is just the end of the beginning.
“There is still a long way to go before anything is going to be built here.
“Southwark council and Delancey think everything we’re getting in this new development is worth the sacrifice that’s being made by these traders, it’s worth the sacrifice of these traders.
“Today we have demonstrated that this is not so, that this should have been a development that included everybody.”
Mr Flynn said that the proposal had gone to the Mayor of London and read out his response to the crowd.
Sadiq Khan said: “It is disappointing that a number of small businesses don’t have the certainty that they need.
“I understand that the specific relocation proposal you refer to will be subject to various planning and licensing consents, so it is not appropriate for me to comment at this time.
“However, in general I would welcome any solution that provides these businesses with the space they need to trade.”
Another resident said the day “felt very emotional”, while another said it was “another nail in the coffin for working-class culture.”
Both Southwark council and Delancey have been contacted for comment.
Pictured top: Protesters pictured on Thursday
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