Community campaigners will take to the streets tonight at 6pm following Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to approve demolition and rebuilding of Elephant and Castle shopping centre.
The scheme, which would see the removal of over 100 independent traders, has been the subject of a near three-year long campaign.
Students from the nearby London College of Communication, a partner in the deal, occupied their university in objection to the destructive plans being carried out in their name.
The community also organised three demonstrations and over 1,000 objections to the various planning applications.
Tonight’s protest will urge the planning committee to refuse Delancey’s application for a temporary “Boxpark” at Castle Square. It is meant to mitigate the loss of floor space in the Elephant but it is only just over 500sqm and only has room for 33 independent traders. This is also a temporary arrangement with no guarantee of future space. The vast majority of traders fear they will be turfed out of the area completely. They will speaking in objection to the scheme and demanding more permanent space.
Jerry Flynn from Elephant Amenity Network 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 been one by 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 affected, the traders themselves.”
Tanya Murat from Southwark Defend Council Housing 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 can still scupper the scheme by voting to refuse the Castle Square application tonight.”
Patria Roman-Velazquez, Founder and Chair of Trustees, Latin Elephant, CIO said: “Today is a sad and grey day for our communities at Elephant and Castle. The knock-on effects of Sadiq Khan’s final decision are yet to unfold. It saddens me profoundly to witness the consequences of such decision, despite the several negative implications highlighted in the Stage 2 report by GLA officials. This development has never been about bringing benefits to the people of Elephant and Castle. The communities’ vision for a development that considered and matched their needs and aspirations was never contemplated. We’ve worked for over three years to make this vision tangible and heard, no one seemed to listen. We vehemently opposed Delancey’s plans on these grounds. All we could hope for were greater gains for the traders, users of the shopping centre and local residents. This opportunity has now been cut short, but all is not over yet. I’m confident that we are a strong, vibrant and resilient community. We will remain strong and united.”
Emad Megahi from Elephant and Castle Traders Association said: “My business is my only source of income and I need to keep running my business, so we want to see automatic rights for qualification and no arbitrary criteria to exclude us; we don’t want to see words like ‘affordable’ but precise figures on rent levels, with discount as per the policy.”
Sahaya James from Stop the Elephant Development said: “As students, we are proud to have been central to this campaign and in exposing the complicity of our university UAL in the further gentrification of Southwark. We are saddened and disgusted by this decision and the continued use of the new LCC building as an argument for this disastrous development when in fact staff and students have long been united against it and the consequent social cleansing of our neighbours, the area’s Latin and working-class communities. We stand in solidarity and will continue to fight for the defeat of any plan which places profit before people.”
A spokesperson 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.”
Delancey said the final deal would include
•All of the 161 discounted market rent housing, within the overall 330 affordable homes (also including 116 social rented and 53 London Living Rent homes,) will be available to households earning up to £60,000.
•The 10% affordable retail space, offered in first priority to existing independent traders wishing to return to the town centre, will be discounted for a period of 15 years, 10 years more than existing Southwark policy.
•An independently chaired Trader Panel has been established to oversee the fair and proper process around trader relocation. Within the terms of reference for the Trader Panel, we have confirmed that the relocation fund of £634,000 should not be regarded as, or mistaken for, a hard cap. The figure was originally agreed with Southwark Council as its best estimate of likely compensation to cover the reasonable costs of relocation. The terms of reference of the Trader Panel now set out a clear transparent framework for assessing and overseeing compensation claims. As such, the developer has confirmed that any genuine claims assessed through this proper process, that result in the current fund being exhausted, will be treated on a fair, transparent and favourable basis.
The spokesperson added: “We remain committed to moving forward to deliver our plans for a new town centre that supports the existing economy and community, allowing them to thrive, whilst still encouraging new people to visit, live, learn and work in the area. We have been working closely with local stakeholders for nearly 5 years on these proposals, which include new public spaces, safer pedestrian routes and a new Northern Line entrance and ticket hall. This will sit alongside a brand new campus for UAL’s London College of Communication, an expanded retail and leisure offer, grass roots cultural venue and 979 mixed tenure homes on a site where none currently exist.
“Integrating a dynamic mix of shops, that includes independent and local businesses, will be central to achieving the vision for a vibrant and different Town Centre. The Latin American community has a long standing history in the Elephant and we will continue to work hard to protect this community and their businesses, as well as other nationalities and all age groups, in the future Town Centre.
“We know that many people remain deeply concerned about how we will bring about this change. We face a significant challenge in the delivery of this project over a number of years. As ever, our reputation will need to be hard earned in the long-run. We would like to reassure the community and other interested parties that we take this responsibility extremely seriously. We will work tirelessly with all stakeholders and neighbours to manage the interim period sensitively and collaboratively. We will deliver a new Town Centre that we will all be very proud of in the end and will continue with an open dialogue as we progress with the plans.”
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