Developers’ offer to improve Elephant & Castle plan “not enough” – campaigners

Campaigners who successfully delayed regeneration of Elephant & Castle have vowed to fight on for more affordable housing and a better deal for locals.

Traders and residents will debate the latest offer from developer Delancey on their controversial plans to redevelop the Elephant and Castle shopping centre.

The scheme has been drawn up jointly with Southwark council and the University of the Arts campus at the travel hub – formerly the London College of Communication.

But on January 15, Southwark’s planning committee voted to defer Delancey’s controversial plans to replace the Elephant and Castle shopping centre.

Protestors said the £1billion scheme was filled with mostly luxury flats and retail units that are unaffordable to local people, displacing Latin American and other BAME businesses and communities. This landmark decision not to approve the plans follows a two-year long community campaign, which last month saw local students from the London College of Communication, a partner in the deal, occupy their university in objection to the destructive plans being carried out in their name.

Delancey responded with a last minute improvement to the offer, but a joint statement by campaigners dubbed the new details “promising, but vague” and “disappointing”.

Their statement added that:
– Instead of the promised 116 social rented homes, Delancey are now only offering 74. The original offer was just 33.
– 80 London Living Rent homes have disappeared from the application
– the relocation plan for the traders remains worryingly vague and includes less than 300sqm of affordable workspace in the new box park. This is to replace the 4,000sqm the traders currently occupy in the Elephant.

“And there is no sign that Delancey is prepared to sacrifice any of its projected £153million profit to meet the community’s demands,” added the statement.

Jerry Flynn from Elephant Amenity Network said: “Delancey is pulling the wool over Southwark Council and local councillors’ eyes. They have increased the amount of social rented housing by increasing the rents on all the other affordable housing – the amount of affordable housing at the top rate has been doubled and nearly half will now be at 80% market rent. Delancey is still not meeting Southwark’s need for proper affordable housing and their application must be thrown out, until it does.”

Tanya Murat from Southwark Defend Council Housing said: “I hope the councillors on the planning committee refuse this application. Really, it’s just crumbs from the rich man’s table and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

“We got the improvements by fighting back and we intend to continue until a scheme comes forward which benefits the community.”

Sahaya James, campaigns officer at Arts Students Unon and UAL student said: “UAL have confirmed that if they were to drop out Delancey wouldn’t be able to proceed with the development in its current form proving the university have the power to put pressure so the plan is properly amended in the interests of the community who work and live in the Elephant. The fact the decision has at all been delayed and we’re seeing Delancey attempt to appease our campaign with minor amendments is testament to what’s possible when students, workers and the community come together, organise and take action.

“Students are definite and will continue to campaign against our university’s shameful complicity in gentrification.”
Patria Roman-Velazquez, Founder and Chair of Trustees, Latin Elephant, CIO said: “The recent offer by Delancey, though taking into account many of the issues raised by traders in the past, still falls short of a realistic relocation package for existing migrant and ethnic traders. The traders would like to see a relocation package that provides real alternatives and a commitment to see those who would like to do so returning to the new site. It is also worrying that the temporary space provision to relocate businesses in the short term is very far from sufficient to allocate all existing traders. There is also a feeling that the current offers will not be honoured at a later stage due to viability assessments. We will continue to work with traders and local groups to monitor transparency, consistency and accountability of these offers.”
A spokesperson from Delancey said: “We are committed to creating a thriving town centre in Elephant and Castle which will benefit the local and wider community, both now and in the future. Since the Planning Committee in January, we have been working hard to listen to the concerns of local businesses and the community, Ward Councillors and the London Borough of Southwark to find agreeable and financially viable resolutions to the concerns that were raised.
“We have committed to 35 per cent affordable housing, and have increased the provision of social rented housing units to 74. These new homes will be managed by Southwark Council or another Register Provider. We are also looking at ways to increase this to 116 flats. It is anticipated that all of the flats will be delivered for the rental market and will go at least some way towards meeting the Capital’s chronic housing need.
“We appreciate the impact these changes will have on existing businesses in particular and are working hard to engage with traders within the boundary of the planning application. We have already progressed a programme of face to face and group meetings with businesses to discuss their relocation options so that we can tailor solutions to their individual business needs.
“We are providing 10 per cent affordable retail in the new development on both the East and West sites of the future town centre. We do appreciate that it may not be viable for tenants to relocate when the centre closes and then move back in to the new town centre, instead they may wish to find a new permanent location sooner. We have therefore identified locations in the wider area, this includes space at Perronet House, Elephant 1, Elephant Park and Manor Place. A full database of these properties is being made available and tours of the alternative sites are being offered to traders.
“We are looking to provide temporary affordable retail space on Castle Square, with priority given to existing independent traders and are contributing towards a relocation fund of £634,700 for Southwark Council to distribute. The Council is also exploring opportunities to direct some of the Community Infrastructure Levy receipts from the scheme towards further assisting traders with relocation costs.”
“We are also in ongoing discussions with the bingo operator regarding the re-provision of a bingo operation within the locality. We are also happy to give first refusal to a bingo operator to lease 20,000 sq ft of leisure space within the scheme which could accommodate circa 1,000 seats depending upon the precise operator.
“We will be continuing to engage over the coming weeks to discuss these proposals to reach a mutually acceptable and positive result for all to provide essential improvements to the transport, education and housing provision for this key London location. We would encourage people to get in touch with their views or comments during this period by visiting the Community Engagement Centre (opposite Café Nova in the Shopping Centre) or by emailing info@elephantandcastletowncentre.co.uk.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

South London News