BY TOBY PORTER
Developers want to restore Elephant and Castle to its position as the ‘Piccadilly of the South’ with their regeneration plans.
Delancey currently faces a High Court challenge from campaigners opposing its plans to demolish the existing shopping centre and build almost 1,000 homes for rent.
But its management has this week laid out its vision of how it wants to restore South London’s most important transport hub to its pre-war glory.
Its top executives don’t want the colourful light show to rely on advertising and shops, though, but on a digital frontage for the new campus of the London College of Communication (LCC), part of the University of the Arts, London.
Delancey’s investment director Stafford Lancaster said: “We genuinely want LCC to be the heart and soul of the town centre it should be. The campus will have a brand new building and three floors – the lowest floor open to the public.
“There will be a front dictated by digital media to create a lively space. We hope it will be like the Piccadilly of the South – which is what Elephant and Castle used to be known as.
We hope it will be very lively and create a very active front and welcome people in. At the moment it’s like a bunker within a bunker.”
Delancey has also promised a new Tube station – with proper access, not lifts – leisure, shops and almost 1,000 flats for rent.
Mr Lancaster added: “We’ve been through a lot of consultation and it seems to be universally accepted that what we have is a great outcome. The scheme has not changed much since we submitted our application three years ago.
“It is designed to complement the regeneration of Elephant & Castle in general, and integrate the town centre with the other areas that aren’t ours.” Mr Lancaster said Delancey had brought clarity and vision to the redevelopment, which had stalled six years ago.
“When we arrived the scheme was in chaos,” he said. “There was no certainty about what would happen in the area and what would happen to the station.
“We spent six months trying to work out if we would be able to provide some clarity for a redevelopment and spoke to Southwark and the Greater London Authority.
“We have been able to provide some certainty. It was everyone’s desire to redevelopment and not just to refurbish. From the outset, everyone wanted a new town centre which was not a shopping centre and had a significant amount of new housing – for rent, not for sale.”
LCC was all set to move to the Olympic Park in east London, next to the London College of Fashion, until Delancey intervened.
Mr Lancaster added: “We spoke to Steve Howe of University of the Arts London and asked him why LCC would not be staying at Elephant and Castle.
And he said no one had asked if they wanted to stay. “Now the LCC campus is a critical part of the development.”
Specialist residential manager Get Living will both own the centre and run the flats. The architect, appointed six years ago, is Southwark-based Allies & Morrison, which designed temporary retail in Castle Square.
The peninsula with the Faraday memorial – once the centre of the Elephant & Castle roundabout – will be important for the look of the hub.
Mr Lancaster added: “We think we can enliven that and get people to enjoy that space. Nothing will happen to the Michael Faraday memorial. But it is a bit unloved at the moment.
There is potential for it to become a fine piece of public art which people can see, touch and feel and enjoy. It is a lively structure which attracts people, and hopefully it can help us put the place on the map.”
One of the main issues for campaigners has been existing Elephant & Castle traders not being found new premises.
Delancey retail asset manager Helen McVie said: “We’re just at the beginning. There is lots of work to be done in terms of finding the tenants somewhere to go. Diana Branco, the specialist doing a lot of work with the traders, said: “Even if they haven’t got a space in Castle Square or Elephant one and Perronet House we will still be looking.”
The company is also publishing a magazine called The Herd which comes out in late May or June to promote market traders and tenants in the shopping centre and will be distributed to houses within a mile of Elephant and Castle.
“We’re trying to persuade retailers to come in but it is a hard ask,” said McVie.
“It’s expensive to set up but over the past few years we’ve brought in 20 traders and some have stayed and some have gone.”