Southwark: Campaign for legal challenge to Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre regeneration plans

Southwark: Campaign for legal challenge to Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre regeneration plans

Campaigners against consented plans for replacing the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre with a new one have launched a crowdfunding campaign to mount a legal challenge to the decision in the hope of having it quashed.

Final approval for the full scheme, to be delivered by developer Delancey, was given by City Hall in December after Southwark Council’s planning committee had approved it by a narrow margin.

Its opponents, who had raised more than half their target of £5,000 within 24 hours of launching their appeal for funds, claim that the council was “misled” about the maximum amount of “affordable” housing the developer could provide within the development and that with funding from the London Mayor the number of social rented homes could be increased from 116 to 158.

It also contends that Delancey could end up building “little or no social rented housing” if it fails to deliver another section of the overall development. The scheme as it stands offers 330 “affordable” homes of different kinds out of 979 in total, meeting the Mayor’s 35 per cent “affordable’ requirement for developments that don’t qualify for mayoral funding support.

City Hall planning officers subjected the plans to their own viability testing before giving them a green light and concluded that they offered the maximum level of affordable homes that could be achieved at the current time. This followed revisions to the scheme designed to meet the Mayor’s concerns about the level of affordable homes previously offered.

The Shopping Centre was hailed as a retail breakthrough when opened in 1965, but soon fell into disrepair and “has only ever been partially occupied,” according to research by academic Ben Campkin. It is variously regard as an eyesore and as a valued local landmark.

Many of its present traders and others in railway arch units to its rear are of Latin American descent, reflecting a significant section of the local population. The plans contain a “relocation strategy” for these and other centre retailers, which includes funds to meet costs and new spaces to be let at 40 per cent of local market rates for a five year period and 75 per cent for the next ten. A bingo hall at the top of the building will not be replaced. The campaigners say they are dissatisfied with these provisions and that the plans threaten the diversity of the area’s population.

The City Hall report, compiled by GLA planning officers, concluded that both the “displacement of traders” and the impact on the bingo hall users would be “outweighed by the wider benefits of the scheme”, which include improvements to the Elephant and Castle Underground station, a new home for the local London College of Communications along with the new housing and shopping centre.

If the campaigners hit their target of £5,000 they will be represented by barristers Sarah Sackman and David Wolfe QC, both of whom of whom have wide experience in this area of law.

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