The redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre looks set to go ahead after the courts rejected a legal bid to have the planning consent granted by Southwark Council quashed on the grounds that the scheme does not make provision for as many homes for social rent as it could have.
The decision, which was published shortly before Christmas, followed a lengthy campaign by local activists, supported by some Southwark councillors, opposed to the way the area’s regeneration has proceeded, claiming the shopping centre plans will also be to the disadvantage of small retailers within and around the shopping centre.
However, council leader Peter John has expressed his pleasure with the decision, writing on Twitter that he has “never understood the campaign to stop new homes and new jobs being created there,” while his cabinet member for development, growth and planning, Johnson Situ, has welcomed the end of “a period of uncertainty for traders” and renewed a promise to not only find new homes for them but also enable them to “grown and thrive”.
The shopping centre was hailed as a retail breakthrough when it opened in 1965, but its space has never been fully let and the building has been condemned as an eyesore. Plans by developer Delancey for the site, which include an enlarged quantity of new retail space, new office space, a new campus for the London College of Communications across the road, a new entrance for the Elephant & Castle Underground station and 979 new homes, of which 330 meet London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s definition of “genuinely affordable”, were given a green light by City Hall a year ago.
This followed a number of revisions sought by the Mayor, including an increase in the “affordable” housing provision. Of the 330 “genuinely affordable” homes, equating to the Mayor’s 35 per cent threshold requirement, 116 will be for let at social rent levels.
The legal challenge, applied for by local resident Jerry Flynn, was rejected following a two day judicial review hearing held in October. Delancey’s initial application was submitted in October 2016 and a revised version was approved by Southwark’s eight-councillor planning committee in July 2018 by a margin of four councillors to three, with one abstention.
The shopping centre and the railway arch premises at its rear have become distinctive due to the substantial number of Latin American Londoners who have businesses there, including restaurants, cafes and fashion outlets. The council has pledged to support traders with relocating, and says Delancey has guaranteed a £634,000 relocation fund to help them. Some retail space for rent at below market rates is to be provided on the site and the council says it will supply more nearby.
In March, Southwark said 36 of the local traders had accepted offers to move into “new affordable space” very close to the shopping centre and that it was working on helping a further 28, though campaign group Latin Elephant claimed at the time that “over 40 small independent businesses” had been “left out” of the relocation arrangements.
A solicitor from the Public Interest Law Centre who worked on the the legal challenge said he believed the High Court judgement was “far too forgiving of the advice that officers provided to the [planning committee] councillors” and said an appeal had not yet been ruled out.
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