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Elim Estate: planning decision on controversial infill project pushed back three months

A planning decision on a controversial new Bermondsey social housing development has been pushed back about three months.

Housing association Leathermarket Community Benefit Society has submitted plans for 32 new homes on the Elim Estate on Long Lane, which would all be socially rented.

Many current residents are concerned that the plans would mean building on the estate’s ballcourt, which they say is an important community resource – one which has proved especially valuable during the Covid-19 pandemic. Campaigners against the new building have gathered more than 100 signatures for a petition that calls for Leathermarket to withdraw the application.

Leathermarket has said that the new homes would mean they could rehouse families currently living in accommodation that is too small for them. Southwark has 13,000 waiting for affordable housing in the borough and 3,300 in temporary accommodation. Some Elim Estate residents themselves are in unsuitable housing, including a family with three children living in a bedsit.

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The housing association added that it had consulted estate residents about the plans, although campaigners disputed this.

The application was due to be considered at a council planning meeting this Tuesday, June 15. But a planning officer said in an email that the proposal has been “withdrawn” from the meeting and is likely to be reconsidered in September (although no date has been set yet). The council has been contacted for more details on why the application has been shifted back three months.

Campaigners against the proposed new building welcomed the news and called for further consultation with local residents.

A spokesperson for Leathermarket said: “The planning decision for the Elim scheme has been delayed until September for further information to be provided. Leathermarket CBS remains committed to delivering new and much-needed Council homes for local residents in housing need, and to meeting the needs of existing estate residents through new and improved community facilities and landscaping. ”

The Elim Estate plans are just one example of estate infill proposals in Southwark, which are a key part of the council’s plans to build 11,000 more homes for social rent for 2043. Several vocal campaigns have sprung up in recent months to criticise plans to build on green space or other areas within estates. Others have welcomed plans to build more social housing in a borough where many people live in cramped and overcrowded housing.

Southwark’s Liberal Democrats added their voices to the criticism recently, announcing a policy to protect and enhance green spaces in the borough, although without many details on what that would entail.

Cllr Hamish McCallum, Lib Dem leader for the borough, said: “Our parks and green spaces are vital for local people’s mental and physical health – that has become all the more apparent over the last year of the pandemic.

“The Liberal Democrats would formally protect and enhance those green spaces, so that all residents can benefit from them.

“We fully support plans to build new council homes, but are concerned that they are being built on scarce green spaces. Labour must urgently review its site selection criteria and should be doing more to buy and develop new sites that are more suited to delivering the homes that local people need.”


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