Southwark Council’s planning committee this week voted to delay its decision on controversial plans to knock down and rebuild Elephant and Castle shopping centre after developers put in a last-minute request for extra time to make a better offer, writes Katherine Johnston…
Delancey, the developers behind the regeneration, asked Southwark Council on Monday to postpone the final decision on the controversial proposal until March.
At Tuesday evening’s planning committee meeting, councillors voted to agree, meaning the final vote on the future of the shopping centre is likely be made in early March before the upcoming council elections.
The surprise move from Delancey came after a seven-hour public meeting on January 19, when councillors voted against passing the development by a narrow margin of four to three, with one abstention.
In the current draft plans, only 33 out of 979 proposed new homes are at social rent levels, and there are no guarantees to existing local traders.
But at 9.30am on Monday, with just a day to go, Delancey issued a statement sent to the News requesting that the final decision be halted until next month.
It said: “We have suggested all parties agree that the final consideration of the planning application be deferred until early March 2018, in order to give every opportunity for the key concerns to be addressed and for these discussions to reach a mutually acceptable, positive conclusion for all.”
Just hours before Tuesday’s meeting, Labour councillors for East Walworth posted online a letter they claimed was from Delancey, outlining new concessions.
These included 116 social housing homes, longer-term support for the bingo centre, and a temporary boxpark so displaced shops and restaurants can keep open during the demolition.
A Delancey spokesperson confirmed the letter posted on social media had been sent by Delancey to Southwark Council, but declined to comment on its contents, telling the News: “Discussions are on-going.”
On Tuesday night, demonstrators gathered outside the council’s offices calling on the committee to respect the previous vote, and celebrate rumours that Delancey might table a new offer with salsa dancing and a game of bingo.
Tanya Murat, from the group Defend Council Housing, told the News: “Tonight’s decision was a watershed moment.
“It was evidence that the developer and the council had no choice but to listen to the views of the community.”
However, many protesters were still concerned. Liz Wyatt, from Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, said: “It is hard to know what to make of the decision to postpone.
“We want a stronger statement of support for the community.”
Liberal Democrat councillor David Noakes said: “We want to see the Elephant & Castle redeveloped.
“We are however pleased that the plans as they currently stand have not been passed and will be reconsidered.
“We only get one chance to get regeneration right at the Elephant and Castle and it is important that it delivers not just for new residents but also delivers for existing residents and independent businesses.”
A spokesperson for Delancey said: “We welcome Southwark Council’s decision to defer the decision of our planning application.
“Our proposals offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver essential regeneration to a key London location, which will bring almost 1,000 new homes to a site where none currently exist, desperately needed new transport infrastructure with a new Northern Line entrance and ticket hall, and ensure London College of Communication, UAL’s long term future in Elephant and Castle.
“We recognise that concerns have been raised about our proposals and this extra time will give us the opportunity for these to be addressed.
“The issues are resolvable if all parties continue to engage in this positive and constructive manner.
“We will continue our work with Cathedrals and East Walworth Ward Councillors, Southwark Borough Council and other interested local parties to reach a mutually acceptable and positive conclusion.”
Cllr Mark Williams, Southwark Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and New Homes, said: “We welcome the planning committee’s decision to defer.
“We remain committed to finding a solution for a new shopping centre and home for UAL’s London College of Communication that works for everyone and look forward to the developer bringing forward substantive changes to their application.”