35% Campaign update – Southwark developments that fail to deliver real social rent

Southwark developments that fail to deliver real social rent

Dec 07, 2022 08:23 am

Social rent of £295.50 challenged by Southwark Law Centre

Southwark Law Centre has written to the council to ask why social rents on new housing developments are higher than the limits set by government. One development, Gutenberg Court, has a social rent of £295.50, which is £130 above the social rent cap of £164.87, for a two-bed property. It is also wrongly advertised as ‘market related’.

For the past year the law centre’s Planning Voice Project has been monitoring Southwark Council’s Homesearch website, which is used by those on the housing waiting list to find a new home. It has written to the council with seven examples of private developments which have rent levels above government formula rent cap guidance. All the developments have been approved on the condition that a proportion of the housing is social rented.

The developments identified include Elephant Park, in the site of the former Heygate estate, and three where the social housing is delivered by the same registered provider, Optivo.

Government guidance limit on annual rent increases 2022-23 (from April 2022)

The seven developments are; 44 Willow Walk, Eden House, Shirley Chissom Court, Dockley Apartments, Gutenberg Court, Elephant Park and Joseph Lancaster Terrace. All the rents in these schemes exceed the rent cap by various amounts, both with and without weekly service charges. The council has said that it will investigate the complaints.

Optivo’s big social rents

Eden House is a workspace/residential development with 84 homes, on Ilderton Rd, in the Old Kent Rd Opportunity Area. It was approved in 2018 with sixteen social rented units; Optivo provides this, but is charging £216.92, including a £9.86 service charge, against a rent cap of £155.73 for a one-bed flat and £281.54pw, including a £12.35 service charge, against a rent cap of £164.87, for a two-bed flat. A 3-bed wheel-chair accessible flat is let at £332.31, against a rent cap of £174.03.

Shirley Chisholm Court is a residential development of 86 homes, also on Ilderton Rd, approved with eighteen social rented units. Here Optivo is charging a total of £184.03, including £15.69 service charge, against a rent cap of £155.73 for a one-bed wheel chair accessible flat. For a two-bed wheel chair accessible flat the total rent is £198.50 (including a £24.47 service charge) against a rent cap of £164.87.

Dockley Apartments has one hundred and eleven homes and is part of the Bermondsey Spa developments. Here Optivo is charging rents for one and two bed wheel chair accessible flats at the rent cap limit of £155.73 and £164.55, but with large service charges added the total rents payable are £189.03 (rent cap £155.73) and £201.78 (rent cap £164.87) respectively.

Rent and service charges – Peabody and Paragon

Some of the scheme’s providers do not show any service charge in the total weekly rent. Peabody are charging total rents of £223.50 (rent cap £164.87) two-bed and £248.72 (rent cap £174.03) three-bed at Willow Walk. Three and four bed wheel chair accessible homes are being let at £252.60 (rent cap £174.03) and £243.26 (rent cap £183.18) respectively.

Paragon and Asra Housing Ltd are charging £261.44 for a one-bed and £295.50 for a two bed at Gutenberg Court. Our last blog post showed how the nine social rented units that were approved at planning committee have been audited as intermediate, or affordable rent, red flagged, but with apparently no enforcement action to date.

L&Q at Elephant Park

L&Q provides the affordable housing on Elephant Park, including one hundred 3-bed social rented units. L&Q are charging below the rent cap for rents, but then adding very large service charges, to take total rents up to at least £213.43pw, against a rent cap of £174.03. The latest flats advertised in Robeson Apts, Rodney Place are a whopping £281.20pw.

The level of social rents was raised by objectors at the planning committee meeting that rejected Lendlease’s proposal to build an office block on Elephant Park. Southwark have also started an enforcement action for an audit of the rents of Elephant Park’s Sandow House. This was due to be concluded by 21 September, but remains pending.

Southwark Council’s Homesearch advert for Elephant Park’s Robeson Apartments

Southwark Council and Adrian Court

The social rents being charged for Southwark’s twenty-five new council homes on Adrian Court stand in stark contrast to those of the registered providers listed above. The one, two bed units are all being let at below the rent cap level, and the three-bed at just above, all rents including a flat service charge of £10.29.

Conclusion – lost social housing and ineffective monitoring

Southwark Law Centre’s intervention comes just after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman ruled that Southwark had an effective monitoring system for the delivery of affordable and social rented housing. The size of these rents tells a different story. Registered providers are letting social rent homes at rents way above the rent cap, with and without big service charges. Some of this might be justified when the units are wheel chair accessible, but the amounts vary wildly. Nearly all are also wrongly advertised as ‘market related rent’, not ‘social rent’.

To its credit, Southwark seems to be setting rents according to the rent caps, but the result is that a social tenant can pay dramatically different total rents for the same sized flat – a three-bed on Southwark’s Adrian Court costing £176.75, whereas the same on Lendlease’s Elephant Park can cost £281.20.

Southwark is getting little enough social housing from new developments as it is. The London Tenants Federation research has found that it there has been a net loss of over 1800 social rented homes in the decade from 2011 and that social housing as a proportion of total housing has been reduced by 13%. We should not be losing what we do get because of slack monitoring.


Southwark Law Centre’s Planning Voice project says: “Given the desperate need for social rent housing in Southwark, we are deeply concerned about the levels of rent for properties being advertised on HomeSearch. We have highlighted many that are above the formula rent cap, and Southwark Council should be doing much more to ensure its approved social landlords are not charging excessive rents so they are in line with council rents. We hope they investigate these cases and the rents are reduced. Thousands of tenants need these homes.”

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Recent Articles:

Ombudsman rejects affordable housing complaint
Lendlease’s Elephant office block rejected.
Elephant Park – Lendlease’s final squeeze
Elephant Park – homes dumped for offices
Only one in ten new homes in Southwark is social rented

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35% Campaign

Ombudsman rejects affordable housing complaint against Southwark

35% 2022
Oct 31, 2022 08:49 am

A complaint by the 35% Campaign that Southwark has no effective system for the delivery of affordable housing, has been rejected by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. The judgement (LINK) comes after an 18-month enquiry process, with the Ombudsman ruling that ‘We found no fault because the Council has effective procedures for carrying out its functions’.

However, the Ombudsman declined to investigate discrepancies between the affordable housing figures given on Southwark’s interactive audit and those found on other reports, from both Southwark Council and the Greater London Authority (GLA), primarily on the ground that effective compliance procedures were in place.

These discrepancies were not minor. They show a shortfall of over 3,500 in the number of recorded social rented units and number audited. There are also more than 200 completed schemes, listed by the GLA, that remain unaudited.

The two complaints

This was the second complaint to the Ombudsman on this issue. Southwark had said it would introduce effective monitoring procedures, after the Ombudsman found that none were in place, following an earlier complaint in 2016 . The new procedures were to include annual audits. In the six years since then, though, only two incomplete audits have been published. An online monitoring tool, able to record live data, and commissioned by Southwark was never launched.

In response to the second complaint, Southwark explained the four-year gap between the first audit in 2017 and the second in 2022 was because of the large amount of data that had to be processed. Most of this task had been undertaken by two officers, later increased to ten officers to complete the project. Southwark also said that ‘better suited’ off-the-peg software had replaced the online tool it had commissioned and that it was now working with another software developer to build a comprehensive new tool.

Southwark explained enforcing the legal s106 agreements, which guarantees affordable housing, was complicated by their variety. It cited one legal case, where affordable homes had been returned after a significant failure to comply with the s106, but said otherwise ‘most breaches….could easily be resolved’.

The Ombudsman’s decision

The Ombudsman noted in his decision the ‘gap of several years between issuing annual reports and it is only in the last year that it [the council] had substantially completed its database’. Nonetheless he concluded that this did not amount to a fault, because the task ‘was always likely to take a long time…’. No time period had been set for this in the Ombudsman’s 2016 complaint decision. The Ombudsman also decided that the council was not at fault for replacing the bespoke tool with proprietary software, because this was a matter for them to decide.

The Ombudsman therefore concluded ‘I am satisfied that the Council now has effective means to capture and record AHO [Affordable Housing Obligations] for enforcement and other purposes’.

What we think

….six years too late

The Ombudsman’s decision is a disappointment to us. We believe that the Ombudsman treats Southwark very benevolently, given what his own report tells us. It says that Southwark only** ‘now** has effective means’ of monitoring affordable housing delivery (our emphasis), six years after the issue came to light; the report does not dwell on what has been happening in the meantime.

…..the lost tool and the missing units

A bespoke tool that could have monitored real-time delivery has been discarded and reverted to spreadsheets, with the possibility of developing a different purpose-built tool later.

The Ombudsman’s report also says that the database of schemes has only been ‘substantially’ completed in the last year. This is a generous description, given that there is evidence of a 3,556 unit gap between the number of units of social housing Southwark says it has delivered and those recorded by the audit. Southwark’s Housing Facts and Figures webpage (Table 8) says that 5,597 social rented homes have been built since 2004/05, whereas only 2,041 have been recorded in the audit (since 2002).

….the missing schemes

The Greater London Authority (GLA), which funds much affordable housing, also has responsibility for monitoring its delivery across London. Our examination of the GLA datahub found 209 completed schemes listed as having provided affordable housing in Southwark, as part of a planning permission, but which do not appear in Southwark’s own audit.

One-hundred and forty three of these schemes can be found on Southwark’s planning portal and date from at least 2004 onwards. Many are simple one- and two-unit conversions, but there are also much larger schemes, including parts of Elephant Park and Canada Water with thirty-eight schemes for between ten and 100 units.

….weak enforcement actions

There are also a couple of alarming explanations from Southwark’s officers, about how affordable housing is secured and retained. The first is that ‘there were cases where there had been changes between what was originally expected during the planning (sic) and what was finally agreed in section 106 agreements. It was sometimes difficult to know what changes had occurred….’ (our emphasis).

There should be no changes between what is approved at planning committee and and ‘what was finally agreed in s106 agreements’. Planning committees approve schemes that provide a precise amount of affordable housing of given tenures. If the developer cannot deliver what has been agreed at committee, then a s106 agreement for something different should not be signed. Southwark’s officers should also be able to say why there have been changes, to ensure that they have been made properly.

Southwark’s officers explain that ‘evolving policy’ or loss of funding may be reasons for changes, between committee resolutions and legal agreements. Again, this should not be happening; applications are judged against emerging policy and changes to funding, or to the viability of an agreed scheme should be addressed by way of formal variations. Officers note that some applications change this way, but only on ‘other occasions’.

In any event, a look at the Southwark’s planning enforcement action webpages shows sixteen enforcement notices relating to affordable housing have been issued since 2016. Ten of these are for not responding to the audit and were lodged on the same day (10 May 2022) – three months after the Ombudsman began his investigation). Three remain open, including an audit of social rents on Elephant Park (link).

….Gutenberg Court – the £295 social rent

The Ombudsman’s report notes that ‘In some cases, the type of AHO [Affordable Housing Obligations] tenancy was not what had been required’. The report does not say how often this has occurred, but one instance that has come to light is that of Gutenberg Court, which was also one of the schemes cited in our original 2016 complaint. This was a development of 38 homes, including nine social rented homes, approved by Bermondsey Community Council planning committee in 2011. Southwark Law Centre complained to Southwark Council in October 2021 that the social rented units were being wrongly advertised to the housing waiting list as ‘market related rent’, not ‘social rent’, on the council’s Homeseach webpages. The development now appears in Southwark’s audit as delivering nine affordable rent units (which can be up to 80% market rent) and zero social rent units. (SCREEN SHOT)

The difference between a market related rent rent and social rent can be seen from the rents that are being charged – £261.44pw (one-bed) and £295.50 (two-bed). This compares to the social rent formula rent caps for 2022/23 of £155.73 (one-bed) and £164.87 (two-bed).

The scheme has been ‘red-flagged’ on Southwark’s audit, but no enforcement action is listed on the enforcement action webpages.

Conclusion – everything is not alright

The Ombudsman’s findings will be welcomed by Southwark, particularly following his adverse finding in 2016.

But the Ombudsman’s paints a picture of a service that is still not on top of the monitoring job, six years after he first exposed the problem. Just two officers were tasked with the audit, later increased to ten, ‘to complete the project’. Only two annual audits were completed in six years and solid evidence from Southwark and the GLA sources, that a large number of schemes and units have been omitted, has not been investigated. A bespoke online tool was commissioned, then abandoned (at the cost of £230k), with another now apparently in the works.

The process for securing affordable housing also appears haphazard. Consequential changes are being made to approved applications, for different reasons and at different points in the planning process, which Southwark officers cannot properly explain – a problem that would not arise if we had an effective monitoring process.

It is the facts on the ground though, that really expose Southwark’s monitoring failure. Gutenberg Court is one example of a scheme with social housing, approved by planning committee several years ago, that is now appearing on Southwark’s Homesearch website with ‘market related’ rents very much higher than social rents. Elephant Park is also under scrutiny because of the high level of its social rents. For as long as we have cases like this, Southwark Council cannot complacently say every thing is alright, simply because the Ombudsman says so.

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Lendlease’s Elephant office block rejected.

Oct 17, 2022 01:00 am

The Southwark Law Centre (SLC) has written to London Mayor Sadiq Khan asking him to respect Southwark Council’s decision to reject developer Lendlease’s plans to build a giant office block on the final plot (H1) of Elephant Park, at the Elephant and Castle. (Reports on the decision can be found on these links – SE1, Southwark News and the Australian Financial Review).

SLC sent the letter on behalf of objectors to the scheme, which was unanimously rejected by Southwark Council’s planning committee on the 4 Oct. The vote followed a four-and-half hour meeting, including a 50-minute closed session, when the committee considered the application in the absence of the public. The scheme has now been referred to the Mayor, who has the option of allowing the decision to stand or ‘calling in’ the proposal, to make a decision himself. Objectors (including the 35% Campaign, the Walworth Society and local residents) fear that this could open the door to the office block being approved against the wishes of the local community.

Harpreet Aujla, of SLC, says in the letter ‘It is hoped that the local, democratic process will be respected, especially so given the history of regeneration and community input in Elephant and Castle.’ The letter points out that the application was rejected because the ‘excessive height, massing and bulk of the application would cause harm to the character and appearance’ of the local area and that it ‘would cause unacceptable harm to the neighbouring amenity due to loss of daylight’, contrary to Southwark’s planning policies and the Mayor’s London Plan.

Health hub worries

Objectors were also worried about the knock-on effects of a proposed health hub, which would have occupied part of the office building. The letter says that ‘would have impacts for health care delivery for the whole of Walworth, which were not properly addressed by the application.’ The planning committee heard how the hub would be instead of affordable workspace and would serve those using the Princess Street and Manor Place surgeries. SLC has asked the Mayor for a full public consultation on what this might mean, before any planning permission is considered.

Princess St Surgery and Manor Place Surgeries at risk of being replaced rather than complemented by the new health facility.

Sustainable or not?

The SLC letter also takes up various green and sustainability issues, some of which had been raised by the Mayor’s own officers, such as ‘a lack of rainwater harvesting and a green roof’ and ‘issues with sustainable drainage strategies’. Nor was there evidence of a net biodiversity gain from the scheme, with a diversity loss, should the wildflower meadow presently on site disappear. The proposed scheme also includes no renewable energy or decarbonised heat sources in the design and comes with no proposals to decarbonise the estate, in line with the Mayor’s London Plan 2021 policies.

What we think…local schools and ‘bright shiny buildings’

The Mayor must uphold Southwark’s decision to reject Lendlease’s proposal for an outsized office block.

The planning committee resoundingly rejected the application on the good grounds of its huge size and the impact that would have on the local area and residents and the Mayor should support this. A health hub would be very welcome, but people need to know more about what this will mean for the future of Princess Street and Manor Place surgeries.

Decisions about the hub should also not be driven by the developer’s ambitions and without consideration about the wider social impacts. The danger of this is well illustrated by the plight of schools in regeneration areas, many of which are facing closure due to falling rolls; the local headteacher of Victory Primary School, right next door to Elephant Park, has little doubt about the negative impact on her own school of ‘bright shiny buildings’, with little real affordable housing; a giant office block will not improve the situation.

Lendlease owes Southwark affordable and social rented housing

Elephant Park is notorious for only delivering 25% affordable housing, not 35%, and only having 100 social rented homes (whose rent is being investigated). The justification for this is a viability assessment that is 10 years old and based on 220 fewer units than have actually been built, so the case for a new assessment to see whether more affordable housing can be provided is obvious.

We know how easily, though, such assessments can be manipulated to reduce affordable housing, so they cannot be relied upon. Lendlease should simply use H1 to build housing and make up the affordable housing shortfall from the rest of the development. There is no reason that this could not also provide a health hub too, properly developed and designed to meet the needs of the local community. There should also be room for the affordable community space which is also lacking elsewhere on Elephant Park.

Could Southwark buy the H1 land?

Alternatively, given that Lendleases are treating plot H1 as surplus to Elephant Park’s housing requirements, Southwark could consider taking over H1 themselves, to build council homes, towards meeting its 11,000 council homes pledge. According to Land Registry records it looks as if Southwark still retain freehold ownership of the Elephant Park land, with the the final plot valued at £6m, according to Southwark’s Regeneration Agreement with Lendlease:

Southwark recently budgeted £101.146m to buy land for council housing, so forgoing £6m (plus VAT) to secure H1, with the capacity to build around 300 homes , could be a deal worth considering.

Recent Articles:

Elephant Park – Lendlease’s final squeeze
Elephant Park – homes dumped for offices
Only one in ten new homes in Southwark is social rented
Aylesbury Update: cost of leaseholder buy-outs leaps
Elephant traders without new premises one year after shopping centre closes

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35% Campaign

Elephant Park – Lendlease’s final squeeze


Elephant Park – Lendlease’s final squeeze

Oct 03, 2022 01:00 am

Lendlease’s proposal to build a giant office block on the last plot (H1) of the demolished Heygate estate has been recommended for approval by Southwark Council’s planning department. It now goes to the planning committee for a final decision tomorrow (Tues 4 Oct).

If approved the office block will replace the housing that Lendlease promised in 2012, when it won planning approval for Elephant Park. As we reported in a previous blog, Lendlease’s original plan for H1 was to build three residential blocks, one of 30-storeys, two of ten-storeys, comprising about 300 homes.

The new office block application will be much larger than the abandoned H1 housing development. According to the committee report on the office block proposal, it would exceed the housing footprint and have a greater mass.

Lendlease says that it has built enough housing on the rest of Elephant Park, to allow it to build an office block on H1. To do this more homes have been shoehorned into fewer plots, leaving H1 as a ‘spare’ for the office development.

  • Left- the consented scheme (36,000sqm); Right – the proposed office block (64,000sqm).*

The objections

Lendlease’s H1 proposal has generated over 500 comments, mostly objections, on a range of issues. Local campaigners and groups (including the 35% Campaign) supported by the Southwark Law Centre, have focused on the lack of affordable housing, affordable retail and community space on Elephant Park. There are also concerns about the proposed health hub and a question mark over the levels of social rent, as well as objections to the design and size of the proposed building and shortfalls in carbon reduction.

Use Plot H1 for more affordable housing

Plot H1 is the site of a demolished council estate and as such a brownfield site that should be optimised for housing, according to the Mayor’s London Plan 2021 policy (also called H1).

Also, while Lendlease have built 2,689 homes on Elephant Park it has only delivered 25% affordable housing, including only 100 social rented homes, much less than the 35% required. Lendlease’s claim in 2012 that they could only provide those numbers was justified by a viability assessment that is now ten years old and which was based on 2,462 units, two hundred and twenty-seven fewer than the 2,689 than has actually been built. There should be a new viability assessment, on the basis of the actual number of units delivered, to ensure the maximum amount of affordable housing, in particular social rented housing, is built on Elephant Park.

Will there be a Health hub?

Lendlease hopes that the offer of a health hub will sweeten the office block proposal. Under the Southwark Plan 2022 Lendlease is obliged to give over 10% of the floorspace to either ‘public health services’ or affordable workspace, in any event, so this is by no means a gift. The committee report also reveals that the health hub is just the ‘priority option’ and so the hub will not be secured by granting the planning permission, only after further successful negotiations between Lendlease, Southwark and the South East London Integrated Care System (SEL ICS).

If there is a health hub it will also only have a short 30-year lease (compared to the 250-year lease granted by Lendlease to Southwark for the Walworth Library, now on Elephant Park).

A further concern is the probable loss of the Princess St and Manor Place surgeries, should the hub be built. While it would no doubt provide more up-to-date facilities than the surgeries, the impact for future local health provision and the impact on users of those existing facilities (eg in terms of potentially longer journey distances), beyond the development site, really demands a comprehensive public consultation before, not after, the determination of this application.

Neighbouring Princess St Surgery and Manor Place Surgeries at risk of being replaced rather than complemented by any new health facility.

Objectors say no decision should be made on the Plot H1 application until all these issues are resolved, one way or another.

What kind of community space?

The community space provided by Lendlease on Elephant Park is largely taken up by amenities such as a library and nursery. While this is welcome (although the library appears to have been purchased by Southwark [for £6m]), there is little available for the local community to let at affordable cost, for social and other events. The terms for such rented community space (the so-called Trunk) have been long promised, but not concluded. The Plot H1 application should not be approved unless the community space is improved and leasing and letting arrangements are finalised.

Better design and less mass needed

Lendlease’s proposes a building higher and larger than that which would have been built, had they stuck to their original promise of building new homes. This housing was also designed after extensive local consultation, which has now completely fallen by the wayside. The proposed office floorspace is nearly ten times greater than that which would have been allowed before the adoption of the 2022 Southwark Plan and will have nearly double the floorspace than originally planned. The proposed building will dominate views and reduce sunlight in Elephant Park and have severe negative impacts on neighbouring buildings.

Southwark’s Design Review Panel has also said that the proposed building had an ‘overly bulky character’ and had concerns about the deep plan design; it invited Lendlease to return to them, but this has not happened, according to the committee report. Objectors say that the proposal should be returned to the Design Review Panel for its further opinion, before any decision on the application is made.

Any room for displaced traders?

A large number of local businesses, most from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, have been displaced by the Elephant’s regeneration, in particular by the demolition of the shopping centre.

Lendlease has an obligation under the Elephant Park planning permission to help relocate some of these traders by providing affordable retail units and workspace.

Lendlease has not yet met that obligation fully, supplying only 902sqm, against a requirement of 960sqm. While this is a relatively small amount, the requirement is a minimum and still leaves many traders without premises, including La Bodeguita, one of the Elephant’s largest independent traders. Arch 7 traders also face relocation. Plot H1 should be used to help as many remaining displaced traders as possible.

Not enough carbon reduction

Instead of passive heating or heat pumps, which tend to be the norm in most new developments, the office block will be heated by a central gas boiler.

This is despite the development being selected as one of only 19 schemes worldwide, which claim to be ‘zero carbon or carbon positive’ and provide an example of sustainable development.

In addition, Lendlease has chosen not to fully comply with the 2022 Southwark Plan’s minimum requirement to reduce CO2 by 40%, cutting it instead by 38% and make the difference up with an offset payment of £1.2m. This is a small shortfall, but if Southwark is to reach its target of being carbon neutral by 2030 the full 40% should be met on-site. It is also a long way short of the pledge made in 2009 for the Elephant regeneration by the Lendlease Europe Chief Executive to be a Climate Positive Development and ‘to strive to reduce the amount of on-site CO2 emissions to below zero’, as a founding project of the Bill Clinton Climate Initiative.

Are the social rents on Elephant Park really social rent?

The Council also has an outstanding enforcement action for a social rent property on Elephant Park, to establish whether or not the home is being properly let at a social rent. This raises a question about whether or not social rents are being charged for the hundred Elephant Park social rented units, in accordance with the s106 agreement. Southwark are getting few enough social rented units out of this development as it is; the Council must make sure that those we have are being let at the correct rent levels.

We have written about this problem since 2016 and Southwark still has no effective system for monitoring the rent levels of social rented housing managed by RSLs.

What we think

Lendlease has maximised its gains from the Elephant Park development at every turn – primarily by building more homes than originally consented, selling many of them overseas and by reducing the amount of affordable and social housing.

Up to now, Southwark Council has meekly accepted any argument Lendlease cared to make to justify all this and done what it can to give Lendlease’s H1 office proposal a safe passage.

Southwark now has a final chance to redeem itself, by heeding the objectors to Plot H1 and not approving Lendlease’s application on Tuesday evening. It must also urgently demand another viability assessment, to determine just how much affordable housing Elephant Park can really deliver.

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Recent Articles:

Elephant Park – homes dumped for offices
Only one in ten new homes in Southwark is social rented
Aylesbury Update: cost of leaseholder buy-outs leaps
Elephant traders without new premises one year after shopping centre closes
Lendlease’s final plot for Elephant Park – offices, not homes

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35% Campaign

35% Campaign update – Elephant Park – homes dumped for offices

Elephant Park – homes dumped for offices

Jun 17, 2022 12:14 pm

Southwark Council is set to roll over to Lendlease yet again in its final bid to squeeze maximum profit out of the Heygate redevelopment. The developer’s latest and last Elephant Park application will increase the density of the scheme via the back door, using the sweetener of a new health facility that is was required to provide anyway.

One of the first tasks of Southwark’s new planning committee will be to consider developer Lendlease’s controversial planning application for a new office block on the final plot of Elephant Park, H1. Plot H1 stands on what was protected metropolitan open land, on the site of the demolished Heygate estate:

The H1 application, which includes a proposal for a health hub, is a dramatic change of direction by Lendlease. Up to now, Elephant Park has been built as a housing development, with some retail, and other uses; Lendlease’s original plan was for H1 to be much the same, with three residential blocks, one of 30-storeys, two of ten-storeys, comprising about 300 homes, across 36,100sqm of floorspace:

This proposal was part of Lendlease’s successful 2013 planning permission application. Now, in 2022, it turns out that Lendlease has shoehorned the housing planned for H1 into all the other plots already built or currently under construction, leaving it with a surplus plot. Instead of building additional housing on H1, which would require a fresh planning application and might open up a can of worms about affordable housing delivery, Lendlease says it wants to build an office block on the site, which would improve ’employment capacity’. A health hub, covering a tenth of the total floorspace, is also being offered, to sweeten the proposal – but only in place of providing affordable workspace.

Lendlease benefits from rule change 1

Southwark Council has reacted favourably to Lendlease’s proposal to provide offices on the surplus plot, with local councillors saying that they are ‘generally in support’ of the application, at a pre-election hustings.

More practically Southwark Council also changed the planning rules to give the application a fair wind. We reported last September how Southwark Council has smoothed Lendlease’s path by changing the local planning rules in the Southwark Plan, to allow a ten-fold increase in ’employment floorspace’ on Elephant Park.

Lendlease’s 2013 planning permission allowed only a maximum of 5,000sqm of business space across the whole Elephant Park site of thirteen plots. Lendlease’s new application proposes ten times that amount, 49,565sqm on a single plot. This would have had no hope of being approved without a change in the planning rules. Southwark Council duly obliged and approved an ‘uplifted’ amount of 60,000sqm, when the new Southwark Plan was adopted in February 2022.

More homes in a smaller space….

Lendlease has also been careful to build all the homes it promised under its 2013 permission. Lendlease say it has built almost to the maximum floorspace allowed by the permission, delivering 2,689 homes including 25.7% affordable housing.

But these 2,689 homes must obviously have been shoehorned into fewer plots, at a greater density than originally proposed, if Lendlease now finds itself with a spare plot that can be used for an office development. Should this application succeed it will also be the second time that the density of the development has been increased. In 2019 Lendlease took advantage of a poorly drafted s106 legal agreement, to increase the original maximum homes from 2,469 to 2,689 homes.

There is also a discrepancy between what Southwark has been told about the number of homes built and the figures Lendlease have given in their 2022 half-yearly report to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Lendlease’s hy22 Lendlease Major Urban Projects report says that 3,208 homes will be delivered on Elephant Park (including Trafalgar Place’s 235 units), 284 more units than are in the planning documents and 739 more homes than originally consented:

…….fewer social rent

Lendlease remains silent on the shortfall of affordable housing, against the longstanding 35% affordable housing requirement, half of which should be social rented. Roughly calculated by unit this is a loss of about 270 affordable homes, half of which would be social rent.

The sweetener – the health hub

Lendlease appear to have won local councillors around to supporting their office block proposal by promising a health hub. Discussions about this have already taken place between Southwark Council, the NHS SE London Clinical Commissioning Group and Lendlease, and have also including GP services provider Nexus.

A health hub or facility would be very welcome and for that reason it has been a requirement for Lendlease to build it since 2013, under the current planning permission. Rather than get on and build it though, Lendlease has waited until the final plot and the final planning application to extract further gains, in the shape of an office block, several times the size of the health hub. It has had to make £1.08m health contributions along the way, but evidently considers this an acceptable cost.

Given that Lendlease were happy to build the health hub as part of a residential development before, there is no reason why it must be part of an office development now, other than it suits Lendlease. It is also not clear why councillors and Southwark think they are getting a good deal by supporting a health hub with offices, when there is already an agreement to build a health hub with homes.

Lendlease benefits from rule change 2

A further gain for Lendlease in building a health hub is that it would relieve it of the obligation of providing around 5,000sqm of affordable workspace. This has been enabled by another favourable change to the planning rules in the new Southwark Plan, to add to the change that allowed more office space. Up to August 2020 developers could provide affordable retail and affordable cultural uses instead of affordable workspace. Lendlease submitted its application in May 2021 and by the time of the final version of the Southwark Plan in February 2022 ‘public health services’ was added to the list of alternatives to affordable workspace.

So, with this addition, an obligation was turned into a choice between providing a health hub, at what we can assume will be a commercial rent, or affordable workspace at discounted rents.

Princess Street and Manor Place surgeries to go?

Southwark Council has joined with Lendlease and the NHS SE London Clinical Commissioning Group (SEL CCG) to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, supporting the provision of a health hub and an indicative plan of the hub has been drafted.

One point that leaps out of the Memorandum is that the hub is intended to replace the Princess St and Manor Place GP surgeries. It says that the hub would be a ‘health centre for GP….services….to serve the population at Elephant & Castle and the existing people served by the Princess St and Manor Place GP Surgeries.’

New state-of-the-art GP facilities would be a boon to everyone at the Elephant and in Walworth. But if these facilities entail the closure of two longstanding GP surgeries then that is something that should be made plain in the planning application and the public consultation about that application. This has not happened; the only consultation has been around the planning aspects of the application, which the Memorandum calls a ‘separate and independent process’.

A consultation is promised by the SEL CCG, but it looks as if this will not be until after the planning application is decided. This is too late; the fate of the surgeries will be effectively decided too, if the application is approved. Southwark Council and the NHS are the proper authorities to deal with our health care provision, Lendlease are not, but at the moment it is Lendlease who seem to be in the driving seat, with no reference to the people who depend on Princess St and Manor Place surgeries. This planning application should only be determined after the formal consultation promised by the SEL CCG.

What has been delivered on Elephant Park?

Southwark must also clarify and confirm just exactly what housing has been delivered on Elephant Park. The development we have now looks a lot different to that approved, back in 2013 – bigger, denser, with fewer homes for sale (many were converted to Build to Rent), and with an office block in the middle, if the H1 planning application succeeds. This is not what the 2013 planning committee agreed to.

A new Overview & Scrutiny committee has just begun drawing up its scrutiny arrangements and annual work programme; the committe should put an examination of the whole Heygate regeneration and what has been delivered on Elephant Park at the top of its agenda.

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Only one in ten new homes in Southwark is social rented

Apr 12, 2022 01:00 am

Hoardings publicising the Council’s delivery of 11,000 council homes are a familiar sight around Southwark. They promote the Council’s creditable council house building programme, which it launched in 2013 and describes as the ‘most ambitious…in the country’.

The impression Southwark wants to create is that building social housing is the Council’s top priority – as it should be in a borough where only 7% of households can afford free-market housing[^1].

The reality is different. Only one in ten new homes built in Southwark since 2004 is social rented. The figure has emerged from analysis of the London Mayor’s new Planning Datahub. The Datahub documents all the homes built in London since 2004, including those built in Southwark[^2]. The Datahub analysis shows that after losses are taken into account, only 2,711 out of twenty-five thousand new homes in Southwark are social rented[^3].

Eighteen years of low social rent, but high free-market numbers

The contrast between the small number of social rent and the large number of free-market homes built is stark, as our chart below shows. The Datahub figures show that nearly 70% of all new homes are free-market (nearly 18,000 in number) against just 10.7% social rent, with the rest made up of other affordable homes[^4].

Bar chart by 35% Campaign. Source: Planning London Datahub, Residential Completion Dashboard

Lost Heygate homes

The Datahub also shows that more social rented homes were lost in 2021 than were built. Only 31 were built, while 122 were demolished, with a net loss of 91 homes. Southwark claim this is a ‘discrepancy’ but the lost units can be identified through the Datahub as being from the demolished Heygate estate[^5].

The Datahub shows the loss clearly, in percentage terms, as minus 20.4% of the total housing delivered in 2021[^6].

Southwark misses the target

Southwark has claimed that it has more than met its target to build 2,500 council homes by 2022, a pledge it made in 2013.

But this target has in fact been missed. Only 2,208 social rented homes have been built in Southwark since 2013, and this includes any council housing built. This figure is calculated from Southwark’s own Housing Facts and Figures webpage Table 8. The Mayor’s Datahub shows that over the same period 1,136 social rent homes have been lost, mainly through estate demolitions, leaving a net gain of only 1,072 social rented homes[^7].

it should be noted that these figures are from all social rented housing in the borough. It is made up of social housing on private developments, as well as any council housing. The number of council homes built will therefore be a smaller number than the number of social rented homes.

The Council plays with the figures

Southwark is only able to claim that it has fulfilled its 2013 pledge to build 2,500 council homes by 2022, by using an elastic definition if what ‘build’ actually means. For Southwark, it means the homes do not have to be completed, just started, and can also include other homes brought back into use, according to this Southwark News article.

Southwark also apparently include in the definition of council housing homes gained from private developments, through planning requirements. If this is the case then there is no real gain in social rented housing numbers, because these would have been built anyway, and at private developer’s cost.

We need less free-market housing, more social rent

The need for social rented housing has continued to rise since Southwark made its 2013 pledge to build 11,000 council homes over thirty years. The pledge is a good one, but it will probably only maintain the 2013 number of homes, not increase it. Southwark also does itself no favours by exaggerating the progress it is making towards the 11,000 council homes target. The amount of council and social housing being built in the borough is a fraction of the amount of free-market housing and unless this changes and we start getting more social housing from private developers as well as council homes, then Southwark’s housing crisis will continue.

[^1]: ‘CACI Paycheck data confirms that 93% of households in Southwark have a household income that requires social and intermediate housing’ – para 2, pg 108 Southwark Plan 2022

[^2]: The Planning London Datahub is a ‘collaborative project between all of the Planning Authorities in London’ including Southwark. It is part of the London Datastore and is a ‘new data base that includes data fed live from the boroughs…’. The Datahub’s Residential Completion Dashboard shows all housing completions for all the boroughs in London.

[^3]: 5,761 social rented homes were completed, 3,050 s/r homes were lost, leaving a 2,711 net gain for the eighteen financial years FY2004-FY2021. 25,286 homes of all tenures were completed in total, after losses are taken into account. From an analysis of the Residential Completion Dashboard, data filtered for Southwark.

[^4]: 17,651 free-market (69.81%), 2,711 social rent (10.72%), 339 affordable rent (1.34%), 3,572 intermediate (14.13%), 57 Discount Market Rent (0.23%), 956 Other (3.39%) – 25,286 units in total. Completed during the eighteen years FY2004-FY2021. Figures do not include non-conventional units and empty homes brought back into use. From an analysis of the Residential Completion Dashboard, data filtered for Southwark.

[^5]: 31 social rented homes were completed in Southwark in 2021, while 122 were demolished, all on Elephant Park Plots H2 and H3 (14/AP/3438/3439), leaving a net loss of 91 units. More social rented homes were lost than completed in FY 2004 (-140), FY2015 (-121), FY2016 (-166), FY2021 (-91). From an analysis of the Residential Completion Dashboard, data filtered for Southwark.

[^6]: The net gains/losses for FY2021 are 441 free-market units (98.7%), -91 social rent (-20.4%), 39 affordable rent (8.7%), intermediate 58 (13%). From an analysis of the Residential Completion Dashboard, data filtered for Southwark.

[^7]: Southwark’s Table 8 gives ‘Gross’ figures; the Datahub describes the same figures as ‘Gains’. The Datahub figures for FY2019 and FY2020 vary from Southwark’s, giving total Gains for FY2013 to FY2020 of 2,170, against Southwark’s figure of 2,208 for the same period. Datahub figures from an analysis of the Residential Completion Dashboard, data filtered for Southwark.

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35% Campaign update – Elephant traders without new premises one year after shopping centre closes

Dec 06, 2021 12:00 am

Traders’ deputation seeks fair treatment from developers; urges Southwark Council to act

Independent traders displaced by the closure of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre are to send a deputation to Southwark Council’s Cabinet meeting tomorrow. The deputation will be urging the Council to do more to help them secure new premises, after being left homeless by the shopping centre closure.

This will be the traders second attempt to get a hearing from the Council, after its recent Assembly meeting refused to receive the deputation.

Many of the Elephant’s former traders have shops and cafes in Castle Square, in Elephant Rd and in the Elephant Arcade, after a three year campaign to secure new premises, but many others are still without trading spaces, including two of the Elephant and Castle’s longest standing businesses, Pricebusters DIY and La Bodequita restaurant.

Both Pricebusters and La Bodequita have been offered new premises on Elephant Park, but have been unable to reach agreement with developers Delancey and Lendlease about who will meet the relocation costs. Southwark Council has legal agreements with both developers covering traders’ relocation requirements and the deputation will be asking Southwark to enforce these agreements.

Traders ‘very disappointed’

The owner of Pricebusters, Rakesh Patel, said ‘We have been trading at the Elephant for 35 years, ever since the shopping centre opened. We were the biggest DIY shop in the area and sold things people cannot get anywhere else. We have had long negotiations with Delancey and Lendlease and have made some progress, but there is still a big gap between us. The costs of setting up new premises are astronomical and the amount we are being offered from the relocation fund set up to help us is simply not enough. Just lately Southwark councillors have joined the negotiations, but we still need much stronger support from the Council’.

The owner of La Bodequita, Diana Sach, said ‘I started La Bodequita in 2001, with my brothers and we worked hard to build up a successful family business. La Bodequita and other cafes and restaurants at the Elephant and Castle helped to introduce Colombian and Latin food to London and people came from all over the city to eat with us. We trusted Southwark Council and Delancey to help us with the relocation, but have been very disappointed. We have spent many thousands of pounds designing new premises and storing equipment, while we have had no premises. It is over a year since we left the shopping centre and we really need to re-open soon, but we just seem to be stuck’.

Successful businesses are being lost

Rakesh and Diana point out that Pricebusters and La Bodequita were both successful businesses, before they were forced to move.

Rakesh says ‘We did not want to move, but the decision was taken out of our hands and I am having to find a very great deal of my own money for the relocation. I was assured by Delancey and Southwark Council that there would be enough money in the relocation fund for us all, but so far this has not been the case’.

Diana says ‘La Bodequita is more than a restaurant. It is part of the Elephant and Castle and part of Latin American life in London. We want to stay here, as part of the new regeneration and are investing a lot to do this, but we need the help we were promised from Delancey and Southwark Council’.

‘No more Elephant as we knew it’

The traders’ deputation will also include Mathew Onuba, of the Look@Me stall. from the shopping centre’s old market. About a dozen displaced market traders have been in discussions with Southwark Council about setting up a small number of new pitches at the Elephant.

Mathew says ‘We have had intentions of opening up a business, but it’s been a struggle. There is no more Elephant and Castle as we knew it, there are no units, there is still no market, even after trying to make plans with the Council. Leaving a previous business and going to a new location is a hard process – it involves careful attention, publicity to attract new customers. None of this has been provided. We kept our goods with the promise that we would receive anew place but it never came. I’ve been paying for storage up until now, with the believe and hope I could continue my business….but I would like the support from the council to continue.’

Elephant Arcade struggles

A representative from the Elephant Arcade will also be on the deputation. They will be telling the Council of the difficulties of trading from their new premises, at the bottom of Perronet House, just opposite the Bakerloo line tube entrance.

Yousaf Dar, of Dar Bags, says ‘We were working at the shopping centre, my dad almost 15 years, me the last 10 years. Business was good. When the shopping centre closed, we asked them not to put us in Elephant Arcade, and still they placed us in there. They told us we would be opposite a Western Union, but when we arrived we were opposite another shop that was the same business as our own. After the pandemic, there were no customers, no business. We were struggling too much, we couldn’t even afford to pay rent, that’s why we decided to leave. Now we have been left at the side of the road, so we are not in a position to start another business, and have no access to relocation support. I don’t want to go on Universal Credit, I want to work at my business, but I may have to.’

Southwark must do more

The traders are being supported by Latin Elephant, which advocates on behalf of all traders, the Southwark Law Centre and the Up the Elephant campaign, which fought against the demolition of the shopping centre.

Natalia Perez of Latin Elephant said ‘A year on since the closure and demolition of the shopping centre in Elephant and Castle, Latin Elephant reiterates the demands for a proper scrutiny of the s106 legal agreements signed by developers, so that every trader that has been displaced is relocated; that the necessary funds are released by developers to cover moving and fit-out costs and not passed on as a burden to independent traders and that the much needed investment in the relocation sites are put in place for the benefit of the traders, as well as the local community’.

Harpreet Aujla of Southwark Law Centre said ‘Southwark Council have a big part to play in resolving the problems traders face moving from their old premises. They have legal agreements with both Delancey and Lendlease to make sure that the traders get the money that they need to relocate. So far, though, Southwark has just been happy to go along with whatever Delancey and Lendlease have offered. This is not good enough. Southwark must make that clear to Delancey and Lendlease, other these businesses will be lost to the Elephant’.

Jerry Flynn, of the Up the Elephant said ‘Traders are not looking for hand-outs or charity. They are looking for Southwark and the big developers to fulfill the promises that were made before the shopping centre was demolished. Southwark Council said that no-one would be left behind in the Elephant’s regeneration – now is the time to prove it’.

35% Campaign

Latest news on Elephant traders’ deputation this evening.

Dear Friend

Yesterday we were notified by Southwark Council that it is ‘unlikely’ that the Elephant traders’ deputation will be heard the Council Assembly meeting this evening. Southwark has suggested as an alternative that the deputation attends the Cabinet meeting on 7 Dec.

We are naturally very disappointed with this news, particularly as it comes so late in the day. We have asked Southwark and the councillors to reconsider, but as yet we cannot say what the final response will be and may not know until this evening.

The Yes to Fair Redevelopment demonstration is still going ahead and will rally outside outside Council Assembly at 6.30pm. The march will begin at the Vauban Car Park, Alscot Rd, opposite Spa Gardens, SE1 3GG (Bus 1 and 78) at 6.00pm.

Many thanks for your continuing support and please CLICK HERE for a trailer of an upcoming film on the traders plight (thanks to Emile Burgoyne).


Copyright © 2021 Elephant Amenity Network, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:

Elephant Amenity Network

18 Market Place
Blue Anchor Lane


Southwark SE16 3UQ

United Kingdom

Elephant traders’ deputation this Wednesday, 24th November

Dear Friend

Traders’ deputation to the Southwark Assembly

Many Elephant shopping centre traders still have no new premises a year after the centre closed, despite Southwark Council’s promises that ‘no-one would be left’ behind in the Elephant and Castle’s regeneration.

The traders are sending a deputation to Southwark Council’s Assembly,160 Tooley St, SE1 2QH this Weds 24 Nov. 7pm.

The deputation will be demanding that Southwark Council does more to help the traders. Southwark has legal agreements with developers Delancey and Lendlease for the traders’ relocation – these agreements must be enforced.

image image

The deputation will include representatives from Pricebusters DIY shop and La Bodequita restaurant, two of the Elephant’s longest-standing businesses, as well as from the Elephant Arcade, one of the relocation sites. There will also be a representative of the market stall holders, who are still negotiating with Southwark Council for new market stall pitches at the Elephant and Castle.

The Assembly meeting is open to the public – please join us and give your support!

Yes to Fair Redevelopment demonstration.

You can also join the ‘Yes to Fair Redevelopment demonstration’, in the run-up to the Assembly meeting.

The demo is marching to Tooley St for a rally outside Council Assembly at 6.30pm. The march will assemble at the Vauban Car Park, Alscot Rd, opposite Spa Gardens SE1 3GG (Bus 1 and 78) at 6.00pm.

The demo is to let the Council know that unfair development of council estates will not be accepted. You can read more here and here.



Copyright © 2021 Elephant Amenity Network, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:

Elephant Amenity Network

18 Market Place
Blue Anchor Lane

LondonSouthwark SE16 3UQ

United Kingdom

Meet Olympians, discover local walks and flu vaccine reminder

Southwark Council header

Try out Southwark’s newest sports facility and meet Olympians on Saturday 6 November

Come along to the opening of the Southwark Park Sports and Athletics Centre on Saturday 6 November. Book for free tasters sessions including tag rugby, introductions to long jump and sprint running and disability sports sessions. Join Olympic Champion, Christine Ohuruogu; Peckham-born Tokyo Olympic medallist, Imani-Lara Lansiquot; Team GB athlete, Conrad Williams; and professional freestyle footballer Steve Gray, who will be trying out the new facility.

Join a gym in Southwark for under £25 per month

Get unlimited use of gym, swim and exercise classes at Southwark Park Sports and Athletics Centre, Seven Islands Leisure Centre, Surrey Docks Fitness and Watersports Centre, Camberwell Leisure Centre and Peckham Pulse Leisure Centre. Kick-start your exercise routine and sign up for a gym today.

Free swim and gym in Southwark

Did you know Southwark residents can use swimming pools and gyms at our leisure centres, free of charge, at certain times? Find out more and register for free swim and gym.

Discover local walking routes: follow in the steps of Harry Potter, Bridget Jones and Del Trotter

Discover Southwark with our illustrated walking maps. Pick from 12 routes which include film locations, Dulwich’s unusual architecture, flora and fauna, and myths and legends of the borough.

Ultra Low Emission Zone has expanded: check your vehicle

The Ultra Low Emission Zone expanded up to the North and South Circular Roads on Monday 25 October 2021. Check your vehicle now via the TfL website.

Survey: your views on public art in Southwark

Public art is art that is in public spaces and is for everyone to see. It is often commissioned by councils or other public organisations. We want our pubic spaces to better celebrate our diverse communities. That’s why we want to hear your views about public art in Southwark.

Find out if you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine

The flu virus kills almost 11,000 people and hospitalises tens of thousands more in England in an average year. It’s more important than ever to get your flu jab this year. Find out if you are now eligible to get a free flu vaccine.

Plans approved for 162 new council homes at two developments in Southwark

New Homes image We have permission to build 162 new council homes at two developments in St Giles and Peckham

The development in St Giles will see 79 new council homes built at Sceaux Gardens. The development in Peckham will see 83 new council homes built at Bells Gardens Estate.

Get the Transport for London app to help you travel safely across London

If you’re out and about you can plan your journeys across London using the TfL Go app. Get live bus and train times and quieter times to travel, all Tube, London Overground, DLR, TfL Rail and tram lines updates, walking and cycling routes, and accessible routes using the step-free mode.

New service launched to help people get online

We have launched a new digital inclusion service for residents to provide information, help and guidance about how to get online or improve their internet skills. If you, or anyone you know, could benefit from this service please get in touch by calling our helpline 07783 776 066.

Invitation to Elephant exhibition this Saturday 25th September

 Dear Friend

You are cordially invited to a
 Photographic exhibition to mark one year since Elephant and Castle shopping centre closed.

An exhibition of photographs of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre will be taking place this Saturday 25 September 2021 at flat 70 on Sayer St, SE17 1FY at the Elephant and Castle, opening 12 noon, to 8pm.
The exhibition will emphasise the importance of what was lost when the shopping centre was closed, but also highlights the successes and struggles of the small independent traders since losing their premises and market stalls.

 A relocated traders walking tour will start at 2pm.
There will be speeches from invited guests at 3pm.
Various performances will also happen throughout the day. 

The exhibition has been organised by flat 70 co-founders Anthony Badu and Senam Badu and Latin Elephant, the local charity which campaigns and advocates on behalf of all traders at the Elephant. It will form part of a wider ‘Elephant Carnival’ which aims to celebrate the resilience of the local community.

Hope to see you Saturday!

Copyright © 2021 Elephant Amenity Network, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Elephant Amenity Network18 Market PlaceBlue Anchor LaneLondon, Southwark SE16 3UQUnited Kingdom

35% Campaign update – Lendlease’s final plot for Elephant Park – offices, not homes

Sep 17, 2021 01:00 am

Southwark to change rules to allow office block on former Heygate estate.Southwark Council is set to change its planning rules to enable developer Lendlease to build an office block on the site of the former Heygate estate. The block would be on the final development plot of Elephant Park, Plot H1, which is earmarked for housing under Lendlease’s current planning consent. Lendlease has now applied to replace this consent with an entirely new one, to build an office block, not housing.Southwark is also ready to change the New Southwark Plan (NSP) to pave Lendlease’s way to a successful approval of the application. The change will allow an increase in the office floorspace on Elephant Park, from the maximum of 5,000 sqm that Lendlease is presently allowed, to the 49,565 sqm it is proposing in its new planning application. Southwark has said ‘an office development on this plot is broadly supported’ in the ‘Conclusion’ of pre-application discussions with Lendlease.Late changes to the New Southwark PlanThe change to the NSP, which governs all development throughout the borough, is part of a ‘main modification’ to the Plan. The modification MM7 would allow 60,000 sqm of ‘employment floorspace’ to be built specifically on Elephant Park; at the moment the local plan envisages a maximum of 30,000 sqm of ‘business floorspace’ for the whole Elephant and Castle Opportunity Area.The NSP, including the main modifications, is in the final stages of approval by government inspectors. Comments on all proposed modifications can be made up to a deadline of 24 September 2021.From open space to office spaceA good part of Plot H1 sits on land that was covenanted for use as open space, in perpetuity, when ownership was devolved to Southwark in 1985, on the abolition of the Greater London Council (GLC). In 2014 Southwark transferred ownership of the Heygate land, including Plot H1, to Lendlease, removing the covenant in the process.In 2019 Lendlease took advantage of a poorly drafted s106 legal agreement with Southwark to increase the maximum number of homes allowed on Elephant Park by 220 units, to 2,689. Lendlease is using ten plots of land for these homes, instead of the eleven available, leaving itself a spare plot. This is the justification for the new planning application – Lendlease claims that they have fulfilled their housing obligations under the current planning consent, so Plot H1 can be used for an office development, which would create jobs.Lendlease does not say in their new planning application how many homes could be built on Plot H1, if it were used for housing as originally intended, but by making a rough comparison with neighbouring plot H7, a capacity for about 340 homes can be calculated.Lendlease on manoeuvresLendlease’s Plot H1 planning application is the latest of a succession of self-advantageous manoeuvres. As well as increasing the number of homes on the estate and squeezing them into fewer plots, Lendlease has also announced that over 900 of the free-market homes would no longer be for sale, but kept under their ownership, and let to private renters, not sold. Before this, they marketed and sold substantial numbers of homes overseas . This all followed the notorious 2010 Heygate regeneration agreement, which reduced the affordable housing to 25%, from 35%, with a meagre 79 social rented units (later inching up to 100 units).Southwark Council is now poised to give up a prime housing site (in the middle of an opportunity area, on former council estate land) at Lendlease’s behest. Southwark is doing this while embroiled in controversies across the borough about infill development on council estate sites, none of which are anywhere near the size of the plot it is about to give up.Object!Lendlease’s argument that offices will good for employment is entirely self-serving. They did not make this proposal for Plot H1 in 2012, when applying for their first planning permission. Instead, they have tricked their way into a position where they have built more homes than originally consented, on a smaller space, and now want to squeeze in an extra office block for good measure.Southwark Council have aided Lendlease’s application by proposing a ten-fold increase in ‘employment space’ on Elephant Park, in the New Southwark Plan – a huge uplift, introduced to boost the chances of an office-space application being approved.There has been much speculation about whether Southwark’s recent change of leadership has resulted in a change of direction for the Council.This is the planning committee’s chance to prove that the Council won’t roll over to Lendlease indefinitely. The committee must stop this cynical attempt to manipulate planning policy to Lendlease’s advantage and reject this planning application.Once this is done, Southwark should start a sensible discussion on what is to be done with this prime site, with the focus on the local community’s real needs, including affordable housing, with all the amenities and open surroundings needed to make life liveable in London.470 comments and objections have been made to this application.If you would like to add your objection, you can do so here.You can use this model objection text or view our full letter of objection here.
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Recent Articles:Former Council leader glides through revolving doors
Legal battle for the Elephant and Castle shopping centre ends
Southwark rips up Aylesbury Area Action Plan
Action on Southwark’s empty homes
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