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


Dear Resident,

You would have received an invitation to attend the borough-wide forum meeting scheduled for Thursday the 27th of October 2022 at 6.30pm at 160 Tooley Street with an option to join the meeting via Microsoft teams.

I am sorry to inform you that due to unforeseen circumstances, we have had to cancel this meeting and apologise for any inconvenience caused. The council remains committed to a meaningful resident involvement that puts the aspiration of all residents at the heart of service  delivery and we want to do this in a meaningful way that suits all residents. We are working to put forward a set of dates for future meetings and we will be in touch soon.

Please accept my apologies again for the need to cancel the meeting on Thursday the 27th of October 2022.

Yours sincerely,

George Changua

Tenant & Homeowner Support Officer

Southwark Council || Communities Division || Housing & Modernisation

160 Tooley Street || 5th Floor || Hub 3 || SE1 2QH

T: 0207 525 3326 || E: george.changua@southwark.gov.uk || Website: www.southwark.gov.uk

www.southwark.gov.uk/mysouthwark For council services at your fingertips, register online.

BHM exhibition – Black representation in British Politics

Dear all,

As part of Black History Month in Southwark, please see the below details of a two-day exhibition taking place on 29th and 30th October 2022. We hope you are able to attend!


As part of Black History Month in Southwark, The Southwark Black Parents Forum, in association with Parasol Creative Ltd, would like to invite you to ‘A Seat at the Table – Black Representation in British Politics’. This two-day exhibit seeks to highlight the historical and active involvement of African and Caribbean communities in political and civic engagement, pre and post the Windrush era.

With 2022 being the 35th Anniversary of the Labour Party’s 1987 ‘Black Sections’ vote, this exhibition will celebrate the activists and politicians who historically chose (and currently choose) to use the richness of their heritage as a source of inspiration and power in order to bring about balance and positive changes for the communities they serve and represent, despite the cards stacked against them.

This is also Southwark Council’s soft launch of its commitment to develop a Civic Leadership programme.
This programme forms part of our ongoing dedication to the tackling of racism and inequality through activities that support and enable our Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to play an active role in the civic life of Southwark.

The exhibition is a reminder that diverse communities have historically contributed much to politics in the United Kingdom.

– – –


231 Old Kent Road, London SE1 5LU


Saturday 29th October 2022 (12pm – 5pm)

Sunday 30th October 2022 (12pm – 4pm)

– – –

Light refreshments and food will be provided.

Educational & Cultural Books, Remembrance Pins and Gifts will be on sale (cash only).

Please book your place via Eventbrite: https://bit.ly/asatt22 and share this event among your networks.

Further Info: 07731 996 012

Email: info@southwarkblackparentsforum.org

231 Old Kent Road has wheelchair access.

Public Transport Info: tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/

Buses: 21, 53, 63, 168, 172, 363, 415, 453 (East Street)

Tube: Elephant & Castle (Northern Line; Bakerloo Line)

– – –

Proud Partners:

Parasol Creative Ltd (parasolcreative.org)

The Southwark Black Parents Forum.org (southwarkblackparentsforum.org)

Souhtwark Council (southwark.gov.uk)

Proud Supporters:

BlackPoppyRose (blackpoppyrose.org)

Livesey Exchange (liveseyexhange.com)


Project Partners:

Kind regards,

George Changua

Tenant & Homeowner Support Officer

Southwark Council || Communities Division || Housing & Modernisation

160 Tooley Street || 5th Floor || Hub 3 || SE1 2QH

T: 0207 525 3326 || E: george.changua@southwark.gov.uk || Website: www.southwark.gov.uk

www.southwark.gov.uk/mysouthwark For council services at your fingertips, register online.

Southwark health and wellbeing updates

Good afternoon

We’re sharing some useful health and wellbeing updates with you. Please read and share.

Cancer Earlier Diagnosis – Help Us Help You

If something in your body doesn’t feel right, don’t carry the worry of cancer with you. Tests could put your mind at rest. Until you find out, you can’t rule it out. Contact your GP practice. Cancer – Signs and symptoms – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Are you aged 50 and over?

You are now able to book your autumn Covid booster and flu vaccines from today. Protecting people in Southwark ahead of winter.

Those eligible for the flu jab are:

  • people aged 50 and over
  • those aged between six months and 49 years with a specified health condition
  • some secondary school-aged children
  • 2 and 3-year-olds
  • pregnant women
  • primary school-aged children
  • those in care homes
  • people who are carers, as set out in the Green Book
  • frontline healthcare workers
  • frontline social care staff who do not have access to occupational health schemes
  • household contacts of people with weakened immune systems.

In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, those eligible for an autumn Covid booster this year include:

  • residents in care homes for older adults
  • staff working in care homes for older adults
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • all adults aged 50 years and over
  • persons aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group, as set out in the Green Book
  • persons aged 5 to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
  • persons aged 16 to 49 years who are carers, as set out in the Green Book.

For a full list of pharmacies offering a free NHS flu vaccination please visit the nhs.uk website. Pharmacies are taking appointment bookings for flu vaccination online.

Avoiding medicines waste

Help your NHS avoid medicine waste. Read more about how you can help: Get the Most From Your Medicines.

NHS webinar on vaccinating children against polio, flu and MMR

You are invited to join our free children’s NHS vaccination webinars this October – your questions answered . Expert clinicians including doctors from one of the country’s top children’s hospitals will explain more about polio, flu and MMR and answer your questions.

This will be a good opportunity for parents and carers of children aged 1-9 to learn more about the importance of vaccinations and have their questions answered. Please register to attend. You’ll be sent a joining link via MS Teams before the event.

Our expert panel of speakers include:

 Dr Ronny Cheung, Consultant Paediatrician, Joint Head of Service, General Paediatrics, Evalina London Children’s Hospital, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

  • Dr Jonathan Cohen, Consultant in Paediatric Immunology & Infectious Diseases, Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sangeeta Leahy, Director of Public Health, London Borough of Southwark
  • Dr Angela Bhan, Director for Bromley – south east London Integrated Care System, specialist public health doctor

The event is hosted by: Dr Toby Garrood, Joint Medical Director – south east London Integrated Care System, Consultant Rheumatologist, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Have a lovely weekend and thank you for your continued support.

Best wishes



My preferred pronouns are: She/Her

SEL ICB switchboard: 020 8176 5330

Direct dial: 020 8176 5346

Communications and Engagement Manager (Partnership Southwark)

NHS South East London

South East London Integrated Care System


Boost 2022

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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Dear all,

We look forward to seeing you at the SGTO Tenants Conference tomorrow. 

It has been a long time since we have all been able to come together as a Tenants Movement and discuss the important issues facing Council Housing residents in Southwark. If you are able to make it, we hope to see you tomorrow. 

We have two important keynote speakers attending: Kwajo Tweneboa, a tireless Social Housing Activist exposing poor housing conditions, and Kate Dodsworth, who (through a specially recorded speech) will be talking about Social Housing reform from the perspective of the Regulator for Social Housing. 

After this, not only will you be able to interact with key Council officers at our panel debates, you will also be able to gain knowledge at our workshops and, in the case of our Energy Support Workshop, feed into Council decision-making regarding energy support. Our Speakers Corner session will also give you the chance to speak out on issues that matter to your community. 

Please see agenda and event information below:

Venue: The City of London Academy (Southwark), 240 Lynton Road, SE1 5LA.

9:30 – 10:00 

Registration and refreshments 

10:00 – 10:10 

Introduction from Cris Claridge, Chair of the SGTO 

10:10 – 10:50 

Keynote speech and Q&A – Kwajo Tweneboa, Social Housing Activist 

10:50 – 11:00 

Keynote speech from Kate Dodsworth, Director of Consumer Regulation, Regulator for Social Housing 

11:00 – 12:00 

Session 1: Resident Involvement 


Panel Speakers:  

Nat Stevens, Resident Involvement Manager, London Borough of Southwark  

John McCormack, Tenant and Home Owner Involvement Team Leader, London Borough of Southwark 

12:00 – 12:15 

Morning Tea Break 

12:15 – 13:15 

Session 2: Repairs 


Panel Speakers:  

Marc Cook, Customer Journey Lead – Southwark Repairs, London Borough of Southwark 

Ade Aderemi, Head of Customer Services, London Borough of Southwark 

Paul Gathercole, Gas and Water Contract Manager, London Borough of Southwark 

13:15 – 14:15 

Lunch (Please explore our Market Place – full of organisations from across Southwark) 

14:15 – 15:15 



Workshop 1: Supporting your TRA. Speaker: Dario Jade-Blake, Pelican Plus TRA and SGTO. 


Workshop 2: Health and Wellbeing. Speaker: Jackie Power, Wellness Advisor to the UK Parliament 


Workshop 3: Energy Support. Speaker: Eugene Nixon, Head of Strategy & Compliance, Exchequer Services, London Borough of Southwark 

15:15 – 15:25 

Afternoon Tea Break 

15:25 – 16:10 

Feedback and discussion 

16:10 – 16:50 

Speakers Corner: hear from tenants and residents from across Southwark (sign-up on the day) 

16:50 – 17:00 

Closing Speech from Chris Meregini, Vice Chair of the SGTO 

Kind regards,


Jack Lewis  ​  

Campaign and Research Officer

Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations

19 Buller Close, Peckham, SE15 6UJ 

0207 639 6718  jack@sgto.co.uk  Website  Twitter  Facebook

STILL GOING AHEAD: SGTO Tenants Conference – this Saturday, 9:30am to 5pm

Dear all,

This is a reminder for the SGTO Tenants Conference, taking place at The City of London Academy (Southwark), 240 Lynton Road, SE1 5LA: this Saturday, 9:30am – 5pm

If you wish to attend, please fill in and email back the attached REGISTRATION FORM – email-phone.

In recognition of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, a book of condolence will be available at the venue, which attendees can sign if they wish (this is entirely up to the individual).

I have attached an aerial map of the venue, along with pictures of the car park entrance (also on Lynton Road, to the immediate left of the school). The school is on bus routes P12 and 381, and the 78 Bus stops nearby. It is also walking distance from the Old Kent Road, South Bermondsey Rail Station, and Bermondsey Tube Station. Be mindful that both Roads and public transport are likely to be busy due to the Queen’s lying in state.

Please see below agenda and attached list of Market Place organisations attending.

9:30 – 10:00 Registration and refreshments
10:00 – 10:10 Introduction from Cris Claridge, Chair of the SGTO
10:10 – 10:50 Keynote speech and Q&A – Kwajo Tweneboa, Social Housing Activist
10:50 – 11:00 Keynote speech from Kate Dodsworth, Director of Consumer Regulation, Regulator for Social Housing
11:00 – 12:00 Session 1: Resident Involvement

Panel Speakers:

Nat Stevens, Resident Involvement Manager, London Borough of Southwark

John McCormack, Tenant and Home Owner Involvement Team Leader, London Borough of Southwark

12:00 – 12:15  Morning Tea Break 
12:15 – 13:15 Session 2: Repairs

Panel Speakers:

David Hodgson, Director of Asset Management, London Borough of Southwark

Marc Cook, Customer Journey Lead – Southwark Repairs, London Borough of Southwark

Ade Aderemi, Head of Customer Services, London Borough of Southwark

Paul Gathercole, Gas and Water Contract Manager, London Borough of Southwark

13:15 – 14:15  Lunch (Please explore our Market Place – full of organisations from across Southwark) 
14:15 – 15:15 Workshops:  

Workshop 1: Supporting your TRA. Speaker: Dario Jade-Blake, Pelican Plus TRA and SGTO.

Workshop 2: Health and Wellbeing. Speaker: Jackie Power, Wellness Advisor to the UK Parliament

Workshop 3: Energy Support. Speaker: Eugene Nixon, Head of Strategy & Compliance, Exchequer Services, London Borough of Southwark

15:15 – 15:25 Afternoon Tea Break 
15:25 – 16:10 Feedback and discussion
16:10 – 16:50 Speakers Corner: hear from tenants and residents from across Southwark (sign-up on the day)
16:50 – 17:00 Closing Speech from Chris Meregini, Vice Chair of the SGTO

We can’t wait to see you all there! Free lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Very best wishes,

Jack Lewis  ​

Campaign and Research Officer

Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations

19 Buller Close, Peckham, SE15 6UJ

0207 639 6718  jack@sgto.co.uk  Website  Twitter  Facebook

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: books of condolence and flower layin

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Southwark remembers

Yesterday, Councillor Kieron Williams, Leader of Southwark Council, said:

“This is a very sad day for our country and for the Royal Family, who are very much in Southwark’s thoughts and prayers. It was a huge honour for our borough when Her Majesty the Queen visited the Shard in 2013; a short but welcome stop on what has been an incredible seventy-year long service to public life and to our country. I would like to extend our borough’s deepest condolences to the royal family at this difficult time.” Read more from yesterday’s reflections.

If you’d like to sign a book of condolence
You can sign a book of condolence in a number of places in Southwark:

Southwark Cathedral, at London Bridge, SE1 9DA. Come on any day between 8am and 10pm. 
Southwark Council offices, 160 Tooley Street, SE1 2QH. Come on any day between 8am and 6pm.
Southwark Council offices, 132 Queen’s Road, SE15 2HP. Come on any day between 8am and 6pm.
Dulwich Library, 368 Lordship Lane, SE22 8NB. Come during the library’s normal opening hours.
Canada Water Library, 21 Surrey Quays Road, SE16 7AR. Come during the library’s normal opening hours.
Walworth Road Library, 147 Walworth Rd, SE17 1RW. Come during the library’s normal opening hours.
Camberwell Library, 48 Camberwell Green, SE5 7AL. Come during the library’s normal opening hours.
You can also sign the national online Book of Condolence.

If you’d like to lay flowers in Southwark
There are three places in Southwark where you can lay flowers:

Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, SE1 9DA. Floral tributes may be placed outside in the South Churchyard. 
Dulwich Park, College Lodge, near College Road entrance, SE21.
Chumleigh Gardens in Burgess Park, Chumleigh Street, SE5 0RN.

Follow us on social media for regular updates
For regular updates on local arrangements over the national period of mourning, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

Southwark Council · PO BOX 64529 · London SE1P 5LX

London Bridge and Borough High Street changes – have your say