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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|Mar 30, 2019 12:00 am
Shopping centre traders left out in the cold –
Just thirty-six independent traders from the Elephant & Castle shopping centre have been allocated new space in which to trade, in the event of the centre’s demolition and redevelopment. Despite concerns raised by the Chair of the ‘Traders Panel’ and his fellow panel member, the figure is trumpeted in a self-congratulatory press-release from Southwark Council and belies the true situation which is that at least 40 traders have been left out in the cold, according to Latin Elephant, who champion the cause of all independant ethnic minority traders. Southwark News reported that 28 applications for space were rejected.
The new spaces are a mixture of permanent affordable units, at the base of the Elephant One Tower and on the ground floor of Perronet House (the ‘Elephant Arcade’), and temporary affordable units in Castle Square.
No room on the Park
Noticeably absent from the relocation sites are the affordable retail units on Elephant Park, formerly the Heygate estate. At over 1300 sqm, with circa 800sqm available in 2019, this is by far the largest of the four sites presented to Southwark’s planning committee as alternatives for displaced traders. This 800sqm of affordable retail comprises 8 units all located on one street (Sayer St), pictured in the CGI below (extracted from Lendlease’s marketing brochure).
Unlike the other 3 sites, Elephant Park is under Lendlease control, not Delancey or Southwark, so the suspicion is that they have no desire to help Delancey, or Southwark, relocate traders, notwithstanding the ‘imagination, empathy and dedication’ it claims to be bringing to the Elephant & Castle. The CGI image above and marketing image below suggest that Lendlease’s vision doesn’t aim to include the likes of Jenny’s Burgers or the Sundial Cafe.
Lendlease’s new retail units on Sayer Street nearing completion
A predictable debacle
A relocation strategy that only to relocates half of those who need relocation is a failure by any measure, more so when that failure is entirely predictable. Objectors, led by Latin Elephant, have consistently pointed out that Delancey’s half-hearted and dilatory ‘strategy’ simply did not provide enough space to accommodate all the traders who wish to stay at the Elephant and this has remainded the case, even as the number of traders has inevitably changed over time.
In the summer of 2017 Southwark estimated that there were about 130 independent businesses, occupying 4005sqm within the ‘red-line’ of the development (excluding the Hannibal House office space). Latin Elephant calculated that all available space, including Elephant Park (East St market spaces, nearly a mile down the road), could accommodate 84 businesses on 2,263 sqm – not much more than half the floorspace required and leaving at least 38 eligible buinesses out in the cold.
In March 2018, Latin Elephant objected to Delancey’s planning application, on the grounds that the amount of affordable retail space fell far short of the 4000 sqm needed. Nonetheless, the officer’s report for the application, lumped the new shopping centre’s affordable retail with the affordable retail of Elephant One and Elephant Park. The report noted that over a third of that space would not be completed until 2024, but nonetheless reached the comforting concluson that the total of 3866 sqm was ‘only marginally short…of the 4,005sqm of space currently occupied by independent retailers on the east (shopping centre) site’ (para 221).
By January 2019, Perronet House had been approved and Castle Square itself went to planning committee, so the officer’s report for this wisely drops any reference to the shopping centre, to reach an affordable retail total of 2,859sqm. The report acknowledges that ‘whilst this would be less than the 4,005sqm currently understood to be occupied by independent businesses on the east site, some businesses may be able to operate from smaller premises’ (para 57). Southwark now identified 80 businesses in the redline and gave verbal assurances that there ‘should be sufficient’ units to accommodate everyone.
In an FOI response in March 2019 Southwark gave the number of traders as 79 (an underestimate that treats the several businesses in Arch 7 as one).
Wishful thinking and indifference
While Southwark’s approach to relocating centre traders can be characterised as wishful thinking, Delancey’s can be characterised as indifference. It’s starting position was that providing affordable retail ‘would be unviable and inapproriate’ (para 4.63) and that a relocation strategy would only be forthcoming, once Delancey had secured planning approval (an aim it acheived). Only the concerted efforts of local campaigners and councillors has dragged concessions from Delancey, including Castle Square, a relocation fund, as well as the affordable retail units, but more is needed. Traders must be given more space for relocation and securer leases; the centre itself needs urgent maintenance and promotion, so that businesses remain viable. The relocation fund of £634,700 is not enough to for the number of traders who need its help.
It’s not too late
In the meantime, it’s not too late to put a stop to this disastrous and inequitable scheme. The application for a judicial review of the shopping centre planning permission continues its legal progress. We want the permission quashed, for a scheme with more social rented housing and a better deal for traders.
MP4 Final Design Public Exhibition
Lendlease would like to invite you to a public exhibition for the final designs for the fourth phase of Elephant Park. Masterplan Phase 4 (MP4) includes two development plots on Rodney Place, plots H11a and H11b (see above).
This event will be at Balfour Street Housing Project, 67 Balfour Street, London SE17 1PL on:
Outdoor cinema night in Elephant Park
Elephant Park will be hosting an outdoor cinema night on 12th July, and Lendlease want the local community to decide which classic movie will be shown! So whether you fancy yourself as the next John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John and want to dance in the park to Grease, or whether you want to travel Back to the Future with Michael J. Fox, visit the Elephant Park website here to cast your vote on which film should be aired.
This will be just one of a number of events Lendlease have planned for Elephant Park this summer. Keep an eye on the website for further details as these events are announced.
In just a few short years the Chelsea Fringe has grown from a bright idea into a global festival of ‘grass roots’ gardening.
For this year’s Chelsea Fringe, which runs from 19 to 27 May, Elephant Park is playing host to a range of community-focused activities that will bring to life the joys of growing and green spaces.
In total, four events will be held next week which are free for all the community to attend.
Kicking off on Tuesday 22 May with the first ever Green Links Walk from Elephant Park to Burgess Park, and culminating on Saturday 26 May with Flowerful Elephant, a fun-filled day celebrating the area’s local gardens, growing groups, green spaces and the horticultural history.
To find out more about the different events please visit the Elephant Park website here.