35% Campaign – Elephant Park – planning committee misled?

Elephant Park – planning committee misled?

Mar 01, 2020 12:00 am

Lendlease fails to declare public funding for affordable housing -Developer Lendlease failed to disclose at Last week’s planning committee meeting that it was in receipt of public funding, which could have increased the amount of affordable housing at Elephant Park (aka the Heygate estate regeneration).

The meeting was called because of the large number of objections to the final phase (H7 MP5) and the lack of additional affordable housing. We explained in our previous blog how Lendlease have met their 25% affordable housing requirement, while increasing the total number of homes, but without increasing the number of affordable homes or proportion of social rent (3%).

One of the objections, from the 35% Campaign, was that “There appears to have been no effort to take advantage of any public funding”. Southwark responded by saying: “There is no obligation on Lendlease to seek public funds.” (para 282, 283 of the officer’s report)

The planning committee followed this up in their cross examination of Lendlease, who were asked directly by Cllr King whether they had considered applying for grant funding:

 See video clip of committee meeting on youtube here.

In a lengthy reply, Lendlease did not disclose that the Mayor had in fact committed to fund Elephant Park, back in September 2018.

Elephant Park is the very first entry on a list of estate regeneration projects on the Mayor’s website, which have had funding approved since July 2018.

This gives rise to a number of questions:

  1. Why did Lendlease not say that they had received funding when the question was asked?
  2. Why were the committee members not told that Lendlease has received funding in the committee report?
  3. How much money has Lendlease received from the Mayor?
  4. Why has the affordable housing offer not been improved?

We suspect that the answer to this lies in the murky world of viability; Lendlease insisted in 2013 that only 9.4% of the new homes could be viably provided as affordable.

They repeated this at the planning committee meeting last week and would no doubt argue that any money they have received from the Mayor has gone to bridging the gap between what is viable and the 25% being delivered.

Whatever the merits of this argument (and we think it has none) it still leaves open the question of why Lendlease and the officers report did not disclose the grant funding to members.

There is a similarity here to the ongoing dispute about affordable housing in the shopping centre development. Developer Delancey claims that the £11.24m it is also receiving from the Mayor is being used to increase the amount of social rented housing. We showed previously how it was going to Delancey’s bottom line:

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35% Campaign update – Elephant Park – final phase, final windfall for Lendlease

Elephant Park – final phase, final windfall for Lendlease

Feb 21, 2020 12:00 am

Last phase of Heygate regeneration set for approval with increase in number of homes but no increase in affordable. -We blogged last year about the final phase (MP5 H7) of the Heygate regeneration.

Lendlease’s application for 424 new homes (15 social rent) in this final phase is now set to be approved by the Council’s planning committee on Monday.

If approved without a viability review it will seal an increase in the number of new homes beyond that approved by Southwark’s planning committee back in 2013, without any increase in the number of affordable homes. This will result in a total of 2,689 homes (220 more than approved in 2013) of which 92 will be social rent.

 Extract from the 2013 Outline application Committee report

This windfall gives Lendlease the revenue of 220 extra homes that were not included in the original viability assessment of the scheme, which was based on 2,469 units. This allowed Lendlease to build 25% instead of 35% affordable housing and to reduce the required amount of social rented homes to next to nothing. Taking account of the 220 extra homes could have improved both the viability of the whole scheme and the affordable housing offer.

Reviewing viability

We noted in our previous blog that Southwark has neglected to carry out any viability review. Monday’s planning committee report reiterates this, stating: “The council has no mechanism to insist on a viability review” (para 129)

However, this looks to be contradicted by the terms of the Regeneration Agreement between Southwark and Lendlease, which provides a mechanism for the affordable housing mix to be reviewed on an annual basis.

If these annual reviews had been taking place it should have been reflected in higher levels of social rented housing. The fact that the tenure mix hasn’t changed suggests that they haven’t.

Grant Funding

We also noted in our previous blogpost that the 2013 planning committee anticipated that the regeneration could benefit from public funding if it became available.

 Extract from the 2013 Outline application Committee report

This was in line with the Regeneration Agreement, which also obliged the parties to seek grant funding:

Such funding has been available since 2016 when Sadiq Khan announced a £4.6bn funding programme, but despite the 2013 planning committee’s intention and the Regeneration Agreement’s obligation, Lendlease has made no funding application.

Also, despite this clear contractual obligation, Southwark nonetheless states in Monday’s committee report for the final phase“There is no obligation on Lendlease to seek public funds.” (para 283)

Given the clear obligation on Lendlease to seek grant funding, we say that until Lendlease does so Southwark should reject this final phase application.

Southwark should also reject the application unless Lendlease commits to a viability review. There are a number of reasons why this is necessary. Not only was the original viability assessment based on fewer homes than the number actually being built, but also the free-market homes are being sold for twice Lendlease’s viability assessment estimate.

Another significant change to viability since the original assessment has been Lendlease’s recent decision to let, rather than sell homes in the later phases of the scheme.

Monday’s planning committee should also take account of Policy 3.12 of the Mayor’s London Plan, which says that “The maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing should be sought .. having regard to .. individual circumstances including development viability, {and} the availability of public subsidy.

The Elephant Park development lost Southwark 1,200 council homes. This final phase is Southwark Council’s last chance to (partially) redeem itself by insisting Lendlease abides by its obligations, reviews the viability of the scheme and applies for grant funding.

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35% Campaign update – No room for traders in the new Elephant

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.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

You can find out more about the legal challenge here and you can help fund our fight by donating here.

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MP4 Final Design Public Exhibition

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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:

  •     11am – 3pm     Saturday 23 June
  •     3pm – 8pm    Tuesday 26 June

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.

Chelsea Fringe activities at Elephant park

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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.