TL;DR: Fragments of Old Kent Rd histories / long rant on what’s planned for the area / job losses & luxury towers / We took photos of everything that will go



Oh Old Kent Rd. Old Kent Rd. Damn! It’s just not a place you should fuck with. Of our manky generation, we heard of, or were at, the Dun Cow, the Frog & Nightgown, The Gin Palace, drinking with soul boys then later House and Garage heads. Wild Irish republican parties on Swanley House, Kinglake Estate in the early 90’s. Squatted parties at The Metro Club that’s now the Nigerian mosque or at the squatted terrace on Malt St demolished for the ASDA. Watching half-decent hippy band Ring at the Domville Grove Free Festival in probably ’85. The Ambulance Station squat in the old Fire Station opposite big Tescos was damn well good and lots of good indie band or experimental music gigs. Of course, squatting looms large in this history because of the amazingly organised work of the Squatters Network of Walworth offices at 362 Old Kent Rd. Later when they were reborn as Southwark Homeless Information Project at 612, there was the communal meal and meeting every Tuesday. Baked potatoes and baked beans once a week and planning squatters aid and advice. Spent time resisting evictions on Friary Estate Or Coopers Estate or Rockingham Estate. So many estates and there were just so many empty flats as the Council was shit at getting new tenants in. Usually squatters got along with tenants and worked together but some times they didn’t. No drama.

Old Kent Rd Development Map May 2019

Remembering too the haunted Thomas A Beckett pub and boxing gym above but never went there unlike Henry Cooper, Muhammad Ali and David Bowie oddly enough. Or see the Drive-In KFC or the huge inflatable Ronald McDonald atop the McD’s at 518 OKR in the early 90s. You can see the pumped up Ronald in Patrick Keiller’s totally top film London (1994). Or borrowing African music LP’s from North Peckham Library and taping them and finding a love there in those vibes. Remembering Carters Tool Hire or South London Pistons. We didn’t remember the model of the man who lifted his hat on Carters & Sons men’s outfitters and men’s hats. Way before our time but then just the other day we went past the famous London Chroming Company that’s still there. Just about. Or there was the beautiful concrete Clover Diaries sign at 201 Old Kent Rd now gone with the demolition. Or The Word Turned Upside Down pub and how happy that made us because the name signals the song and the awesome Christopher Hill book from 1972 full of Levellers and Ranters and Diggers from Civil War England 1649 and the books subtitle ‘Radical Ideas During the English Revolution’. Sweet!

BONAMY ESTATE estate 1991
Bonamy Estate, SE16 in 1991 – Now Demolished


Then there was the Old Kent Rd Gasworks and the famous gasometers and that amazing history of working people organising early trade unionism there around 1889. Or what about the crazy concrete flyover at the other end of the OK Rd? Or the massive Bricklayers Arms railway freight depot? We remember the night of January 17th 1991 when the first UK-backed bombs rained down on Baghdad live on the telly. We were out with a spraycan at 2am painting up on all the hoardings around as yet undeveloped sites. On the fence around the place that would become B+Q we let rip and sprayed ‘No War But The Class War’. The same on the old coach site at Verney Rd. That was us then living on the Bonamy Estate just off the Old Kent Rd in 1990, a site for sore eyes and petty badness. Tales that we can never tell. The estate was sinking into the ground. Half derelict by the time we lived there but it was a home. By 1992 we had moved on. Walworth. Switched gears. Absolutely brilliant. Here endeth one or two people’s version of OKR historical fragments. Yours will be probably be a whole different but just as varied…

Bianca Rd / Glengall Rd / Latona Rd, SE15



So much of what we described above had gone in, what you could call, the first wave of developer frenzy circa late 90’s to mid 2000’s. Demolition of all those great landmarks and oddities along the way as you rode the bus up to The Elephant. Those days were a bit more simple for the Old Kent Rd as it was still the most famous of the cheapest brown cards in Monopoly with a land value pegged forever at cheapo cheapo £60. It was a long and linear local working class neighbourhood with shops locals need and, you know what, it still is. Constantly changing but always affordable. Genuinely diverse in population, it’s incredible. Check out this recent piece by our fave food writer Jonathan Nunn on the rapidly emerging multi-ethnic ‘restaurant communities’and café businesses keeping it real along the top end of the Road. It’s a super piece and unafraid to talk political economy alongside plenty pho and boureks: ‘The communities on the Old Kent Road have fought existential threats for years rather than months — resisting gentrification, sustained immigration raids, an inhumane immigration policy that keeps restaurants struggling to find chefs, the ever-looming regeneration of the area, the greed of landlords pricing them out’.

But by the 2000’s with Southwark Council going for broke to rejig the area under the guise of ‘regeneration’ the area was ennobled with the title ‘An Opportunity Area’ aka The Kiss of Death. Read that sentence again as ‘Everything Must Go!’ and so it became Official. By 2010 there was the Old Kent Rd Area Action Plan that identified 36 potential sites of new housing all up and down the Road. By 2017 the plans had mushroomed, gone loco and become enormous. The new plans for the Old Kent Road now promised us local types 20,000 new homes and 5,000 new jobs. A lot of this was premised profit-wise on the development of two new Bakerloo line stations somewhere near Tescos and then one more at Asylum Rd. Property developers who had been wining and dining top Council bods in swanky brasseries for years were now trembling over dessert at the thought of all that money raining down on them. The only problems were that any promised ‘affordable’ housing would not be in any way ‘affordable’ and what to do with all those people who were actually still grafting here there and everywhere along the Road.

The incredible Vital OKR folks wrote the ‘Old Kent Road area is home to nearly 1,000 businesses that are integral to London’s dynamic economy. Here there is a vibrant civic life and a remarkable diversity of enterprise. This place is thriving, providing work for around 10,000 people. We want the miracle to be recognised, celebrated, embraced and nurtured’. Now ain’t that the truth. Anyone who lives close to the Old Kent Rd knows that the streets and industrial estates down the bottom end of the road are a traditional working landscape. What do you see? Well, business after business in light industrial units. People working. Things being made. Deliveries going out. These kind of areas ain’t pretty although in their own way they are! They are what they are though – places of employment vital to both workers and London as a site of industry and business. They are just-in-time services such as printers, logistics and couriers, studio space provides a home for burgeoning bespoke manufacture and arts and craft production plus light manufacturing spaces. Despite some paper thin reassurances that any new development would respect the 1000 businesses, it’s clear to see that the OKR plans are more about creating a ‘Central London’ housing zone of more of the same 1 or 2 bed luxury flats with some ‘affordable’ houses clustered round the new towers. Vital OKR’s research shows that ‘currently vacant and available land equates to only 1.25% of the Opportunity Area, where as existing economic uses account for over 30% of the current land use’. Vital OKR advocates a sensible policy of zero net loss of industrial land in the London Borough of Southwark.


Old Kent Rd / Sandgate St / Ruby St, SE15


As a clear indication of what is to come, we can point to the fate of a few particular development plans. Where as in the late 80’s the Council policy was to cluster big box chains in Retail Parks along the Road, with the new Gold Rush in the Wild West Old Kent Rd, those sites are now destined to become mostly housing despite those retail parks being actually super useful for local people who take the trip to Argos, B&Q, Currys etc. But no, says Southwark, they must be developed as housing with a sprinkling of commercial premises at the edges. At Southernwood Retail Park, the one by Tescos, the plans are for ‘a mixed-use development of 725 residential units, with a hotel, cinema, shops, restaurants and offices’. It’s a monster development completely out of character with the low level housing and shops around it. The plans for Malt Street near to Asda are even more enormous with ‘a mixed use development, including 1,300 homes and 7,000 sqm of commercial space’ being planned. There are many questions being asked by planners and architects and also local critics like us (and other campaigners!) about how actually socially useful and sustainable these high tower are. Lynne Sullivan from a Sustainable By Design write that ‘these towers are often privatised vertical cities that essentially operate as safety deposit boxes for foreign investment. Towers can’t replicate the vibrancy of public realm or the liveability of streets. They have more negatives than positives and there are better density models’. Large towers without massive infrastructure investment in reducing huge pulls on externally generated energy produce huge detrimental environmental effects. Frightening also is that life expectancy for new high towers ranges from 40 to 60 years only. Imagine knocking down a structurally sound pub built in 1888 to construct a new building with an estimated life of just half of the old pub’s existence.

For sure, no one is arguing here that London doesn’t need more housing but two things strike us:

1) See everything we ever wrote in the last ten years about how these development plans make big promises for local people re: ‘affordable’ housing or new social rented units or community gains and how these promises aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Already 35% Campaign are reporting that Berkeley Homes, the developer at Malt St, is making noises about reducing the ‘affordable’ housing percentage even though there are already serious concerns that promised social rented flats will be delivered as the more expensive ‘affordable rent’ tenure.

2) Again, as we’ve repeated to the point of brain fever, that once you bring in loads of expensive housing to an area the knock on effect is like a slow to medium tsunami of displacement. By this we mean that expensive housing raises local private and commercial rents and people and businesses are forced to move out. If we take Peckham as a case study, we can see that the arrival of the Overground was one of the reasons why private rents went ballistic and why new developments are arriving as if overnight. The arrival of the Bakerloo will be just the same at the OKR. We must also be vigilant about the fate of the Ledbury Estate right on OKR which was subject to rehousing of tenants as the towers were structurally compromised. Although after much pressure from Ledbury Estate Action Group, Southwark have promised to keep the blocks as council housing, with development pressure on and the massive land values of the Ledbury site, we should all hold Southwark to that promise.

Ledbury Estate August 2020

A response to the Council’s Old Kent Road Draft Area Action Plan by the awesome OKRPeople Network wrote We feel that overall the AAP does not adequately reflect the specificity of the Old Kent Road area. The Plan’s vision of the future is unimaginative and “cut-and-paste,” as evidenced by the claim that the OKR will become “increasingly part of central London.” The OKR is distinctive, and the aim of the AAP should be to enhance this distinctiveness. A thriving industrial base, genuinely affordable (social) housing, sustainable and diverse communities, migrant and ethnic businesses, a community-oriented cultural offer – these are the elements that make the OKR what it is, that make it attractive to the people who live and work here, and that give it a purpose in the wider London economy’.

They also point out that ‘the biggest housing need in Southwark is for genuinely affordable housing, which is to say social housing. According to the Council’s own assessment, 79% of Southwark’s housing need could only be met by social rented housing, and 21% by intermediate housing’. There is already a ton of intermediate housing in the borough as this is what has been making up a lot of developments commitments to ‘affordable’ house construction under the current planning regime policies. Importantly OKRPeople write that the ‘Area Action Plan should thus make social housing construction its priority, and yet there is no clear commitment to the number of social housing units that will be built, or to how they will be financed’. This is a top point as the corrupt state of ‘The Economy’, itself somewhat of a fiction or ‘vast hostage situation*’ that we’re supposed to believe in although it’s entirely out of our hands sadly, does mean that projections of construction and profits are now subject to a major panic in boardrooms across the World.

Will be interesting to see how global real estate markets fare locally as we go into the long expected major recession with mass unemployment and further rounds of austerity. But let’s not bank on this saving the OKR as the real truth is any financial crisis is that those who have the most still gain the most with bailouts and the shifting of their private debts into the public purse. Not only this scenario but the Government’s intended ripping up of current planning regulations in total favour of developers might make our current OKR Gold Rush look like a an afternoon out window shopping at Gerald Ratners!

To save time, the sturdy and committed 35% Campaign have written extensively here and here and here about the coming wave of luxury housing developments and all the intrigue and bullshit that goes with it. Your weekly reminder too that all of this pro-developer malarkey is happily waved through by your local Labour-run Southwark Council.


Ormside St / Penarth St and environs, SE15


Any road up, all this as a really long way to say that, we and our mate Martin Dixon wanted to make sure what ever happens that there is a solid record of what is here and there now. So we took a lovely very hot summer day walk from the Peckham side of the OKR (Bianca Rd / Latona Rd) to the Rotherhithe side (Ilderton Rd via backstreets by the Gasometers) and snapped away like crazy! Just like our recent page on Bermondsey where we are tried to capture those commercial sites that will undoubtedly be knocked on the head in favour of posh flats, we are doing the same here but on a much much larger scale. Along the way, we found empty sites and sites now taken over in the meanwhile by, first numerous evangelical churches and, more recently, artists, artists studios and art businesses. It remains an amazing terrain to mooch about. You should do it.

OKR-Vacant-land-without-statsVital OKR’s MAP of COMMERCIAL USAGE OF LAND

Not much to say to end on, except that when London is just one large landscape of luxury towers dominated by the mostly dire subjectivities of new build homeowners then we can only wonder what on Earth we are doing here. Like our opening fragments of some of our histories along the Old Kent Rd, there is so much here that we should be defending. Not only shops and stuff but really our way of life. Different ways of life among us all for sure but as a working class neighbourhood there is something we all have in common. Simply put the rich will fuck us. As said above, Oh Old Kent Rd. Old Kent Rd. Damn! It’s just not a place you should fuck with.


* ‘Vast hostage situation’ is a term used by the excellent writer Phil A Neel in his book ‘Hinterland: America’s New Landscape of Class & Conflict’, (2018)

Elephant Shopping Centre, displaced traders, University of The Arts London and their anti-racism commitments

UTE Letter oneUTE twoUTE three

What remains on the streets of Bermondsey?

Bermondsey has a history as a solidly working class area since the middle of the 19th Century when the area was rammed with factories, commercial buildings, small industrial buildings and units plus hundreds of railway arches along the original London and Greenwich Railway line. It was in these streets that food processing, for example, employed thousand of workers at famous sites like Crosse & Blackwell on Crimscott St, Peek Frean’s biscuits on Drummond St or Sarsons Vinegar & Hartley’s Jams on Tower Bridge Rd.

The neighbourhood also has dozens of council estates ranging from all the great periods of council house building programmes in the 20th Century such as the Elim Estate, the Purbrook Estate, the Neckinger Estate, the Meakin Estate and so on. Most of these were designed and built by the London County Council. This brick-built deck-access Modernist-inflected architecture is famous and each estate has its own custom features like massive entry arches or large common garden areas.

Since the turn of the millennium however new build housing development in Bermondsey, London SE1 has been increasing year-by-year as the area continues its real estate make over. Walking around the area recently, we were struck by just how many developments sites there were. Demolitions and conversions of old factories and warehousing are bringing in huge developments of 1000’s of mostly private and expensive flats – ‘London Square Bermondsey’ development, Grange Rd – prices from £895,000 stands as a good example of the gold rush.

Walking the remains of the older businesses in Bermondsey’s streets

Our walk took in that large parcel of land between Old Kent Rd and the railway viaducts along Druid St. There were still remnants and vistas of the old industrial landscape familiar in memory to those who’ve lived here for a while. The occasional factory gate or chimney still remains, often now packaged up as ‘heritage‘ and as working class history re-versioned to fit the totally ahistorical marketing talk of new luxury developments.

Bermondsey is now often cited by estate agents types as ‘up and coming‘, ‘vibrant and diverse‘, etc, The spiel is endless, of course. Adding to this has been the make over of the area in the last ten years by foodie markets and ‘good vibes‘ where Bermondsey can now be described by marketing for a new development as ‘fast becoming a sought after area to live and socialise due to its thriving bar and restaurant scene‘.

We asked our good friend in all these kind of matters, Martin Dixon, to set off with his camera and document some of Bermondsey’s still remaining commercial sites that we fear in the next five years will all be gone as the bubble economy of housing expands ever outwards:























Lovely stuff. Just to say some of these businesses are no longer  what they are advertised as. For example, Walter Coles polythene bag place on Tanner St is now rented out as a location for film and photographic work.

Check out Martin’s websites for more of his good goods photos:






Occasionally The Elephant and Castle community is visited by those who have the power to destroy it. In this case, the main culprit is the tax-avoiding offshore-registered company Delancey. We remember the hilarious moment a couple of years ago when one of the Delancey minions was presenting planning updates to the local community at one of those Southwark Council-run neighbourhood meetings where the said minion was asked about the fate of Pricebusters. The minion said he didn’t know what Pricebusters was. Well, seeing as Pricebusters is one of the biggest stores in The Elephant Shopping Centre, you could probably start to form some suspicions that the plans to ‘regenerate’ The Elephant weren’t so much aimed at local people and their shops but maybe, only every so slightly, they might actually be aimed at a different clientele! Hmmm? What do you think?

A lo and behold there came that time again this Thursday March 12th at Southwark’s ‘Empowering Communities North West Area Forum’ at Amigo Hall in Lambeth Rd where locals were promised that the meeting will ‘include an update from Delancey on the redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre‘. Now as you may know the excellent community campaign Up The Elephant has been working tirelessly for a few years resisting the social cleansing plans for The Elephant. In that time, the campaign has also secured many improvements to the original proposals submitted by Delancey to Southwark Council in Oct 2016:

  • An increase of social rented housing from 33 units of social rented equivalent, owned and managed by the developer, to 116 proper social rented units, owned and managed by Council or housing association.
  • Provision of affordable retail space for displaced traders in the Shopping Centre
  • Helped to establish a Traders’ Panel for Shopping Centre businesses to put their views and needs across.
  • Secured a temporary traders’ premises on Castle Square.
  • Trader relocation fund of £634,700 and pressured the Council to add a further £200,000 into the pot.
  • Argued for 15-year affordable retail leases (rents to be held at 75% market for Years 6-15)
  • A change to the s106 legal agreement, to better ensure any future increase in social rented housing.


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None of this comes without a fight though and Up The Elephant and supporters have been holding both the Council and Delancey to account through protests, public meetings, stalls outside the Shopping Centre, benefit film nights and so on. But it’s crunch time at The Elephant as Delancey has announced a closure date of the Centre for 31st July 2020, a matter of only a few months away. Both Latin Elephant and Up The Elephant have been doing an amazing job mapping which traders are there, how many are being offered any relocation and working with traders to fight their corner for decent compensation and/ or relocation. As we write we know that many traders are simply not being helped by Delancey, shops and stalls are closing down and the increasing uncertainty of whether many of these hand-to-mouth businesses can survive until July. Particularly affected are the traders who run market stalls outside the Shopping Centre. Viewed by Delancey as the least desirable in the shiny new development, they are currently getting the worst of it. You can read a good breakdown of the state of things here.



‘When developers visited the City, the used to creep in at the side door, now the councilors bring them in the front door, one on each arm’. Not only had it become respectable for councilors to be seen with developers, it soon became imperative to be involved with them. Indeed, it got to the stage where councilors and developers became indistinguishable. The only real way they could be told apart was that the developer was always talking and the councilor was forever nodding his or her head’.

From ‘Glasgow’s Not For Sale’ by Brendan McLaughin (in ‘The Reckoning’ by Workers City, 1990)

For us at Southwark Notes, somewhat long in the tooth but fighting fit most days, we remember the time when working class communities such as ours, viewed the property developer, like the landlord, as a class enemy. What was known was that deep down, despite any promises, the property developer just wasn’t on our side. What ever they brought to the community wouldn’t be any good. What they wanted was to profit and profit big and we were simply in the way. We knew that and communities worked from that intuition.

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As times went by, the story changed. In Southwark, the controlling Labour council is mostly made up of those who still believe in some working class aspirational nonsense they got from Tony Blair’s New Labour project. They also believe in the Blairite project of ‘regeneration’ that seeks to ‘rebalance’ communities by moving many more middle class people into them. To make this happen, Southwark has been demolishing whole estates or estate blocks to allow private developers to then build 1000s of luxury or overpriced flats as well as the mythical ‘affordable’ housing as a small percentage of the overall new houses being constructed. Although this might have a basis in some wacky New Labour urban policies of yore, for developers it’s a green light to come to our communities, displace them, demolish their organic fabric and make loads of profits for themselves and their investors.

The quote above from the excellent Workers City book out of Glasgow speaks directly to our experience of Southwark Council’s extended love-in with developers over the last 10 years. Peter John, the leader of The Council, standing down after a ten year reign this month, sadly won’t be able to have one last junket in Cannes at the annual property development jamboree MIPIM as it has been postponed due to the Corona virus. Shame as that trip was sponsored by:

  • 2020 Capital, developers of two sites in the Old Kent Rd area
    Avanton, owners of several Old Kent Rd sites including the Ruby Triangle and gasworks
    Berkeley, who have plans for a site on Malt Street
    British Land, the council’s Canada Water development partner
    Get Living, the build-to-rent brand which is a partnership between Qatari Diar and clients of Delancey, active at the Elephant & Castle
    Grosvenor, who have just received approval for their Biscuit Factory scheme in SE16
    Hollybrook – Southwark-based developers with several sites in the borough
    Joseph Homes – developers of a tall building in Sylvan Grove off Old Kent Rd.
    London Square – developers of the old Crosse & Blackwell factory in Bermondsey
    Safestore – self-storage firm with an Old Kent Road site
    Shaw Corporation – developers of HSS Hire and BP petrol station on Old Kent Road
    Urban & Provincial – developers of Carpetright site

You see where Workers City and we are going with this!



When the Delancey date with the local community was announced a few weeks ago, Up The Elephant decided to in some ways escalate their campaign by hosting an ‘Unwelcoming Delancey’ protest outside the Empowering Communities event and to tell Delancey plainly to their face that we will fight to win this campaign. But fighting to win needs fighting words and so the event was underscored with the idea that the brilliant community of The Elephant will no longer stand deferent to the higher-ups, the powers that be, the developers and the Council and any or all of those who are complicit in the destruction of our neighbourhood. Although the demo would not interfere with those attending who wanted to hear updates from the Council, we would face Delancey down with a less than happy smiley face. The modern political terrain seems to be one where politeness is demanded at all times from we underlings lest those in power don’t get their way. Of course the actual slow violence of destroying our communities can then never be up for any angry questioning. As working class people who have been schooled from day one in deference to our betters, it didn’t take us long to throw that in the bin after many humiliating experiences at the hands of those above us.

Unwelcome Delancey March 12 2020 editUnwelcome Delancey Kick

And so we mobilised as best we could, we spread the word, we went online and did that social media thing, we spoke at events and joined a few UCU strike picket lines to make the connections between the financialisation of the university system and the financialisation of housing. We made the connections with those struggling on low pay and high rents to the plain facts that the social cleansing of London mirrors this austere landscape for most working class people and increasingly for many people traditionally seen as middle class. Sometimes we felt a bit like those old American Wobbly organisers going from struggle to struggle to offer support and make links in solidarity. But nothing wrong with that fine itinerant tradition!

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We went to join the UCU strike picket lines at London College of Communication (LCC) in The Elephant and Central St Martins in Kings Cross, both part of University of The Arts London (UAL). UAL are a development partner with Delancey and we heard about the appalling two-tier employment structure where majority Black and Brown cleaning, security and other maintenance staff are outsourced to aggressive race-to-the-bottom global services companies. We heard about excessive workloads for staff, low pay and the fact that a staggering 2500 UAL staff are on insecure ‘Associate Lecturer’ contracts.

Joining the picket at Goldsmiths we heard about the privatisation of student housing where similar private student housing providers take over formerly University run students housing increasing rents and lowering conditions. We briefly popped into the student occupation at LCC too to offer some support just as the management decided to more or less lock them into the room they were occupying. That didn’t surprise us as LCC management has always both been very aggressive to any support for Up The Elephant by staff or students at the same time as it ignores any attempt to seek accountability from them in relation the Elephant community they pretend they are a proud part of.



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Anyhow what happened on the night of the big showdown? Simply this. We got together a good solid crew of locals and supporters, we put our banners out, we leafleted the folks going into the meeting and we waited. Well we didn’t wait so long as a little bird had told us that Delancey had cancelled coming to the meeting. Chickenshits or what? In the end they merely sent along a series of slides and asked the Council to present them to the meeting as the Shopping Centre update! We are hearing that this didn’t exactly go down well at a Council-run meeting designed to empower communities. Even the Council wasn’t that impressed. But hey, what’s the expression? – ‘Lay down with dogs and…’

(We apologise to all dogs! And chickens!)

To add an insult to an injury, Delancey then had the cheek to say that they were concerned about the Corona Virus and hence decided not to come in person! You really couldn’t make this shit up. This is their level of outright contempt. Our feeling is that they simply didn’t feel up to meeting hostile community critics and decided to remain at home at their offshore-registered British Virgin Islands tax haven for the night. For we mere local mortals who are seeing our neighbourhood mangled and destroyed, we don’t have the luxury or privilege to stay at home!



It’s very desperate times. Government plans for housing and urban questions will see more and more of our communities under threat of social cleansing. Our material conditions will be further eroded. We will either turn again to each other or we will turn on each other. We have to think more about what actually organising our communities across intersecting struggles looks like. Sure we can mobilise protests and things but can we actually organise politically and in unity to resist attacks but also to improve our lives and conditions? By organising we mean calling on the deep roots we have with many people and groups where we live. We mean doing basic work of creating infrastructures of survival where we live. We can see some of these initiatives happening now with places like South Norwood Community Kitchen or Cooperation Town network. We can see this at places like food banks where with just a little more support and organising we can turn this into places of community sharing and gathering into food kitchens, advice centres and places to organise from, going beyond the helping hand of charity and running our own spaces of care and support and solidarity for all. We are a very long way from winning but everyday we win a little bit more if keep hope in each other and build confidence.

golsmiths up elephant-

When we changed the language of the Up The Elephant campaign to be a bit more angry and hopefully more of a piss-taking non-deferential mode, we did that to try and build up our energies and the energies of all anti-social cleansing campaigns and organising in London. There have been dozen of meetings and encounters in the last few years between these campaigns. These have been slow, slow work of meeting each other and swapping tactics and practical resources but they are always refreshing. Let’s step up to that work a bit more this year and centralise ourselves in our own community struggles as the people who actually know what we want and know what we need to do to get it. Fuck Delancey! Stay feisty everyone!


* Up The Elephant Campaign Traders demands:

  1. Commit Delancey to an increase of the relocation fund.
  2. Provide transparency and parity between the rent and service charge costs of the relocation options to bring them into line with each other.
  3. Amend the definition of “local independent operator” in the Section 106 agreement so it clearly includes the tenants subletting in Arch 7 and those in the Shopping Centre red line.
  4. Ensure fair treatment of the market traders and a commitment that all traders still within the red line will get a benefit of rent reductions until the Shopping Centre closes.
  5. Ensure that the independent business adviser, Tree Shepherd, applies the agreed criteria for the allocation of relocation spaces in a fair and transparent way.
  6. Ensure that the database of opportunities reflects what was agreed on the approval of planning permission.
  7. Prevent closure of the Shopping Centre until the traders have been relocated or have accessed a suitable level of compensation.









A Little Elephant Among The Big One: Elephant Road, Railway Arches and ‘Regeneration’ in Focus

Southwark Notes is very happy to publish a fantastic guest posting from Talia Clarick, a writer and researcher who is currently helping along the good, good work of Latin Elephant campaign.

We cannot change the regeneration that comes, and sadly and gracefully these changes that come will bring consequences that our space will disappear. This date, in one year possibly, our site, number 6 and 7 will disappear. These spaces serve the community and have served the community for around 15 years. It is a Colombian and Latin space where you can have a bite to eat and learn to dance salsa as well. It is a culturally dignified space associated with the area it resides in.” – Cesar, Distriandina


Elephant Road is a small street that connects Walworth Road to New Kent Road. It only spans the length of a single city street but plays an indispensable role in the bustle of the neighborhood. On the East side of the road there is the site of the demolished Heygate Estate and the shiny new Lend Lease development Elephant Park. On the West side is the small entrance to the Elephant and Castle above-ground railway station. All down Elephant Rd, a series of railway arches support the Thameslink train on its daily journeys to and from the railway station. The street is entangled in a thorny knot of ownership, with usual real estate suspects Delancey, Lendlease, Network Rail, and now Arch-Co, the new owners of the railway arches, looming large.

Elephant Rd View

All of the businesses on the street exist under railway arches, and are often overlooked in maps of the area, where the above ground railway takes priority. The activities in the arches give life to the street, which is almost always active, due to the fact that some spaces are open early as cafes, and some take on a more nocturnal identity such as Corsica Studios and Distriandina. The arches of Elephant Road were occupied within the last twenty years and have become home to mostly Latin American businesses although closer to New Kent Rd are TR Autos and Recycling bike shop.

Unsurprisingly, the arches are also key elements of the current ‘regeneration’ as Arches 6 and 7, currently home to Colombian café and nightclub Distriandina, and a small shopping arcade called ‘Elephant Central’ are planned to be cleared by property developer Delancey in the forthcoming changes to the area. Delancey’s excuse? They need to make way for a pathway from the ‘New Town Centre’ to the park across the street, or perhaps a way for wealthy residents of the new high-rises of Elephant Park to leisurely stroll back through the arches into what will inevitably become a landscape of Waitrose? Zara? Starbucks?

DELANCEY New Public Space Arches

CGI image of what the opened-up Arches 6 and 7 looks like – Delancey


After Delancey purchased the site of the Shopping Centre in April 2014, its army of architectural renderers created these images of what the empty arches might look like in the coming years after their ‘Town Centre’ has been constructed. In 2016, Southwark Council released some stylized images of what the arches may turn into and people are walking through the new east-west pathways, in a spectacle-induced daze.

Elephant RD Plans Southwark Council.jpg

CGI image of what the opened-up Arches 6 and 7 looks like – Southwark Council
Southwark Council wrote in 2016 that “The routes through the arches will be largely stripped back to their Victorian brickwork and exposed soffit to the platforms above. The stone paving to the street surface will extend from the Town Centre, through the arches, to meet Elephant Road. Paving modules here should respond to the geometry of each arch to further emphasize the two, near parallel viaducts

Delancey’s vision is that the clearance of the arches forms a part of their larger project of creating an “open-air pedestrianised town centre in the heart of Elephant and Castle” which will include “safer pedestrian routes, wider pavements, connections through the railway arches, and a public square.” Their ongoing lack of commentary on how this will actually affect the existing tenants of the arches remains steadfast here. But thankfully, the well-organised campaigners at Latin Elephant, with the help of Petit Elephant, have created an updated map of the current status of the tenants of the Shopping Centre and the railway arches. This mapping work is key to the understanding of ownership in the area as well a functioning as an innovative campaign tool. This largely compensates for the lack of consultation and lack of understanding that the traders have received from the developers themselves.


Petit Elephant’s Map Below Ground at Elephant Shopping Centre

Arches 6 7 Red Lines Graph Reader

A ‘social enterprise’ called Tree Shepherd, a private consultancy appointed by Southwark Council as an ‘independent’ business advisor has been set up to supposedly consult traders about their potential relocation deals and sites. But Tree Shepherd’s funding comes directly from Delancey, proving that they are dependent on the very developer hoping to kick out the traders. There are currently close to 100 independent businesses in the ‘red line’ for relocation, but the amount of space the traders will receive in their relocated units is difficult to establish because Southwark Council and Delancey have changed the layouts of their relocation facilities. Now, the areas of the future units do not match those publicly available in Southwark Council planning portal. The updated plans are ‘kept secret.’ However, if we draw on the original plans, most of the traders have been offered a unit that is substantially lower than their current business area. An earlier Southwark Notes article reports on Tree Shepherd’s multidimensional ineffectiveness: asking traders deceptive questions about whether they want to relocate, not including the vast majority of traders, scheduling meetings sparsely, and making people fill in forms with no tangible outcomes, which is why the work of Latin Elephant is so important.



Nowadays, they know that they can put a nice glass door, and then they can rent it to someone big like Nando’s and to some big gym, and then they can pay just 40k-60k a year. So that’s the reason they closed down the whole lot in Brixton, and the same thing will happen here. And they just give us a lease, and they give us six months notice when they are going to need the arch- they are going to need the arch one day, they might ask you one day to go and they find someone else, that’s it.”– Diego, Computer Repair – Arco Central

Speaking to some of the traders in the arches, you get a sense of the continuing uncertainty around the future of these particular spaces. Many traders expressed their reliance on Latin Elephant in informing them on the current status of their possible relocation. The precarious position the traders are in remains as the dates for the potential relocation have become muddled in a relentless cycle of delays. One of the most common complaints from traders over the long years with the regeneration hanging over their head has been the lack of information and the frustration of never knowing what’s going to happen. For some, it’s produced a weary resignation.

Arches 6 and 7, the arches Delancey wants to clear, are fundamentally different in how they operate, as Arch 6 is filled by a single business and Arch 7 is filled with a myriad of small businesses. However, the developers are treating both of these sites as two independent businesses in total: one being Distriandina, the leaseholder for Arch 6, the other being Beset International, the leaseholder for Arch 7. This erases the presence of the other smaller businesses in the Arch 7, as their interests are not recognized immediately in the relocation scheme, and have to depend on the single leaseholder.

As of now, the traders of Arch 7 are looking for relocation in a site nearby. Gathering information from the traders, representatives from Latin Elephant explain that this is the extent of the information that the traders of Arch 7 were given. The rest of the information remains vague, as well as dependent on the results of the Judicial Review, and the amount of money they can get from the relocation fund. Distriandina is a similar case, the critical difference being that Distriandina is a single tenant. Because of how symbolic the place is for the Colombian community who comes from far and wide across London to the arch, they were able to make a case for themselves to the Council and developers, and gain a temporary space in Castle Square across the street. However, this did not come without a challenge, as the space they were allotted is much smaller than the current site. An ‘open dialogue’ with Delancey and Southwark Council appeared to be more of a box-ticking exercise for the developers to claim they were engaging with the traders.

This uncertainty has caused undue stress among people whose livelihoods depend on the arches and nearby Shopping Centre as both means of income and spaces of communal gathering. This constant delay is also caused by Delancey’s refusal to meet the minimum requirements of the Council’s own local plan, something that was recently challenged in the Up The Elephant campaign’s Judicial Review on October 22-23rd at the High Court on The Strand. The Judicial Review results are still pending but the arguments were that Delancey’s ‘regeneration’ scheme is still not providing enough social housing. Up The Elephant is also campaigning hard with traders for a fair relocation for businesses in the Shopping Centre and against unaffordable rents. Worth reading 35% Campaign’s summary here entitled ‘Delays and Delancey’.



The Elephant Rd arches have also been thrown in the middle of a national narrative as all Network Rail arches have recently and controversially been sold off. The lucky buyer was a joint venture between British private developers Telereal Trillium (it has a property portfolio of more than 12,000 properties in the U.K ) and the infamous Blackstone, a U.S private equity company, who formed a joint venture called The Arch-Co immediately adding another layer to the privatisation of publicly owned land at the local and national scale. This £1.5 billion sell-off of covered the span of 5,261 different properties across England and Wales, with more than half of the portfolio being based in London. This was in response to Network Rail’s £35 billion debt to the Department of Transportation, and funding shortfall in the years 2014-2019, which had left many projects underfunded and risked not being completed. So they decided to sell the arches, their “assets”, in what was termed an “Asset disposal strategy” in 2016 in order to cover the costs.

The selloff is indeed an all-inclusive scrapping of affordable rents, as the arches have historically been cheap spaces to set up shop, as well as offering a generous amount of floor space to people to subdivide and design as they wish. Many of the businesses in the arches are unique to the space allotted to them, as the arches offer spaces for both industrial and commercial uses. On a single stretch of arches in London and the UK one might find a car repair shop, a brewer, a hair salon, art studio, a fitness gym, and so on. As a part of the sell-off, many of these varied tenants have already faced daunting increases in rents, which could increase by 54% in the next three or four years, if all follows the predictable trajectory of the marketplace.


Throughout the process, there was also a lack of input from existing tenants of the spaces. The audit also states the lack of community consultation was in part because the leases were not directly up for removal by the sell-off. However, the excellent campaign group Guardians of the Arches note the selloff as a threat to the tenants’ agency and demanded a fairer deal from it, including the ability for tenants to purchase parts of the portfolio, more favorable rental terms, security of tenure, and formal recognition as a tenant’s association. Network Rail objected to most of these issues, stating that “stronger tenant protections were unnecessary as the sale agreement ensures existing leases remain in place, and that stronger protections would contravene its requirements to act commercially and could raise the risk of judicial review or State Aid Challenge.”

But what does “acting commercially” mean when these arches are already filled with a wide variety of commercial activities that serve many communities in Britain and Wales? The ability to make a profit, to serve the interests of private developers, same as it ever was…



It is important to understand how these current stretches of arches have evolved to accommodate a wide variety of uses. The historical trajectory of the arch spaces is interesting, as it demonstrates how the underside of infrastructure has been creatively used beyond its original intent as a set of viaducts supporting the above ground rail. Focusing on Elephant Road, the gradual occupation of the arch spaces is a testament to how the community in Elephant and Castle evolved from the ground up, both literally and metaphorically.

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Elephant Rd, circa 1940


The railway itself was constructed in the Victorian era, but its arches sat on what appears to be vacant until the turn of the century. Going through the Post Office Directory records, local history archives and other historical records, one finds little information on the former lives of this street, aside from two photographs of it in post-WW2 reconstruction phase, prior to the Heygate Estate’s construction. The street took on an entirely different character as it does today. The particular rail line on Elephant Road, formerly known as the London Chatham and Dover line, was built on viaducts cutting through Southwark, Walworth, and Camberwell. The arches of Elephant Road lie adjacent to the old railway station, also built after the speculative ‘railway manias’ in 1862. Today, the railway station has entrances on Elephant Road as well as entrances within the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre at the height of the platforms above.

Elephant Rd 1940s 2

Elephant Rd, circa 1940

In Britain, for decades after the arches’ construction, they had a poor image amongst the general public. They were initially managed and occupied in an ad-hoc way, giving space for trades such as ‘smithies, marine stores, stables, mortar mills, the storage of old tubs, casks and lumber, and other low class trades.’ as Brian Rosa writes in a fascinating Ph.d study of railway arches. They were also associated with poverty because the rail-line was often deliberately built in working class neighborhoods. Throughout late 19th century and through most of the 20th century, the arches maintained a marginal, industrial position within London and the UK. It was only when the management of the arches became embedded in the city’s ‘formal’ economy that their mainstream cultural reception changed. While there are exceptions, the overall de-industrialisation of British economy opened up these spaces for smaller-scale practices. In the 1980’s the British Rail Property Board proposed a large program of arch refurbishment with the intention to improve the arches so that they were competitive with modern buildings, and yielded higher rents.

As the area underwent de-industrialisation in the 1980’s, the private sector had a greater influence on the makeup of the railway arches. The changing perception of these spaces gave way to large-scale cultural shifts and the focus on reclaiming urban space for leisure, entertainment, and lifestyle, as they became friendlier to a wide variety of entrepreneurial pursuits. This also changed the way the spaces themselves were configured, as they became more flexibly designed. The spaces offered opportunities to expand from a single railway arch into multiple, as is the case with Corsica Studios in Arches 4 and 5. It also allowed single arches to evolve into more expansive networks of many arches. The “parallel renting market” that was established offered cheap prices for people to set up shops in the arches, and was less affected by normal commercial price pressures, and local competition for the land. This model has allowed for certain groups of arches to grow into clusters of socially linked businesses, like the Latin American businesses on Elephant Road who came to the area in the last 20 years.



During the 1970’s and 1980’s, many Latin American migrants came to the UK because it was easy to get a work contract from abroad. People migrated to the UK following the passage of the Immigration Act of 1971, a piece of legislation that put more restrictions on migrants coming from countries with colonial ties to Britain. Many migrants came with the idea of working for a few years, saving money, and returning to their home countries. Some have stayed, as a returning to the home country adds a risk of never being able to return to Britain. Patria Roman, from Latin Elephant, has well described this history and process in her 1999 book ‘The Making of Latin London’.

In the following decade, the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre was experiencing the effects of the UK recession, which opened up the area to Latin American migrants looking for affordable spaces to set up shop. The Shopping Centre began to lease the spaces for cheap, and entrepreneurs began to repair the shops that had not been occupied for decades and began to transform them. In 1991, there were hardly any shops open on the first floor of the Centre, but a year later, Latin Americans began opening shops there. La Fogata opened in June of 1992, followed by Inara Travels. By 1994, there were ten shops owned by Latin Americans. This growing Latin American presence began to define what is a large contingent of Elephant and Castle’s demographic, and Latin Americans began to relocate businesses to the area, which includes Elephant Road. You can see a great pictorial summary of the early Latin businesses in The Elephant here.

Talking to Latin American traders about their early days in the railway arches, many of them point to the turn of the century as the beginning of the making of this particular facet of Latin London. Distriandina moved from North London to South London in this period, but originally functioned as a food distributor. The business moved to the South because of the growing presence of Latin American consumers in the area, as well as the space of the railway arch itself offering an accommodating place to sell and ship mostly Colombian products in and out.

In the early 2000’s, the nature of the shops on the street was more accommodating to businesses involving large-scale shipping, and more ‘heavy-weight’ products. The street was not yet a place to visit for a cup of coffee or bunuelo. The two mini-arcades on this block Arco Central and Elephant Central respectively were home to a carpet shop and shipping company called Beset, whose office still exists in the arch, alongside a series of other small stalls. The traders who were there during this period describe the street’s life as hectic, and ‘higgledy piggledy’ and filled with the coming and going of trucks, carpets, bedding, and musical equipment.

Local campaign to save the Open Space on Elephant Rd in 2013 gathering outside Distriandina

Many of the traders refer to the Heygate Estate’s demolition as a part of their workday observations during this time. The residents of the Heygate Estate were large users of these former businesses of the arches, as well as the Shopping Centre. Traders note this demolition as one of the major turning points in the street’s character, as what sat directly on the Elephant Park site before was a publicly owned lot with children’s playgrounds, a pitch for football matches, an actively social space where there is now an underused, bleak square with the visible presence of CCTV cameras and a security guard.

Elephant Rd Corsica Distriandina March 2019.jpg
Half of Corsica Studios at Arch 5 and Distriandina at Arch 6

During the early 2000’s, Corsica Studios moved onto the street, also from North London. Corsica Studios, which only operated in a single arch at the time as a practice space for music, and art studio. Next to Corsica Studios to the South was a music equipment business (now a second arch-space for Corsica Studios), which Corsica Studios frequently used for its parties.

As the Latin American community expanded in Elephant and Castle, and the market for carpets, and bedding dwindled, the formation of Arco Central and Elephant Central sprung up at similar times. In Arco Central and Elephant Central, the spaces were subdivided into stalls, and mezzanine levels were constructed to fit an even greater number of small-scale operations. Throughout the years, the stalls have changed uses many times, but their scale, and short-term leases allow them to become favorable spaces for people to establish their own businesses in the area. Within Arco Central there is currently a clothing store, a computer repair shop, a tailor, a money transfer, an immigration consultancy. In Elephant Central, there is a Colombian products store, two shipping companies, a Café, and a hair salon.

Traders mention how the subdivided spaces act as micro-communities, and point to both the design of the spaces, as well as the multiplicity of functions when they describe how they are used day-to-day. They allow people to transfer money, ship a package, grab a coffee, and purchase an accessory in one go. They also point to the transnational identity of their users, as they offer vital places for people to speak Spanish, pass time, and communicate with other people in the area. Traders often shift around these spaces, expanding their stalls, moving around the arch, progressing their particular businesses.

This also allows for spontaneity and creativity, not a ready-made agenda from the top-down. A trader in Arco Central mentioned that he used to hold martial arts classes in one of the unoccupied stalls because the space allowed him to do so, as he has been practicing Tae Kwon Doe since coming to London and has now moved on to a larger studio in Stockwell. A trader in the clothing stall in this arch mentions expanding from one stall to another upon the growing success of his business, and points to the design of the space as allowing him to easily expand. Another trader mentions working in a food products store at the bottom of the arch, and establishing his own office for legal advising on the top floor of the same arch years later.

Throughout the 2000’s, Distriandina also evolved from a Colombian food distributor to a restaurant and venue for salsa. As the nature of the street began to shift, the owner of the space decided to make it more of a gathering space for the community. The design of the interior of the space transformed to accommodate the changing character of the street and neighborhood. A mezzanine was constructed for the kitchen upstairs, a bar was added downstairs, as well as bathrooms, and areas to dance and gather. Distriandina is also used for salsa classes on certain days, and features salsa nights Friday-Sunday. Distriandina has also shown great love and support for the Up The Elephant campaign to save the Shopping Centre!

Corsica Funding 2018

It’s been a bit divisive down on Elephant Rd in that although Corsica is recognised by the Greater London Authority as an ‘existing cultural’ space, Distriandina is not and despite its popularity on the weekend is reported to be only a coffee bar. With this dubious fudge, Corsica will receive £125,000 of funding to soundproof their club space presumably to spare them the wrath of those new wealthier neighbours while Distriandina will be thrown out of their arch all together. None of this is to point the finger at Corsica who have supported the area for over 20 years but more so at the sketchy and appalling way Black and Brown communities get treated under the regime of ‘regeneration’. With this in our minds, we also give a big shout out to our friends at Save Latin Village in Tottenham who are facing the same long battle as Latin traders at The Elephant!



This is simple: if you do a treat the public well and delicately, good word will spread. It is like working in a restaurant. If you make bad food no one will come to your restaurant. If you do well, if you make good food, people will come and spread the good word.” –Alexander, Arco Central

Distriandina and the other businesses along Elephant Road played a large role in Latin Elephant’s envisioning of a Latin Quarter, a document envisioning an official recognition of the Latin American Community in the neighborhood, published in 2016. It highlighted key parts of Elephant and Castle as especially important to the Latin American community, and offered small but significant updates in the designs of these sites to amplify the importance of the already existing businesses. In this plan, there are drawings that display small facelifts to the railway arches and the surrounding street, and offer improvements in the layout of the roads, safer crosswalks for pedestrians, and clear signage and entryways into this cultural quarter. Although this vision was never executed, it allowed for imaginative renderings of what one could, yes, safely call ‘regeneration’ by the people who are most familiar with the area.

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Elephant Road is no Bond Street. It is not the most glamorous road to walk along. The arches along the North side of the road are covered in graffiti, and the pavement is poorly maintained. This makes it easy for it to get overlooked by passerby and developer alike, and allows people to associate the street with dereliction. It gives a greater case to developers like Delancey for their regenerating the area, and city councilors to welcome this. This gives developers the opportunity to run rampant with proposals that cleanse the area of highly complex social enterprises that have taken years to cultivate, and have infinite potential to grow even further, as seen in the Latin Quarter proposal. Just from talking to traders, there was an overwhelming antagonism to the regeneration, though some traders remained neutral to it.

The Elephant Never Forgets – The Struggle Continues:

“They are planning to give to the traders a really small place but there is just like 30 or 40 places for people. But we are more than what they offered him, so I don’t know how they are going to do it. Also, someone told me that there is a place where they are supposed to put the traders, but they are refusing the applications. They are telling to the traders that they cannot get those places.”

“I think this it is the identity that we have here. We are here in England. This is a different culture for us, a different language. Anyway it’s London, it’s very multicultural but it’s not our country. In this place we find a little piece of where we are, it’s like our identity, our culture, where we are from. For example I came here five years ago, I live by myself. I don’t like to cook, but I like the food from my country so here I can find this. I think that we are more than a building, we are more than a space in here. We are more than a commercial transaction. They are selling the space to the other people to make more money. This place is more than that. I think that they are not saying from that side, they are saying from another side. It’s sad, but I think it’s the reality. I don’t know if there is something that we can change. I don’t know, we just have to wait…”-
Both from Lisette, Arch 7

Hearing these local points of view makes you see that the situation at the Elephant and Castle railway arches reflects the complex, multifaceted and critical aspect of the regeneration of the area. It also points to a more national conversation on affordability and the survival of small local businesses. Existing within the Network Rail selloff, the struggle for affordable rents on Elephant Road reflects both local and national campaigns, fighting for the stability and livelihoods of small businesses and their surrounding communities. The use of terminology like “asset disposal” really begs the question “who needs to be disposed of… who needs to get in the bin?”. Despite the Council’s support during the long campaign for the area to be officially recognized as a Latin Quarter, it seems that there are few actual planning protections for the current Latin traders. The first feisty battle is ongoing at the Shopping Centre but latterly those in the Elephant Rd arches with the new owners of the Arches being in part a predatory ‘vulture fund’ and Delancey’s plans to knock through two arches, will face the sharp end of commercial displacement that ‘regeneration’ schemes usually bring. The struggle continues…as always! See you there!

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The Elephant has long been a battleground for its mixed working class community whether that has been trying to save the Heygate Estate from demolition or now trying to secure decent community benefits for any redevelopment scheme of the famous Elephant Shopping Centre. Over the years the community campaigns have been tireless in defence of our neighbourhood but it has been a major struggle. When we used the term ‘Fighting To Win’ we are deadly serious because the consequences of losing are seeing our neighbourhood and all those small ways we live and survive in the everyday broken up. Already hundreds of working class tenants from the Heygate have been ‘decanted’ out of the area for being the ‘wrong sort of people’. Now we are facing the death of the heart of the area – The Shopping Centre – where people shop, socialize and relax in numerous different but lovely ways!

Elephant Shopping Centre decline

Campaigns have been mainly challenging these ‘regeneration’ plans on two areas:

• the lack of truly affordable homes in the scheme.
• and the terrible way Shopping Centre traders are being treated in preparation for any demolition of the Centre

From the get go, Southwark Council have had to be dragged kicking and screaming by the community campaigns who have actually through fighting secured better numbers of truly social rented homes in the scheme and also enabled traders to have some power and support in their negotiations for relocation and /or compensation for the businesses. But we will not stop until our demands are met.


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••• Our friends at Corporate Watch have produced for the campaigns an amazing case study of Delancey – “Tax Haven Tories Devouring Neighbourhoods’. Recommended for its insights and news of how Delancey funds these social cleansing schemes.



In terms of the lack of truly affordable homes for locals in the Shopping Centre plan, we are taking Southwark Council to the High Court to seek a Judicial Review of the plans and fight for extra social rented homes to be added to the scheme. We are arguing that a fair few number of porkies (trans: lies!) have been told to the Council by the developer Delancey re: how many social rented homes they are able and willing to provide. We know with GLA grant funding it should be many more. Remember when the Council approved planning permission for Delancey’s scheme they accepted the measly number of 33 social rented homes out of a total of 979 flats that Delancey wanted to build? We said ‘No!’ and got the number up to 116. Although this is a result we are still concerned that these homes have no guarantee of ever being built as they only come in the 2nd phase of the development nearly ten years in the future.

As 35% Campaign argues: ‘Next week’s legal challenge will argue that Southwark Council’s planning committee was misled about the maximum amount of affordable housing the scheme could viably provide. Delancey committed unconditionally to providing 116 social rented homes, but is asking for Mayor’s funding, which won’t go towards increasing the number of social rented homes. We argue that this £11.2m of public money should provide us with another 42 much needed social rented homes. This would still fall short but nevertheless go a long way towards meeting the minimum policy requirement of 165 social rented homes’.


>>> Support us at the High Court on Tues Oct 22nd from 9am. We will be outside with a show of support from 9am to 10am and then we will be inside The Court arguing our case with a brilliant legal team. Book a coach seat here<<<



A vital part of the campaigns have been getting to know traders in the Centre and trying to help them with their struggle against Delancey and the Centre manager the massive property agent Savills. We have also been heavily critical of the ‘social enterprise’ Tree Shepherd who were funded by Delancey to badly manage a shoddy relocation process. Campaigners have been amazing at keeping in touch with traders in struggle, making relationships and suggesting ideas and practicalities like a Traders Panel.

However, for traders, life is exceptionally hard at the Shopping Centre with decreasing footfall, long hours and continuous uncertainly about their livelihoods. Campaigners have this week been going round the Shopping Centre talking to traders about the campaign, the Judicial Review and what we are demanding. Many traders increasingly tell us they are fed up with Delancey and the pitfalls of the relocation process.

We wanted to provide some details on this and so here follows some summaries of what we have heard. Please bear in mind that it’s really hard to get any actual useful info from Southwark or the Shopping Centre management so much of this relies on campaigners who have been tireless in pulling all this info together from chats with traders and from numerous and often not at all accurate Council documents. The issues are a little bit complex with arguments over rent and sq footage and all. But it’s worth reading through the following to get a small sense of the inner workings of details campaigners are trying to be on top of, alongside traders, to resist these social cleansing plans.


Above: Perronet House garages (photo: SE1 website) and Council plans for a mini mall there

 • Perronet House re-jigged as ‘Elephant Arcade’
Perronet House is a council estate on the West side of the Elephant. Southwark Council approved in July 2018 its own plans to turn one of the estate’s car park basements into a mini-shopping mall for traders from the Shopping Centre.

As we are hearing, the majority of traders who have been offered a place in Perronet have not chosen this site as preferred option probably because they are not happy about the ‘geography‘ of the place. There are concerns about lack of window display space for shops. We’ve been told that ‘10 out of 12 units do not have external windows to display items’. The external walls don’t look like a market, the ceiling is too low and the size of units is very small. Traders are very concerned about starting a business from zero in a place that currently has no trade.

On top of this, this group of traders will have to pay significantly higher rents and service charge than their current ‘neighbours‘ in the Shopping Centre who are moving to other locations within the same ‘redevelopment’ scheme. As a reference, a trader in a small 27sqm unit in Perronet will pay a total of £68,000 (with service charge & VAT but without business rates) for the first five years, compared to a total of £54,000 for a 26sqm Ground Floor unit at Delancey’s own ‘affordable retail’ units in the Castle Square box park at Elephant Rd. That’s a 25% difference among traders.

On a square footage comparison, Castle Square are £18 per sq ft for the 1st floor and £24 per sq ft for the Ground Floor. Perronet units (Council-owned property) are an average of £27.6 per sq ft for the first five years (£24 for Y1-2 and £30 Y3-5). Service charge is also considerably more expensive in Perronet than in Castle Square. Southwark Council-owned market rate is £11 per sq ft whereas private developer’s site is £8 per sq ft. That is 38% more expensive in a Council-owned property. When challenged with these figures, Southwark argues that they have made a great effort borrowing money from another budget, therefore they have expectations as to how quickly they would have a ‘return‘.

When challenged, Meanwhile Space (the Community Interest Company that has been awarded the contract to operate the new Perronet market) claimed Perronet does not belong to the Shopping Centre planning permission Section 106 agreement, and that ‘Council commercial properties are not marketed at a discount to market rent‘. We would seriously like some clarification of the above..

There are also some worrying concerns as to whether Meanwhile Space will operate the market on a continuous basis, or if there is a possibility the Council will ask a trader to keep maintenance of the site, open and close alongside the regular duties as a sole trader. So it seems there are lots of issues for traders taking up a relocation space there.

• Relocation Funding
Southwark and Delancey have divided the ‘Relocation allowances’ (£634,700 as a minimum) into two phases: Professional Services / Cost of Relocations

For Professional Services,  they are suggesting traders ‘minimise shared costs’ by sharing a solicitor.

As for the Cost of Relocations, Southwark have come up with a calculation based on ‘industry standards‘ (although there is no justification as to how they came up with this calculation) of mere £18 per sq ft to £32 per sq ft for each business, depending on the type of business and also the size of the new relocation unit. As a way of reference, a trader under the ‘non-food retail‘ category, after more than 15 years of trading in the Shopping Centre would get just over £3,000 for relocation. Market stalls would only get a flat rate of £2,000 per business.

ELEPHANT PARK Retail Ad Oct 2019

Several traders have challenged these figures and yet the Council suggested the consultation on this issue has been positive. In reality, Lendlease, the developer of Elephant Park, quoted JZ Mobiles, a Shopping Centre business, £177 per sq ft for the fit-out works at one of its retail units. This price excluded ‘Professional Services’ and other expenses, which gives an indication of ‘industry standards’. Eventually, JZ Mobiles was rejected in their scheme on the basis that residents moving into Elephant Park do not need a mobile shop. Just for clarification, Lend Lease has yet to provide some affordable retails units to Shopping Centre traders as part of their s106 obligations.

• Please Don’t Say ‘Heygate Estate’, Say ‘Elephant Park’
This latter point has been discussed with Cllr Stephanie Cryan (Cabinet Member for Jobs, Business and Innovation) who, together with Cllr Johnson Situ (Cabinet Member for Growth, Development and Planning), have held meetings with Lendlease to discuss the rejection of traders in the Elephant Park scheme. Cabinet members came back with the argument that the private developer has run a study on the type of businesses people moving into their new flats would like, and apparently there isn’t appetite for a mobile shop. Not only does this seems unrealistic but it is extremely disappointing that the Cabinet member for Small Businesses is citing this alleged ‘study‘ as a reason for the developer not to fulfill their s106 obligations, which clearly state there is priority for ‘displaced traders in the Elephant and Castle Opportunity Area‘ to bid for the eight Affordable units in Elephant Park scheme.


(Excellent mapping work done by Petit Elephant)

However the above example of JZ Mobiles demonstrates that Lend Lease are being picky about which traders they will take. They are talking about how they made a survey of the kind of shops people want and apparently mobile phone shops were a ‘No’. This is all very underhand, sneaky but entirely predictable. Can’t sell your expensive luxury flats overseas if the brochure has to feature egg and chips caffs or mobile phone shops! See…these are the mechanisms of the reality of social cleansing.

To this date, it appears that not a single trader from the so-called ‘red line’ of the Shopping Centre development has been offered a unit in Elephant Park scheme, where 10% of the total retail space has to be offered in priority to ‘displaced traders‘ from the area. We would be happy to hear that this is not the case.

Councillors kept reiterating Lendlease is ‘absolutely committed‘ to fulfill their s106 obligations, however they couldn’t prove they have actually signed a lease so far with a single displaced trader from the ‘red-line’ (those businesses eligible for relocation).

• Up The Elephant’s Judicial Review (JR)
Both Delancey and Southwark are spreading the word that they expect an imminent decision by the judge soon after 23rd October, on the basis that it will go their way. They have also been weaponising traders concerns about the Shopping Centre closure against the campaigns by muddying these concerns as about being worried about the JR rather than the age old discontent with Delancey. When we saw this public relations exercise carried out on Twitter by Stephanie Cryan, we responded by leafleting the Shopping Centre traders with a JR Factsheet in English and Spanish.

Cryan JR PR

A few months back, Delancey also used the JR as the excuse not to proceed with relocation (‘everything is frozen’) but more recently they have ‘committed’ to building temporary units at Castle Square and moving forward with distribution of funds and so on. In the minutes from latest All parties Trader Panel meeting on 10th September, the mention ‘within the next two months, notice will be served on all traders regarding closure of the shopping centre’. They have been telling traders they are leaving April/May 2020!

• Maintenance of the Shopping Centre
Finally, maintenance, security and running of the Shopping Centre are still an obligation for Delancey as landlords, and week after week we keep hearing of incidents and security issues, toilets being blocked, the obvious lack of painting of the facade and most recently a serious leak from the ceiling due to heavy rains. Health and safety at Cafe Castelo was compromised as water kept dripping on top of the coffee machine, as the manager tried several times to get some assistance from Delancey representatives but the only help he got was a bucket from cleaning staff that were giving him a hand. Although a new small Co-op has opened where the big Tesco was and a new community hub has been opened on the second floor, traders still feel nervous, afraid and tired with all they have to constantly battle for.


Up The Elephant community campaign won’t be stopping anytime soon. No matter what the outcome of the JR we will be fighting for our small corner of South London. We’d like you to join us. Keep an eye out on the Up The Elephant Twitter for updates and dates of open meetings for all concerned for their neighbourhood.

Elephant Crowd 2108

>>> Thanks to everyone – campaigners and traders and supporters – who helped with this article!<<<
>> More Fire The Elephant!! <<


And much love and solidarity to our ‘sister’ campaign up at Latin Village, Wards Corner who are facing the same crappy redevelopment plans:


Sobre Retrasos y Delancey – Destruyamos mitos sobre el Centro Comercial Elephant & Castle

Sobre Retrasos y Delancey – Destruyamos mitos sobre el Centro Comercial

Delancey está culpando de los retrasos de sus planes en el centro comercial y de la reubicación de los comerciantes a la demanda legal planteada por residentes. A continuación respondemos a Delancey.

-Delancey dice:

-El Recurso Judicial (JR, en inglés) está retrasando los planes de desarrollo urbano.

-Nosotros decimos:

-La negativa de Delancey a la hora de proporcionar viviendas sociales es lo que está causando retrasos. En su proyecto inicial de 2016, Delancey no ofrecía auténticas viviendas sociales. Residentes y comerciantes tuvieron que pelear por DOS AÑOS para conseguir vivienda social; conseguimos algunas concesiones, pero aún no son suficientes. Delancey nos ha obligado a continuar nuestra batalla en los tribunales – Delancey es el causante del retraso.

-Delancey dice:

-El Recurso Judicial está retrasando la reubicación de los comerciantes.

-Nosotros decimos:

-Nada impide a Delancey para que ayude a reubicar a los comerciantes, con independencia del recurso judicial. Algunos comerciantes ya han sido reubicados en Perronet House. Otros tienen espacio en Castle Sq. Estos se consiguieron gracias a la Asociación de Comerciantes de Elephant, Latin Elephant y la campaña Up the Elephant. Pero muchos otros comerciantes han sido excluidos. Estamos peleando con los comerciantes para conseguir más espacio comercial en Sayer Street, que pertenece a Lendlease. Southwark Law Centre ha tomado el caso en representación de los comerciantes.

-Delancey dice:

-El Recurso Judicial significa que el dinero del Fondo para la Reubicación de los comerciantes no puede utilizarse.

-Nosotros decimos:

-No habría un Fondo para la Reubicación de los comerciantes si los residentes no lo hubieran reclamado. Nada impide que Delancey utilice este dinero para ayudar a los comerciantes en el proceso de reubicación, con independencia del recurso judicial.

El Fondo para la Reubicación forma parte del Plan de Reubicación para los comerciantes. Delancey no tenía plan de reubicación en su proyecto inicial en 2016, y se negó a tener uno hasta que obtuvo finalmente la licencia urbanística en 2018, dejando a los comerciantes en una situación de incertidumbre y sin posibilidades de planear el futuro de sus pequeños negocios. El fondo sólo tiene £634.700

-Delancey dice:

-El Recurso Judicial está retrasando Castle Square.

-Nosotros decimos:

-No. Castle Square es un proyecto diferente con un acuerdo legal s106 distinto. Delancey puede construirlo tan pronto como desee. Delancey no tenía una propuesta para un espacio temporal para los comerciantes en su proyecto inicial. Castle Square se consiguió gracias a los comerciantes y residentes después de dos años batallando.

-Delancey dice:

-El Recurso Judicial ha ‘paralizado’ el acuerdo legal s106.

-Nosotros decimos:

-El acuerdo legal s106 es un contrato voluntario entre Delancey, el Ayto. de Southwark y University Arts London (UAL) para la construcción del nuevo proyecto. Todos ellos tienen control absoluto sobre el contrato; no han sido forzados a firmarlo. Han decidido paralizar el acuerdo al ser demandados en los tribunales.

Elephant JR Tweet

Lea más sobre RETRASOS Y DELANCEY (en inglés) –

Ponte en contacto con nosotros y sigue Up The Elephant:


Facebook – ‘Up The Elephant’



Why the ‘Up The Elephant’ Campaign is going for a Judicial Review

The post below is the text of a leaflet that Up The Elephant community campaign is currently giving to all traders in the Elephant Shopping Centre to tell them why we are going for a Judicial Review (JR) of Delancey’s housing plans for the area. It’s a direct response to this tweet from Stephanie Cryan, Southwark Council’s Cabinet Member for Jobs, Business and Innovation where she made an unnecessary PR opportunity with some of the traders. If traders are worried about the forthcoming JR then we hope to set their minds at rest and to point the finger directly back to Delancey. We support all traders in the Shopping Centre and the Campaign is accountable to all traders through our monthly meetings! JR not PR!

Cryan JR PR


Elephant & Castle
Shopping Centre Myth Buster

Elephant JR Tweet

Delancey have been blaming the forthcoming legal challenge mounted by local campaigners Up The Elephant for delays to the redevelopment of the shopping centre and the relocation of the traders. We answer Delancey below.

Delancey Says: The Judicial Review (JR) is delaying the development

We Say: Delancey’s refusal to provide enough social housing is what is causing any delay. Delancey did not have real social rented housing in its original planning application in 2016.   Local people and traders had to fight Delancey for TWO YEARS to get social housing; we got some, but there still is not enough. Delancey have forced us to continue our fight in the courts –Delancey is causing the delay.

Delancey Says: The Judicial Review is delaying relocation of traders.

We Say: Nothing is stopping Delancey from helping relocate traders, despite the JR. Some traders have already been relocated to Perronet House. Traders have also been allocated space in Castle Sq. This was space won by Elephant Traders Association, Latin Elephant and the Up the Elephant campaign. But many traders are being left out. We are fighting with traders to get more retail space on Sayer St, owned by developer Lendlease. Southwark Law Centre has taken up the case on traders’ behalf.

Delancey Says: The Judicial Review means money from the relocation fund cannot be spent

We Say: There would be no relocation fund if campaigners had not demanded it. Nothing stops Delancey from spending this money to help traders relocate, despite the JR. The relocation fund is part of the relocation strategy. Delancey had no relocation strategy in its original planning application in 2016 and refused to have one until it got planning permission in 2018, leaving traders insecure and without any way to plan for the future of their businesses. The fund has only £634,700.


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June 2019 – Castle Square planned box park thing currently not being built vs the Delancey vision

Delancey Says:
The Judicial Review is delaying Castle Square

We Say: No. Castle Square is a different development with a different legal s106 agreement. Delancey can build it as soon as it likes. Delancey had no proposals for a temporary space for traders in its original planning application. Castle Square was won by traders and local people after two years of battle.

Delancey Says: The Judicial Review has ‘frozen’ the s106 Agreement

We Say: The legal s106 agreement is a voluntary contract for the delivery of the redevelopment between Delancey, Southwark Council and the University of the Arts London (UAL). They have complete control of this; they were not forced to sign it. They decided to freeze the agreement if they were challenged in court.

(A Spanish language version of this leaflet is coming soon!)

Read 35% Campaign’s full account here on the Elephant Shopping Centre and Delancey  DELAYS AND DELANCEY:

“To sum up, we have little doubt that had Delancey presented the improved scheme that it presented to the planning committee on 3 July 2019 at the very first scheduled planning committee meeting, back on 18 December 2017, it would have been approved and any legal challenge long resolved. Delancey could then have saved the crocodile tears it is currently shedding on behalf of the traders.”



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Into the Void with Peter John OBE, Leader of Southwark Council

As long-standing critics of some but not all of Southwark Council’s policies towards housing development, we happen to spend some of our free time on Twitter sharing to others our criticisms and using the platform as a small tool in the campaigning we do. We also spend a lot of time researching things, writing them up on this blog and also being active in the streets and estates.

In recent years, we’ve been particularly involved in different ways in campaigning at The Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and also on Aylesbury Estate. Southwark Council is very keen for demolition and what they would call ‘regeneration’ of both those sites. Sometimes we have engaged in small Twitter conversations with the Leader of Southwark Council, Peter John O.B.E. Although Twitter can be much of muchness, it is still a public forum and so these conversations are part of the public debate around what the Council does and the effect it has on local communities.


Peter John – Gone Fishing?!

In 2016, we wrote up the whole sorry saga of how three rounds of ‘regeneration’ on Elmington Estate in Camberwell had left the estate with 346 less council homes after it’s development by Notting Hill Housing Association and later by private company Bellway Homes. In November we exchanged Tweets with Peter John about his news that Southwark was going to build 11,000 new council homes by 2043. We questioned him about the then demolition of 144 Council homes on Elmington saying thatno council homes replace these for displaced tenants’. He replied Council tenants prioritised for rehousing in better accommodation – new social housing delivered at Elmington’.

We then questioned this: ‘144 council homes gone – replaced by 130 private, 36 shared ownership but only 38 social housing. Some priority!’. Even if there was a Right To Return, which wasn’t certain, we asked ‘Where do all the 113 tenant households displaced by demolition return to then if only 38 new social homes?’. Peter then replied ‘I don’t know but will look into it. Thanks for raising’. Ok, so far, so good – a fairly civil public conversation with an elected politician who makes a promise to look into it. We prompted again in December 2016 and again in February 2017 but we are still waiting for a reply from Peter about it.

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In the long wait, these new Bellway homes on Lomond Grove have been almost completed and people are moving in. The scheme is part underwritten with taxpayer’s money from 2013’s ‘Help To Buy’ subsidy where the Government used £12 billion to guarantee up to £130 billion of new mortgage lending. Much to the relief of the big house builders the scheme has now been extended to 2023 with an estimated extra £20 billion. Almost 40% of the 10,300 homes Bellway sold during 2017-2018 were aided by Help to Buy hence the building companies staggering profits of £640 million in 2018.=

Elmington Help To Buy 2019
Researchers have found that the Help To Buy scheme does not necessarily increase house building but certainly the subsidy means that large volume building companies like Bellway are inflating the sale price of new build homes on the back of the scheme. A small flat that has one bedroom and combined kitchen and living area starts at £379,995. Once again, the profits are privatised and sit in Bellways and their shareholders coffers and the risk is nationalised with taxpayers money*.


PETER JOHN strata.gif

Peter John – Gone Fishing Some More?!

Jump to December 2018 where the Up The Elephant campaign was a couple of years into fighting for the Elephant community. The campaign has been fighting the dismal plans of Delancey to replace the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre with close to 1000 new homes. As part of that long campaign, Up The Elephant had managed to pressure Delancey to increase the number of social rented units from 33 to 116. Without that pressure, the pitifully low number of actually-affordable homes would have stayed at 33. The Council planning officers had no qualms about recommending the Delancey plan for approval in July 2018.

PJ Housing Elephant None

In a somewhat aggressive Twitter argument with some other people questioning the Council’s wisdom on this scheme, Peter John wrote ‘And those who have bizarrely opposed the development of the shopping centre – where no housing currently exists – and have therefore opposed the delivery of new social and affordable housing need to explain themselves. I can’t’.

As this was not true, we jumped in and asked him: ‘Can you show which of the campaigns have opposed new housing? The community campaigns pressured both Council and Delancey to up the social rented housing from 33 to 116. In July 2018 the Council recommended the 33 homes plan for passing’. Once again, no answer was forthcoming from the Leader despite a few nudges and prompts

Thinking that maybe Twitter is not a personal enough mode of communication to resolve these questions of Peter’s assertions, we decided to send our questions direct to the Leader and so we emailed Peter a polite email to his official Council account on 10th January 2019:

Dear Peter John
We write to you from the group Southwark Notes who you may know from various campaigns about housing in the North Southwark area. We have been involved in the Up The Elephant campaign hoping to seek better benefits from the Delancey scheme for local people. We noticed on Twitter on 29th December in a exchange about housing and The Elephant you said ‘And those who have bizarrely opposed the development of the shopping centre – where no housing currently exists – and have therefore opposed the delivery of new social and affordable housing need to explain themselves.’

We wonder if you have any proof of this? Or is it actually not true?

As far as we can see the various and numerous campaigns against parts of the Delancey scheme have only ever publicly campaigned for more genuinely affordable housing in the scheme. In fact, despite the Council recommending to pass the scheme earlier in the year with only 33 social rented homes, pressure on Delancey from campaigns resulted in them seeking GLA finance to increase this figure to a possible 116 social rented homes. Not only this but there has been some indications that Delancey may consider offering these homes to Southwark to run as council homes. That would be welcome if this could happen. You may be able to see why campaigns get frustrated when there is no actual recognition of the work they do for free in their spare time which actually increased benefits to local people at The Elephant. That campaign work is exactly the sort of pressure the Council should be putting itself on developers because there are benefits to taking a harder line especially where this is backed up by a strong local campaign such as Up The Elephant.

Surely, we could now get to the truth of this matter and so we waited for a reply. Then we waited some more. Then we prompted again and then….You know the rest…

TalkToTheHand copy


What Does Public Accountability Look Like To A Community?

Peter is not a big Twitter user and each to their own. But there is something to be said that if you reply on a thread to Southwark Notes, you are also replying to every one of our 4896 followers and so that makes any conversation a public moment. Not only that but many of those followers are local people or local campaigns who take an interest in both what the Council is doing and what it is saying to justify those actions. It takes a special sort of behaviour to decide to call out campaigns like us and Up The Elephant in public but then not remain in anyway accountable to those statements when the local campaigns say to you ‘ Hey! Wait a moment. That’s just not true!!’.

But hey, that’s politicians for you, no? It’s a special way of being. As we have said before here, when we say The Council we know it is made up of both a workforce as well as a bunch of executive officers and councilors. But Peter John, as Council Leader, wields a special political power in a way that many council officers and workers don’t. His own political ideas and beliefs go a long way in making things happen in the borough especially in the realm of housing and regeneration. A large task of his job is also then to be accountable to local people who make questions on these political ideas and actions.


In relation to our little Bellway homes tale above, it’s clear that government policies favour both massive profits for house builders and landlords, the knock-on effect of high houses prices being that buy-to-let landlords can pick and choose tenants and increase rents every six months because most people can’t afford to buy a new home and have to rent. Peter John insists that, and we quote verbatim, ‘in a housing crisis the way to solve a housing crisis is to build new homes‘, misunderstanding that the real crisis is of a lack of affordable homes and not the myth of lack of available homes.


But this doesn’t doesn’t surprise us. We’ve long thought that Peter John has no real grasp of the wider and long-term bad effects of the Council’s current ‘regeneration’ policies and in some ways we try our best to put things to him that bring what we see as his confusions to the fore. Well, lets say in our more generous moments we try that but we are also not liberals who think the powers that be must do right by us at some point after seeing the error of their ways. We are far too long in the tooth and battled-scared after the scandal of the Heygate Estate, and everything else, for that. Although we battle the council we try to not be defined by that battle as mere subjects of the Council and that political system. Our battles are also fought outside of the liberal regime of local ‘democratic’ politics where random people (councillors etc) are supposed to stand in for us and fight our corner. But they are not even anywhere near our corner. Hence there remains a vital and dynamic conflict that we take part in, shape and carry out and we aren’t scared of an argument or a political fight. If Peter doesn’t want to answer, it’s no skin of our noses. Contempt breeds contempt. We will keep on doing what are doing and be happy to remain accountable to all those we work with in the community campaigns and the wider community. Up The Elephant! The fight goes on…

Delancey In Streets Poster JUly 2018

* There is a useful summary of the Help To Buy scam in Chapter One of Danny Dorling’s readable book ‘All That Is Solid: How the Great Housing Disaster Defines Our Times, and What We Can Do About It‘.
>>> All-that-is-solid-the-great-housing-disaster

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Tree Shepherd’s Role In Delancey’s Elephant Shopping Centre social cleansing plans


It’s been a while that we wanted to write something about ‘social enterprise’ Tree Shepherd and their role in the planned demolition of the Elephant Shopping Centre. We wanted to say something not the least because of the dubious roles so-called ‘social enterprises’ often play when contracted into sites of regeneration and gentrification. With their appointment in June 2017 we were fine to see how they went about helping traders at the Shopping Centre and how useful they could be. One year later and after everything we’ve seen and heard, we just aren’t convinced by them at all.

Tree Shepherd is a private consultancy appointed by Southwark Council as an ‘independent’ business advisor for the traders. But this was yet another trick played by the council and the developer, since Tree Shepherd is paid for by Delancey as a way of showing ‘commitment’ to the traders in the relocation process. But in reality Tree Shepherd works as an undercover agent who barely engages with traders only to pass on useful information to Delancey – How can the advisor remain independent when their funds come from the developer who intends to kick out all traders and demolish the Shopping Centre? As we understand it they are paid about £165,000 by Delancey, so if were cynical we would question how does that help them remain ‘independent’. As an advisor their role is to be help the traders with their relocation and/or compensation but in over a year their work can only be measured by how they have helped… Delancey!

Despite the Council acknowledging some 130 small independent businesses in the so-called ‘red-line’ of the development – including market stalls, kiosks, shop units, arches, etc –, following the appointment in June 2017, Tree Shepherd established a list of only 24 businesses who could ‘benefit’ from their services. 18 months after their appointment –with an increase in funding during 2018-, the situation continues to be same, if not worse… They told us ‘We’re working with 30 traders mainly and keeping an additional 70-80 informed on what’s happening with the planning etc’.

One of the first things Tree Shepherd did when starting their job was to undertake a survey that basically collected useful data for Delancey on traders. They used that data to see what expectations traders had, how much they were selling and, most importantly, if they were willing to stay in the area. Ask an open question like ‘do you want to stay in the area?’ and when some of them answered they wanted to stay but were worried about rent increase in the new places – Tree Shepherd used this information to then claim that not all traders are willing to relocate, and this information was used by Delancey in their ‘relocation update’ to argue that not all traders might need assistance.

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Above: Cafe Nova in the Elephant Shopping Centre – closed after 17 years. Cafe Nova was a social enterprise giving regular work to disadvantaged folks. We asked Tree Shepherd ‘will they be helped to relocate locally?’. No answer to date.


Their way of working consists of Tree Shepherd of every now and then scheduling meetings with traders to either inform them of how the process is taking longer than expected and that they should be patient; or make them fill in forms with no valuable outcomes; or taking them on ‘tours’ to see empty garages, building sites or planning drawings of how some potential units (still not delivered nor with planning consent) and at one point actually tweeting out photos of these visits until traders complained; or simply making traders waste their time. What’s the purpose of these meetings? Box ticking exercise: registering the meeting so then the Council and Delancey can brag about how many times they have assisted the traders.

Tree Shepherd Office

Tree Shepherd’s office in one of the units upstairs at the Shopping Centre: Often closed or unclear when it’s open

But things get even worse since Delancey was granted initial planning permission by Southwark (the scheme still needs Greater London Authority approval for a full planning consent) on 3rd July 2018. As traders have raised in more than one opportunity to local Councillors, Planning Officers and GLA authorities, Tree Shepherd has a serious lack of personnel, their staff keep changing, the opening times on the drop-in centre at Unit 231 constantly change, they are not properly advertised and is now down to two days only, as if it were a reflection from Unit 215 by Delancey. None of this adds up in their favour, in our humble opinion.

Research done by the excellent Latin Elephant shows that the main problem is that ‘only 471 square metres have been made available for independent traders by Delancey. Even though traders currently occupy 4,005 square metres of floor space. This equates to the displacement of the majority of those businesses’. There also seems to be a qualifying process for relocation when we think ALL traders should automatically qualify for relocation. You could say Tree Shepherd might be, consciously or not, acting as a gatekeeper on who will get relocated to a new trading place in The Elephant and who won’t and this is some ways will be dictated by Delancey who certainly won’t want most traders in their new posh development. Certainly Tree Shepherd and Delancey are clear that ‘businesses must be suitable for the mix and diversity that the Operator thinks will work’ as they told the traders recently.

Funny then how they describe themselves as ‘Tree Shepherd works with local authorities and developers to help bring the benefits of this regeneration to local people. We work with local people who want to start a new business and with existing small businesses who are faced with the huge challenge and uncertainty caused by relocating their business’. For traders, the huge challenge and uncertainty has been years in the making and many traders are just shutting up shop worn out by the daily stress of their ‘regeneration’.

Elephant traders space

How much space the current traders at the Shopping Centre take up

The latest from this awful saga comes in the form of ‘superpowers’ conferred to Tree Shepherd by Delancey –with Southwark’s approval! As part of their ‘relocation’ proposal, Delancey is suggesting the relocation fund (which is still a mere £5,000 per trader) to be administered by Tree Shepherd – isn’t that an open conflict of interest?! On top of that Tree Shepherd will have discretionary powers to veto traders for relocation based on the ‘viability of a business plan’; ‘trader’s ability to perform and progress’, and ‘ability to run a successful business’ – Once again, if the independence of the advisor has been questioned since it was first appointed, how can the traders rest assured they are not being stabbed in the back?

Our helpful summary: Charade of a process conducted by a social enterprise consultant where the outcomes are pre-determined because the developer won’t relocate existing business unless they might be the type of businesses wealthy incomers to area want. Thus when traders participate this gives legitimacy to the whole charade and in addition delivers valuable information to the developer with no meaningful benefit to the participants. In fact, that information further enhances the dual process of displacement and disempowerment. 

It may be that in all the other ‘social enterprise’ work they do with different groups and communities Tree Shepherd have some good stuff to offer but here in The Elephant we can’t see that they aren’t acting in bad faith and with total complicity with the social cleansing plans for the area.

Tree Shephered Regen Sites

Tree Shepherd’s website listing all the sites of dubious ‘regeneration’ they are paid to work on. 

• For Regeneration, Read Social Cleansing!

Interestingly their striking parallels between the Elephant Shopping Centre and Greenwich Councls plans for the ‘regeneration‘ of Spray Street in Woolwich. Tree Shepherd is paid to be a business advisor at both sites where predominantly black and brown-owned business are under threat of being chucked out of the area. This news report has Woolwich traders dishing it out on Tree Shepherd –

‘Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe also said that two firms – Tree Shepherd and GL Hearn – had been appointed to “reach out” to businesses in the area. But one businesswoman – Barareh Berendji, who runs a dental surgery with her family – was scornful of the efforts of Tree Shepherd, which is also involved in the controversial Elephant & Castle shopping centre redevelopment. ‘I’ve been approached by Tree Shepherd, they came to visit our practice to tell us how to run a business,” she said. “I know how to run a business! I don’t need someone to help me to run a business, I need someone to help me keep my business!…One shopkeeper, Mr Patel from a newsagent on Woolwich New Road said: “I’ve been trading on the same spot for 35 years. It’s always been at the heart of the community, we had a thriving Woolwich market which the council has let it run down over the years. We’re all in favour of change… but we’re part of the community and we make it tick. I had a laughable offer from someone from Tree Shepherd – ‘if we relocate you to Abbey Wood, would you be happy with that’? I mean, we want to be part of this, we’ve worked our lives here. We should be allowed to be where we are and be given a place to trade from, instead of just being bought out and moved on. We want to be part of this community.

This is something that the Elephant community campaigns have been very insistent on, that Southwark Council takes seriously it’s public sector equality duties in regard to the detrimental effects on black and brown owned businesses in The Elephant:

‘…in assessing the impacts of the loss of the affordable businesses premises on traders and customers of Black And Minority Ethnic backgrounds [Council Report OR/165-173], the Council’s analysis fails to consider, properly or at all, the collective impact of the loss of the cluster and unique ecosystem of BAME, and Latino businesses in particular, which is of vital importance to the Latino community not just in Elephant and Castle but right across London..the Council failed to have regard to the equalities impacts of the proposals on women and female BAME business owners who are likely to find it harder to relocate their businesses than male counterparts’.


• Up The Elephant Community Campaigns still rocking it

Keep an eye out for new Up The Elephant campaign actions and initiative very soon. A legal challenge has been set in motion – read all about it here and do object online, takes about 3 minutes. Objection is on the same link above:




Delancey’s planned unimaginative temporary facility for traders. Too small and too restrictive, say traders!

35% Campaign writes: ‘Delancey have to provide a temporary facility for displaced independent traders, as a condition of planning approval for the shopping centre redevelopment…Latin Elephant and the Elephant Traders welcome the concession, but have also objected that the proposed building is too small and would have trading restrictions that would make it an impractical premises for many of the displaced businesses. Delancey’s proposals mention 33 independent traders, while the trader’s own estimate is that there is a need to provide for over 100 traders. There are also many other issues, including the level of rents and service charges, the security of tenacy arrangements, selection criteria and disability access’.

Up The Elephant has pushed Delancey and the Council for significant gains on social housing and we are pushing hard for the traders too. We maintained actions and protest in the streets and we are working too behind these public expressions of support for the Shopping Centre. All welcome. Get involved.

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(Note: This is an expanded version of the text on Tree Shepherd that appears in our long read on The Elephant here)