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


DO YOU KNOW THE ELEPHANT RD?

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.

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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.

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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.

 

UNCERTAIN TIMES SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL

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’.

 

ARCH-CO: THE UNHOLY ALLIANCE OF REAL ESTATE KINGS

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.

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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…

 

THE U.K’s RAILWAY ARCHES KINDA INTERESTING HISTORY

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.

 

WELCOME TO LATIN ELEPHANT: MIGRATION AND SETTLEMENT

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.

ELEPHANT RD PARK OLDELEPHANT RD DEMO 2013 1
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.

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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!

 

COMMUNITY CAN PLAN ITS OWN FUTURE!

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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FIGHTING TO WIN!! – THE STRUGGLE FOR THE ELEPHANT SHOPPING CENTRE – WHERE ARE WE AT?

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.

 

• WHAT LONDON NEEDS IS MANY MORE SOCIAL RENTED HOMES

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’.

JR FREE COACH OCT 2019

>>> 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<<<

 

• WE SUPPORT ALL TRADERS BIG AND SMALL AT THE SHOPPING CENTRE

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.

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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.

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(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.

FIGHTING TO WIN!

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:

latin-village

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) – 35percent.org/2019-06-15-delays-and-delancey/

Ponte en contacto con nosotros y sigue Up The Elephant:

http://35percent.org/

@UpTheElephant_

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

DELAYS AND DELANCEY –

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*.

 

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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.

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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

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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:

 

 

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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)

Bad Encounter: Who is gutting The Elephant and Castle?

 

The Souq al-Halal was a teacher, and people there learned. Ever since it closed, everything has been like flour scattered to the wind’

Shamran al-Oteibi, in ‘The Trench’

It’s not often you’ll find us start one of our blog posts with something so literary but you have to begin somewhere if you want to maintain good and beneficial horizons. There is a chapter or two in The Trench by Saudi novelist Abdelrahman Munif about the forced removal of the city of Mooran’s Souq. A souq is a popular market and a social place of meeting up. The Trench is a part of Munif’s five book set about what he describes as ‘the Encounter’ between the discovery of oil in 1938 ‘somewhere on the Arabian peninsula’ (it’s Saudi Arabia he’s writing about) and the subsequent rapid over-development of the region. Oil is money, as we all know, and money takes very little time here to expand and distort beyond recognition local cultures and economies that have developed over thousands of years of history. Munif’s books are about the power of (making) money and more so the ability of those with money / power to change environments and social landscapes beyond recognition.

Munif was very specific when he titled his series the ‘Cities of Salt’ to refer ‘cities that offer no sustainable existence. When the waters come in, the first waves will dissolve the salt and reduce these great glass cities to dust. In antiquity, as you know, many cities simply disappeared. It is possible to foresee the downfall of cities that are inhuman. With no means of livelihood they won’t survive’. Sadly we see the same in the endless creation across London of new identikit developments of posh homes and chain stores. Seen one and you’ve seen them all. Put them in water though and they would dissolve they are so flimsy and alienated.

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Up The Elephant! You can Save Your Market! Save Your Souq!!

And so we’ve been quite active in the Up The Elephant campaign (alongside many other awesome local people) to try to save what we think is the network of the vital sparks that make up the local area in relation to the very social and economic function of the Shopping Centre. Simply put these sparks are all the traders in the Centre. Each week we feel sadder as more and more traders leave and places shut down. The more we go there, the more we know how much of a drastic and irreplaceable loss this will be to the kind of community we feel we come from – poor, working class and proud of all those who use the Centre and all those who trade out of it – from the market traders in the Moat to the kiosk businesses on the two floor and all the independent shops.

‘Many businesses highlighted that since the Shopping Centre was earmarked for redevelopment there has been a gradual running down of the centre due to a lack of maintenance. Surveys revealed that although the environment of the Shopping Centre had been run down through limited maintenance, rental rates and services charges remained the same and in some cases increased:

– “I used to make £2000/week and now I am lucky to make £1000 but my rates and rent remain the same.”

– “They broke the glass of my shop while cleaning. They have only put tape on it. No one has come to repair it. People now think their [possessions] are not safe here.”

From ‘Socio-Economic Value at the Elephant & Castle Report’, August 2018 coordinated by Latin Elephant

Elephant Shopping Centre decline

From the moment they bought the Shopping Centre in 2013 Delancey have been running it down. For Delancey, The Elephant has always been about making as much money as possible and bugger the consequences. Whatever they talk up in fancy looking brochures and cynical ‘consultation’ exercises, you only have to look at their neighbouring development Elephant One on Elephant Rd to see just where there priorities lies. Not only have they chucked up three towers of expensive private and student flats that you couldn’t pass a piece paper between they are so close but the quality and look of the buildings are shoddy. The promised Market Square to host displaced traders from the Shopping Centre, that was agreed with the Council in the Section 106 Planning Agreement, has now been un-promised and withdrawn. Same old story! Nothing for us locals and all for the better off.

 

SHOPPING CENTRE Delancey CGI Vision

Delancey’s gorgeous vision for the development of the land the Elephant Shopping Centre and London College of Communications sits on

Developers Don’t Believe In Anything But Profit…

And so back to Abdelrahman Munif. What struck us from The Trench is the tale of how the Souq al-Halal, the market of Mooran, despite its old social function simply becomes in the way of development and the making of big money. There are many great quotes we could choose that have a kind of resonance with what we feel is at stake at The Elephant Shopping Centre. Here is one longish one:

Mooran was reconstituted time and time again….its joys and sorrows and fears began here, as did its thoughts and news…In the market, jokes and stories were told and carried to Mooran, after which short journey they were changed and embroidered…In the market titles and nicknames were given to people which came to be used more than their names; in the market, the people gossiped about one another and spied carefully on everything around them and learnt all the news and even most of the hidden secrets…so the market had been for as long as Mooran existed…if every state and city has its rulers and rich and powerful men, every city also has certain people who epitomise the life of the city, who set it apart from other cities and from other times…All this was a part of Mooran’s history fast vanishing from its people’s memory. And just a few years into Sultan Khazael’s reign Abu Ghoreifa announced, through Juweiber-al-Duweihi, Mooran’s town crier…that beginning from the following Thursday the market would be held in Awali; and that they were to pass it on. Owners of shops in the market found this out from the police, who ordered them to move out.

With only a small work of imagination and some cultural shifts, if you substitute Elephant & Castle for Mooran, the story could be similar. Similar not the least because the destruction of the Elephant Shopping Centre can only be understood as two conflicting interests – the community versus profit. It’s a cliché but so very painful in its truth. But also because of the very human side of the story – not ‘regeneration’ or the inevitability of ‘change’ or even of ‘progress’, or of bricks and concrete, these Cities of Salt but the actual measurable social effect of destroying this community. We have tried again and again on this blog to describe precisely what effect the demolition of the Shopping Centre will have on the area and local people. We’ve tried because we felt like if the Council could for once hear the actual subtlety of the vital social relations that are made locally from this space then they might work a bit harder to support the traders. But, surprise! – this has not been the case despite some initial support for Up The Elephant by local councillors as part of the recent slight Left shift of Southwark Labour. Anyhow, we’ve always said it’s up to the community to fight its own battles and nothing has changed.

In The Trench the characters Shamran al-Oteibi and Saleh al-Rushdan are elderly men who have lived their whole lives in the hustle and bustle of the Souq. They have made the market as much as the market has made them. They saw the men with suits and flashy cars arrive one day at Souq al-Halal and as canny and wise men they knew the future was damned ‘They haven’t spared anyone in the market – it’s all ‘How are you! And How do you do! God knows what is going on’. We feel the same when any property guys in suits turn up at The Elephant. We feel that traders at The Elephant are like these Souq old-timers – Nicole in her kiosk, Emad in his shop, John in his coffee van, Alan in the market, Mohammed in his store and so on – people who have invested so much in the community fabric that is a massive part of life in The Elephant.

 

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Munif is writing the story of Oil as a key driving force of global development. We are telling the same story with oil cash seeking land as the central local struggle between us and the men in suits. Just as Munif uses the idea of ‘The Encounter’, we at the Elephant have long understood what the arrival of the men in suits from Lend Lease, Oakmayne, Delancey means. At the same time the men in suits have no understanding and little interest in who we are and how we live. We see people engaged in living often very hard lives and how these lives are also maintained in a relationship with what’s in The Elephant. The men in suits see only the built forms in which we live those lives. When they look upon a desert oasis ripe with sweet water and fruits, they can only see land ripe for the levelling and building of luxury flats and shopping malls.

…But The Council Believes In What Exactly?

We’ve long been critical of the Council’s Love-In with Delancey, who are more or less a series of offshore-registered shell companies in a global financial romance between the country of Qatar and various financial investment funds. Since 1939 Qatar has also become the richest countries in the world due to its riches in oil and gas. It takes the profits from the sale of those commodities and invests those billions of £££ of profits all over the World in many things but particularly in property development and particularly in London. In Southwark, the famous Shard is 95% owned by the State of Qatar and locally the Elephant One development on Elephant Rd and the Shopping Centre plans are part-financed by the Qatar Investment Authority, the singular financial vehicle of the State of Qatar. That State has been described as ‘an authoritarian state with strict judicial constraints on freedom of expression. Detainees are subject to beatings and cruel treatment while a great many immigrant workers are trapped in conditions of forced labour’. In Qatar and especially in its capital city Doha, migrant workers make up almost 90% of the population and are employed under the Kafala labour system that ties a worker to a labour sponsor whose ‘consent is required to change jobs, leave the country, get a driver’s license, rent a home or open a checking account‘.

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Dormitories for migrant workers under the Kafala labour system in Qatar

If you want a snapshot of things, although of course very welcome, a new law in 2018 allows the millions of migrant workers to leave Qatar without permission from their employers! Before that they weren’t allowed at all! Despite these supposed changes, labour practices in Qatar are still described by Amnesty International as ‘inadequate and continuing to leave migrant workers at the hands of exploitative bosses‘.

As ever then we question the Council’s supporting role as Planning Authority in all this:

Why would a Labour council do an inordinate amount of Delancey’s bidding for them when the very heart of Delancey’s development schemes are based on supporting offshore tax avoiding on a grand scale and a dubious authoritarian regime? We aren’t arguing for the Council to sniff out ethical global property companies as there aren’t any but Delancey and the Qatar Investment Authority? Council bigwigs, those self-described ‘old-fashioned municipal socialists’ are surely having an ethics deficit, we think! Or is ‘municipal socialism’ here still at the expense of migrant workers there?

Why do they like helping along so many towers of overpriced or luxury flats? It’s a mystery! Do they really think that more of these types of predominantly unaffordable homes are ‘solving the housing crisis’ as Council Leader Peter John says? Do they believe in ‘uplifting’ The Elephant because they themselves are exactly the kind of people who like deli’s and artisan bakeries and faddy coffee shops? When they say ‘regeneration is good’ are they just looking in the mirror and planning still on ‘bringing a better class of people’ to The Elephant.

At The Elephant the community campaigns were so strong that the Council could have used this as great leverage against Delancey to get for the community so much more but they didn’t. Despite we having Delancey on the defensive, the Council pissed it up a wall and passed Delancey’s shoddy non-Council policy compliant planning application on July 3rd and so forward to demolition. What a carve up!

Tree Shepherd’s Bought-In Role In Delancey’s Demolition Plans

Back at the Shopping Centre, unlike at the Souq al-Halal, there are no police uprooting the market traders. The uprooting is slower and done differently based on the promises of Delancey that they will be nice and do right by the traders and replant them somewhere else locally. But what guarantees are in place to help these people remain where their life and livelihoods are?

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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 Delancy 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 trades 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 modus-operandi 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.

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. 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 (now open only two days a week as well). 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’.

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?


Regeneration Seeks Amnesia (Again)

Like we said a few years back about the siting of Lend Lease’s pop-up container park The Artworks on the old Elephant Park and Heygate site, regeneration doesn’t want to deal with the long histories of how people have made their local area, fought for things they want and don’t want and have also negotiated problem after problem be that from within the local community or from outside. What ‘regeneration’ seeks is for everyone to forget. Change is coming! Forget The Heygate. Forget the Elephant Park. Forget the Shopping Centre. Forget it all and embrace the new! Like Munif says about the Souq al-Halal – All this was a part of Mooran’s history fast vanishing from its people’s memory. Like we also said ‘whose regeneration?’. This wearing down of local traders or the picking of council estates one by one or the more and more luxury developments springing up could be described as a ‘slow violence’, a great and pertinent phrase coined by writer Rob Nixon for his good book ‘Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor’. The social effect and cost of this violence is seemingly invisible but happens grindingly in the everyday lives of us. Not only is such a grind ever present in working class communities, within those neighbourhoods that suffering is also fractured and intensified ‘along fault lines of ethnicity, gender, race, class, region, religion, and generation’.

Rob Nixon says it is ‘a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all…I mean a violence that is neither spectacular nor instantaneous but instead incremental, whose calamitous repercussions are postponed for years or decades or centuries’. We see this as a very apt description of the disastrous legacy that London’s ‘regenerations’ will leave on working class communities. ‘Regeneration’ is the unasked for slow violence of a process of taking what’s ours (council homes, public spaces) and displacement (moving us out of our communities) that “smooths the way for amnesia, as places are rendered irretrievable to those who once inhabited them’.

There is fine passage in Munif ‘s ‘Cities of Salt’ that concerns the arrival of an American ship some time after the discovery of oil at the oasis of Wadi al-Uyoun. The oasis had been rapidly developed into the city of Harran and slowly settlers come and colonise the area. When a massive ship arrives at the coast with 100’s of new and brash settlers, local people suffer a kind of forced amnesia:

This day gave Harran a birth date, recording when and how it was built, for most people have no memory of Harran before that day. Even its own natives, who had lived there since the arrival of the first frightening group of Americans and watched with terror the realignment of the town’s shoreline and hills­ the Harranis, born and bred there, saddened by the destruction of their houses, recalling the old sorrows of lost travelers and the dead-remembered the day the ship came better than any other day, with fear, awe and surprise. It was practically the only date they remembered’.

 

Up The Elephant

We made a poster a long time ago. It read ‘Local people can you help unlock the economic potential of The Elephant & Castle by pissing off please?’. This is what they want but we are staying put. We will not forget ourselves! Up The Elephant!

SN Local piss off

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:

 

We’ve 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. We can win this!

 

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(Note: The section in the above text on the role of the ‘social enterprise’ Tree Shepherd has been expanded into a fuller version of ours and others many criticisms of Tree Shepherd and is posted here)

 

Christmas is coming – two presents for you:
Slow-Violence-and-the-Environmentalism-of-the-Poor
Cities_of_Salt_-_Book One