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!
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.
••• 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’.
>>> 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.
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.
Several traders have challenged these figures and yet the Council suggested the consultation on this issue has been positive. In reality, Lendlease, the developer of Elephant Park, quoted JZ Mobiles, a Shopping Centre business, £177 per sq ft for the fit-out works at one of its retail units. This price excluded ‘Professional Services’ and other expenses, which gives an indication of ‘industry standards’. Eventually, JZ Mobiles was rejected in their scheme on the basis that residents moving into Elephant Park do not need a mobile shop. Just for clarification, Lend Lease has yet to provide some affordable retails units to Shopping Centre traders as part of their s106 obligations.
• Please Don’t Say ‘Heygate Estate’, Say ‘Elephant Park’
This latter point has been discussed with Cllr Stephanie Cryan (Cabinet Member for Jobs, Business and Innovation) who, together with Cllr Johnson Situ (Cabinet Member for Growth, Development and Planning), have held meetings with Lendlease to discuss the rejection of traders in the Elephant Park scheme. Cabinet members came back with the argument that the private developer has run a study on the type of businesses people moving into their new flats would like, and apparently there isn’t appetite for a mobile shop. Not only does this seems unrealistic but it is extremely disappointing that the Cabinet member for Small Businesses is citing this alleged ‘study‘ as a reason for the developer not to fulfill their s106 obligations, which clearly state there is priority for ‘displaced traders in the Elephant and Castle Opportunity Area‘ to bid for the eight Affordable units in Elephant Park scheme.
(Excellent mapping work done by Petit Elephant)
However the above example of JZ Mobiles demonstrates that Lend Lease are being picky about which traders they will take. They are talking about how they made a survey of the kind of shops people want and apparently mobile phone shops were a ‘No’. This is all very underhand, sneaky but entirely predictable. Can’t sell your expensive luxury flats overseas if the brochure has to feature egg and chips caffs or mobile phone shops! See…these are the mechanisms of the reality of social cleansing.
To this date, it appears that not a single trader from the so-called ‘red line’ of the Shopping Centre development has been offered a unit in Elephant Park scheme, where 10% of the total retail space has to be offered in priority to ‘displaced traders‘ from the area. We would be happy to hear that this is not the case.
Councillors kept reiterating Lendlease is ‘absolutely committed‘ to fulfill their s106 obligations, however they couldn’t prove they have actually signed a lease so far with a single displaced trader from the ‘red-line’ (those businesses eligible for relocation).
• Up The Elephant’s Judicial Review (JR)
Both Delancey and Southwark are spreading the word that they expect an imminent decision by the judge soon after 23rd October, on the basis that it will go their way. They have also been weaponising traders concerns about the Shopping Centre closure against the campaigns by muddying these concerns as about being worried about the JR rather than the age old discontent with Delancey. When we saw this public relations exercise carried out on Twitter by Stephanie Cryan, we responded by leafleting the Shopping Centre traders with a JR Factsheet in English and Spanish.
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.
>>> 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: