The Murder of The Elephant – June 2016
This is a Whodunnit written in advance of a murder. It’s a very serious life and death affair.
Anyone who visits and uses the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, as we have been doing for over 25 years, knows that it’s exactly what it is. It’s exactly what it says on the tin – a Shopping Centre. It has about 80 businesses that go from the big Tescos and Smiths to the smaller shops like hairdressers and food places to the smaller kiosks for all sort of the things – clothes mending, coffee, handbags and so on. In what is really the moat of the Castle, for the Shopping Centre was built like a castle, there is the popular small market of numerous and varied cheap stalls. Mostly the shops and services are independent and often family-owned businesses where the owners live locally.
The Shopping Centre is more than just a series of shops though. Any day of the week sees people meeting friends there, hanging out, chatting in the cafes, loitering, keeping warm, watching the day go by or whatever people want to do there socially within reason. Although we can buy dog food, bags of nails or bibles (if you want), we also go there to catch up with what’s happening, with who is there, with what funny things are going on, with all the long-formed non-shopping things that people do under the Centre’s roofs. It’s a place that contains all the great funny stuff that local people bring to it, both funny ha-ha (the banter between people and shopkeepers) and the funny peculiar (like the guy stuck inside the service tunnels somehow before the subways were shut!). This is what makes the place human and simple. It’s the very heart of The Elephant and a poke in the eye to recent claims by developers ‘The Elephant & Castle has no soul..there is no community here’ (as Rob Deck, former Lend Lease Project Director of The Elephant regeneration told us all once).
We aren’t out here to tell tales of simple folks doing simple things as this is just patronising rubbish and there are plenty of people already painting this picture. The Shopping Centre is as complex as all the people’s lives are who use it: stressed, joyful, skint, getting by, on their uppers, begging, coping, living large, whatever and it’s within those complexities that lies the Elephant’s care of its community. But we have to say it’s a cheap and cheerful place with no apology required. It’s not a fancy place. It’s not an expensive place unless you need a wee. It’s not a place for coming to for a Next or H&M or Wagamama or Giraffe or EE or Waitrose.
To return to our serious affair, we know that once this central heart of The Elephant is gone and replaced by 1000’s of expensive flats and mostly chain stores and restaurants, there will be very serious consequences for local people. This is the murder in its planning stages. This is the premeditated death of the Elephant community. Some people like to talk about how there is no such thing as ‘community’ but we tend to think those people don’t know because they either have never lived in one or they do but don’t know how to be in it. Community, such as The Elephant area, is always more like a community of different overlapping communities who mostly get along but it’s a recognisable physical, emotional and economic mish-mash of all of us.
The Shopping Centre is a kind of second home for many in those communities. It’s a place to go where you feel safe, there’s a familiarity, there’s a stability in visiting and a purpose, be that your dogfood or bibles, or sitting shooting the breeze seeing what’s up. It can be and is for many a place of direct social contact with traders you know, friends or strangers. It’s the breaking for many of the everyday isolation. It’s a vital connection for many but particularly older folks. It can be a place of sharing, of trust and of generosity in even the smallest encounter. Contained in all these moments and interactions is a sense of well-being and the positive affect this brings to people’s healthiness. What helps these feelings and meanings flow is that it’s a big place with places for sitting and its sheltered and it’s central. It’s the Shopping Centre, the centre being the Heart.
BEHOLD THE USUAL SUSPECTS
The plans to demolish the Shopping Centre as part of the by-now infamous ‘regeneration’ of the Elephant area go back donkey’s years. By February 2004, Southwark Council had adopted a Supplementary Planning Guidance called ‘A development framework for the Elephant & Castle’ that proposed demolishing the Shopping Centre and the Heygate Estate. The vision they dreamed up was a new ‘town centre’ with new homes and new leisure and shopping facilities based around a network of new streets at Elephant and top of Walworth Rd instead of a centrally-located Shopping Centre. More plans and negotiations with the owner of the time St Modwen went nowhere past the envisaged removal of the shops ‘between June 2008 and June 2009 with demolition in early 2010’. There was always a big tension in the fact that the larger regeneration plans were hampered by the Council not being the owners of the Shopping Centre site. The Council could agree with Lend Lease to demolish the Heygate but had little real say in the Shopping Centre.
Then there was a funny moment when St Modwen and the Council seemed to suddenly agree to a ‘in-principle decision’ to not knock it down (as had been planned since 2002) but to refurbish the Centre and bung loads of new private homes on top. In the end, the Council were unhappy with St Modwen’s homes idea and refused to consider more than 500 units on site. St Modwen claimed this would not be ‘financially-viable’ of course but having also been playing a long and difficult game of speculation by holding on to the site for as long as possible finally sold to Delancey in 2013 for £80 million. St Modwen had bought the site of UK Land in June 2002 for £29 million anyow so ker-ching!
Delancey is major property company owned by Jamie Ritblat (see photo of one of his modest houses above) . You can Google that name to revel in his tax-dodging and avoidance of paying millions in stamp duty. Delancey is a British company registered in tax haven the British Virgin Islands. Delancey’s ‘principal client fund DV4’ is the owner of the ever name-changing new development on Elephant Rd where three large ugly towers have gone up recently adjacent to the Shopping Centre. Here we are talking serious money and serious investment and serious land values.
Here’s how complicated the financing is:
In late 2013 Delancey and APG, the Dutch ‘pension fund asset manager’, formed a new ‘Joint Venture’ to deliver 3000+ new homes in London particularly at the ex-Athletes Village site post-Olympics in East London. Their other main development is the new retail and homes at the Shopping Centre. In 2016 there was a £1.4 billion merger between Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company, Delancey’s client fund DV4 and the Dutch pension fund asset manager, APG.
Qatari Diar is a real estate company established by the Qatar Investment Authority in 2005, itself a ‘sovereign wealth fund’ owned by the state of Qatar, a country with a dubious record of workers rights amongst other things. APG is a €343bn Dutch pension fund asset manager owned by ABP, a public sector pension fund for people working in the Dutch government and education sectors. ABP slogan is ‘Tomorrow is today’ but we’ve known for ages that ‘Tomorrow is actually tomorrow’.
Anyhow, because they are only thinking about you, Sheikh Jassim Al-Thani, chief development officer for Europe and the Americas at Qatari Diar, says that they have a ‘vision to create vibrant, sustainable local communities where people aspire to live, work and visit’. You could be forgiven for thinking that paying into your pension fund was really about you having a few quid after you retire rather than the money being ending up being used by an international cluster of disreputable friggin’ sharks to make money from the gentrification and displacement of locals and local businesses wherever they happen to have their eyes on. The financing is as global as the resulting displacement – London, Sydney, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Luanda etc – and that’s how the system works! Money circulates internationally in ever fewer hands looking to land and make a profit. Any statements about making ‘new great places to live for everyone’ is pure guff. The bottom line is profits. The Elephant is just one more example of how regeneration is just the making of money dressed up as an urban planning matter. To put it another way – they don’t care about you!
DO YOU WANT SOME OF THIS?
Interestingly, although these companies don’t give a toss they do go along with the game of pretending they care about what we think. In a monumental time-leap from 2000 to now we are still subjected to what they call ‘consultation’ but we have come to call ‘pantomime’. It’s worth thinking through how any of these plans to destroy the community are supposedly validated by the community.
In the early 2000’s, the Council conducted a ‘consultation’ at The Elephant about their plans to demolish it and replace it with a Town Centre. It’s published results were somewhat skewed. Of 464 responses to their viewing of the new plans, 80% of replies were either ‘strongly or moderately in favour’. Hence we calculate from an area containing 1000’s of local people, 371 were either dead keen on the plans or were ‘moderately’ in favour i.e their agreement was actually quite limited. From this consultation, the Council begins to trumpet a mandate for demolition from local people.
If we jump to Delancey’s public consultation in July 2015 when the first few details of the proposed plans are shown, we can see how such ‘consultation’ (asking for people’s input) is skewed by the misleading and bogus questions people are asked. There is no point going over old ground again and so you can read our critical responses to those questions here! Worth pointing out that at no point does this question – Would you like the development to include homes for people who love and live in London? – ask about what kind of homes are they talking about? Why are there no questions about types of tenure so that people answering the questionnaire can specify types if tenure they desire locally. People could then also talk about the absent question of social rented and affordable housing in the scheme.
As part of the ‘regeneration’ of the area, the Elephant & Castle zone has been awarded the dubious status of being an ‘opportunity area’ which we read as being an area ripe for the picking for opportunist investors, developers and more international shitehawks. Such an ‘opportunity’ means that the area is set for a ‘minimum of 4000 new homes to be built by 2031‘. This also supposedly includes at least 1,400 ‘affordable’ homes although few truly affordable social rented homes are being built or even if they are promised through the contract of S106 provision, they are being switched to unaffordable rents at the last moment. These are the same ‘affordable rents’ that the Council says ‘we do not think that the new affordable rent tenure is affordable for people in housing need in Southwark’.
What is becoming increasingly clear is Delancey’s plans to maximise the number of private homes across the whole Shopping Centre site and what will be the former site of the London College of Communications over the road by building 650 homes. (You’ll remember from earlier that St Modwen sold up after being refused only 500 homes!!) The LCC deal means that’s acres of prime land where the college now sits will be the landing place for numerous tall towers (19 to 31 storeys) adjacent to the other tall towers (20 to 31 storeys) planned for the Shopping Centre land themselves adjacent to Strata tower, the One The Elephant tower and the 44 storey tower at Newington Butts. We wonder if any daylight will reach us mortal at ground level?
For us, the question remains: who is this new housing for? Already we know that it will be entirely made up of towers of ‘built to let’ properties. This is a new fast growing housing sector that means developments are only made up of new private rental properties. None of the flats are for private sale, or for shared ownership and none are socially rented or ‘affordable’ rented (rents up to 80% of local private rents). Instead they are all owned by the developer and rented out to people for a maximum of three years. When Delancey’s Stafford Lancaster was asked by Council members what guarantee Delancey would give as to the level of social rented housing in the development, he ‘stressed again that these were very early days’ and said ‘that as the rental model was a mass-market product rent levels would need to reflect this. No firm commitment or comment was possible at this stage but there would be a robust discussion about the viability assessment’. This is simple code for no cheap housing as they are allegedly a drain on profits. Back in the real world of property and profits, Realstar, a large Canadian developer of the private rental market, is offering studio flats at their Courland Grove tower in Stockwell for £246 per week! What rents will Delancey be offering at The Elephant? We shudder to think.
DISPLACEMENT, DATPLACEMENT, NO GOOD BLUES
If we are to think of the number of times promises have not been seen through by the Council and developers, we shudder to think again, of the fate of the independent shops, kiosks and market stalls who make their living in and around the Shopping Centre. There has been a great campaign being run by Latin Elephant that raises the question of how to protect the strong local Latino businesses and culture that has been around the Shopping Centre for over two decades now. At the end of the day, of course, everyone is in it together and all the businesses there have to come together to fight for the rights and against being shafted.
For many of the Latino businesses outside of the Shopping Centre redevelopment, being mostly in the railways arches, they will have to face the aggression of Network Rail who have a disregarding flair for kicking out their tenants once an area is ‘up and coming’. Network Rail’s vision is for more Nandos and more high fee gyms and not necessarily the often precarious tiny business created inside mini-malls in the arches. But inside and around the Shopping Centre are numerous small businesses that will have no place in the new retail zones to be built. There will be some provision for ‘affordable retail’ built into the plans with phased rent-free periods and discounted rents but the few that have been built locally have been tiny and unsuitable for much (see the minuscule unit set aside for Shopping Centre traders that’s in Dashwood Studios student building 120-38 Walworth Rd). Such ‘affordable retail’ units will be set out in developers Section 106 contracts but we’ve been seeing that increasingly such S106 agreements are being weaselled out of.
Delancey’s Elephant Rd development is still supposed to have a market square in situ but we doubt this will be for the kind of popular market stalls the Elephant currently has. Delancey has also used their provision of this market square as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ for why it could not possibly include any affordable homes in their development. Delancey has also been making dubious movements on its promises of affordable retail in its development (see ‘Delancey – a morality tale’ in this post from 35% Campaign). It has also lined the Council up to use its Compulsory Purchase powers for traders who are unable to agree a compensation level for their business move or closure.
None of us here at Southwark Notes Towers can remember a time when traders at the Elephant were happy with the regeneration plans. The most common complaints have always been that traders had no idea what was going on, felt that the Council weren’t talking to them and that they would not survive any regeneration of the Elephant area. By 2007, things were so bad that the traders managed to present a Traders Charter to the Council detailing their concerns: ‘As small business traders at the Elephant and Castle we feel that the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle, approved in 2004, has significantly disadvantaged us, by damaging our existing business livelihoods and future prospects. We have suffered a slow and progressive cloud of regeneration induced recession with the prospect of extinction. Our businesses have suffered over the past four years, with little hope of any improvement. During this time many small businesses have folded, through being driven out of business by the regeneration’. The demolition of the Heygate and the displacement of those residents resulted in a drop in trade for many of the local businesses.
Jump ahead with us once more to 2014 and the ‘Trading Places: Research at The Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre‘ report from consultants Social Life found traders still saying ‘it will kill my business’ or ‘I will lose everything’. Traders told Social Life’s researcher that they fear rent rises, displacement, closure and lack of compensation and the majority said they were not being talked to by the Council. Many traders also affirmed the social role they and the centre plays in people’s everyday lives saying ‘It’s not just about shops, it’s community, saying Hello’ and ‘We look out for our customers. Some of them come at special times or on certain days so if they are not they I ask about them’.
The following story does not add much conviction to Delancey’s commitment to traders in the Shopping Centre. Paulette Simpson of the Jamaica National Building Society spoke at a meeting of the Council where Delancey were present on behalf of businesses from the Caribbean community. She said that the community was concerned at the lack of consultation, the provision for displaced businesses, whether businesses would be able to afford to return to the new shopping centre and how long the development would take. What profile of businesses was Delancey was envisaging, including size and rents, and what reassurances were there that current businesses would not be driven out. Stafford Lancaster from Delancey stressed that consultation was at a very early stage and that he looked forward to engaging with all businesses.
At the recent launch of Latin Elephant’s ‘The Case for London’s Latin Quarter: Retention, Growth and Sustainability’ on 6th June 2016, Mark Williams Cabinet Member for Regeneration & New Homes said the Council will “shout it to the rooftops” that E&C is London’s Latin American quarter and that the Council will “fully support” the report on protecting and enhancing The Elephant’s Latin Quarter. It’s a tricky situation for us overly pessimistic types and we don’t want to pour any cold water on the amazing work of Latin Elephant in engaging with the Council and others to ‘voicing the concerns of Latin Americans in the Elephant’ but we wonder what real guarantees the Council can give traders that they will be benefiting from the ‘regeneration’ and not being thrown out of the area. It’s simply not possible for all the little businesses to survive regeneration which then beggars the question of how and who does regeneration really benefit? It’s also tricky because over years we’ve simply ended up believing that the Council cannot be trusted and between us and numerous other local blogs there is not a week goes by when another shoddy and scandalous revelation is laid at the Council’s door. BUT we support 100% Latin Elephant’s engagement with Southwark and it’s organising around protecting the Latin American community. It’s vital work.
IT’S NOT LIKE THE COUNCIL DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING!
Interestingly, until forced by statutory requirements of the Equalities Act (2010), no assessment of the effects of regeneration on the area’s more marginal, vulnerable or precarious people had been carried out despite the numerous policy plans that were produced both Borough-wide and for The Elephant. The first Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA) was undertaken for Southwark’s 2011 Core Strategy document that provides a ‘local development framework’ for the borough. It’s worth looking in detail at the EqIA for the Shopping Centre and Walworth Rd area and the Council’s own noting that East Walworth ward still ranks in the 10% most deprived areas in the country and that parts of Faraday and Newington wards rank in the 20% most deprived areas in the country. It’s a long document but we can summarise quickly by simple quotation the main thorny question of ‘regenerating’ The Elephant.
The report says ‘The plan could unintentionally fail to meet local housing needs by not providing the right housing type and mix for the local community which could sustain or result in overcrowding and poor quality accommodation which in turn disproportionately affects older people, young and Black & Minority Ethnic community’. Following on from this insight, the report continues that ‘The regeneration of Elephant and Castle may result in a rise in house prices and housing may become unaffordable to those currently living in the area, especially for, lone parents, disabled people, the BME community and elderly people. This may also result in a dilution of the community as people are forced to move out of the area as they no longer can afford to live there’. Is this the only ever common sense to be found in Council thinking and experience of the real community-smashing effects of regeneration schemes? What does Heygate show about displacement and replacement of council homes with unaffordable Housing Association rentals? It then beggars belief when right after the above two lines the Council can assert that ‘redevelopment and regeneration of areas may result in the disruption of communities’ and that ‘as part of the Elephant and Castle SPD we will look at how we can successfully create mixed communities with a range of housing types and tenures. This should help to improve social cohesion’. The Council’s EqIA’s solution to the problem of ‘social cohesion’ is to ‘mitigate’ displacement by building 4000 unaffordable homes and destroy the local community business base at The Elephant.
REGENERATION = DEATH
We’ve long been critical of the use of the term ‘regeneration’ to signify much that’s positive for local people. It sits alongside the Council’s use of the term ‘revitalise’ for places like The Elephant, Peckham, Old Kent Rd etc. Do they really mean that they will ‘give new life’ to these places where we live? What on Earth do they mean when these places are already full of life. We know they already think we are the ‘wrong sort of residents’. Do they know think we are the wrong sort of lives too?
When we were thinking about the title of this writing, we thought about how some of those displaced from their homes on the Heygate suffered terrible ill health from stress and anxiety at being removed from the deep social bonds they had created and maintained for years and years. We thought of how some people had died prematurely from the awful experience of decant and displacement. We also thought how the Council had no monitoring in place to keep in touch and be aware of the circumstances of those who it moved at of their area just so they could see if people’s lives, health, employment, happiness and so on was improved or denigrated from being moved off the Heygate. Is this going to be the same for 1000’s of Aylesbury Estate residents too as they get the heavy hand of ‘good for you’ regeneration?
When we say that The Elephant is being murdered we refer to the area and to the killing of a long-term home-grown neighbourhood with special characteristics, peculiarities, strengths and weaknesses. When we say murder though we also mean it very specifically in that regeneration in this cynical fashion that seeks to replace deep bonds of community togetherness (with all its problems too!) with an alienating and sterile landscape of chain shops and pseudo-public places will result in a few local deaths from the removal of the heart of the area and the familiarities and connections it brings. Such community networks, developed and grown over years, provide people with support from neighbours in addition to, or instead of, the help from family. These informal support networks give people a level of emotional resilience derived from the sense of safety and well-being that comes from knowing and trusting people in the immediate locality. But the Council or Delancey won’t ever be consulting us on loneliness, or stress, or depression or isolation. For them the plans are all shiny wonders of progress that we should all be in awe of. For us these plans are deadly!
POOR OLD TIRED SHOPPING CENTRE (1)
Here follows our quick replies to the above 5 questions asked by the new owners of the Elephant Shopping Centre as part of their community consultation on the Centre’s future. The new owners are Dutch pension fund APG and UK property developer Delancey. Delancey is also the managers behind the large development behind the Centre that borders New Kent Rd, Elephant Rd and Heygate Estate formerly known as ‘Oakmayne Plaza’, then ‘Tribeca Square’ and now the wonderful ‘Elephant One’ (not to be confused with Lend Lease’s nearby 40+ storey tower of luxury flats called ‘One The Elephant’. At Southwark Notes, we are already phoning up global finance houses to back our new exclusive residential development in the northern roundabout – a 100-storey tower called ‘The One Elephant’.
“1) Do you think the transport interchanges need to be improved?”
Are Delancey going to stump up hard cash for any Northern Line rejigging and other works such as the crowded bus stops outside the Shopping Centre? This has always been a bone of expensive contention between Southwark, Transport for London, The Greater London Authority and any developer of the Shopping Centre. The GLA has already agreed to substantially fund the approx £100m cost of remodelling the northern roundabout and rebuilding the Northern line tube station with escalators to replace the current lifts.
“2)What do you love most about the E&C Shopping Centre? ”
Presumably those who use the Centre would answer that it fulfills basic needs via supermarkets and small services and wide range of cheap shops plus socialising spaces like cafes, restaurants and benches. If the shops and services moved into a higher price range then we are guessing that this would move it out of what most people like or ‘love’ about it although this might be what new residents to the area might want. They may not indeed want Greggs, Sundial Cafe, Jenny’s Burgers, H&T Pawnbrokers, 99p Stores or Quicksilver Amusements.
Now and as it has always been, with the regeneration of the area being ongoing for the last 15 years or so, no guarantees have been forthcoming from the Council and owners to protect the existing businesses in the Centre and around it – such as the small shops on New Kent Rd (dentist, newsagents) and The Coronet (who are extremely worried about their future). The provision of affordable retail spaces in new developments included as alternative sites for displaced Elephant traders has been pitiful. There is still an empty unit built with this in mind at the Pavillion building (part of the Strata development). Not much bigger than a shoebox and with zero thought put into delivery, storage, vents and so on, it’s a wasted tokenism.
“3) Do you think that the whole of the shopping centre site should be redeveloped than refurbished? ”
They are answering their own question as this is there already announced intention. So they are only really looking for YES in answer to this question: “The first thing is that we are looking to demolish the centre and redevelop it” said Delancey’s Stafford Lancaster in February 2014.
“4) Would you like the development to include homes for people who love and live in London? ”
This is also their stated intention anyhow as private homes will be where the profits are to be had and less in building a new shopping town centre. It’s a debatable point whether the Council will to act to limit the number of new homes here and hence the problems of density, massing and heights and light, effects of local services, questions of car parking provision, etc. Delancey have already more or less said they want to build up to 1000 homes on site. What actual space will they use to build the shops and what spaces would they use to build the homes? An article from Property Week (‘Delancey and APG buy £80m Elephant & Castle shopping centre‘, Dec 2nd 2013) says that the new joint venture is planning 500,000 sq ft on the shopping centre site. This is an increase from 327,000 sq ft at present. We wonder where all these shops and homes will fit.
And if we are talking about ‘homes’, then we would need to break that down into what kind of homes are they planning? Delancey has already stated that they are planning for 1,000 or more new homes, which will be private flats for rent so they retain ownership and act as overall landlord, give or take the odd contracted in management company. The gradual erosion of any local policy that is enforced on getting some ‘affordable’ housing back out of developer’s profits means we can probably expect a minimal of affordable rent properties (with starting prices already too high for local people). Will there be any social rented properties at rent levels equivalent to council rents – i.e necessary and genuinely affordable.
Would there also be any guarantees that the higher end private flats they build will be rented by people who actually live in them as opposed to those who ‘Buy to Let’? With already so many overseas sales as investments and not actual homes as standard for new developments in Southwark, this is a real key question for any community consultation. Who are these homes meant for?
We are sure that as there are currently almost zero homes currently on site, the argument will be put that local people’s concerns on true affordability can be put aside as no residents are really being displaced. However, if more and more developments go up at the Elephant that contain no real affordable housing then they are creating another wealth ghetto as a supposed solution to breaking up the mythical poverty ghetto at Elephant.
“5) Would you prefer the redevelopment to be more like a town centre than a shopping mall?“
This is directly related to the above but as Delancey have already stated this is what they want to do, it’s a bit phony to ask the question. Delancey’s Stafford Lancaster again: ‘”The second thing is that we are looking to deliver a new town centre for the area: not a shopping centre or a mini-Westfield [but] a retail centre that’s relevant to this area.”
The whole Delancey double whammy development site of both the Shopping Centre and the Elephant One (photo above) behind has been place-named ‘South Village’ by these bright sparks. Such a joined up more upscale development also puts mucho pressure on the existing Latino businesses on Elephant Rd. Some of those businesses may do well from any regeneration here. However, knowing Network Rail’s recent history of turfing out long term local businesses as they uplift their arches, the majority of small Latino businesses face a grim prospect of closure. Worth adding in that 1000’s of square feet of new shops and cafes at The Elephant could destroy the Walworth Rd as an existing town centre. We wonder if any of this is taken into consideration by the Council and whether they will make any argument or opposition to Delancey’s desire for 1000 of homes and tons of new and mostly probably chain stores coming in? The Council has said that it was more interested by 500 new homes but Delancey are sure to cry ‘Viability’ (like Lend Lease) and ‘Can’t afford it without 1000 new homes!’ and get what they want (like Lend Lease again!!)
Question is then, is this ‘redevelopment’ actually going to harm the area more than it benefits it. That depends on who you ask though doesn’t it. Here follows more of them asking us simple people some simple questions:
Should you have other answers to the ones we thought up, don’t bother attempting to put them into the Official Shopping Centre The Future website as you can only answer ‘YES’, ‘NO’ or ‘MAYBE’ to the same questions. About as subtle as the usual consultation game brick to the head.
POOR OLD TIRED SHOPPING CENTRE (2)
Following on from our ‘Poor Old Shopping Centre’ post of earlier in the week, we can now report live from the scene of the developer Delancey’s consultation efforts to divine the local community’s responses and desires around the planned demolition of the Centre. Interesting is how much effort and £££ has been put into having one man standing in front of curved poster with their 5 already answered questions (see here). Is the authentic member of the public being engaged in ‘community consultation’ or is he actually looking to buy a new handbag? Hard to tell from this scene.
But who is that man centre screen? Why it’s no less than Kim Humphreys! Who he, you may well ask? Well, no less than the former Conservative ‘Deputy Leader & Executive Member for Housing at Southwark Council’ who resigned his Council post in 2010 to go into business after failing to secure from 20 attempts a prospective MP place for the Tory party. The business at hand Kim went into was the regeneration industry as a consultant when he set up Carvil Ventures.
“Kim Humphreys is a Board Level Executive with an in-depth knowledge of the public and private sectors and a track record at motivating people to transform services in complex environments. After a 20 year dual-track career working in both commercial banking, heading Mizuho Corporate Banks European syndicated loan activities and serving as Deputy Leader & Executive Member for Housing at Southwark Council, London’s largest social landlord, Kim founded Carvil Ventures to build on his experience and expertise in order to offer his clients creative entrepreneurial real estate solutions”.
Most unusual is that Carvil Venture website features an Elephant! Must be hoping for subliminal effect on clients! Not only that but it also presents a Zebra-Elephant! What can this unique creature signify? Answers on a postcard please!
Anyhow, nice to see the former ‘Deputy Leader & Executive Member for Housing at Southwark Council’ meeting the community for once in his new role as consultant guru. Carvil is an ‘independent real estate consultancy with a focus on strategy and public affairs founded by Kim Humphreys, drawing on his in-depth knowledge of the public and private sectors and providing imaginative and entrepreneurial solutions to complex real estate development issues. Our core strength lies in a thorough and c as well as the creative design process and planning system coming from our years of experience in directly relevant sectors. From our experience we know what methods of communication are required to succeed in taking development concepts from initial advice through the planning process to a success outcome‘.
As Carvil’s ‘core strength’ is a ‘comprehensive understanding of…the community’s needs and wants’, we feel that the whole regeneration of the Shopping Centre is in safe hands with Kim. The lad done well!
As did these other former Southwark employees and councillors!
TWO VITAL DOCUMENTS for E&C SHOPPING CENTRE TRADERS 2014
These two Southwark Council documents from 2007 outline very important considerations that were being discussed between traders at the Elephant and the Council. What they show is that the then organised Traders Action Group and later Shopping Centre Tenants Association was party to the drawing up of a Traders Charter in an attempt to obtain guarantees over funded legal advice, compensation, relocation privileges and demand for affordable retail sites to be tied into new property developments binding agreement (usually as Section 106 contributions).
With the continuing lack of informationabout traders futures and few guarantees being put into place for the dozens of independent small businesses in the Shopping Centre area, these two documents show many of the things that had already been considered before by local traders as what they want and need. Hopefully the unearthing of these documents can inspire traders there now to come together and make demands once more to be treated fairly and not just be another set of local folks ridden roughshod over as part of the regeneration.
September 2014: Traders still feel uncertain about being included in any future Shopping Centre plans.
Research from Social Life’s look at the traders and shopping centre’s future. Full report Trading Places here. Well worth a read.
July 2015: Delancey Drop The Bomb
Delancey have now held a preview of their plans for the Shopping Centre. The long awaited question was really this: How much shopping would remain as opposed to how much new private housing would be built. The answer is astounding. If you look at the image above you can see that not only are there several tower blocks on the Shopping Centre site but they are doing a deal with London College of Communication to demolish their campus to allow even more private homes to be built as tower blocks there. The LCC will get what looks like a tiny new campus flushed up against the railway line where The Coronet is..or should we say was as there are no plans to relocate this venue in the new development. All the new homes are private rental flats that will be managed by Delancey.
We will be writing more on this scheme very soon and the disaster that it will be for the area.
SEPTEMBER 2017: PLANS A GO GO!
COUNCIL RELEASES EQUALITY IMPACT ASSESSMENT & DELANCEY RELEASE SHOPPING CENTRE NEW PLANNING DOCUMENTS:
In May 2017 the Council released its report ‘SHOPPING CENTRE Equalities Analysis and Mitigation Projects‘ undertaken by consultants AECOM to inform the Council of the equality implications of the Shopping Centre redevelopment project and to fulfil the council’s Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) in relation to any future decision to consider exercising CPO powers at the site. The report set out what the Council wanted of Delancey: ‘to require the developer to implement a package of measures to support relocation and mitigate the impact of the closure of the Shopping Centre on local traders and residents‘. As of May 2017, of the many small and large businesses in the Shopping Centre and New Kent, two tenants still have long leases and 3 properties are freehold that may force the Council to have to Compulsory Purchase (CPO) them rather than wait for the leases to run out or to acquire the freeholds. The current working assumption by Council and developer is demolition and redevelopment commencing in 2019 but with CPO’s a possibility the whole thing could be delayed. CPO’s can be brought before a Public Inquiry where both sides pit their arguments to a Government Planning Inspector. The Inspector then reports to the Secretary of State who then makes a final decision. All this takes a long time and time is something developers don’t like to waste! As a consequence of the ‘land-locked‘ nature of the site, traders will not be relocated by phases. Businesses will have to all go before demolition begins.
As is often the case in the Council’s analysis of such consultations, figures, stats and conclusions often don’t really add up. So the report says ‘that a majority (68%) of customers support the proposal to redevelop the centre and the major objectives of the project are seen as significant benefits by more than 64% of all of the businesses‘. It’s hard to tell of course to what information are this majority responding. The report spells out the obvious that local Black-owned business and the type of specific cultural retail they offer will suffer from being less likely to survive the Shopping Centre development plan. Of note, and something we been saying for ages, is the disastrous effect on the bingo users who are a specific elderly and largely black section of the local Elephant community. Report says bingo users may suffer from a “loss of social inclusion if this facility is no longer available for them to visit regularly.” Ain’t that the truth!
The report then spells out many of the benefits of the Shopping Centre redevelopment which we would see as not set in stone positives but highly contested statements. For example:
• Improved and more diverse retail offer.
• Improved image for Elephant and Castle.
• Improved sustainability for other local shops e.g. in Walworth Road resulting
from less convenience outlets when the current centre closes.
• Provision of new housing.
• Improved accessibility of public realm, streetscape and safety.
It’s impossible to say, when the entire argument so far from the traders is that most will not relocate very locally, that the redevelopment will provide a ‘diverse retail offer‘. Delancey is clearly going to populate its new retail buildings with high rent paying chains. Their plans for hundreds of high-end private rental homes is premised on a different demographic who will have little or no use of the kind of businesses currently working in and around the Centre. This is after all a process of gentrification and that means the ‘uplifting‘ of the area as estate agents charmingly put it. It’s also hardly a reply to displaced local traders that their loss at The Elephant is other traders gain on Walworth Rd!!
You can see how Delancey’s commitments aren’t exactly gracious. In response to the Council report, Delancey submitted in September a new Traders relocation plan. It’s interesting to see how the Shopping Centre campaign seems to have forced the Council to pressure Delancey for more commitment to the traders. Promises are made for an consulting firm Tree Shepherd to work with traders on relocating in the area over the next years. Like all plans and documents, unless overseen with some discipline by the Council underwritten by endless public scrutiny by local campaigners, very little of the promises will get met. There are for example attempts by Delancey to have things their own way. Their relocation plan attempts to bung the Council some £££ ‘in lieu‘ of a fulfillment of the Council policy of developments providing 10% affordable retail spaces. Delancey promises some cash so that the East Side of the Shopping Centre site can be only 5% affordable retail. Looking at the above map, you can see that the East Side is the more prime location for the housing and retail side of the plan (basically the current Shopping Centre location).
Delancey also suggests the Council can use the £££ to open up new affordable shops either at Perronet House basement or Arch St garages.
Delancey also suggests that their commitment to affordable retail units may be fulfilled in other developers projects!!
Regarding, the planned zero social rented homes in the whole Shopping Centre development (see photo above!), Delancey has now submitted a new document on what it hopes to get away with re: affordable housing across the scheme: