STRATA TOWER, Elephant & Castle

The old Castle house / Strata at halfway point and in January 2010

On top of the demolished Castle House and the old popular Castello’s pizzeria, a 43 storey ‘eco’-tower with 408 homes (30% ‘affordable’ – by Family Mosaic Housing Association for shared-ownership sale) now underway. A 30% share of a one bedroom flat is quoted at £70,000 -Oct 2008.  December 2009 – £285,000 for a one bedroom apartment! Or a bit higher up the tower is a one bedroom for £850,000!!! We might cobble our pennies together for the £2,500,000  3 bedroom flat for sale where ‘this luxury development benefits from the peaceful market square‘ although we are wondering which peaceful market square is that then?

castle house shops
More old Castle House

It’s a bit of a test case this Strata for the whole E+C regeneration as the flats were sold ‘off-plan’ i.e they weren’t built yet. With the credit crunch around for a foreseable few more years, we wonder if the buyer who has put down a large deposit will be able to complete with the rest of the price when it’s time to cough up. Deposits are not sums of money that you can just chuck away if you now can’t afford the flat. They are legally binding sums that mean you intend to buy. If you paid out £30,000 deposit for a flat that was valued at £250,000 back in the day but now you can’t get anyone to lend you masses of money as a mortgage to cover the rest, you’re a bit screwed. Here’s an interesting case of people buying flats as investments vs a greedy developer.

Anyhow, we’ve been watching the Tower get bigger month by month and have been enjoying the installation of the three big white rails on the top that will house the wind turbines. We were telling a few tourists that this is the new big thrills Strata rollercoaster ride. Or that it was a kind of jogging track like a hamster wheel for residents too afraid to enter the local area OR that it was a treadmill for the social housing residents to generate the leccy for the rest of the tower! Are we bad? 🙂

The turbines are of course not merely decorative but have a function which is directly related to Elephant’s status as an energy action area and to the achievement of the zero carbon growth which is a key objective of the framework‘. Planning Officer, 2006 to which we reply Ha Ha…nice try! Strata Tower wind turbines would ‘create the energy for approximately 20 flats, or lighting for the entire building…result in an overall projected 8.7% reduction in carbon emissions‘. In the end they didn’t even produce enough to boil a kettle for a nice Organic Rooibos Vanilla Chai and the reason why? Money wrangles! No-one figured out who would pay for the expensive maintenance of this massive wind folly!

Above: You can see here part of the Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) that accompanied the planning application for Strata Tower (then known as Castle House). The SCI is the document that tries to prove that the general public / local people have been asked their views on proposed developments. As you can see, it’s clear that receiving only 13 replies to this question is not really a statement of community involvement. Say no more! How do they get away with this?

More Elephant as good investment guff in the Financial Times here! And more Strata-stroking here from The Times that begins thus: ‘The pink pachyderm has had its day. There is a new icon at Elephant & Castle, that bit of southeast London known for its dank subways, grimy roundabouts and a shopping centre‘. Not a good factual introduction to the area as the pink Shopping Centre has been red since 1999. Anyhow, when Strata’s finally finished ‘the final four flats on the 41st floor will be released, with prices ranging from £850,000 to £2.5 million‘. We know that penthouses are always placed at the very top to help-out the trickle-down effect of wealth into the area. But surely the taller the building the farther it has to trickle!

Interesting other points made in The Times article are that ‘the great attraction of Strata is the view — yet this is under threat from the regeneration plans, which include several towers…Draper House, a 1960s tower block next door, will not be demolished‘. The irony of buying into the regeneration area only to have some new fangled development block your view in a year or two’s time. There’s been this kind of struggle going on in Long Lane where some of the recent occupiers of the new builds have been campaigning against ever newer new builds on the grounds of density, sunlight and lowering the tone. We call them ‘Gentrifiers Against Gentrification’. Anyhow, despite the inference in the article, Draper House, council tower block won’t be going anywhere soon.

On the financial side, the article reports that ‘Investors, as opposed to owner-occupiers, originally made up 75 per cent of purchasers. However, newly restrictive mortgage conditions mean that some may be unable to complete their purchases. Others will opt to live in their investments. Black estimates that the proportion of investors will fall to about 50 per cent by completion in July’. Interesting to finally see that originally 2/3rds of buyers had no intention of living there anyway and only wanted to ‘invest’ i.e make some money. Any road up, here’s the scenic view from out the window of a 19th floor Strata flat and a look at some of the ‘social’ housing at the bottom, the Esprit apartments!

Strata is literally layer upon layer where one layer lives on top of another with the possibly poor shared ownership layer at the bottom floors from 2 – 10 with the weight of the wealthy layer in the middle floors 11 – 38 and the burden of the super rich layer on top floors 40 – 43 where £2.5m three-bedroom duplex penthouses lurk in the sky.

Jan 2014: Turbines never went into use. Non-spinning eyesore. Zefrog, a Strata resident says on Twitter the reason that the turbines aren’t turning is ‘Legal uncertainties about maintenance. They are currently mothballed’ awaiting an agreement. The stories about them being too noisy for the penthouse flats below might be an urban myth.
June 2015: Solved! The non-working turbines atop Strata have been turned into giant reminder of who we can thank for endless regeneration of the area. All hail!

pj strata


August 2019: Happy Birthday, 10 years of non-functioning ‘sustainable’ eco-gentrification