THE BLOODY GREAT BIG ELEPHANT RIP-OFF!
JULY 2010: SOUTHWARK COUNCIL / LENDLEASE DEAL SIGNED!
SOUTHWARK NOTES has been following events from afar having been lucky enough to go on holiday to sunny climes but we haven’t let the sun go to our head that much to miss the news of the biggest public housing rip-off for many a year. After years of promises, negotiations, fake and dodgy ‘consultations’, insults and out and out toss about a regeneration for all from the Lib-Dems, it took only 8 weeks for the new Labour administration to sign away the publically-owned land where Heygate Estates sits for 999 years to a mega-private developer. In return, we get a wodge of hard cash and a promise for 25% affordable housing on the site. There’s not even a promise of much socially rented housing for poor people, the people who make up most of the population of The Elephant! It’s basically a deal for the development on the site of more private housing! It doesn’t even stick to the conventional 35% figure for a mix of public housing mixed in with the private that is in the Council’s own Southwark Plan!
The new Council bureaucrats have not even had time for the ink to dry on their election promises. They attacked the record of the LibDems saying: ‘The heads of terms which were signed in November with Lend Lease didn’t include a leisure centre, they didn’t include a library, and they didn’t include any of the community facilities we would have expected to have seen. It was an agreement to build houses — and private houses at that. That’s simply not good enough’. But what they have signed on the dotted line with Lend Lease is even worse than anything we feared the Lib Dems might try and pull. It’s a total bloody rip-off of the homes and land and amenity sites of our local community, and worse, one that spits in the faces of the Heygate tenants who for years and years trusted that the Council would look after them as indeed it is charged to do.
THE RIP-OFF JUST WAITING TO HAPPEN
Southwark Notes has been writing about the reality behind the ‘regeneration’ of The Elephant for a long time now. We said this in 2003 at the very beginning of the project and we (sadly) can’t say we were wrong:
(There are) slow moving plans seek to knock down the shopping centre and the Heygate Estate and replace it with a mega complex of hotels, retail developments and hundreds of new expensive private houses and blocks. Along the way, a required percentage of social housing will be factored in. The theory is that the commercial developments make enough profits out of the Elephant Area to kick back some down to the local community in the form of social housing and paying for a few parks or leisure facilities. What private companies want is access to the high land values and property prices that can be found in North Southwark because of it’s close proximty to The City and West End. They also want to build expensive flats for richer people who now are happy to live South for precisely the above reason…Essentially, what is planned for The Elephant then is to change the local character of the area from one of poor people and the type of shops and services poor people use and rely on to a landscape and culture of more well-off people and the mega shops and service industries they require. It’s obvious to us that without this change in the local population, no big business will want to invest their money in big shops, hotels and private leisure facilities in The Elephant because poor people won’t be spending any money in them.
Read the full page here: WHOSE REGENERATION?
Do the maths!! Before the clearance of the Heygate tenants from the estate, there were aprox 1200 council homes for local people. These homes were spacious and well-loved and of course the rent was affordable. The Lend Lease deal offers just over a measly 300 socially rented flats and these being managed by Housing Associations with notorious higher service charges, less landlord accountability, less secure tenancies and less sympathy and goodwill for those suffering hardship and getting into arrears. What are the Councils excuses to the 15,000 people on the Southwark Housing waiting list?
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
It’s clear that despite all the talk of ‘mixed community’ and private house building bringing new wealth and jobs to the area, the story of the Heygate Rip-Off is clearly one of chucking out the poor people from the area and selling it to the better-off (either in the form of developers or in the form of private homeowners in luxury flats). We don’t have a problem with homeowners. Of course, we don’t! Just as many local mortgage payers are no better off than local council tenants. But when you see penthouses and luxury flats going up in the skyline of The Elephant, you have to wonder what the fate of the rest of us who live in the area is? Is it going to be like parts of Docklands or Covent Garden where the local council housing population was either chucked out or priced out? We can look to the the recently gentrified areas like Hoxton and Brick Lane to see what could happen here? What is in store for us? We can only learn the lesson again from the scandal of The Heygate rip-off and this time wise up a bit and be prepared to stand up for where we live – 0ur homes, our parks and services, the places we enjoy and the community we have.
ELEPHANT AMENITY NETWORK
Southwark Notes has been slowly getting involved with the local Elephant Amenity Network, a group who a couple of years back got together some local tenants associations, parks and playgrounds groups, concerned residents and so on to produce a Community Charter to demand the hearing and inclusion of our voices in any regeneration planning. Recently, the group has taken off again with new people getting involved in all sorts of different ways from making leaflets, doing a nice website but also challenging the Council at every step. They have also been active (alongside Peoples Republic of Southwark) in trying to safeguard our community and making a stand for it when it comes to the negotiations over the new Council Core Strategy document. This is a massive brick-like document that sets out the future of what the Council intends to do in the borough and how it does it. It’s tough job wading through Council double-speak and bullshit but they have been making a valiant and exhausting effort.
If what we say strikes some sort of chord with you, then we urge you to contact the Elephant Amenity Network and get involved. Visit the website and see what’s up with them. The link to the site is in our LINKS section. They are meeting once a month in Walworth and are open to all. They are also 100% independent of political parties something we wholeheartedly approve of *-)
THE BLOODY GREAT BIG ELEPHANT RIP-OFF! Part 2 – August 11th 2010
Why The Deal is Totally Rubbish For Local People:
– The whole scheme’s 25% “affordable” housing is the minimum level in the agreement and well below the 35% previously standard on all new developments in London.
– The Shopping Centre and Fusion Leisure Centre are not included in the agreement. It seems likely the Council will Compulsorily Purchase the Shopping Centre forcing the hand of St Modwen’s, the owner. The plan for the Elephant Leisure Centre appears to be to refurbish the Fusion site rather than provide a new facility as previously announced.
– The Financial structure will see three 999 year leases (site divided into three plots to be sold off to developer) for public land. The profit is 20% of total cost (i.e. will rise in line with cost increases, no loss to Lend Lease), up from 16%-ish before.
Planning procedures and local accountability:
– Management board to oversee the regeneration and no longer a steering group. Southwark and Lend Lease will have two representatives on the board. This group will sign off on planning applications. (The Terms and Conditions of steering group will come to one of the local community councils in October 2010). The Consultation strategy for the regeneration is to be defined over next three months. What chance is there of local people being included in the decision making structures?
– The MUSCo is now in doubt. The Council will “seek to” provide it as a “preferred approach” but it is not Lend Lease’s responsibility. MUSCo is Multi Utility Service Company, aimed to provide a single source of (partly) sustainable energy for the new development.
– Master Regeneration Plan – there is no reference to number of homes (2500?), or trees, or new amenities such as schools. London Plan increased requirement from 4000 net/5300 total to 6000, though 2500 figure is not clear/needs confirming it is for whole site
– Transport for London issues have not yet been agreed. Yet another TfL appraisal is on the cards and there is an expectation that Section 106 money could be used to underwrite the transport infrastructure needs. (Section 106 is planning gain money from the developers usually used to provide facilities and development work of some sort of benefit to the local community)
– Lend Lease have an “opt out” clause if the development is found to be not viable. Lend Lease’s finance director is leading a ”transfer of land viability assessment’ – i.e whether it can be done with a profit.
The above is based on a quick analysis of the deal made at the last Elephant Amenity Network meeting in July. Thanks to them for the info.