Received via email to the Southwark Notes HQ in deepest Walworth:
A public consultation event to view and comment on the outline designs for the new Elephant & Castle Leisure Centre and the supporting residential led mixed-use development. The event will be held at Elephant & Castle Leisure Centre, 22 Elephant & Castle, London SE1
6SQ on:

Saturday 14 January 10am – 5pm
Monday 16 January 10am – 5pm
Tuesday 17 January 11am – 8pm

Southwark Notes asks 5 Basic Questions On A Rip-Off In Progress

The original publicity for the Council and Lend Lease regeneration of The Elephant area included a revamped Leisure Centre to benefit all local people. So how does half of this parcel of public land now get used to site a new residential ‘30-40 storey’ tower block with a reduced Leisure Centre behind it? In what way has there been a proper consultation on whether a massive tower is what people want?  The original commitment to a top quality Centre seems a good enough benefit for all.

Why does it now have to be conditional on the private housing component?

Based on this condition, why then is the Leisure Centre reduced and not improved and expanded if Lend Lease, the developers, get their tower of private flats and profits in the millions of pounds? Why is the larger popular sports hall being reduced from 6 to 4 courts when experts at Sport London and Pro-Active said at the original consultation that such facilities are sorely lacking in London?

So, what happened?

Why is the new Tower Block placed at the front of the land and the Centre shoved in at the back? It now seems more about privileging more expensive and mainly private housing than popular and vital local amenities.

Is another massive tower even desirable at The Elephant?

Is Consultation bogus? The September 2010 consultation asked people to look at Option A) Bigger Leisure Centre, Less Housing and Option B) Smaller Leisure Centre and More Housing. The Council also wanted to see if there was ‘a genuine demand’ for a sports hall. Given the stats of people wanting to keep the sports hall and have a good swimming pool, why is Option B chosen and where is the evidence that people wanted less and not more?! Can you consult on a 10 storey tower by just having a vague idea of it at the big consultation in August 2010 and then agree a development in June 2011 where you sell half the site to Lend Lease? Subsequently when you ask people again on the details the 10 storeys have magically become ‘30 or 40 storeys’. *

So where does the slippage come from? And why?

Hence we ask: Is this kind of regeneration just more and more of a total RIP-OFF? It seems like the more they can rip-off the local community the more they will. The profits they make at The Elephant comes from the private housing components and not any retail, cafes etc at the base of the new tower. The profits come from being able to take more of our public land to build private houses as we lose more and more local amenities.

How does this benefit long-term residents?

Answers on a postcard to us please or to the Consultation itself!

* You can see read the Council Consultation Report and the advert for this next round of Consultation here and make your own minds up:

• Southwark Council Leisure Centre_Consultation_Report – October 2010
• Leisure Centre_Consultation Leaflet_January 2012


Southwark Notes asks 1 More Basic Question On A Rip-Off In Progress

Following from our last post written in trepidation of what could be revealed at this weekend’s The Elephant Leisure Centre consultation, we were stunned even beyond our usual cynical selves when we read this on one of the Council’s panels there today:

So we take your time again to ask one more basic question of a Rip-Off in Progress:

The Elephant regeneration fable has been maintained for over ten years on a promise of a few benefits for local people to come as a compromise on the selling off of public land and allowing a massive increase in housing that is unaffordable to most local people. Two of these benefits were a new shopping centre and a new bigger and better Leisure Centre. As of last year it was decided, although not by any local people, that the Shopping Centre will only be refurbished and more new private housing built on the top of it. Regarding the Leisure Centre, a deal has been struck between The Council and LendLease for a new Centre with less space and facilities than the old one provisional on the developers building a 100% unaffordable private housing tower block on half the old site.  When people are consulted on half the facts and plans, it’s not a real consultation. In fact it’s an insult to the local people who for 10 years or more have put up with different Council administration’s blundering, deceit, manipulation and now blatant disregard for the few crumbs that could come from re-making the area as a fist of tower blocks, come and coming soon,  for the more wealthy (Strata, Tribeca Square, Eileen House, 360 London and so).

Consultation is loaded. That much is clear from the Leisure Centre shenanigans. When will local people have a genuine say in what’s going on at The Elephant and by genuine we mean a chance to actually say ‘NO MORE’ to these weasel RIP-OFFs?


Soundings: Sounding us out!

In the top-secret Southwark Notes HQ in Walworth, we overheard this water-cooler account of our visit to the Soundings and Lend Lease consultation on what they are going to do with that nice bit of public land where the Leisure Centre now stands:

“Despite the pain of talking to community consultancy types, I would always choose an employee of a property developer above a touchy-feely consultant specialist for whom words are only a useful means to shape the consultees emotions rather than expressing any ideas attached to concrete objects, house sizes, height of buildings, cost-benefit analysis, that is, things you can name and say ‘but you could do otherwise’. I much more prefer to be quoted statistics at, even if misleading or manipulative, than adjectives such as ‘exciting’, ‘contemporary’, ‘sustainable’, ‘expensive’! *-)

“It was a marathon of patience. A Soundings employee came out of the Leisure Centre and very-very nicely explained that ‘they’ inside do not mind us outside expressing dissent with regards to the consultation, but that they ‘had’ to be out there too in the freezing cold to hand out their own leaflets in order to ‘balance’ the accounts. Otherwise, the passers-by would only see our ’iconic’ RIP OFF elephants and our very poignant five simple questions on the Leisure centre redevelopment”.

“Yeah, at this point I flipped, and just went on a rant “I am SORRY, but YOU are paid to be here, and I am not. You have the budget for full-colour printing of panels, and we have to pay for photocopying out of our own pockets. You have a whole shop on Walworth Road, the Elephant’s high street, where you can show your designs and have as many meetings as you want, and we don’t. You could mail the entire population of the whole borough twice a week if you wanted, while we rely on leaflets, word of mouth and a (free) blog. So, sorry, but I really can’t bring myself to pity you if for five minutes we are stealing your visibility.” The (naïve? clueless?) consult-automaton replied “Oh, but you must understand, our role in this is to give equal space to both accounts, combining a top down approach…” “…and a bottom up approach, yeah.” I finished the sentence for her, as we have heard this nonsensical Soundings ‘principle’ of consultation before”.

“…Once upon a time, consultation used to be run by the Councils in some pretence to accountability to us which they then ignored the result they inevitably didn’t want to hear (like the Heygate Estate survey in 1998 and the Heygate MORI in 1999). Nowadays, consultation is a panda-bear suit exercise in getting the right answers to the right questions. It is run by ‘independent’ agencies that employ happy-smiley functionaries with a background in art and design, performance and public art or less funky, in marketing and PR strategies. These people “can take you places” and “want to know what you know”. ‘we want to listen to you!”. Nothing wrong with any of the above except when it’s paid for by large corporate developers who are out to get maximum benefit from land speculation the public land grab and a mono-culture of studio and 1 and 2-bed luxury flats and certainly won’t enjoy some scruffy herberts with their questioning leaflets and ‘ironic’ RIP-OFF elephant logo raining on your parade. I mean, if I was a property developer, I would want to get something good for my money, no?”

“Yeah, like a big fat juicy Soundings-signed off Statement of Community Involvement to look good in my final Masterplan submisson to the Council Planning Committee. Anyhow, do you wanna grab some noodles, I’m starving?”.

Enough said (for now!)

For the fuller account of the day’s Regeneration Tai-Chi exercises performed outside this consultation see here! Here’s a snippet or two:

Exercise 1: Consultation
Imagine you are a developer/local council. Stretch your arms then fold them to touch your shoulders. Close your eyes. Slowly raise your arms and put your hands on your ears. If you are more experienced, you may want to nod five times. Relax.

Exercise 2: Social cleansing
Imagine you are a local council. Step to your left and bend left leg at knee for support. Turn toward your right hip where you have a bagful of council tenants on prime location property. Shuffle through and take a handful with your left hand. Slowly stretch out and throw them out as far as you can. Repeat with right leg.

Etc etc. *-)


Elephant Leisure Centre Consultation Made Simple

Southwark Notes is always happy to try and simplify matters regarding the long and complex and endless consultations, supplementary planning papers, core strategy reviews, almost final-ish masterplans and so on that make up regeneration comings and goings. So here we present a quick consultation on the current plans for the Elephant & Castle’s Leisure Centre:

1) Do you want a smaller leisure centre with a 36 storey tower block of private flats in front of it with zero affordable housing in it AT THE ELEPHANT?
Answer: Yes / No

The planned new mega-tower block at The Elephant

We’ve devised our easy consultation from weeks of intensive research and asking some people consultants down the pub. This also seems to to be The Question That Was Never Asked during all the LendLease & Soundings consultations even though it’s the most obvious one to start off with. Instead we are asked what kind of architectural details are important in new buildings and what kind of retail do we want and so on. But what about the question above – how many local people would say yes to that?!

Councillor Fiona Colley,  Southwark cabinet member for regeneration, typically says hereFor anyone thinking of moving to Elephant and Castle, or those who already live in this buzzing part of central London, this will be welcome news….It’s easy to see how an enjoyable city lifestyle could be further enhanced by superb leisure facilities, as well as new shopping and recreation opportunities. I’m anticipating lots of interest and welcome people’s feedback on what promises to be an exciting project.”

Apart from committing the cardinal sin of using the adjective ‘buzz’ as if we are all in thrall to such nonsensical regeneration speak, she forgets (because she most know this) that most of us are not enjoying a city lifestyle here nor would we wanna be. What is an ‘enjoyable city lifestyle‘ anyway(*)? Have you got your ‘lifestyle‘ sorted? Answers on a postcard as usual to our Southwark Notes cave!

(*) PS. We found this on the Ye Olde Internet – some arty type who lives in Walworth and had ‘curated‘ a virtual walk around the area for the site Fox and Squirrel Lifestyle Walks!