Tag Archives: Elephant and Castle




Occasionally The Elephant and Castle community is visited by those who have the power to destroy it. In this case, the main culprit is the tax-avoiding offshore-registered company Delancey. We remember the hilarious moment a couple of years ago when one of the Delancey minions was presenting planning updates to the local community at one of those Southwark Council-run neighbourhood meetings where the said minion was asked about the fate of Pricebusters. The minion said he didn’t know what Pricebusters was. Well, seeing as Pricebusters is one of the biggest stores in The Elephant Shopping Centre, you could probably start to form some suspicions that the plans to ‘regenerate’ The Elephant weren’t so much aimed at local people and their shops but maybe, only every so slightly, they might actually be aimed at a different clientele! Hmmm? What do you think?

A lo and behold there came that time again this Thursday March 12th at Southwark’s ‘Empowering Communities North West Area Forum’ at Amigo Hall in Lambeth Rd where locals were promised that the meeting will ‘include an update from Delancey on the redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre‘. Now as you may know the excellent community campaign Up The Elephant has been working tirelessly for a few years resisting the social cleansing plans for The Elephant. In that time, the campaign has also secured many improvements to the original proposals submitted by Delancey to Southwark Council in Oct 2016:

  • An increase of social rented housing from 33 units of social rented equivalent, owned and managed by the developer, to 116 proper social rented units, owned and managed by Council or housing association.
  • Provision of affordable retail space for displaced traders in the Shopping Centre
  • Helped to establish a Traders’ Panel for Shopping Centre businesses to put their views and needs across.
  • Secured a temporary traders’ premises on Castle Square.
  • Trader relocation fund of £634,700 and pressured the Council to add a further £200,000 into the pot.
  • Argued for 15-year affordable retail leases (rents to be held at 75% market for Years 6-15)
  • A change to the s106 legal agreement, to better ensure any future increase in social rented housing.


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None of this comes without a fight though and Up The Elephant and supporters have been holding both the Council and Delancey to account through protests, public meetings, stalls outside the Shopping Centre, benefit film nights and so on. But it’s crunch time at The Elephant as Delancey has announced a closure date of the Centre for 31st July 2020, a matter of only a few months away. Both Latin Elephant and Up The Elephant have been doing an amazing job mapping which traders are there, how many are being offered any relocation and working with traders to fight their corner for decent compensation and/ or relocation. As we write we know that many traders are simply not being helped by Delancey, shops and stalls are closing down and the increasing uncertainty of whether many of these hand-to-mouth businesses can survive until July. Particularly affected are the traders who run market stalls outside the Shopping Centre. Viewed by Delancey as the least desirable in the shiny new development, they are currently getting the worst of it. You can read a good breakdown of the state of things here.



‘When developers visited the City, the used to creep in at the side door, now the councilors bring them in the front door, one on each arm’. Not only had it become respectable for councilors to be seen with developers, it soon became imperative to be involved with them. Indeed, it got to the stage where councilors and developers became indistinguishable. The only real way they could be told apart was that the developer was always talking and the councilor was forever nodding his or her head’.

From ‘Glasgow’s Not For Sale’ by Brendan McLaughin (in ‘The Reckoning’ by Workers City, 1990)

For us at Southwark Notes, somewhat long in the tooth but fighting fit most days, we remember the time when working class communities such as ours, viewed the property developer, like the landlord, as a class enemy. What was known was that deep down, despite any promises, the property developer just wasn’t on our side. What ever they brought to the community wouldn’t be any good. What they wanted was to profit and profit big and we were simply in the way. We knew that and communities worked from that intuition.

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As times went by, the story changed. In Southwark, the controlling Labour council is mostly made up of those who still believe in some working class aspirational nonsense they got from Tony Blair’s New Labour project. They also believe in the Blairite project of ‘regeneration’ that seeks to ‘rebalance’ communities by moving many more middle class people into them. To make this happen, Southwark has been demolishing whole estates or estate blocks to allow private developers to then build 1000s of luxury or overpriced flats as well as the mythical ‘affordable’ housing as a small percentage of the overall new houses being constructed. Although this might have a basis in some wacky New Labour urban policies of yore, for developers it’s a green light to come to our communities, displace them, demolish their organic fabric and make loads of profits for themselves and their investors.

The quote above from the excellent Workers City book out of Glasgow speaks directly to our experience of Southwark Council’s extended love-in with developers over the last 10 years. Peter John, the leader of The Council, standing down after a ten year reign this month, sadly won’t be able to have one last junket in Cannes at the annual property development jamboree MIPIM as it has been postponed due to the Corona virus. Shame as that trip was sponsored by:

  • 2020 Capital, developers of two sites in the Old Kent Rd area
    Avanton, owners of several Old Kent Rd sites including the Ruby Triangle and gasworks
    Berkeley, who have plans for a site on Malt Street
    British Land, the council’s Canada Water development partner
    Get Living, the build-to-rent brand which is a partnership between Qatari Diar and clients of Delancey, active at the Elephant & Castle
    Grosvenor, who have just received approval for their Biscuit Factory scheme in SE16
    Hollybrook – Southwark-based developers with several sites in the borough
    Joseph Homes – developers of a tall building in Sylvan Grove off Old Kent Rd.
    London Square – developers of the old Crosse & Blackwell factory in Bermondsey
    Safestore – self-storage firm with an Old Kent Road site
    Shaw Corporation – developers of HSS Hire and BP petrol station on Old Kent Road
    Urban & Provincial – developers of Carpetright site

You see where Workers City and we are going with this!



When the Delancey date with the local community was announced a few weeks ago, Up The Elephant decided to in some ways escalate their campaign by hosting an ‘Unwelcoming Delancey’ protest outside the Empowering Communities event and to tell Delancey plainly to their face that we will fight to win this campaign. But fighting to win needs fighting words and so the event was underscored with the idea that the brilliant community of The Elephant will no longer stand deferent to the higher-ups, the powers that be, the developers and the Council and any or all of those who are complicit in the destruction of our neighbourhood. Although the demo would not interfere with those attending who wanted to hear updates from the Council, we would face Delancey down with a less than happy smiley face. The modern political terrain seems to be one where politeness is demanded at all times from we underlings lest those in power don’t get their way. Of course the actual slow violence of destroying our communities can then never be up for any angry questioning. As working class people who have been schooled from day one in deference to our betters, it didn’t take us long to throw that in the bin after many humiliating experiences at the hands of those above us.

Unwelcome Delancey March 12 2020 editUnwelcome Delancey Kick

And so we mobilised as best we could, we spread the word, we went online and did that social media thing, we spoke at events and joined a few UCU strike picket lines to make the connections between the financialisation of the university system and the financialisation of housing. We made the connections with those struggling on low pay and high rents to the plain facts that the social cleansing of London mirrors this austere landscape for most working class people and increasingly for many people traditionally seen as middle class. Sometimes we felt a bit like those old American Wobbly organisers going from struggle to struggle to offer support and make links in solidarity. But nothing wrong with that fine itinerant tradition!

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We went to join the UCU strike picket lines at London College of Communication (LCC) in The Elephant and Central St Martins in Kings Cross, both part of University of The Arts London (UAL). UAL are a development partner with Delancey and we heard about the appalling two-tier employment structure where majority Black and Brown cleaning, security and other maintenance staff are outsourced to aggressive race-to-the-bottom global services companies. We heard about excessive workloads for staff, low pay and the fact that a staggering 2500 UAL staff are on insecure ‘Associate Lecturer’ contracts.

Joining the picket at Goldsmiths we heard about the privatisation of student housing where similar private student housing providers take over formerly University run students housing increasing rents and lowering conditions. We briefly popped into the student occupation at LCC too to offer some support just as the management decided to more or less lock them into the room they were occupying. That didn’t surprise us as LCC management has always both been very aggressive to any support for Up The Elephant by staff or students at the same time as it ignores any attempt to seek accountability from them in relation the Elephant community they pretend they are a proud part of.



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Anyhow what happened on the night of the big showdown? Simply this. We got together a good solid crew of locals and supporters, we put our banners out, we leafleted the folks going into the meeting and we waited. Well we didn’t wait so long as a little bird had told us that Delancey had cancelled coming to the meeting. Chickenshits or what? In the end they merely sent along a series of slides and asked the Council to present them to the meeting as the Shopping Centre update! We are hearing that this didn’t exactly go down well at a Council-run meeting designed to empower communities. Even the Council wasn’t that impressed. But hey, what’s the expression? – ‘Lay down with dogs and…’

(We apologise to all dogs! And chickens!)

To add an insult to an injury, Delancey then had the cheek to say that they were concerned about the Corona Virus and hence decided not to come in person! You really couldn’t make this shit up. This is their level of outright contempt. Our feeling is that they simply didn’t feel up to meeting hostile community critics and decided to remain at home at their offshore-registered British Virgin Islands tax haven for the night. For we mere local mortals who are seeing our neighbourhood mangled and destroyed, we don’t have the luxury or privilege to stay at home!



It’s very desperate times. Government plans for housing and urban questions will see more and more of our communities under threat of social cleansing. Our material conditions will be further eroded. We will either turn again to each other or we will turn on each other. We have to think more about what actually organising our communities across intersecting struggles looks like. Sure we can mobilise protests and things but can we actually organise politically and in unity to resist attacks but also to improve our lives and conditions? By organising we mean calling on the deep roots we have with many people and groups where we live. We mean doing basic work of creating infrastructures of survival where we live. We can see some of these initiatives happening now with places like South Norwood Community Kitchen or Cooperation Town network. We can see this at places like food banks where with just a little more support and organising we can turn this into places of community sharing and gathering into food kitchens, advice centres and places to organise from, going beyond the helping hand of charity and running our own spaces of care and support and solidarity for all. We are a very long way from winning but everyday we win a little bit more if keep hope in each other and build confidence.

golsmiths up elephant-

When we changed the language of the Up The Elephant campaign to be a bit more angry and hopefully more of a piss-taking non-deferential mode, we did that to try and build up our energies and the energies of all anti-social cleansing campaigns and organising in London. There have been dozen of meetings and encounters in the last few years between these campaigns. These have been slow, slow work of meeting each other and swapping tactics and practical resources but they are always refreshing. Let’s step up to that work a bit more this year and centralise ourselves in our own community struggles as the people who actually know what we want and know what we need to do to get it. Fuck Delancey! Stay feisty everyone!


* Up The Elephant Campaign Traders demands:

  1. Commit Delancey to an increase of the relocation fund.
  2. Provide transparency and parity between the rent and service charge costs of the relocation options to bring them into line with each other.
  3. Amend the definition of “local independent operator” in the Section 106 agreement so it clearly includes the tenants subletting in Arch 7 and those in the Shopping Centre red line.
  4. Ensure fair treatment of the market traders and a commitment that all traders still within the red line will get a benefit of rent reductions until the Shopping Centre closes.
  5. Ensure that the independent business adviser, Tree Shepherd, applies the agreed criteria for the allocation of relocation spaces in a fair and transparent way.
  6. Ensure that the database of opportunities reflects what was agreed on the approval of planning permission.
  7. Prevent closure of the Shopping Centre until the traders have been relocated or have accessed a suitable level of compensation.











For once in our lifetime at Southwark Notes, we get to write something we’ve never ever written: The Council rejected a Planning Application that sought more luxury flats in The Elephant.

Savour that news, for now, as we have been savouring it too since Tues January 16th when after an epic 7 hour meeting, Delancey’s plans to knock down The Elephant Shopping Centre were put on hold.

Even more impressive was the remarkable re-grouping of the Elephant community. From the old campaigns who have been dogged in their graft from day one, to the new student and staff activists from London College of Communications (LCC), the formidable traders and their supporters, the media work being done by some to get the campaign’s voices out in print and video, and the folks from other parts of London nervous how any luxury over-development of The Elephant will impact their much-loved communities.

It’s been a joyful ride these last few weeks! In fact, we had tears in our eyes when we marched with you all on Tues 16th; 200 strong, up Borough High St to the gates of Southwark Council’s castle in Tooley St. A certain magic enabled us to all get into the Town Hall and make enough noise for the planning committee to know the community was at the door and not just online!!



The last week has seen an amusing counter-PR campaign by the developer Delancey. They set up Twitter accounts to promote all the benefits as they want them to be seen. ‘They’ being an unaccountable offshore-registered, tax-avoiding client fund, so the benefits they see are only ever making ££££ for their investors. There was even a petition set up by the mysterious ‘Zara Hindle’ to encourage locals to support Delancey’s plans. In the end, the PR guff didn’t garner a lot of support. People can see it for what it is, a desperate move by a desperate developer.

The petition accused the campaigns of being an aggressive minority! Well, two things we know for sure are, yes we are aggressive in our assertion of being a community defending itself from the sheer violence of this ‘regeneration’ plan. As for being a minority, this community has organised countless public meetings, gathered online objections to the plan (900+) and pulled together a large and growing band of people determined to defeat this land grab. All this done for love and on a shoestring. There’s certainly no offshore bank accounts paying for any of our hard work.

And we can’t say we’ve seen much love for the plans: at the Planning Meeting on Jan 16th where space is given for someone local to support the plan, not a soul in the room spoke in favour.

In the last weeks too, students at LCC have been doing amazing organising to expose the College’s shameless partnership with Delancey. LCC is brazen in its support of Delancey against the wishes of the local community and have been very heavy-handed in dealing with any internal discussions that staff have tried to have about the LCC’s possible role in the social cleansing of the area.

LCC Occupation – Here

HOLD TIGHT! STAND FIRM! (and apply a pinch of salt…)

But despite all of this amazing campaigning and coming together, the dice is always loaded. We are not being cynical when we say that this is just the start. We face the long haul now and the campaigns have to stay sharp. We are going to be as honest as we can right now and say that the work of some local councillors on this campaign has been great and we’ve even heard a councillor or two say the word ‘gentrification’ here and there. Interesting times. But councillors, as ever, are as accountable to their communities and this round of speaking up remains to be tested over the next years. We are not being spiteful to remind people that not so long ago some of those same councillors sat in the same planning meeting as we all and approved the demolition of the Heygate Estate or the Aylesbury plans. But if there now is a sea change in local Labour party politics coming from pressure from local party members, and the national direction of the party, that’s great. Do your best! Just remember that the trust broken for years cannot be re-established in one night.

For us, we want to continue from this new found determination to defeat the social cleansing of the Elephant and beyond. We want local communities setting the agenda of what we want and what we clearly don’t want. And, of course this means support for our neighbours at the Aylesbury Estate where more of the same disaster is being dumped top-down onto tenants and residents. There is ample space now for local ward councillors there to be less pro-regeneration and listen better to the serious concerns of the community campaign on the Aylesbury. The ongoing Public Inquiry to the attempt to Compulsorily Purchase people’s homes on the Aylesbury has more than enough evidence and facts on how bad this ‘regeneration’ scheme is and will be for Walworth for generations to come.



The community’s campaigning has made all the right and best arguments for the Elephant and we’ve all been backing them up with action. On Tues 30th January, the planning application is back at Southwark’s Planning Meeting. The pressure to pass the plan must be enormous on those sitting on the Planning Committee. It’s not even so clear what is possible at that Planning Meeting. The Council’s planning team has been publicly saying the reasons for refusing the plans are weak. Will there be more back-room wheeler-dealing like we saw at 1AM in the morning on Tues 16th! We hope not.

Once again, the community has called for a large mobilisation at the Town Hall. We say again: for any Londoner who fears for London becoming more and more a place for the rich and the wealthy at an extreme cost to the fabric of our local areas, please come down and support the battle for the heart of the Elephant. We are calling for a COMMUNITY CARNIVAL to demand that the vote is respected and that there is no STITCH UP! And we will be there to make sure this doesn’t happen!

Bring your campaign banners, flags, mobile sound systems, energies and passions! See you all there!

Elephant Shopping Centre: The Time Is Now! Meeting Tues 28th Feb


The Shopping Centre is owned by property developer Delancey. It wants to demolish the Centre and build new shops and 900+ new homes in its place. But before Delancey can demolish the Centre it must get planning permission from the local council, Southwark. It must also get Southwark Council’s permission for any new buildings it wants to build.

Delancey gave Southwark its plans for the new shops and homes before Christmas. Delancey’s plans raise two big questions;

Will there be new shops for local traders?
Will there be new homes for local people?

Southwark Council is now asking what local traders and local residents think of Delancey’s plans and we must make our voices heard.

The Elephant Amenity Network is a group of local people that campaigns for a better deal from the Elephant’s regeneration. In this public meeting we invite all local people to discuss Delancey’s plans for the Shopping Centre – what we think of them and how we want them changed. We are being supported by the Southwark Green Party and other groups and campaigns.

The meeting will on Tuesday February 28th at 7pm

Venue: Tesco’s First Floor unit (above Tescos shop)

All are welcome – come and join us!


Delancey’s plans for the shopping centre can be seen above. You can make comments here on our online form. It’s simple to use:



Already there are detailed responses to Delancey’s plans most focusing on the plight of local traders in the Centre and market who are not being well looked after. Re-location strategies have not been forthcoming and only vague promises are being made (if at all), something we have seen across the entire Elephant regeneration project. Worth reading these objections from Southwark Green Party & Latin Elephant. They may give you some fine details to work with for your objections.


The meeting has been organised by the Elephant Amenity Network’s 35% Campaign – http://35percent.org/



El centro comercial es propiedad de los desarrolladores Delancey, quienes proponen demoler el centro y construir nuevas tiendas y residencias en su lugar.

Pero antes de la demolición del centro ellos deben obtener permiso de gobierno local de Southwark. También debe obtener de Southwark Council permiso para la construcción de nuevos edificios.

Delancey entregó sus planes para nuevas tiendas y residencias antes de Navidad. Los planes de Delancey resaltan dos preguntas importantes:

  • ¿Habrá nuevas tiendas para comerciantes locales?

  • ¿Habrá nuevas residencias para la gente local?

Southwark Council está preguntándole a comerciantes y residentes locales qué piensan sobre los planes de Delancey y debemos dejarles saber nuestro sentir, que nuestras voces se escuchen.

Elephant Amenity Network es un grupo de personas locales que llevan una campaña para obtener un mejor resultado de la regeneración de Elephant. En nuestra próxima reunión discutiremos los planes que Delancey tiene para el centro comercial – Qué pensamos y qué queremos cambiar. Nos apoya el partido ambientalista de Southwark (Southwark Green Party).

La reunión será a las Martes 28th febrero, 7pm

¿dónde? – TESCO Unidad de primer piso

Todos bienvenidos – les esperamos!


Los planes de Delancey estan disponibles en


Esta reunión organizada por Elephant Amenity Network’s 35% Campaign – http://35percent.org/

We Southwark Notes folks have written extensively about the fate of the Shopping Centre. Our most recent and top piece here: The Murder of The Elephant

HOW THE ELEPHANT WAS SOLD! Putting Tuesday 15th January 6pm In Your Diary!

‘I think there’s gonna be a leisure centre or something, behind the tower, somewhere…something like that, a little one and some new shops’*
Rob Deck, Lend Lease’s Elephant and Castle Project Director sells The Elephant at this week’s perfunctory and bizarre ‘community preview‘ of One The Elephant development – 37 storeys of luxury flats mainly to be sold off-plan to foreign investors**

Next Tuesday 15th January 2013 will see Southwark Council’s Planning Committee gather at their Tooley St offices to rubber-stamp Lend Lease’s Masterplan for the Elephant and Castle area. They have already issued a press release about why the Masterplan needs to be approved and all the total unaccountable crud and spin that goes with it – making mixed communities, more money for affordable housing, new parks, new this and new that. There will be some kind of debate amongst the councillors on the committee and 5 minutes in total have been allotted for public objections on the biggest planning application ever received by Southwark.

It’s taken a long long time to get this far. A really long time. We and countless others have been arguing against this form of regeneration of the local area for a long time too. We urge everyone who feels uncertain or pissed off about this monster rip-off to read the collective response to the Council below from the three brave local folks who will be standing up in the five minutes to give their best shot in making someone in the council see sense and vote NO to this scheme.

We also urge that anyone who feels uncertain or pissed off about this scheme, makes sure they come to Planning Meeting this Tuesday 15th January at 6pm at the Council Offices at 160 Tooley St, SE1 (London Bridge tube)


Heygate Outline Masterplan application 12-AP-1092
and demolition application 12-AP-3203.

We are representatives of local groups who have objected to the above applications. We propose to speak on behalf of these groups at the planning committee meeting next Tuesday evening, 15th January 2013.

We have the following concerns and objections which cannot be fully aired in 5 minutes.  We have therefore listed them and trust that you, and  your colleagues, will help us ensure that they are fully addressed, by asking questions of us based on these points.

References to the ‘report’ are to the officer’s report for the planning applications that recommends approving the scheme.
Jerry Flynn (Elephant Amenity Network)
Philip Ashford (Garland Ct TRA)
Adrian Glasspool (Heygate Leaseholders Group)
Our concerns and objections are as follows;-

Application 12-AP-3203 (Demolition)
The Heygate Leaseholders Group are losing their homes to facilitate this application. We are objecting to the Compulsory Purchase Order placed on their homes on the grounds that the public benefits of the scheme have been lost. Heygate Leaseholders were promised a retained equity option in assisting them to purchase homes in the new development, there is no such option in the accompanying scheme application. The Leaseholders Group requests that the provision of such an option is a condition of granting both the demolition application and the development application.
Interim Use
  • lack of proposals for interim uses of existing resources of the Heygate estate during the 15 year development period. 
  • lack of public access arrangements to the site, so that the rich potential for interim use can be realised
A possible interim use on the site is Crossway Garden – This walled green space is located towards the north eastern edge of the masterplan, south of Crossway Church. Over the last 2-3 years the garden has cultivated as a nursery bed for fruit trees and bushes. Children from the local Victory Park School have been involved with planting days. Gardening is connected with the nearby Victory Park as part of a neighbourhood gardening initiative and Southwark Green Links.

Application 12-AP-1092
Financial Viability

  • doubts about the financial viability of the scheme
  • how will the ‘viability gap’ in the scheme be bridged?
  • how will we avoid the Heygate becoming yet another stalled development site?

The viability of the scheme is described as ‘problematic’ (para. 151) and refers to a ‘viability gap’ representing ‘very big risk’ on the part of the applicant (para. 153). The Phase one Heygate application states: “The level of affordable housing proposed represents a level that is currently above what is indicated as being viable.”  Non-viability of the scheme is also listed in the council’s risk register as one of the major impediments to the scheme going ahead.

How is the viability gap between the viable level of affordable housing at 9.4% and the 25% (para. 150 & 153) offered being bridged while maintaining the financial stability of the scheme?The 360 London (London Park Hotel) and Oakmayne Plaza (Tribeca Square) sites were granted planning permission six years ago; these sites remain undeveloped. There is no reference to the time schedule for the delivery of the detailed planning applications in the report.We propose that a condition be attached to any approval of the application requiring a fixed schedule of applications.

  • lack of social rented housing
  • phasing of the affordable housing delivery

The scheme will provide only 71 social rented units out of a total 2,300 new homes (para. 159). This is in breach of Southwark Council’s planning policy, which would require approx. 400 social rented units. 198 affordable rent properties are also being provided, but they are not affordable for many residents of the borough. 

Affordable rent is also not a type of social rented housing. Both the National Planning Policy Framework and draft revisions to the London Plan have social rent and affordable rent as separate categories of affordable housing (with intermediate housing as a third category). A consortium of 9 boroughs including Southwark supported this position at the London Plan examination in public in November 2012. Therefore affordable rent units cannot be used to meet the social rented proportion of the affordable housing required by policy. The application should therefore be rejected on these grounds.
The first two tranches of the six tranches of the scheme only deliver 20% affordable housing (para. 156). This means that the first 1,200 units of the scheme will only provide 20% affordable housing. This should be changed so that 25% minimum is delivered from the beginning of the scheme. 
An initial review of the affordable housing delivery is proposed only after two years beyond the first approved application (para. 154). We are also concerned that the conditions for changes in phasing will not be strong enough to ensure that the development is delivered in a timely fashion (para. 35).
Garland Court/Wansey Street residents

  •  detrimental impact of Walworth Sq. on Garland Ct and Wansey Street
  •  the impact of density of the development on local residents
  •  the impact proximity of the development on local residents
  •  loss of amenity, particularly privacy, quietness, daylight, residential character
  •  disruption during demolition and construction
 The residents and shopkeepers of Wansey St, Balfour St, Rodney Rd, Henshaw St, Salisbury estate and Peabody trust will all suffer significant degrees of disruption and inconvenience over many years.  There are particular concerns about the impact of the new  public square off the Walworth Rd on the amenity of Garland Court and Wansey Street residents.

Public Realm

  • the reduction in amount of green and open space
  • the private management of the park
  • maintaining real public accessibility of the park
  • Highway Authority concerns about Estate Management Company control

The park will be managed by a private Estate Management Company (EMC). The park should be designated public open space and if not Council managed, a trust should be considered as an alternative, instead of a Parks Advisory Group (paras 326 & 380)

We note the comments made by the Highway Authority that the Estate Management Strategy assumes management of the existing areas adopted by the EMC (Appendix 2 – para. 11). We share the Highway Authority’s concerns and object to the public realm appearing to move into private hands. 

We note the Highway Authority’s comments quoted here and support its proposals for alternative management and enforcement regimes:

“General concern is raised about the proposed number of new private streets (unadopted highways) within the application given the likely impact on the council’s ability to control the network and manage the boroughs streets and spaces for the benefit of residents, businesses and the travelling public.  If this course is pursued then it is strongly recommended that robust alternative management and enforcement regimes are included in any consent.” (Appendix 2 – Para. 11)

Car Parking 

  • contrary to Southwarks car-free policy
  • reduce the number of car-parking spaces

The development is not free of car parking as originally envisioned and set out as policy by Southwark in the E&C SPD. If the scheme is not to be free of car parking, a condition should be created which sets it at a lower rate than the up to 27% of units having car parking (plus motorcycle parking plus car club places) that is currently being demanded.


616 car-parking spaces are proposed for the scheme (para 225) despite Council policy requiring it to be car free.  The Elephant has the highest possible public transport accessibility rating (PTAL 6b) so why are so many car-parking spaces needed?

Strata Tower which has been completed has car parking set at 14%, the consented Oakmayne development 11%. Most recently St Mary’s Residential was granted at 16% (8% disabled and 8% private). If parking is to be allowed it should be at a far lower rate.


  • inaccuracies in ecology section of the report
  • inaccurate data, un-evidenced claims and lack of consultation
  • no collection of baseline data
  • potential impact of scheme on local biodiversity and lack of mitigation measures                                                             
Victory Community Park and the Elba Place nature garden are close by the Heygate estate. Both are Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) and the Elba Place nature garden is used by the Victory School – both are rich in biodiversity. There are serious factual inaccuracies in the Ecology Implications section of the report. (paras. 312 – 319). We do not believe any assessments have been made of the sites relating to the impact of the proposed development. The data reported in the environmental statement is out of date, incomplete and inaccurate, and does not allow baseline assessment of the potential adverse effects of the development. Southwark’s own plan 12.31 policy 3.28 does not permit damage to SINC’s in order to facilitate development, and requires mitigation and compensation for any damage to biodiversity. This application does not meet those requirements. 
  • concern about caveat on retention of existing trees
  • unnecessary removal of trees
  • Highway Authority recommendation for tree planting
The applicant proposes to remove 283 and retain 123 of the 406 existing trees (para. 336). The retention of the 123 trees is compromised by a caveat deferring to detailed surveys (Root Protection Area – RPA surveys) due to be carried out during later design stages.(Tree Strategy 1 of 8, Page 22, Paragraph 6.4)

These RPA surveys should be carried out now and a firm commitment given to retention of trees. A greater number of trees should be considered for retention, especially those on the north side of Heygate St. for which there appears to be no clear grounds for their removal.

We note the objection made by the Highways Authority that the proposed streets will be too narrow to give sufficient space between buildings for newly-planted trees to grow adequately. We support the Highway Authority’s recommendation: “It is recommended that the minimum critical distance for streets be increased to 12m in all instances. In the absence of this it is unlikely that street trees and other planting will be accommodated adequately;” (Para. 11 – Appendix 2)


  • lack of sustainable alternatives
  • unrealistic energy centre connection proposals
  • unfeasable biomethane fuel proposals
This scheme was chosen by Bill Clinton as a global example of zero carbon development. The scheme aimed to produce enough on-site renewable energy to supply the entire Elephant & Castle area. This aim has since been abandoned and the application fails to propose any on-site renewable energy whatsoever, contrary to Southwark’s policy which requires 20% minimum.

We note that the application considers biomethane gas for its on-site renewable energy requirements. We don’t believe that this an acceptable proposal for reasons that the report itself notes, including:

  1. Biomethane is not classified as an on-site renewable energy source therefore it cannot meet Southwark’s policy requirements (para. 411)
  2. There is currently no supply of biomethane available in the UK (para. 410)
  3. The applicant is not proposing to generate any biomethane gas, and makes no firm commitment to purchase any should it become available in the future
We propose that the 20% on-site renewable energy requirement is met using a combination of the alternatives listed in paragraph 406.

We note the report’s comment that through planning permission additional plant can be installed to accommodate additional capacity (para. 404). We request that a planning condition is applied upon granting the application accordingly: The new Energy Centre should be constructed such that it has sufficient capacity to supply all of the surrounding developments as identified in the Energy Strategy.
  • inadequacies of proposed new routes
  • no proper transport assessment
  • no proper connection to strategic routes
The cycling proposals fail to take sufficient account of the deaths and injuries cyclists have suffered around the Elephant and Castle. It is proposed to widen the northern roundabout, which will increase traffic flow. The new cycle connection suggested between Brandon St and Meadow Row is not more ‘direct’ as the officer’s report claims, and ignores the key connection with the crossing at Falmouth Rd.
A CS6 cycle route through the Heygate site and the needs of commuter cyclists are not being considered in this application.S106

  • potential net loss of 1,500 sq metres of community facilities
  • transport infrastructure spend        
The Heyate comprised a total of 2,500 sq metres of community facilities; the scheme proposes a minimum of just 1,000 sq metres. The minimum should be increased to 2,500 sq metres so that there is not net loss in community facilities.  
The transport infrastructure spend is still insufficient to fund improvements to the tube station and northern roundabout.     

  • will the London Living wage be paid for employment on scheme?
  • no long term commitment to affordable retail units for existing small and independent traders who are likely to be displaced
  • no targets for jobs for local residents post construction
There is no information on how many of the affordable retail units will be available for displaced local retail businesses.
Those employed in construction jobs on the scheme should receive at least the London Living wage.
We note the minimum construction jobs target for local residents (para. 376) We would like to see a similar minimum target for local residents post construction (para. 135). A definition of the area of local benefit is also needed.
We note that the legal agreement will secure 10% of affordable retail space which will be prioritised for existing SMEs in the E&C OA. However, it is understood that this may be limited to a term of just 5 years, thereby failing to provide long-term security for small retailers. 
Place Making
  • The size of the large retail units at ground floor are too large
  • The scale, height and form of the buildings need to create a positive sense of place
  • Cafes and other amenities need to be affordable

The footprints of the ground floor retail spaces are considerably larger than that of many of the surrounding local businesses. The building form should create a larger number of smaller units. This would increase permeability, enrich the public domain and encourage local businesses to connect with the development.

The area around the base of the Strata tower is an example of how the public realm can become marginalized through the impact of tall buildings. The scale, height and massing of the proposed development should be reconsidered.

The proposed cafes around the green space may not be affordable to all local people, and will therefore fail to create a truly human sense of place and inclusiveness for the neighbourhood. Smaller scale community focused businesses should be integrated within the proposals.

* Not an actual quote from Rob but more of that Southwark Notes sarcasm

** Since this post, we are proud to announce that, after the UK, the country with the second most hits on this site is Singapore! Welcome to all our viewers in The Far East: One The Elephant 價過高 / harga yang terlalu tinggi

The Affordables Part Three

There’s so much going on at The Elephant we have to admit we are overwhelmed. From the presentation of the Lend Lease Final Masterplan Rip-Off Exhibition to the ongoing Leisure Centre decimation. Not only that but possible plans to build 1000 new homes on top of a re-jigged Shopping Centre. Police have been arresting people in The Elephant’s Latino Community as the same time as that community is working hard to establish it’s wonderful presence with pride and dignity. At the same time as holding a big meeting with clueless GLA Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes to express concerns that the Latino community will not benefit from any local regeneration, the police and UK Borders Agency have been hauling people in from the streets and in local latino-run business as part of Operation Condor* and routine nonsense. The worst excess of such dastardly behaviour was the arrest of 90 people who were queuing to get into the famous Puerto Rican Don Omar concert at The Coronet on February 25th. See here for more.

The amazing new fish pond on the Heygate Community Gardens that the Council don’t enjoy!

Alongside this we are trying to figure out if The Council actually knows what it is doing anymore with getting affordable housing agreed in The Elephant. There is also the dubious threat to the Heygate Community Gardens and Allotments that has just started to brew up today – See our March 2012 entry on our Heygate page for the full story or here.

So, in lieu of our usual forthright and sharp analysis we present some of our hare-brained and half-baked ideas in comic format. We hope you enjoy the break. Normal service will be resumed soon!


* Operation Condor is not the most sensitive name for any police conduct in a Latino community as it was the name of was  ‘a campaign of political repression and terror involving assassination and intelligence operations officially implemented in 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships of South America. Due to its clandestine nature, the precise number of deaths directly attributable to Operation Condor is highly disputed. It is estimated that a minimum of 60,000 deaths resulted from Condor‘. As many of the Latino population of London are exiles and political refugees from those time, or their sons and daughters, we suggest a new name for the Operation might be found.


TUEsDAY October 18th 2011

AUSTIN OSMAN SPARE leaves Walworth Rd

As time passes, more and more comes to be written about Austin Osman Spare, a painter and occultist that Southwark can claim as its own. Some of us here have done a fair amount of legwork and scribbling about Spare. Not only is Chapter 8 from the pamphlet ‘NINE THINGS THAT AREN’T THERE: a manoeuvre around The Elephant & Castle’ all about Spare’s living, working and walking in Southwark but we also organised a pub crawl once around the three local pubs that Spare has exhibited in in his shortish lifetime. Not only was he an exceptional illustrator, controversial war artist and painter of occult laced pictures, Spare also painted hundreds of portraits of local people in the later part of his life as a local Walworth character.

Lest we forget, here is the list:
• The Temple Bar (Doctors), 286 Walworth Rd, 28 October – 29 November 1949
• The Mansion House Tavern, 12 June – 12 July 1952
• The White Bear, London, 19 November – 1 December 1953

Spare had previously exhibited in 1904 (or 05) in the Newington Library, still existing by the old Town Hall (One Stop Shop) and much later at his studio above Woolworths at 56a Walworth Rd in 1937 and 1938 before it was bombed in 1941. The destruction of his studio meant he made a short stay at a hostel then at 86 Walworth Rd. Spare eventually moved to Stockwell, still painting and living with his cats before passing away in 1956.

For more about Austin Osman Spare see the Internet or check out Phil Baker’s new biography. We haven’t read it yet but it looks good.

So, we mention all this merely to point up the passing away of The Temple Bar on Walworth as one more nail in Spare’s dusty spinning coffin. The Mansion House in Kennington has been closed far ages. It only leave The White Bear now. Tragic really! Does no one drink in pubs anymore? How come The Temple Bar can close overnight and become a Poundland?


WEDNESDAY October 12th 2011

Dense, Private and Making Big Buck$!*

Yes, the Horror! The Horror! arrives finally now that LendLease and partner architects DRMM unleash the nightmare on Balfour St that many have been expecting. We won’t spend too much time gnashing our teeth here. Better just to lay it out simply:

(1) Heygate Estate, the Rodney Rd site before demolition earlier this year.
– 105 homes of which 26% were family-sized dwellings, 30% were two bedroom, 36% were one bedroom and a further 8% were studio flats. Mostly these were public housing council tenancies.
– A series of streets and open spaces where you could walk however you wanted through the area.
–  Lots of trees to enjoy

(2) Rodney Rd, Phase One of The Heygate redevelopment plan
– 250 new homes of which 0% will be four bedroom size, %10 will be family size, 55% will be two bedroom, 30% one bedroom and 5% studio flats.
– Five new developments: 4, 5, 6, 12 and 14 storeys tall.
– A private courtyard in between three of the new blocks.
– A new street through the site ‘Paragon Row’ that links to Henshaw St.
– Less public trees. The real retention of the trees is outlined below:

We ask now – what percentage of these new 250 flats will be in anyway affordable to local people? Not part-buy, part-rent as we know this is supremely unaffordable for most locals but socially rented secure homes. You could almost be forgiven in thinking that after all that ‘listening‘ they want to do to us, that their ears were sadly blocked up with tens or twenties. Oh excuse us, we mean
the pink elephant £50 notes!

What we have here is a dense mass of new housing for a very specific demographic – single people and couples. We said we wanted real affordable housing. We said we wanted family housing. We said we wanted to keep the trees and not have areas privatised under our noses. Their reply, finally, is the silent finger!

If you imagine that the Rodney Rd site is only a mere 10% of the whole Heygate site then you can imagine the horrors to come! A solid dumping ground of blocks and blocks of crappy apartment buildings, cascading in height to accord with Serpentine view and  with some townhouses and some public through-routes. Also no doubt lots of what LendLease call ‘semi-private parks’ i.e not public at all times. It’s LendLease’s pile-em up and pack it in strategy from their Olympic Village in the East End. The image from the Village reminds us of the famous Pruitt-Igoe blocks, the giant public housing complex in St Louis, Missouri!

Does it have to be like this? Of course, not. Argument and pressure is what’s needed. Not more phony consultation and sweet sweet honeymoon with LendLease.

(*) of course!!

Sunday October 9th 2011:


The regeneration of the Elephant & Castle has been a long time coming. Some people can’t wait for it and other people hope it never happens. Various phases come and go from flurries of activity, glossy brochures and consultations that are soon then followed by delays, deceits and downright scandalous behaviour. Those of us who have lived through this long history maintain a long memory for these eternally returning negativitities in our area.

In the first failed round of regeneration up to 2002, the then Council Director of Regeneration Fred Manson famously upset local residents with his idea that the large number of poor people in The Elephant meant that ‘the middle classes stay away’. He then added that the problem of the area was that it ‘was full of the wrong sort of residents’. If we fling ourselves forward again to the year 2011, we can hear Rob Deck, LendLease Project Director of The Elephant regeneration say to a Liaison Group meeting that ‘The Elephant & Castle has no soul..there is no community here’. This is the same statement as Fred Manson’s above but cast in a less feral way. What Rob is saying is that LendLease cannot detect a heart and soul amongst us poor types because the area is not full of new build private housing and chain stores and destination shops (i.e shops that pull people into the area). What this fails to understand and regeneration developers will always either fail to see this or not really care in the first place is that poor local areas such as The Elephant are rich in micro-communities that live side by side with each other in a mostly harmonious and common-sensical way. If you walk around the area you will see a wide range people doing things that are what most people in this area do. They live in local houses and flats, they shop in local shops, they hang out in local streets and parks and they eat, drink and amuse themselves in local caffs, pubs, takeaways and restaurants – The Red Lion, The Tankard, Wetherspoons, Café Time, Café House, Ranya, The Noodle Bar, Dragon Castle, Best Kebab, the Ivory Arch, La Bodeguita, Mamoya and so on. The area is not ‘vibrant’, ‘exotic’ or ‘cool’. It is what it is and has been for a long time – a sustained organic fabric of different communities that grow up alongside each other and exist within the mostly affordable services and amenities that the area offers. That these shops and other places exist is because of the population in the first place here and now and not any other external reason. This is the heart and soul of the area – those million tiny daily interactions that are invisible to developers because otherwise the developers could not then pretend that the area was a blank slate to fill with some kind of artificial heart.

It is not chain stores or fancy shops, hotels and coffee shops, bars and hip places, or maybe conference facilities and hotels that will bring a heart and soul to the area. The attraction of people to the area on a temporary basis and the influx of commercial activity to cater for those people will not be something organic and livable. It will be a recreation of every other badly planned and badly developed parts of London pretending that such development whose soul is based on making money will provide a missing heartbeat here too.

It’s what is already here that is the community. At Southwark Notes, we don’t need to even walk the streets to detect what this heartbeat might mean economically and culturally for the area. We can write up a list from the top of our heads: the African guys hanging at night outside at Malata mini-market and going absolutely crazy during the World Cup; Domino players outside the Elephant market’s Caribbean food kiosk with the slap, slap, slap of the pieces; Karaoke at The Tankard Friday Nights to hurt your eardrums and musical sensibilities, maybe?; Kids and mums and dads at St Mary Newington in the new playground spinning round; Caff culture and all the conversations and the food from egg roll and chips to hot pepper soup to kebab and salad / time-tested East St market, never-changing, ever changing; Baldwins on Walworth Rd in the Herbal side where conversations between customers on ancient remedies for ancient ailments abound; Football on the big screen and Irish music in The Red Lion, Brazilian music in the newish Banana bar; Drunken people gathering outside Morrisons on the public chairs cheek by jowl next to the occasional God botherers of all varieties…

What we have here locally covers all the bases for what you need. If you want something fancy then the West End is a bus ride away. It’s somewhat amazing to think that developers and The Council can imagine that branches of Tescos, Gap, H+M, Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Wagamama, Giraffe Café, Pizza Express or whatever could constitute a desirable ‘cultural identity’ over what we already have here.

You may have noticed the big mauve signs The Council have been sticking up everywhere that say ‘REVITALISE’ and end in a postcode such as REVITALISE17. This is the same notion that we are talking about above. If we decode the ‘Revitalisation’ motto we see that they are talking about bringing life back to an area as if all live had already been lost here. It’s no coincidence that we can see this motto at work across the world from Baton Rouge in the USA to Rio De Janeiro in Brazil to Walworth Rd in London for this is the accepted planning and developer speak for getting rid of the poor people because they don’t spend much on shopping and housing. Developers call this revitalization ‘adjusting the mix’ or ‘balancing the local’ but what they mean is getting rid of the ‘wrong sort of residents’.


What would bringing Walworth Rd a little revitalising kiss of life mean? We outline some of our nightmares here.

It’s Bye Bye to the Shell Garage at the top end of Walworth Rd. It’s lease is up in November and so it will be saying goodnight and bon nuit! LendLease, the re-developers of The Elephant area are looking at the site for a Box Park-style temporary arty / foodie market (click the link if you have a strong (organic) stomach). Such a notion was expressed at a recent Lend Lease Liaison Meeting at The Hub on Walworth Rd. You can see some of LendLease’s ideas from their recent Interim Uses document:

BoxPark, as an inspiration, describes itself as “BoxPark is radical stuff. it’s not some run-of-the-mall shopping centre. It’s a living, fertile community of brands packed with talent, innovation and attitude that puts creativity and fashion back where they belong: on the street. BoxPark isn’t just where you shop. it’s an inspiring and enjoyable place to drop in and hang out. It’s what a real brand experience should be all about.” Etc ad nauseam. So it’s basically more niche shopping and the creation of a funky fun entertainment ‘creative’ zone for an area that has been pretty much free of such banal spectacles. ‘Creative’ must be the most overused word to disguise the imposed gentrification of formerly unfunky areas. It’s as if we must be either heathens or purely miserablists if we don’t support those ‘creatives types’ but we have our own funk in the area, as described above in our list, thank you. Always have and that’s what makes the area worth not filling with acres of hip shopping and cool bars like Brick Lane or Shoreditch.

It’s also about recognising that the area is incredibly mixed in terms of ages and what shopping, services and amenities all those ages can access. Areas which have been subject to the explosion of hipster shopping and foodie lifestylism are reduced down to one particular range of ages and incomes whereby the sainted 21 – 35 year old demographic get to enjoy their new playgrounds of artbars, coffee shops, clubs and boutiques and everyone else is pushed to the margins. Just walk down Shoreditch High St on the weekend and you’ll see this age range running free. It certainly isn’t very pleasant, considerate or inviting. Not cool, I’m afraid. Is this really what local people want for the Elephant area?

We added our own brand to this one…

The usual cycle runs to a traditional pattern:

(1) the first wave of more pioneer types respond to the pseudo-ambience created by the creative types who start with temporary and more marginal activity in the area, this itself often being at the hest of developers who fund the hip things.

(2) the second wave is the opening of estate agents and more bars and boutiques that attract more people. More new build residential one and two bedroom flats arrive for people who like the ‘buzz’ but don’t produce it. They only consume it. An interesting article from a recent Evening Standard on ’16 Reasons to Visit SE16′ can be read exactly as the above idea. It’s function is really to act as a puff piece for property for sale and rent in the area where the supposed ‘Lifestyle’ to be had by moving there is all important in attracting buyers. Am sure you will be digging Manzes pie and mash too a day after an opening at White Cube, baby!

(3) the last third wave is that the chain stores, attracted by all the new residential properties use their money muscle to open stores in the area. Then the area becomes just another high street of chain stores with a few independent trendy stores surviving. You can look at Borough Market and follow some of this cycle. Count how many chains are opening up there now as traders move out to other areas. In Spitalfields, the old and popular market was renovated and contains a small market surrounded by massive offices, chain coffee shops and restaurants no different from The South Bank or Covent Garden now.

In some ways, things like bringing a BoxPark-style market on a temporary basis to The Elephant is a bit of a sop towards the now fabled ‘Interim Uses’ which are just written into development plans the same as toothless consultations and listening sessions have no real consequence unlike the dumping of hundreds of new units of private housing in an area still dominated by socially provided homes. We wonder if the traditional cycle of gentrification as outlined above is an outdated model for this area. It seems more likely now that  there will be some of the urban funky flavas brought to the area by consciously by LendLease and unconsciously by those who think it’s a good idea to run your temporary arty boutique in a ‘incubation unit’ as these things are called. But we doubt there will be so much of this. What we will really get from LendLease and other developers is the meat of the issue – lots and lots of densely packed and massed new private homes and flats in a central located area close to the Tube. Why? Because this is where the wonga is made. In property. The wonga is not made in mini-parks, open-spaces, street markets, new libraries or community facilities such as leisure centres. We haven’t been writing so much about the scanty details of what LendLease plan for the Heygate site but you can read a response here by some local people to the ideas for the Rodney Rd Heygate Site – basically a mass of housing in a small area. Another response here!

Such a ‘Third Wave’ gentrification strategy, as it has been dubbed, one that does not conform to the earlier model outlined above, is described better by geographer Neil Smith (full text here):

Retaking the city for the middle classes involves a lot more than simply providing gentrified housing. Third-wave gentrification has evolved into a vehicle for transforming whole areas into new landscape complexes that pioneer a comprehensive class-inflected urban remake. These new landscape complexes now integrate housing with shopping, restaurants, cultural facilities, open space, employment opportunities – whole new complexes of recreation, consumption, production and pleasure, as well as residence. Just as important, gentrification as urban strategy weaves global financial markets together with large and medium-size real estate developers, local merchants, and property agents with brand-name retailers, all lubricated by city and local governments for whom social outcomes are now assumed to derive from the market rather than its regulation. Most crucially real-estate development becomes a centrepiece of the city’s productive economy, an end in itself, justified by appeals to jobs, taxes and tourism. In ways that could hardly have been envisaged in the 1960’s, the construction of new gentrification complexes in central cities across the world has become an increasingly unassailable capital accumulation strategy for competing urban economies.

As we said before, from NYC to Rio to SE17, you might see something new and local –  an apartment building for example but what you are also looking at is the zipping of wonga round the globe looking for investment and profits. Then the profits are re-invested in similar schemes be they SE1 or Sydney or Buenos Aires etc. Hand in hand with global profit is the need for new parts of cities to become available for such schemes. If you look at Heygate from a business point of view, you don’t see houses and families, you see prime land that you can arrange a whole group of agencies from the council to investors to architects to builders to accountants to retailers to implement the great money making scheme upon. The result is always a C.R.E.A.M landscape! Cash Ruling Everything Around Me!! £££…and so on!


One of the difficulties of writing up all this gentrification and regeneration business as we have been doing over the past few years, is how often we simply write in the negative about all that comes to pass in the way of new builds, changes to shops and grander developments plans. This has been something that has been troubling us a lot recently as the pace of gentrification speeds up in The Elephant and top end of Walworth Rd area. Each new post is about some new student flats, hotel, troubles with LendLease, criticisms of The Council and so on. It becomes a shrill list of Don’t Likes even if we stand by our desires not to see the area change into some utterly sterile shiny consumer-driven wasteland. We also believe that we are not the only ones in the area who maintain a certain level of cynicism but also hostility about the notion that there is only one way to invest in an area and that is to let free market economics set the pace and depth of the regeneration processes. It has not always been this way and neither should it now remain so.

We have been adding to our new Archive Page over the last few weeks some of the more significant challenges that had been made to the free market paradigm in the late 70’s and early 80’s around Hays and Butlers Wharf, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. We also put up information on the sometimes strong community campaigns around the Elephant regeneration that ended in 2002. We feel that there is so much to learn from these campaigns. Some of those people are still involved now via Elephant Amenity Network and other local community coalitions and we should be asking them to share their knowledge and hard won experience so that we can learn from victories and mistakes. In those times they were working hard in difficult circumstances to bring community values, wisdom and desires to the table. It could be said that local people at least had a place at the table then even if it was tense and fraught with difficulty. Nowadays the table and its discontents has been taken away altogether replaced by touchy-feely PowerPoint show ‘n’ Tells and repeated expressions how of how the developers want to really ‘Listen to you’ although doing nothing with what they’ve asked to hear is standard practice.

Bob Colenutt in his talk “Community action, Docklands, and Future Prospects‘ from June 2011 outlines 4 solid points for successful alternative community-led investment and regeneration:
• Community planning and peoples plans   
• Community-led regeneration as in Community Development Trusts   
• Capturing land values for the community through community and public ownership as in Letchworth and the New Towns   
• Unlocking the potential of local people to lead, and do regeneration themselves.

We’ve put Bob’s talk in our Archive section. Well worth reading!

Regeneration does not have to throw it’s lots in with the creation of samey retail streets and scrabble around for crumbs of social housing and green spaces because all the best land has been given over to the development of private homes because that’s where the profits come from. Such a notion that a local community has an interest in and a right to developing their own part of the city should not be seen as some utopian and long gone heyday. It should be seen as relevant, desirable and entirely possible. It has to be seen that we can argue, plan and do this.

We hope to write more on this at some point soon. We ask you to check out the Archive page here on Southwark Notes and get involved with the Elephant Amenity Network to present challenging and positive local visions of another regeneration of our local area.

Remember folks, when property developers ‘consult’ you, it’s a like a mugger asking you how much they should rob you for. The end result will not be pretty!





Anyone who likes to check the olde Southwark Notes for our ramblings and musings and goings-on in the North Southwark area will have been struck by our lengthy absence. Well, we are very sorry about that. No need for details but we just haven’t had time. It’s also true that so much has been going on in the last few months that we have been struggling to keep up in all our busyness.

Luckily, a few amazing folks and groups of people have been hammering away at things and writing this all up so we will make this post heavy with web links! We are also feeling a bit ranty today, so enjoy yourselves…

Probably one of the most important things has been the Lend Lease initiated Regeneration Forum that seeks to listen to the views of local people around a range of issues.
These local chats come hot on the heels of the LendLease exhibition held at the old empty estate agents site in Chatelaine House (opp The Tankard). An empty estate agents, you say! Couldn’t be more symbolic, we say! Anyhow, that exhibition was a mass of printed displays with all sorts of charts, statistics, arrows going hither and thither and not a lot of real detail. Questions could be asked but no real solid information was really given out by Lend Lease and the various consultants at hand. You can access the displays here.

There are three liaison groups: Employment, Business and Retail, Community and a Residents Group. From the off it seemed like Housing, Transport, an Environmental policy, the Shopping Centre and Interim uses of the Heygate site were absent from the agenda. It seems that a few people have pointed this out in the Forum meetings and so Interim use and a commitment to get a person from St Modwen’s (owner of the Shopping Centre) to come along seem to have been achieved. So far, nothing on housing has been seriously discussed. It’s fair to say that Interim Use is something currently in vogue with developments and this is a mixed bag. It’s also something that is fairly easy to make happen with lots of cred and kudos going to the developers as pop-up galleries, temporary orchards and all sorts of fairly questionable community endeavours land on the site. What we want is permanent open spaces and parks and not temporary ones. Southwark Notes takes a dim view of the bastard child of art and regeneration. I AM HERE by two artists on the Haggerston & Kingsland Estate in Hackney features photos of former residents stuck onto the flats they used to occupy!
We are not arguing that human creativity and imagination is a bad thing. We are just saying that we know from numerous examples how the regeneration industry likes to use art (and artists) as tool to create an ambience around an area they seek to market and sell to people who have not lived in the area but are considering it. This was exactly the same phenomena we wrote about at Strata Tower whereby images of local people are used in art projects to add creative value to new developments even though these new builds are changing the very area where those in the pictures live.

Which property-minded person 10 years ago would have loudly proclaimed that they were ‘moving to The Elephant & Castle‘. We still remember the time when someone we met at a party asked us where we lived. ‘The Elephant‘, we replied. ‘Oh!‘, he said and pulled that kind of face. ‘But I hear it’s getting better there now, no?  There are a few galleries opening up...’. We smiled, applied more pressure to our beer can and left to bang our collective heads on any available local wall. We suspect that similar conversations have happened all through the 2000’s with long term inhabitants of Hoxton, Dalston, Bermondsey, Deptford, Brick Lane, Peckham and so on.

Anyway, if you dare, you can read something a bit more detailed on why we should be suspicious of the collision of art and regeneration here.

   As you know, all this activity – consultation and that – runs alongside the final creation of a Planning Application for the whole Lend Lease site and it has been here where the battlefield has been. The consultancy agency who are overseeing this version of community involvement and consultation is called Soundings who they say ‘develop finely tuned consultation and engagement strategies. They are tasked to provide a final Statement of Community Involvement that is a necessary component part of any Masterplan Planning Application. It basically signs off the Application with some sort of promise that local people have been thoroughly engaged. We did have a laugh when we read their 10 principles that underpin their work. The first principle reads ‘Work bottom-up and top-down‘. Now that’s having your cake and eating it. It really is a nonsense.

It’s early days yet in this Forum process although Soundings intention was always to only run two sessions for each Group. Two of these have now been held and the final four meetings run through the rest of September. After that, we are not sure of any continuity or whether it really is just a tick-box exercise. Developing ideas, listening to local people, coming up with plans for the area takes more than 6 two hour meetings if they are serious about ‘achieving the development of a strategy, which ensures the masterplanning / project development / design process is fully informed by community engagement.’
We take off our collective hats to all those people who have been attending the meetings, writing letters to folks, pushing  a local agenda and seeing what kind of process and debate is being offered by Soundings for Lend Lease. Sterling work has been done by the Elephant Amenity Network to muster people with something to say to get along to these meetings and in sticking to its founding principles of Open Masterplanning, Benefits for All and Housing that is really affordable. As we say all the time, get involved with Elephant Amenity Network! It’s been doing amazing things – check their site and come to the meetings – every third Tuesday of the month without fail. Respect!

We have not been able to attend the Regeneration Forum but we recommend the detailed and analytical reports of how the meetings have been going posted on the People’s Republic of Southwark here and here and here and now here too!. And here as well..blimey!

Us Southwark Notes oldies do get a bit confused by all the back and forths, going-on and total contradictory words and deeds that come from The Council. On the one hand there has been a lot of heavy talk of supporting temporary uses such as gardening and social activities on the empty-ish site of the Heygate but then on the other hand, they keep closing off access to the site itself despite the wealth of autonomous and free events, talks, walks, films, sports, allotments and other wonderful endeavours local people have been putting on there. Picture below is the sealing up of the popular scenic cut-through from New Kent Rd to Walworth Rd. Boo! ‘Estate Closed Off’ says the new sign. No it isn’t!!
Recent use of the site by Brad Pitt’s filming of his new Zombie film saw all sorts of hassle for those using the estate for their own pleasures not the least to say trying to visit remaining leaseholders still living on the estate. ‘We’ve rented the estate‘, the security guys said, as if that gave them control of the local streets within it.

Could this be due to the nearby Oakmayne Plaza development at New Kent Rd? As you know, Oakmayne have always been those who must be obeyed. If they want it, they get it – see the stealing of the community football spaces, pavements  and bike paths on Elephant Rd / New Kent Rd. Now Oakmayne wants to make use of Deacon Way, the road which runs around the inside perimeter of Heygate, for a route for all their big lorries to follow to clear the Plaza site of earth, rubble and whatever else.

Worth reading the following Heygate Urban Forest pages on the details of the above arguments around access and support for temporary uses and also of the commonwealth of activities folks are holding now on The Heygate and not waiting for permission or answers. Here and here and also here.

This beautiful map by local artist Rebecca Davies has been produced too. Download it here.

THE REGENERATION INDUSTRY – I’m Regenerating! Are You?
As you can see from our little reports, there is a whole team of players that make up the newly landed Regeneration Industry – local development agencies, community engagement consultants, architects, multidisciplinary teams, local Councils, creative partnerships plus Regen wizards, Development gurus, Green champions and so on etc etc etc. It’s a dizzying spin of new management jobs for the boys and girls with an accompanying language of pure babble: ‘Positive public perception of process’, ‘establishing a benchmark for Place Making’, ‘ fully integrated property solutions provision’, ‘signature developments and destination shopping‘. Phew!

We wholeheartedly recommend watching the TV programme ‘Abroad Again’ by arch, wry and amusing commentator Jonathan Meades. It’s a 50 minute roughing up of the above-described recently invented industry of urban regeneration. Very precise in it’s criticism and bile and very funny! You can see it all on YouTube here. There is an excellent parody of the type of regeneration advert you might see. It starts at 5.50min in the first episode – ‘potentialising potential, incentivising incentive, an opportunity gateway...’. Might make you view the non-spinning, non-power producing wind turbines atop the eco-gentrifiying Strata Tower in a new light.

Spotted at a recent protest outside the Council to do with potential evictions of families whose offspring were alleged to have been involved in the recent looting spree in some parts of Southwark:

We found it strange the these Community Wardens now seem to be dressed up for a military intervention instead of sporting their previous jaunty red uniforms. Maybe the new uniforms were necessary for the new powers they were given in 2009 – power to fine you, confiscate alcohol and cigarettes if you’re under 16. What is going on at The Council? From our experience around The Elephant and Burgess Park these wardens are already jumpy, prone to rudeness and personal insults and usually ignorant of the laws at hand. Does anyone think having them dressed up like a US SWAT team is really going to help this situation? More from the school of Do Nothing But Let It Seen To Be Done.

Funny TV news video here of the seriousness with which this should not be taken. Best bit is the incident they respond to: a woman driver throws some litter out the car window. Not the greatest behaviour in the world but hardly a job for the SWAT team. The world gets more weird the longer we live in it. Can anyone make it stop please!



Back in December 2010, we noticed some red and black posters appearing on the hoardings of new developments around The Elephant for a week or two. We mentioned them in our Art and Regeneration page (see old posters below)! They had a picture of a mechanical demolisher knocking down the old London Park Hotel.
Today, on a quick walk around the place when we were looking at the newly erected metal fences blocking the way from the footbridge over New Kent Rd into Heygate, we saw a lot of new ones all over the place. Obviously part of the same series, these ones featuring the demolition of the Heygate Estate and the notion of a ‘Blitz’ and the ‘exile’ forced upon the local tenants, now removed! Nice one, you arty types!

Recent News From The Elephant
JUNE 12th 2011

It’s all go at the Elephant and Castle again. It’s like the credit crunch never happened. Oakmayne Plaza site at Elephant Rd / New Kent Rd has seen the works spill over onto the football pitches which have now been sealed off behind a new Oakmayne works compound. We spotted quite a nice sticker attached to the new blue fence in various places.

The expectations around the demolition of the Shopping Centre have been dashed on the rocks around HMS Regeneration. Instead of knocking it down, it will now be refurbished and, surprise surprise, it will be also have an additional component of new apartments in one or two new tall blocks. A vision of the newly refurbed Centre appears below:

On the other side of the Rd, the Leisure Centre redevelopment has seen a new twist. The Council is going to be asked next month to approve the sale of part of the leisure centre site to Lend Lease for the development of a 30 story block of flats. The new Leisure Centre will be built but will now not contain any of the popular squash courts as there, er, wont be any space available after the Lend Lease idea! See here! As we have said time and time again, there seems to be no stopping the rampant giveaway to developers. The Elephant Rip-Off continues a pace!

Good news has been the hive of thoughtfulness and activity in the empty-ish green spaces of the Heygate Estate. Some allotments have been in place for a few months seeing regulars come and go to make the site a wonderful and communal local hang out for all. Check out Adrian’s report from the allotments and community garden here!You can see some photos of how the Heygate green spaces used to look before the gardening began here!

An interesting blog called Elephant Urban Forest has been set up with all sorts of details, photos, good ideas and the news that an Elephant Amenity Network and friends community survey of all the trees on the Heygate Site using the Foresty Commission’s CAVAT method values the ‘public welfare’ of the trees at figure of 18 million pounds – substantially more than the Council’s earlier value of only 700,000 pounds. There is a lot more info on the also new website Urban Forest.

The only critical note we might make is that a lot of attention has been recently put on the trees on the Heygate site and this is great. We’d like to see some more agitation and determination around the equally as important question of replacing the social housing content of the Heygate Estate as well as looking at the effects of any regeneration on retail, jobs and local amenities.


Elephant amenity network event:


More Heygate Slurs As Demolition Begins…
APRIL 16th 2011
: Recent media items on the Heygate have once again been painting the community that lived there until very recently in a very poor light. As the demolition begins, the spin about ‘estates from hell’ and ‘ criminals paradise’ is played out again and again. We know this all serves as a smokescreen and miserable excuse to hide the real story of the Estate and the scandal of the non-existent homes built for those decanted from their tenancies.

Jerry Flynn, ex-Heygate tenants writes:

There appears to be a concerted PR push by Southwark Council to portray the Heygate estate in the worst possible light, thus justifying its demolition before the 1200 replacement homes have been built.  Yesterday was been deemed the start of the Heygate demolition (despite the fact it actually begun several weeks ago);  LBC, BBC news and tv all ran items whose tenor has been – ‘it was a terrible place; it had to go’.  The idea that council estates are dreadful places to live is so engrained that it is a difficult myth to debunk, but we must try.  Some facts that might help;

The Heygate was fully inhabited with 1200 households, half 3/4 bed families, for 30 years, including, off the top of my head; teachers, taxi drivers, building workers, ambulance drivers, housing officers (!), health workers, admin assistants, office cleaners, train drivers, bus drivers, shop-workers, care assistants, youth workers – in short all the people that keep London working (but are finding it increasingly difficult to actually afford to live here).

132 households, over 10% of the total, bought their homes on the Heygate.

When the regeneration process began in 1999, a MORI poll of the estate showed that 55% were satisfied living on the estate, 29% dissatisfied – 70% wanted to continue living there, given the opportunity.

This does not paint a picture of an estate people could not wait to escape.  On the other hand Southwark’s efforts to rehouse the people shoved off the estate has been pitiful; some more facts:

The Heygate is being demolished, not redeveloped.  Not many who lived on the Heygate are likely to return there, for several reasons –  only secure tenants were entitled ‘to return’ and Southwark stopped issuing secure tenancies Jan 2001, leaving 300 households without the option of a new home when decant began in 2007; only 250 or so of the remaining secure tenants have actually exercised the option to return, which entails moving to housing association properties and most prefer to remain council tenants; the so-called ‘right-to-return’ for tenants who exercise it  only applies to the specified early housing sites, which excludes anything built on the Heygate footprint;  the ‘right-to-return’ itself ends on 30 Septmber 2015 and demolition will only be completed by that date (limited housing may have been completed on Rodney Rd & early Heygate phase if no slippage): last, but not least, central government now proposes that all new social rented housing be let at 80% market rates – about £280pw for a 1 bed flat at the Elephant at current rates.  As for leaseholders, they simply won’t be able to afford it – typical compensation has have been £170K for a 3 bedroom maisonette.

Only 300 social rented units are being built on the footprint; the remaining 900 units that are needed to fulfil Southwark’s promise that they will replace the 1200 units of the Heygate are supposed to be built on the 16  ‘early housing sites’ – about 300 units (on 8 sites) should be completed this year, but the remaining sites have either been dropped or are doubtful.  At most 725 social rented units will be built to replace the 1080 social rented units lost by the Heygate demolition (132 were leasehold).

Please use any opportunity that presents itself inject some sense into this ‘debate’ – the truth of the Heygate is that it was just a pretty ordinary South London estate.

Photos of Heygate tenants by J_Ymmit


“accelerating the regeneration, not selling out” SAYS the council

APRIL 11th 2011:  Ex-Heygate resident Jerry Flynn was recently able to summarise very succinctly the latest news from The Elephant regeneration rip-off concerning the idea to now refurbish the Shopping Centre and not to demolish it:

If the gains of the regeneration can be achieved by retaining the shopping centre and the benefits of keeping it are so clear, why was it ever decided to knock it down? Should the shopping centre be kept it will be because it’s the least risky option for Lendlease and St Modwens – the ‘regeneration objectives’ won’t come into it.

I also doubt whether the eight businesses who occupy the arches Cllr Colley wants to ‘punch..through’ will be quite as excited as she is by the prospect. Nor is the Market Square ‘currently under construction by Oakmayne’; this is ‘currently’ half- a-building site that will be a compound for the construction of Oakmayne Plaza (373 private homes, 243 student rooms, zero affordable houses) – the local Latin American football league was summarily displaced from Elephant Rd park to make way for this shameful development.

Nearly every benefit proclaimed for the Elephant regeneration masterplan has been thrown overboard – little replacement housing for the Heygate (only 3 out 16 sites built), no ‘healthy living/leisure centre’ to speak of, no ‘Energy Centre’, no ‘Town Park’, no ‘new library/life long learning centre’, no ‘new secondary school’, no ‘extended Walworth High St’ – all listed in the 2004 Masterplan and all dumped. What exactly are people who live in Southwark – in Camberwell, in Peckham – gaining from this? Given the net loss of affordable housing it’s actually making life worse for many“.

The ‘news’ was only brought into the public domain when Cllr Fiona Colley wrote a response to Jamesup who posts on the well-regarded InSe1 forum and he chose to post it up for all to read.  She says in part:

“The big benefits of retaining the core of the building would be that this is a far more cost effective solution (and therefore actually a financially viable option, unlike wholesale demolition and rebuild),  it could be delivered far quicker (and given how long people have waited this is important too…)”

The irony seems to escape her on both counts. Firstly that the success 0f the much-trumpeted billion pound regeneration now seems to rest on ‘financial viability’ and ‘cost effectiveness’ which seems to suggest a developer-speak for downgrading the dream somewhat and a lack of will for LendLease and St Modwens to invest very much in anything other than profitable private housing. It should be noted here that the refurb of the shopping centre now includes an additional portion of new housing.

Secondly, somewhat cheekily we think, Cllr Colley says that the refurb would mean less of a wait for all those who have been waiting so long for something to happen. Well, whose fault is that but successive administrations!

Luke, a member of Elephant Amenity Network wrote a great response to the posting of Cllr Colley’s ‘news’ and the lack of any consultative mechanism:

Jamesup, thank you for finding this out and posting the details. It is incredible to me that all this is coming out through individual posts on the SE1 website and not through formal information and consultation – though I am grateful it is coming out somewhere!

The council appear to have given the Elephant and Castle.org website, which was their previous communications focus, to Lend Lease, but have abdicated completely from their own communications responsibilities.

We have still not been given the promised reference group, apparently the way to involve the public in these decisions, which promised in 2007 as a key part of the implementation of the regeneration programme and a quid pro quo for some very unpopular decisions about land use changes.

And yet here we are with the key decisions – which are massive changes from the previous concept – being presented as a fait accompli.

The next step must be to document all the objectives and community benefits of the regeneration as stated in the last time any documents were consulted on (2007 I think) and see which if any are left.

Whatever you think of the shopping centre, remember that the entire regeneration in 2007 was founded on the principle – which was trumpeted loudly by council officers – of not having a shopping centre, but having a town centre with an extended Walworth Road shopping street. This was (presumably) the outcome of public consultation at that point. So why did the council not anticipate that negotiating with St Modwen would inevitably be difficult – the own the shopping centre – and instead promised something that could not be delivered to voters.

Our advice if you want to know the latest developments about your area is to consult the InSE1 forum! The Council and Lend Lease have not yet provided the community with any means to find out what is really going on.

Wanna buy a flat in The Elephant? Our guide to the estate agent lingo…

APRIL 10th 2011: Thinking of moving to the area? The  more cynical wing of Southwark  Notes has furnished us with this handy cut out ‘n’ keep translation of developer and estate agent brochure-speak.

‘VILLAGE’You’re surrounded by council estates on all sides.
‘NEW BUILD’The walls are paper thin.
There’s three lanes of traffic below your windowsill.
‘DIVERSE’People who aren’t middle-class and white live there.

CREATIVE The artists who attracted you to the area are about to be priced out – by you.
‘EXCITING’Someone’s gonna have your iPhone in five minutes.
‘DYNAMIC‘ – There’s a small nightclub and two Chicken Cottages.
‘UNIQUE’ It’s just like the other posh rabbit hutch over the road.

‘CONTEMPORARY’ A kid with some Lego could have designed it.
‘REAL’There’s a big white working-class population.
‘VIBRANT’There’s a big Carribean population.
‘EXOTIC’There’s a big African population.

‘CULTURAL’The Imperial War Museum is up the road.
‘ICONIC’ The buidling is lop-sided or shaped like a vegetable.
‘SUSTAINABLE’The architect has some put some wood on the front.

‘OASIS’ You’re living behind huge security gates.
‘URBAN’It’s in London, duh!
‘EXCLUSIVE’ –  You will drive to and from home so don’t have to interact locally.
‘QUARTER‘ – Basically, you’re living in a yuppiedrome.

*-) As humourists we won’t be giving up our day jobs just quite yet. We do welcome contributions to our handy guide. Pass on ’em.

Coming Soon from us: Something more serious again as the Council, Oakmayne, LendLease and St Modwen’s really start to rip into the area.


APRIL 9thth 2011:  Newly incorporated Heygate Plaza has been exciting those with investments smarts to put their cheese into the savvy opportunity area of the old Heygate Estate, a formerly crime ridden and totally labyrinthine den of thieves  and poor people™.

An exciting guerrilla marketing campaign for the Heygate Plaza has been underway in the last few months. Passersby, train and bus commuters and others have been enjoying the D.I.Y style banners hung from high on the (almost) empty estate.

Screen shot from the Heygate Plaza website:

*-)  ———————————————————————————


MARCH 24th 2011:  As we were on the subject, Lend Lease has now taken over the formerly Council-run ElephantandCastle.org.uk website. It was up for a while earlier in the year, then went off. Now it’s back again. It’s a pretty shoddy site for a multi-million pound company with all the links opening up as PDF-format documents. We await await their final consultation strategy with baited ears (!). We hope it’s a bit more developed and committed to actually paying attention to what people say to them than the document they’ve published on the site. Their consultation outline doesn’t seem like a serious attempt to listen to the experience, desires and needs of local people. It doesn’t even mention social housing as a key consultation issue even though they will be building new homes on the shadow of Heygate’s 1100 public housing flats. Click on the image to enlarge:

LendLease goes Flyposter Crazy (maybe!)

MARCH 21st 2011:  Spotted flyposted around the Shopping Centre this week – three or four different large posters that feature quotes from learned type people of the past and the caption He Had His/Her Say – “Have your say!”.  It then gives the contact detail for LendLease, the upcoming caring-sharing developer of the Elephant and Castle area.

Actually us art lovers at the Southwark Notes doubt these are the real deal. Guess it’s someone making a liberal point about consultation. Still it’s nice to see the art of popular enquiry still alive. We’ll be looking hard for more in the series or any other contributions to the debate.

If it was LendLease, we will eat our already well-chewed hat!!


JANUARY 21st 2011 – At Southwark Notes, we wonder how many times have you read this phrase in the newspaper property pages – ‘the £1.5 billion regeneration of the The Elephant and Castle‘? We must have read this about a thousand times and with the recent arrival of Strata Tower, we’ve been reading it more and more often. Seeing as The Elephant has been declared a property ‘ultra-hotspot‘ by website Property Investing, it’s no wonder that this tired phrase is always attached to any article, developer’s blurb or estate agent’s ad. All the changes and the fortunes to be made are all being sold on the much fabled multi-million pound ‘regeneration‘. Here it comes. A bit slow and slightly grey at the edges but whoopee!


If you were to look for a symbol of what ‘regeneration‘ might mean in The Elephant area, there would be no better clash than the literal face-off between Heygate Estate and Strata Tower. On the one hand, you have a massive Council estate and the on the other a massive shiny and new Tower with turbines on top. Heygate is written about in the past tense now and Strata is the future. Heygate is now neatly packaged up as as series of myths about what a crime-ridden, sink estate labyrinth it was and this tale enables the scandalous decant that happened there to be wiped away. Strata, on the other hand, is ‘the most dashing new development to date in the 170 acre Elephant and Castle regeneration zone’ or it’s ‘the high life in Elephant & Castle‘.

Ourselves, we are uninterested in poking a sharp stick at the Strata turbines or whether some architects awarded it the Carbuncle Cup. This is of no use to use here in The Elephant. What we are interested in is pointing out that fancy-pants towers with million pound penthouses on the top is not a serious part of a local ‘regeneration scheme‘ if at the same time, the removal of housing, open spaces and amenities previously enjoyed by a more settled population is what it costs to encourage developers to build here. Having looked into the increasingly useless LendLease’s proposals we can see that already affordable housing, the promised Town Square park, the Musco (Multi Utility Service Company) and local shops are all either seriously forgotten about or have just been more and more squeezed out the regeneration plans. Former Council leader Nick Stanton trumpeted in May 2009 – “We have now, set up MUSCo, a multi-utility services company which will deliver a low carbon infrastructure to over 6,000 new homes and businesses across the entire Elephant & Castle regeneration area. Carbon neutral heating, electricity, water and IT will all be delivered to homes as the regeneration rolls out, and design development and the first stages of implementation have already begun. The MUSCo will help the council achieve significant carbon positive targets as the infrastructure is extended to other estates“. One of the local estates would have been the Aylesbury, now reeling as a result of losing all public funding for their own slightly sketchy regeneration / gentrification programme. The irony now is how former US President Bill Clinton Climate Iniative recognises the E+C regeneration as ‘one of 16 founding projects of the Climate Positive Development Program that will support the development of large-scale urban projects that demonstrate cities can grow in ways that are “climate positive.”’


LendLease’s idea of consultation is pretty clueless so far. They seem intent on ‘listening to stakeholders‘ but does that mean that stakeholders will actually have some say in what lands in the LendLease development masterplan? It’s easy to listen. Whether you then take into account what you’ve heard is another thing altogether! They don’t really have to do much more than show, as a legal requirement, that they have done some consultation when they offer up their E+C Masterplan application at the end of 2011.

It’s also worth reminder people that the LendLease core area of the Heygate and Shopping Centre site is only the middle ring of the target. Outside that footprint is the wider Elephant and Castle ‘Opportunity Area’, basically a large part of The Elephant and Walworth that is promoted by The Council as up for grabs (i.e by more private developers such as those who built Strata).


We have already gone on at length about the decade long series of lies, manipulations and shoddy dealings that has characterised the slow decant of Heygate tenants to other parts of the Borough. We won’t labour the point again here. Only 6 former residents of the Heygate decided to move into the ‘affordable‘ housing portion of Strata despite the Council’s trumpeting that homes were were being provided for and taken up by ex-Heygate tenants. When the idea that ‘affordable’ housing means a part-buy, part-rent shared ownership scheme in a new private development we know we have come a long way from the reasonable rents and secure tenancies enjoyed by Heygate tenants.

For Heygate leaseholders, many have complained that spitefully low valuations made on their places by the Council mean they are unable to move to a similar property locally that’s up to the standard and space of the houses they had purchased on Heygate. This is why a few leaseholders there are refusing to be intimidated out of the homes for the sake of freeing up the land for more private and expensive housing to be built in The Elephant. Good luck to them, we say. Hold your ground.

In a move to hassle them out, the new Labour administration in power in Southwark continue the previous Lib-Dem’s bullying of these leaseholders. They have no heating, hot water, postal delivery and minimal security.


We read that when the Strata flats were being sold off-plan (before they were finished being built), 75% of the sales were to private investors. That means people who want to make some money from the property as opposed to actually wanting to live in it. With the credit crisis, an approximate 50% of investors who had bought there were expected to live there. With the average selling price for a 2 bedroom Strata flat being £450,000, it’s not too difficult to see that a better off class of person is moving in. It’s hard to write about this process because it sounds like we are being very vindictive against individuals who choose to move here. That is not our intention. Our motivation is to point out that the tendency to increasing gentrification is obviously the result of those new arrivals and the demand for Zone 1/2 Georgian or Victorian terraces in Walworth or luxury flats like Strata, Printworks, South Central West etc. This is not some hidden secret process revealed from our consultation at the Southwark Notes crystal ball. You can read this in the papers – ‘Strata’s ideal resident is an altogether wealthier breed of pioneering urbanaut in this windswept corner of SE1‘.

Or this – ‘As the vanguard for gentrification in the area, Strata tower wears its social conscience well: 25% of 408 apartments are earmarked for sustainable housing and 20 of those will be taken by residents of Heygate estate‘. We wonder what ‘sustainable‘ housing is? A house that doesn’t fall down? Aside from the overestimation of how many Heygate folks moved to Strata, the fact that Strata was given planning permission by the Council with zero socially rented apartments is hardly a glowing social conscience.

Here is another report – ‘For ages, it looked as though gritty ‘Sarf’ inner-city neighbourhoods such as Walworth…were going nowhere…however things are shifting as these locations start to benefit from the overspill of gentrified areas and more new homes are built…having rented in Notting Hill, Tom, a financial research editor and Lucy who works in corporate communications decamped to Walworth‘.

Welcome Tom and Lucy to Southwark – the 26th most deprived borough in England (of 354), ranked as the 18th most deprived borough in England on the income scale – Index of Multiple Deprivation, 2007

Finally for this rant, here is the story of Nathan, a new arrival to the area and a Strata resident. For some reason, Nathan was able to feature in The Standard with a picture of himself in colour, complaining that his new flat was ‘too hot’ – ‘Resident Nathan Wheelhouse said: “When I left my house the other morning it was 28C at 7.30am — it’s tropical in there. The cold and hot water pipes flow next to each other. I feel like I’m in an eco experiment that has gone wrong at the design stage. I only moved in two weeks ago and I am not enjoying it.”’.

Nathan, Southwark Notes heart bleeds for you as I suspect do the hearts of Heygate leaseholder living with no heating and hot water. Welcome to The Elephant!


Tuesday 25th JANUARY 3pm – Protest at Southwark Council meeting

Assemble 3 pm at Southwark Town Hall, Peckham Road SE15.

The protest will then continue throughout the Council meeting which starts at 4 pm.We need hundreds of people outside to tell the Council: ‘No Cuts!’. Spread the word! Called by Southwark Save Our Services, a great group of folks who us Southwark Notes bods support wholeheartedly in this time of crisis!! As we said last November: ‘We probably don’t need to point out the disastrous effect the millions of pounds worth of cuts is going to make locally to folks. If it’s not a recipe for more public-land sell-offs for a quick buck, more rent increases and evictions from both Council and Housing Association homes, more displacement of claimants and the working poor through Housing Benefit cuts, then we don’t know what is.”


16th December 2010

In the past, we have written quite a bit about the number of local Elephant and Walworth pubs that have dropped like flies to be later reborn as expensive but cheaply converted flats – see our Walworth page for the grisly details! Well, here we go again as The Crown pub in Brandon St, Walworth – the one with all the fancy old green tiles – is another local under threat from closure and conversion.  Southwark Council Officers and East Walworth Ward councillors rejected developer’s Terramek’s application to demolish and replace with 9 flats on 8th Sept 2010, citing the character of the pub and the impact of the proposals on Nursery Row Park but local users and supporters of the pub fear that a new plan will be submitted to the Council.

The Crown in 1977 and today

The Save The Crown Campaign has been organising and gathering support. Read more about it here!


30th November 2010

Recently the ground floor retail unit at the bottom of Strata Tower played host to an exhibition of photographs of local people. This is part of the Strata Towers commitment to ‘the Arts‘, as they call it. You can read about it here, if you dare!

To celebrate the official opening of Strata SE1 in July‘, photographer Hannah Maule-ffinch provided twenty or so ‘Faces of Elephant & Castle’, some of which we reproduce here. Alongside the faces were notes reading, for example, ‘Fred, 36 years in the community‘ making it all sound a bit like trying for parole! Anyhow no surprises that the portraits were stereotypes of The Elephant characters including a police warden, a Muslim girl, an African woman, Fred in his cloth cap and a local youth. Of course, all these people live here and that’s great but it looks more like a Council social inclusion programme than getting to grip with what makes The Elephant great. Somewhat amusingly appearing on the windows inside the empty retail unit is about as near as any of these people will realistically get to residing in Strata.
When we heard that Strata was getting all arty on us, we did fear the worse as ‘art’ these days when it’s applied to the public does tend to deal in the easiest and most simple of messages. The message here is that it’s all good at The Elephant. No-one is unhappy! No need for the past. No need for criticism. Everything has to be positive.

It’s no surprise also that works of art by students of Camberwell College of Art have been featuring on the side of Strata too: ‘Working with the College, Brookfield set their artists the open challenge of creating a piece of public art which best depicts community and sustainable living in the Elephant & Castle.  From a swathe of entries submitted by students twelve were shortlisted by a panel of judges…The winning submission is already in place on the two large glass panels enclosing the building’s foyer‘.

Here are some of the students ideas:

‘This artwork takes the form of a stylised flow of panels that ruminate upon the technical and social aspects of the building, offering glimpses into Elephant and Castle’s bright future. Community solidarity, environmentalism, cutting-edge technology and a glance back to the base function of the home are intertwined together in his attempt to envision the new lives of the dwellers of Strata SE1 and those that live around them’.

‘The concept behind this artwork is to give the building a more humanistic feel and inspire a sense of community. The typographic design is intended to be organic; relating to sustainable living, and the photo mirrors the views people living there will see. Home is where the art is; welcome to the Strata building.’

‘This complex biomorphic sculpture depicts organic biomasses with a strong reference to mutation that is expressed through a combination of “pop” and “baroque” touches. The “Alternative Transformation Gold Evolution” in an alchemical metaphoric meaning, symbolises glory and ambition as the internal motives of the Strata SE1 pioneers, who lead in the evolutionary construction of this significant building with its aim to contribute to ‘community’ and ‘sustainable living’.*-)

Just to show that we at Southwark Notes are not philistines, we found a public artwork that we liked which had been proposed for the Spitalfield market regeneration area:

Alberto Duman, Giant Steps (2009) – rejected entry for the Spitalfields Sculpture prize. Not a single reference to ‘Cultural richness and community diversity’ but to social cleansing, possibly?!

We await with trepidation the proposed £100,000 of Section 6 planning gain money that Strata has promised ‘for an art installation (made predominately of glass) within entrance area‘.


30th November 2010

For us fogies here at Southwark Notes, we are saddened by the loss of the little clock monument outside Draper House where the sunken terrace was. It was just one of many little things we liked about the area because it looked nice and because it referred to Clock Place, a very old street nearby that’s very nearly lost and also to the old Clock Tower that used to stand in St Mary Newington open-space. Now it’s gone the way of all things: destroyed and renovated with some Strata planning gain money. That’s money the developer chucks into the community for certain local projects. The cost of the renovation around the base of Strata and outside the Draper House shops was £900,000.

Instead of getting something equally as full of character, we now have two dull slabs of grass instead. Is this really what a regenerated area should look like?  Is this really what Strata residents want their area to look like? It looks like a shiny but soul-less architect’s drawing for the public spaces in new developments. Regular readers will know how much we like the daft public spaces at Empire Square in The Boro or on Webber Row by the new Vergel restaurant!!

You can read about the mysterious Clock Place, clock monument and other weird and wonderful local history in ‘9 Things That Aren’t There’ here.

8th November 2010

17th November Update: Planning decision deferred at Community Council Meeting. See here.

The space in front of Carter Place Police Station on the Walworth Road has been a garden ever since the land was enclosed. It is unique in being the only green space along the Walworth Rd that has never been developed…When the local police moved from the site, the garden was bought by a developer and they have been trying to build on it ever since. Local people and Councillors have successfully fought this so far, but we are now coming to the showdown to try to stop our garden being obliterated under a massive and completely inappropriate development of shops and flats (see image below)…We have an alternative. Help us to get the site protected so that it remains as a garden for the people of Walworth and Southwark to enjoy once again’.

The local campaign to preserve Carter Place Gardens ask all those who support the fight to do two things:

1. Sign The Petition.
Please sign our petition at: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/40056.html

2. Fight The Planning Application.
If you can find an extra few moments then you can really make a difference to this campaign by emailing the Council at planning.applications@southwark.gov.uk and telling them you would like to see the garden preserved and not developed. Don’t forget to quote the planning application number 10-AP-2796 in your email.

More historical details and reasons why Walworth Rd needs to preserve it’s only garden space can be found here: SAVE CARTER PLACE GARDENS

It would be great to return Carter Place Gardens to its former splendour as seen here in a postcard from 1957.

‘Council admits failure in Elephant & Castle’

‘Heygate residents have lost out to a series of cancellations and delays

A flagship housing scheme intended to transform the lives of some of London’s most deprived families by tapping into the skills of up-and-coming architects has “failed” in its key objective, it was claimed this week.

Read this story here. Surely this justifies our every use of the word ‘scandal‘ that we have used to describe the decant of Heygate and the ever decreasing ‘early day housing sites’. So much for the promise that Heygate tenants would be offered a place to return too.


1st NOVEMBER 2010

We probably don’t need to point out the disastrous effect the millions of pounds worth of cuts is going to make locally to folks. If it’s not a recipe for more public-land sell-offs for a quick buck, more rent increases and evictions from both Council and Housing Association homes, more displacement of claimants and the working poor through Housing Benefit cuts, then we don’t know what is.

Could be worth heading down to the Southwark Save Our Services public meeting and discussion on Thursday 4th 7pm at Salvation Army Hall, 1 Princess Street SE1 6HH (Elephant & Castle Tube).

They have a website here with some good facts and figures on it. The site says that Southwark SOS is  ‘comprised of community organisations, local trade unionists, students and user groups‘. Check it out!


26 million quid and 25% AFFORDABLE HOUSING GIVEAWAY!!
15th October 2010

Whilst the local politicians from Labour and Lib-Dems squabble over the extent of the Great Elephant Rip-Off – see here – it’s galling to see here that ‘Southwark Labour’s cabinet member for regeneration, Cllr Fiona Colley, said: “We’re proud we were able to secure a minimum of 25 per cent affordable homes as part of the Elephant regeneration‘. According to an answer received in Parliament by MP Karen Buck in March earlier this year to this question – To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the target is for the provision of affordable housing in each London local authority – Southwark Council’s target is ‘50 per cent. (35 per cent. or 40 per cent. in Central Activities Zone, central London)‘. We wonder why Fiona Colley would be proud to secure exactly half the Council’s own target for provision of affordable housing?



Folks at the Elephant Amenity Network have begun to create an archive on their website of interesting and relevant documents relating to the long and grueling saga of the Elephant regeneration. So far there is a timeline of events full of different plans, guides, documents and so forth. Very useful to see how the promises made to local people were slowly ditched.

Also good is the small archive of newspaper cuttings that talk about the area as if it’s one big block of concrete with criminals lurking behind every tower block. Our favourite total myth about the area comes from Ravneet Ahluwalia’s article for The London paper from 2006. Does this ring true to you? – “The area is characterised by its council estates and high- rise blocks…negotiating the subways ­frequented by meths-drinking weirdos can be scary.”  Have you ever seen a meths-drinking weirdo in the subways?

What about this vile slur: ‘Heygate was only built in 1968-69 and quickly became a sort of human dustbin. It exemplified the notion that if you give people sties to live in, they will live like pigs.‘ From this article.

Have you got any great newspaper reports of myths about The Elephant you can send our way! We hope  so!

Check out the Amenity Network archive here!


SEPTEMBER 11th 2010

Here is the ‘simplified’ new plan of the rip-off in progress and how it might run over the course of the next few years.

What is a ‘Simplified Indicative Programme to Unconditionality‘? You can download the entire Elephant and Castle – Regeneration Agreement and Disposal of Associated Land agenda here. It’s actually fascinating and useful reading. Enjoy!



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.



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.


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?


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.


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 *-)



It’s not just the Heygate tenants who have been treated poorly by the Council. It’s worth reading Adrian’s story written up in a recent Southwark News:  ‘Adam Glasspool lives in increasing isolation in the Cuddington block, and claims the money the council is offering for his three bedroom maisonette is forcing him not just out of the Elephant but London altogether.

An independent surveyor commissioned by Mr Glasspool valued the property at £240,000, but the council is offering him far less to up sticks from the dilapidated estate.

Mr Glasspool told the ‘News’: “The council’s surveyors disagreed with this and valued the property at £160,000 claiming that this is what similar properties on the Heygate and the soon to be demolished Aylesbury Estate had been selling for. Clearly, it is ridiculous to compare values with other properties that were earmarked for demolition.” Full story here!



From This Is London: Peter John, the new Labour leader of Southwark Council will meet the developers Lend Lease next week. This is what he said before the election: “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.

Post-election, the rhetoric has been modified. “I am very much looking forward to meeting with Lend Lease and moving towards an agreement on Elephant & Castle,” said John. Does that mean he will sign an agreement that runs along the lines of that agreed by his Lib-Dem predecessor, Nick Stanton? “It certainly is a possibility,” said his spokesman.

We at Southwark Notes are not holding our breath for the outcome of the Council / LendLease meeting.

3rd May: BBC Radio 4 ‘The World Tonight‘ – Short radio feature of the Elephant ‘regeneration’ featuring opponents from Aylesbury and ex-Heygate and the same old nonsense about Strata tower buyers trickling their wealth into the local community!  Listen here

Walworth Road: Protected by Occupation

Walking down the street, three large empty buildings stick out. Two of them are the rather ornate legacy of Georgian Walworth. There’s  formerly-owned by the Council and listed John Smith House at 144-152 Walworth Rd (for sale for £5m), and opposite the Cuming Museum, the old Confederation Of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions at 140-142 (for sale for approx £695,000). The final one is the ex-Council-owned Chatelaine House at 186 and in the slow early planning stages of redevelopment.

All display the sign “Protected by Occupation”: John Smith and Chatelaine Hse are taken care of by Ad Hoc,  and the other by Ambika. Both companies employ ‘guardians‘ as temporary live-in security for vacant properties, a strategy pioneered in the United Kingdom by the Dutch company Camelot

Legally, these companies operate as commercial middle-men between the property owner and the guardian, who signs a temporary licence agreement and becomes a licensee. This means that although living in the property, s/he has no right to tenancy, as the licence is a commercial agreement. The result is that under normal circumstances the company can terminate the agreement with only a two-week notice, and there is no possible legal appeal to it, unless the guardian is prepared to risk being charged with trespassing.

On top of offering their services as 24/7 caretakers, the guardians are expected to pay council taxes, keep the place tidy and pay a weekly rent (apparently not with Ambika) which is below market value for the property, yet above any reasonable expectation for a temporary, non-residential accommodation.

Live-in guardians are recruited through a vetting system and need to comply with a series of stringent regulations. From the Ad Hoc’s website, applicants must prove to have a regular source of income, and must be “flexible, ready to move at short notice, without dependents and without pets”. The images of the ideal caretaker leave no room for doubt: flexible young professionals whose job does not impinge upon the choice of home, as for freelancers or other types of precarious workers.

With the welded-up Heygate Estate at a stone’s throw away, and the Southwark council’s housing waiting list estimated at 1,200 households (February 2010, National Housing Federation) these companies speculate on the housing crisis without offering any respite to the hundreds of individuals on the waiting list that do not correspond to the desirable pedigree of the live-in guardians.

You could think that the super flexible and precarious freelancer without a partner or dependents is the perfect resident of the increasingly privatised and regulated modern London, a city in constant re/development – Ready to leave at short notice and to abdicate his/her rights to tenancy, these are the desired urban inhabitants of city that demands ever more extreme forms of adaptability, whilst withdrawing all legal safety nets.

See also: North Walworth SDP which includes some of the buildings mentioned above. Also worth reading is Matthew Hyland’s entertaining article that has some analysis of Cameloot: Embedded Adventurism:

‘If Camelot, a squatting-substitution agency, is targeting key workers, it goes to show that the emergency that makes squatting necessary, i.e. the reasonable expectation that finding even barely adequate housing by conventional means may simply be impossible, has spread so far as to engulf securely waged professionals enjoying special state protection. (In London officially ‘affordable’ housing is set aside for those with paltry incomes of under £50,000 per year [Mayor of London’s free newspaper]. Average annual income of council tenants in the officially fashionable borough of Islington is under £5,000′.

UPDATE: September 2010
Seems like the Ad-Hoc property guardians at Chatelaine House have been given the ‘short notice’ boot. The place is now rented to Bishop Climate Irungu’s Kingdom Church, a church that claims ‘God has confirmed Bishop Climate’s with a worldwide Ministry Through powerful Signs and wonders. This include the restoration of Hearing and sight, disappearance of cancerous growth, recovery of Mental wholeness, instant healing of people diagnosed with diseases such as Aids, TB, thousands of people have been set free from bondage of marriage Failure, financial Failure, demonic attacks, which include witchcraft demonic attack..‘ So no longer will the owners Durkan, a property development group, be paying money to have people live in an empty building but will be accepting money from god-botherers who make highly dubious claims for themselves, to put it mildly!
John Smith House, not long ago bought by Safeland Plc, has just been given planning permission for conversion into a 75 bedroom budget hotel and restaurant for ‘likely customer group of younger people visiting the capital’.


The truth hidden by the Heygate myths

There could be no better day to mark the start of the regeneration of the Heygate Estate than April Fool’s day.  On this day 11 years ago of the day Heygate residents received a MORI poll questionnaire, asking for their opinions on the future of the estate.

571 householders out of a 1194 total returned the questionnaires and the responses make instructive reading, both for what people thought about the estate, what was hoped for, and for what has actually happened.

55% were satisfied with living on the estate, 58% with living in the area.  Opinion on the four options for redevelopment was evenly divided between 3 variations of demolition or repair, all including a rebuild on the Heygate footprint – the fourth option, demolition and no new homes had little support, 5% as a first preference.

Other responses of note were the desire to remain a tenant on the Heygate Estate (70%) and the desire to remain on the estate, no matter what improvements might be made there – 52%.

All-in-all the picture you might expect of any ordinary South London estate, where people have made lives for themselves, some more happily than others but most just getting on with it.  Why then is the Heygate now the ‘infamous’ Heygate estate (The Independent, 29 March 2010), a place where no sensible person would want to live?  How has it acquired its notorious reputation?

One of the consequences to the MORI poll was that Southwark felt able to claim  that  ‘70% of Heygate tenants expressed a wish to move to a new home’, an interpretation of the figures that opens up new vistas for mathematics.   It also started to describe the homes as ‘unpopular’ and ‘poor quality’, but without claiming that they had to be demolished because of dilapidation – they would simply be replaced by something better.

From January 2001 Southwark also stopped giving new tenants secure tenancies – new tenants would get temporary, insecure, tenancies (or licences), which did not have the same rights and crucially would not place any obligation on Southwark to rehouse them in new homes.  (These insecure tenancies numbered 299 by Nov 2007, when decanting began).  The estate was being turned into a transitory place of abode, rather than a place people could settle down and live.  The lucky ones would move on to a better place, the not-so-lucky (who included 106 leaseholders now in a negative equity trap) would have to take what they could get.

While all this was going on the estate begun playing host to an increasing number of film and television crews – ‘The Bill’, ‘Ghost Squad’, something with Joanna Lumley in it, something with Timothy Spall in it, an advert for Levis, pop videos for Madonna and David Guetta.  The Heygate (and the Aylesbury) was the place to come if you wanted a gritty estate and a local authority that would look after you.

In 2002/3 the whole regeneration plan collapsed.  Southwark fell out with the developers, Southwark Land Regeneration, at about the same time as the council itself changed political hands – a new Liberal administration took over from Labour.  This made the critical decision to yoke the regeneration of the estate to the wider regeneration of the Elephant, including the shopping centre.  Now, according to Southwark, retaining the estate would make the wider aims of the regeneration unachievable (Executive Report, 17 June 2003).  The Council would draft its own development plan and find a private partner later. The Heygate residents would be rehoused elsewhere – the Early Housing sites, scattered around the borough, although usually described as being ‘at or about the Elephant’.  They would be built before anything else in the regeneration and completed by 2010 (New Homes for Heygate, residents rehousing pack, Spring 2003).

There was no meaningful resistance to this change of course; the Tenants and Residents Association had been effectively co-opted by Southwark from the start and continued to support its plans.  On the estate there were big problems with the heating system and Southwark was eventually forced to undertake a major repair to keep it going, but life continued pretty much in its usual anonymous round.

In 2006 Southwark got a Lib Dem/Tory administration, a new housing supremo, Tory councillor Kim Humphreys and, not long after, a new chief executive, Annie Shepherd.  In 2007 nearly 2 years of ominous silence on the 16 Early Housing sites ended and a new plan emerged, the Heygate Action Plan (Executive Report, 19 June 2007).  This gave up on building the early housing sites before demolishing the estate; instead tenants were to move into current housing stock according to a plan drawn up with the assistance of PricewaterhouseCooper.  Tenants would find and bid for their own replacement homes using the weekly ‘Homesearch Magazine’, each would be assigned a case officer to help them and a time-limit was set to encourage the reluctant, about 6 months – after this notices to seek possession and to quit would be issued.  Those tenants who wanted it would be given a so-called ‘right-to-return’ to the early housing sites (about 250 have taken up the offer).  The TRA rebelled, but it was too late.  The target date for delivering vacant possession to the new development partners, Lendlease, would be Sept 2009.

Over 900 households, at least a couple of thousand of people, have now been removed from the Heygate Estate.  No Early Housing Sites have been completed and only 286 of the promised 1200 replacement units have planning permission.

In the meantime the Heygate’s reputation as the film set of choice for urban dramas has burgeoned.  Sir Michael Caine (‘Harry Brown’) has exacted revenge and disorientated youths have searched for manhood in its mean streets (or walkways); even Clint Eastwood has chanced his arm.  The undeserved popular image of the Heygate as a crime ridden hellhole fostered by these films leads naturally to the conclusion that social problems are the reason the estate is being demolished.  The real reasons, the whole thread of decisions taken by Southwark Council, each one a betrayal and a step away from the initial promise, ‘New Homes for Heygate’, is forgotten.

The Heygate’s journey from being a humdrum council estate that no-one had ever heard of to becoming a byword for urban depravity suits Southwark very well.   Its critical role in reducing a community of some thousands to a blank spot on the map is buried under the image of a well-meaning council, wrestling with intractable problems in the face of the great global credit crunch.  It also suits developers Lendlease, who don’t want a council estate sitting on their profit opportunity, and will be in no hurry to build anything that smacks of council housing, such as ‘affordable’, or, heaven forbid, ‘social rented’.

A Contribution to Southwark Notes blog by
Jerry Flynn
1st April 2010

MARCH 22nd: Council issues eviction notices to the last remaining tenants on Heygate  estate. Doreen Gee, who was the chair of the Tenants and Residents Association during the first failed regeneration attempt in the early 2000’s, was one the people issued with a notice to seek possession with possible court dates in early April. Southwark News reports ‘Doreen Gee, 71, suffers from arthritis and has been unable to secure a new home, despite bidding for close to 30 properties through the council’s Homesearch system. She received her notice to quit her property last week‘. Whole story here.

Stickers spotted today on the hoardings around the vacant Oakmayne Plaza site at New Kent Rd. Obviously some else thinks it’s a rip-off too!

Why we are doing this site?

See why here’ Where We Are Coming From‘!!
OR CLICK this page for doing something!!

We’ve been looking at the changes in our local area  for 10 years or more. We have also been writing about and photographing the changes as an aid to understanding and acting upon what’s currently going on. The question we asking is ‘whose regeneration?’. Is the by now infamous regeneration of the Elephant + Castle area going to benefit those of us who already live here?

What follows are different pages covering specific areas such as Walworth, The Heygate, Borough etc and some other more thematic pages where we ask questions about specific topics and subject that come up as part of the ‘regeneration’ schemes. We won’t waffle on here, so check out the local pages listed above.

And keep in touch!

Elephant Editors

These are all the pages we are updating> You can click these links or the same links at the top of this page!

You can also email us your thoughts, gossip, news, error corrections, dead web links, leaked documents, moans, support and criticism:

Moaning is the beginning. Actually doing something about it is the next step…

This complex biomorphic sculpture depicts organic biomasses with a strong reference to mutation that is expressed through a combination of “pop” and “baroque” touches. The “Alternative Transformation Gold Evolution” in an alchemical metaphoric meaning, symbolises glory and ambition as the internal motives of the Strata SE1 pioneers, who lead in the evolutionary construction of this significant building with its aim to contribute to ‘community’ and ‘sustainable living’.