Tag Archives: Rip-Off

It’s Not Too Late Aylesbury Estate: What happened and what next?

What a week! Three crucial and significant things have happened this week for the ongoing fight against the demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and the social cleansing this entails.

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1) THE OCCUPATION

After two months in residence in three different buildings on the Phase 1 Aylesbury site, the Occupation has decided that it is time to leave. The difficulty in the last few weeks of 24 hour security guards who at times assaulted them, stole their stuff as well as the famous ‘Alcatraz’ fence that made it hard to get back into their chosen home made the Occupation increasingly stressful. The Lapa Security guards, who as minimum wage workers we would usually have some sympathy for, were mostly bullies to both the Occupiers and the residents. Some of them were the same guards used at the Heygate site when the Council fenced in the last three leaseholders. One of them on Aylesbury was even the same guy who assualted a Heygate leaseholder in 2013. Police were informed when that happened, issued a crime number but did not do anything about it despite the guy’s name and employer being known.
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Although at Southwark Notes our family and work commitments meant we were unable to be around the Occupation much, we did get to know some of them and we take our hats off to all of them. They were so well organised and strategic and definitely sussed on the need to keep the Occupation dynamic and not get bogged down on the terms of the Council, the police or the security guards. They always set the agenda. After two amazing months having an exit strategy for leaving is part of that suss.

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The Occupation is proof that sometimes you just got try something and see what happens! That’s definitely the case here. There are many arguments made about who is local and who is not. Who has a right to do what and who doesn’t. The Occupation has thrown up some great lessons into those questions and these will remain pertinent throughout the next few years of anti-regeneration struggles that are happening.

Although no-one from the Occupation was ever a tenant or resident of Aylesbury there were some initial long-term connections to the tenants struggle. In two months, the Occupiers ran themselves ragged making more connections, publicising the Aylesbury campaign all over the estate, organising events for all, working with the campaigns to make it known to Creation Trust, the Council and MP’s that all is not well on Aylesbury. There are a significant number of people there who do no want to be thrown out of the homes they love and who do not trust that they will be able to afford any of the new rented ‘affordable’ homes that get built there. The Occupation and the work of the campaigns has been a huge boost to those people who are consistently shut down and marginalised by the regeneration machine

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The Occupation also shows that not all housing struggle occupations are the same and that has been a very useful lesson. They always insisted that the Occupation was both an act of solidarity with the Aylesbury campaigns and also the taking of homes for themselves as squatters seeking other necessary ways to live against the brutalities of mad private rents and the lack of any chance of a council tenancy. Alongside this, the Occupation maintained itself as a protest against the fairly recent criminalisation of squatting in residential buildings. With so many luxury flats bought as investments and then kept empty by their owners, this new law is vile and punishing. Everyone needs a roof over their head. The Occupation’s insistence on “squatting the lot’ makes sense when you look how at the housing crisis gets worse and worse. With the demolition of public housing (such as Heygate and Aylesbury), where else will people go?

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The Occupiers short leaving leaving statement sums up their defiance and attitude: ‘ We are squatters who are not bound by the borders of the Aylesbury estate. We are residents who still have leases and tenancies. We are everyone who needs a place to stay. We are bound by nothing but this need.


2) THE FENCES
What to say? The Occupation’s leaving present was particularly momentous. When the last 20 or so residents around Bradenham and Chiltern asked the Council to maintain security around their homes they never asked to be fenced in behind locked doors. The residents remain clear on this despite the Council’s public statements that the fences were asked for. We’ve heard stories of residents afraid to leave their homes due to the guards, of residents crying from the stress, of relatives unable to visit,
of residents’ mail being intercepted, of vulnerable people having to walk half a mile more around the estate due to the fences. It was clear from talking to residents that the fences were a humiliation. From talking to local people, it was clear the fences were a disgrace.

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From the publicity that was first made by the residents and then others about the ‘Alcatraz’ fences, a groundswell of anger built slowly over the weeks towards the Council’s indifference to residents suffering. Not only this but how the fencing in of residents and the occupation showed how the regeneration scheme proceeds now on its own logic of success with little attention paid to both its unpopularity and the suffering it is causes. There can no longer be any real truth that the regeneration will benefit the local community. Not now and definitely not in the future.

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It was no real secret that the fences would be pulled down. That was why people came to the demo and that is what was put into practice. 250 people came together to support a necessary direct action against this fence, the symbol of the violence of regeneration. As we said a few times now, regeneration politics never looked this way one year ago. A massive shift has occurred where people no longer have faith in the institutions that supposedly work on their behalf: planning committees, regeneration consultants, councils and so on. People know they need to do things for themselves and defend what they have. Protests, occupations, direct actions have all have upped the ante. We welcome this because this is what was needed and because these tactics work!

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3) AYLESBURY GOING FORWARD

Seeing the fences come down was a great moment and it remains a moment. Just one moment of all the work done so far – street stalls, petitioning, public meetings, researching, writing, publicising, organising, learning together. We don’t mistake the fences for the trees. We are sure the fences are mended and back in place. It’s up to the residents and supporters to still maintain pressure to get them permanently removed. It’s also vital we support the one arrested Aylesbury resident of the night and we will post further details on this when she is ready. 20 people held a party outside Walworth cop shop as they waited for her to get out! It is also vital to keep on supporting the Aylesbury campaigns, both the tenants and the leaseholders.

Significantly, on the same day as the fences came down the venue for the Aylesbury Estate Compulsory Purchase Order Public Inquiry on 28th April and subsequent days was announced: Conference Centre, Millwall FC, The Den, Zampa Rd, London SE16 3LN

These few days are where there will be an open and public examination of whether the regeneration on Aylesbury will be of any benefit to the local community.We invite all who support the Aylesbury residents to attend and listen to the arguments, support those giving evidence and testimony and also if you are in a position to help as a legal bod or some kind of expert in planning, CPO, regeneration, housing policy etc, please get involved.

The leaseholders Statement of Case is worth reading but we also summarised some of it here. It makes the case that the regeneration is only about being a private development scheme that will see most residents displaced to either existing Council homes (like this one) or see leaseholders unable to stay in the local area (like Heygate), We doubt very few tenants or residents will take up residence in the new homes Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) promise to build.

And here’s why:
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Also on the same day the fences were toppled, we had a reply from our question to Notting Hill Housing trust re: the tenure status of their 44 ‘affordable’ homes on their Exchange development in Bermondsey Spa. When planning permission was agreed, the application had NHHT promise 44 homes for ‘social rent’. That means that the rents are set according to income levels as determined by the National Rent Regime regulatory framework. This also means that these 44 homes were more likely to be affordable to local people. After the planning permission was agreed, when a later S106 agreement was signed with the Council, the 44 ‘social rent’ homes had changed unchallenged by the Council to ’44 Affordable Rent’ homes. NHHT clarified to us this week that they mean to rent these flats at 58% of local private rent prices. That could be up to £250 – 300 per week or more!

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The Council very well knows the difference between ‘social rent’ and ‘affordable rent’. “Affordable rent’ was introduced by the Government in 2011. It means that Housing Associations such as NHHT can charge up to 80% of market rent for these supposedly ‘affordable’ homes. The council were part of 4 councils seeking a Judicial Review of ‘affordable rent’ as in the words on then Council Head of Regeneration Fiona Colley: ‘We are very keen to seek a judicial review of this decision. Maybe there are some areas of London where rent levels of 80% of market rent are affordable to most people, but they certainly aren’t in Southwark. The implication of the mayor’s decision is that councils will have little power to make sure new affordable housing is really, genuinely affordable for local people‘.

Not only this but the Council wrote to Boris Johnson in March 2012 outlining in detail how ‘affordable rent’ would be entirely out of reach of most Southwark residents pockets. See Southwark’s own graph above which shows how a council rent in Walworth is roughly £108 per week. Under ‘affordable rent’, the equivalent rent would be (at 2012 prices!) £226 per week. Southwark’s letter is here: Southwark Letter to Boris Affordable Rent

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Whereas before NHHT has guaranteed in its planning application 44 social rent units, through sleight of hand and unopposed by the Council, these 44 homes have been taken away from local people. What concerns us is that as NHHT are the regeneration partner for Aylesbury regeneration will the promised 100’s of social rented homes on that site be magically transformed into ‘affordable rent’ ones? It’s a concern also because the loss of 44 social rent homes at The Exchange also means less homes for decanted tenants from Aylesbury. If 1000’s of Aylesbury tenants will only end up being rehoused in existing council stock outside the Aylesbury area then it makes a mockery of the regeneration benefiting tenants with new homes. With NHHT zealous love of ‘affordable rent’, will they seriously stump up the promised number of new social rented homes at Aylesbury? Increasingly Housing Associations are converting their existing social rent properties to affordable rent. In the past three years, London and Quadrant switched 1,673 tenancies earning an extra £4.2m and Notting Hill Housing Trust switched 853 earning an extra £3.3m. Both L&Q and NHHT are development partners at Aylesbury. Will the social rent homes L&Q built on Phase 1 slowly be switched or re-let to more expensive rents?

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Horrible questions that need answers and these answers only seen to come from paying constant attention and constantly demanding them. For Southwark Council in its dreamworld of regeneration, everything is fine and everything is dandy. Their regeneration proceeds smoothly as social cleansing is either explicit or sneaked in through the back door. But there are many regeneration fences that are ready to be pulled, be they ‘Alcatraz’ ones or taking on the Council, NHHT and anyone else. We haven’t given up yet!

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Poor Old Shopping Centre again

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Following on from our ‘Poor Old Shopping Centre’ post of earlier in the week, we can now report live from the scene of the developer Delancey’s consultation efforts to divine the local community’s responses and desires around the planned demolition of the Centre. Interesting is how much effort and £££ has been put into having one man standing in front of curved poster with their 5 already answered questions (see here). Is the authentic member of the public being engaged in ‘community consultation’ or is he actually looking to buy a new handbag? Hard to tell from this scene.

But who is that man centre screen? Why it’s no less than Kim Humphreys! Who he, you may well ask? Well, no less than the former Conservative ‘Deputy Leader & Executive Member for Housing at Southwark Council’ who resigned his Council post in 2010 to go into business after failing to secure from 20 attempts a prospective MP place for the Tory party. The business at hand Kim went into was the regeneration industry as a consultant when he set up Carvil Ventures.

Kim Humphreys is a Board Level Executive with an in-depth knowledge of the public and private sectors and a track record at motivating people to transform services in complex environments. After a 20 year dual-track career working in both commercial banking, heading Mizuho Corporate Banks European syndicated loan activities and serving as Deputy Leader & Executive Member for Housing at Southwark Council, London’s largest social landlord, Kim founded Carvil Ventures to build on his experience and expertise in order to offer his clients creative entrepreneurial real estate solutions”. 

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Most unusual is that Carvil Venture website features an Elephant! Must be hoping for subliminal effect on clients! Not only that but it also presents a Zebra-Elephant! What can this unique creature signify? Answers on a postcard please!

Anyhow, nice to see the former ‘Deputy Leader & Executive Member for Housing at Southwark Council’ meeting the community for once in his new role as consultant guru. Carvil is an ‘independent real estate consultancy with a focus on strategy and public affairs founded by Kim Humphreys, drawing on his in-depth knowledge of the public and private sectors and providing imaginative and entrepreneurial solutions to complex real estate development issues. Our core strength lies in a thorough and c as well as the creative design process and planning system coming from our years of experience in directly relevant sectors. From our experience we know what methods of communication are required to succeed in taking development concepts from initial advice through the planning process to a success outcome‘.

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As Carvil’s ‘core strength’ is a ‘comprehensive understanding of…the community’s needs and wants’, we feel that the whole regeneration of the Shopping Centre is in safe hands with Kim. The lad done well!

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As did these other former Southwark employees and councillors!

If Someone Gave You £100,000, Would You Keep An Eye On It? The Curious Case of Regeneration, Section 106, Strata Tower and Public Art

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Way back in the day of 2006, our tired eyes at Southwark Notes perked up when, on reading the very exciting Section 106 Agreement between Southwark Council and Castle House Developers Ltd, we spotted the following clause:

8 – PUBLIC ART
8.1: Prior to Occupation, the Developer will commission and install within the Development the Public Art. The value of the Public Art (including the cost of installation) shall be approximately £100,000

Strata Section 106 Agreement PUBLIC ART (definition): A work of art to be installed within the entrance area of the Development predominantly of glass unless otherwise agreed.

As you probably know Section 106 (S106) agreements are more commonly known as ‘planning gain’ or ‘community benefits’. An S106 agreement between a developer and a Council usually acts as some kind of payback from the profits the developer will make on their new building towards local good. Examples from a S106 agreement could be that money is negotiated for the renovation of a local children’s playground or that monies are given over to the funding of a community health centre or that cash is given up to supplement the construction of ‘affordable’ housing units.

In this instance, the Strata developers Brookfield Multiplex, as part of their S106 Agreement with the Council, had gone down the  well-trodden ‘Public Art as Community Benefit garden path’ and promised to us locals that £100,000 pounds of their profits would bring us some culture. Now, Southwark Notes loves as much Public Art as the next person (see here for our appreciation) but we immediately sniffed out that there was something well iffy about this one!

First and foremost there is the question of what is public art and what isn’t? The original intention of Brookfield was to install something arty ‘within the entrance area of the Development predominantly of glass‘.  Something sculptural made of glass put in the actual public realm of The Elephant isn’t going to last the half hour so we can only read this line as meaning spending £100,000 on a fancy glass thing in the foyer of your building. That’s having your glass cake and eating it. In the end, the fabled thing ‘predominantly of glass‘ bit the dust and by 2010, the Public Art had turned into a much more slippery and dubious affair.

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Screenshot from Brookfield’s now offline StrataLondonArt.com site, 2010

WHOSE ART IS IT ANYWAY?
With some fanfare typical of developers, by April 2010, the Public Art had mutated into a whole new bag of tricks. With the intention of adding the usual ‘vibrancy‘ to the local area and ‘support and developing local talent‘, Brookfield announced that the public art at Strata would now come from a competition held amongst students at Camberwell College of Art. They announced that the art would now be fixed up on ‘either side of the main entrance doors to Strata‘ and that the art would be housed on ‘two large glass panels enclosing the foyer area‘. Such art would be ‘integral to the development but accessible to the public eye at all times‘ as ‘these panels formed the ideal palette for the Public Art‘.

Essentially this is another version of the ‘predominantly‘ glass thing that never was. Southwark Notes would argue that any art ‘integral‘ to the development i.e constructed as part of the entrance is not a genuinely public piece of art regardless of whether it can be seen by the public. We would call that a design feature of Strata that benefits residents and potential buyers of the flats. If everyone at Southwark Notes painted their front door’s green with yellow spots, we would not argue that this was done for the public benefit. Any public enjoyment of our yellow spots is purely secondary.

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WHOSE S106 MONEY IS IT ANYWAY?
36 Camberwell students submitted works to the competition on the theme of what Brookfield told us was ‘’community and sustainable leaving’. Surely a Freudian slip if ever there was one! On 19 May 2010, ‘a panel of four judges shortlisted 13 pieces as finalists to be created and then the finished artworks were judged and on 24 June 2010 six bursaries were awarded to the winning students‘. Over the course of the next year, four artworks were displayed on the glass panels on either side of the entrance foyer.

On July 1st 2010, at the official launch of Strata Tower as an investment and housing option, all the finalist works were exhibited in the empty commercial space at Strata ground floor. Brookfield reported that ‘all finalists’ work…was then auctioned. All monies raised from the action went back to the community and the Camberwell College of Arts‘. Here and subsequently as you will see, it has not been possible to find out how and also how much money went back into the community.

Curious as we were with this strange tale, we decided to submit a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) to Southwark Council to ask them details of how £100,000 of S106 money negiotiated for local benefit was spent. We couldn’t see how four panels displayed throughout one year could add up to such a large figure. We were also concerned that the public art was not really public at all.

THE LONG WAIT FOR WHAT WE ALREADY KNEW
On 1st Febraury 2012, we sent off our simple FOI request:

Can the Council show a breakdown of total expenditure so far for the Strata Tower S106 contribution of £100,000 towards a public art commission“.

On March 20th 2012 we received a detailed reply that told us that ‘The Council can confirm that Clause 8.1 of the section 106 agreement has now been fully complied with“. The Council reckoned that the ‘set up cost and judging panel for this public art programme included bursaries; artwork reproduction; exhibition set up cost and consultant fees‘ added up to £100,000 well spent. The Council even stated that ‘the installation costs, the public art programme and the value of the artwork itself together can be attributed a value which is in excess of the £100.000 required by the S106 agreement‘. Firstly we wondered whether the undefinable value of an artwork can be considered as part of a financial contribution to the local community. We also thought that it didn’t sound like £100,000 had been spent for the local community. As S106 is serious financial agreement between parties, we wrote again asking that the Council provides a breakdown of expenditure for this S106 contribution. We wanted figures for how much each bursary was, how much consultants were paid, costs of installation and production of artworks etc.

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Alina Petrenko’s winning design up on Strata 2010

To try and cut a very long story short, we wrote again for this expenditure on March 8th 2o12. The Council said they didn’t have the information and maybe DP9 had it. DP9 is a partner planning consultant on Strata development. We asked for names at DP9 to write to but got no reply. By May 2012, we requested an Internal Review on this matter as no further information on the expenditure had come our way from The Council. We wrote that the request for an “internal review is based upon asking whether the Council, after securing £100,000 Section 6 money for public art, is able to then account for the expenditure of this money“.

In June 2012, the Council assured us that ‘this obligation was monitored in the same way it would be for any other non-payment s106 obligation and is satisfied the obligation in the provision of the public art worth £100,000 has been provided. We have requested further information from the development and will pass that on in due course‘. Nothing was heard so in August 2012, we requested another Internal Review.

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GOING NOWHERE FAST
Dodging the request for the Review, the Council replied in September 2012 that
with regard to the process for confirming the S106 condition for public art at the Strata Tower, I can confirm that upon investigation the confirmation of the fulfilled condition was undertaken by the then S106 officer. This process involved receiving confirmation from the developer that the funds had been transferred together with confirmation from the college that the funds had been received. The college also confirmed how the funds were spent, which was provided in the original response to your request. The council confirms that in this instance a site visit from an officer did not take place and on reflection, a site visit should have been conducted, but due to resource constraints and the fact both the college and developer confirmed the fulfilment of this obligation, the council was satisfied that this met the condition as set out in the S106 agreement‘.

We can summarise this as Council S106 Officer asks developer if they done what they supposed to do and developer says ‘Hell yeah!‘. Council Officer says ‘should do a site visit but couldn’t be bothered‘. Council says ‘yeah, we should have done a site visit but we didn’t‘. In light of this fact, the Council says “In order to complete the council records in relation to this agreement, I can confirm that the S106 manager is still seeking this information” which seems like an admission that some major slackness is taking place.

As no actual expenditure figures have been received despite what the Council reply says, we wrote again in November 2012 asking for another Internal Review and then we heard nothing. In February 2013 we wrote again ‘Happy Birthday! We are 1 year old today! Do you think you will ever be able to answer my request for a proper breakdown of all expenditure relating to the S106 Public Art at Strata Building that I submitted on 1st Feb 2012?’

I.C.O – A-GO-GO!
In March 2013, we took the next step after the failure to gain an Internal Review and wrote about this case to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the folks who are ‘the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals‘.

In May 2013, prompted by the weak boot of the ICO, the Council finally sends us a reply in which they pointlessly re-send to us the original reply they made to us in March 2012 saying again that this provides the info they have. They then write what we knew all along that:

‘I can confirm the council conducted a search of its records at the time of the first request and established that a full breakdown of the information was not held by the council…As a final response, the council is able to confirm we do not hold a breakdown of the information that has been requested and all information held in relation to this request has now been provided’.

Which is a brilliant way of saying ‘we have supplied you with the information that we do not have’!

We replied with an leaving salvo:

“Dear Regeneration & Neighbourhoods,
Thank you for the update and the letter from DP9 both of which confirm that the Council does not know how £100,000 of Section 106 money was spent. As S106 monies are negotiated by councils from developers profits to be used to benefit the local community, it is vital that such money can be accounted for if local people are to have any trust that the council is looking after their interest”.

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IF WE GAVE YOU £100,00, WOULD YOU KEEP AN EYE ON IT?
As we write this, the overall winner of the competition Julie Bennett still has her panel displayed at the front of the Strata Tower despite her expectation that it would be displayed only ‘until 30th June 2011‘. We found out that the bursaries to the four winning students were only £1000 quid each. Here, as we scratch our weary heads, we can’t see that this is a genuinely spent £100,000 of community benefit!

We also wonder if the publicised Brookfield Trust that the developer was to set up at Camberwell from money raised at the Strate Official Launch auction to provide more bursaries ever materialised. We were certainly unable to see this in action when we asked and searched around. The website Stratalondonart.com which featured this claim and all the winning designs and promotional guff for Brookfield’s heavy interest in art was only online for one year from June 2010 to Sept 2011 before getting the boot. We also question the dubious practice of getting students involved in the dodgy regeneration practice of designing decorative panels that act as an asset to developments whilst pretending to be pieces of public art.

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The whole sorry saga can be found here in the form of letters from us to the Council and the letters from the Council to us.

LEADER OF THE COUNCIL PETER JOHN: PROBABLY MAKING IT UP

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Leader of the Council, Peter John tweeted during the protest at the Planning Meeting on Tuesday  that there was an ‘Unnecessary hiatus in meeting as protesters not from E&C cause disruption – protesters entry requested by Simon Hughes!‘.

Of course three points come to our minds on this amazing piece of Twit news:

1) how could Peter John know possibly know where those people came from? Did he ask them all in person or does he have telepathic super powers? Well, he is Leader of the Council no less. So it could be true. Or…

Was he making it up?

Answers on a postcard please!

Was Peter implying that no-one locally could possibly want to have any objections that they may wish to present in a more interesting and critical manner than in the useless 5 minutes of objection time allowed?

2) Attempting to discredit the local silent protest by saying categorically that they are outsiders is one of the oldest and slimiest political tricks in the book. So well done Peter for pulling this one on Southwark residents.

Needless to say we also have to ask if there is an exclusion zone in Peter’s mind when it comes to who has a right to object and protest anything that concerns The Elephant. Not only does the regeneration of The Elephant affect local people but it also affects those in Blackfriars, Bermondsey, Walworth, Peckham. Development and planning is not separate. It is intimately connected and he knows it. By this logic we should be demanding that no-one who doesn’t live in the area should have anything to do with regenerating it. Where does Peter John live by the way?

3) He then also has the cheek to play the party politics card and blame Simon Hughes for getting them in.

In reality, Simon Hughes was about to walk through the line of security and into the meeting when the excluded crowd said something akin to ‘well, if he’s going in then so are we‘. This was enough the make Hughes stop in his tracks, probably not happy to be seen leading a rabble of local folks in, and turn to talk to those people outside, something that Peter John would never do.  This was then how Simon Hughes decided to ask that these people could come in.

To us it matters more not what Simon Hughes had in mind getting people in but more so that Peter John was obviously happy to just leave the public outside the meeting.

All Hail All Powerful, All Knowing Leader of The Council!

HOW THE ELEPHANT WAS SOLD AT TOOLEY ST ONE TUESDAY NIGHT

We seriously haven’t recovered yet from our attendance at last night’s monster six hour pantomime playing at the Tooley St Theatre where the show was all about whether a large unaccountable development company (Lend Lease) could link up with a smaller unaccountable local council (Southwark) and do dastardly business together. The audience were played by local people who think these ugly sisters of business and wannabe politicians are about to re-stage the Kings New Clothes down at The Elephant. Any road up, here is a quick report. We will come back to the details at a later date.

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• 50 members of the public were excluded from a public meeting that affects their area. The Council didn’t have a room big enough at Tooley St offices to hold all those who wanted to sit through the pantomime so it kept a whole bunch of folks outside until half way thorough when enough people had left to accommodate 20 of them. The police and security kept the door between the lobby and the meeting room secure. At one point in the break, they even started off not letting anyone from the hearing going into where the excluded folks were but relented after some argument. Of course, the Council was uninterested in holding the meeting in a place that was actually big enough despite their being over 200 objections received. Of 102 possible seats, many were taken up by Lend Lease, Soundings (Consultation cronies) and council folks. A bigger room is a no brainer if you actually give a toss!

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• About 30 of the excluded people decided to hold their own fantastic objectors meeting outside in the lobby to discuss why they were there and their own concerns. We thought that was a brilliant idea instead of just giving up and going home.

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• This is what the meeting looked like. A bright and airless room where we sat for 6 hours listening to one hour of brilliant focused, precise and wise objections to the Council’s willful overlooking of a Masterplan that breaches it’s own policies in numerous topics – affordable housing, car parking, sustainability, health and education and over-12 play provision and so on. And then 5 hours more of silence from any Labour Councillors to actually have any single criticism of the Masterplan and sometimes good and sometimes rather tired questioning from the Lib-Dems on the Planning Committee. All the Councillors had received detailed objections from tons of people as emails and papers and these were also all in the large 197 page Planning Committee document that each of them had. Yet they were unable to really get to grips with both the nuances and precise content of those objections. At the start we were informed that the meeting was ‘not party political‘ as if having 4 Labour councillors and 3 Lib-Dems was going to make no difference at all to the final vote.

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aff rent not social

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• We also heard over an hour of Lend Lease corporate waffle and nonsense. One example among the many that we are afraid to unleash to those who weren’t there: When asked whether new more chain shops might be seen as a dangerous competition to long established local traders, one Lend Lease word magician replied that he ‘didn’t like to think of it as competition but as more like opportunity‘. Of course destroying local shopping is also contrary to the new 2012 National Planning Policy Framework that seeks for council to ‘ensure the vitality of town centres‘ i.e don’t make everywhere chain retail hell.

During Lend Lease’s questioning by the Council (akin to being ‘savaged by a dead sheep‘ as the saying goes) local people held up signs in silence to highlight key objections to the Masterplan. The Chair for the night Labour Councilor Nick Dolezal, who we found rather showy and cartoonish, freaked out and threatened the protestors with removal even though when security came they were decidedly reluctant to begin grabbing anyone. (Dolezal later publicly described them as ‘our little pixies‘!). Another threat to remove everyone bar the Council, the developers and the objectors who had spoken was also aired was similarly ignored because how can you seriously bar the public from a public meeting.

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(Nick Dolezal ponders his next move as more posters are hoisted in yet another part of the room)

The silent protest was only meant to highlight the farce in progress anyhow and not to prevent anyone from hearing the rest of what was said. After twenty interesting minutes of Dolezal overreaction, the posters were lowered so that the show could go on. At point, a protestor offered the boyish Leader of the Council Peter John some posters which he took and enthusiastically threw to the floor. ‘Peter, not down there! You’re supposed to hold them up!’, was the poster givers reply. Made us laugh anyhow!

There was a telling moment near the end when the procedure requires ‘one representative for any supporters who live within 100 metres of the developement site‘ to come and testify their support. No one in the room rose to take up that role!

pink ele rip off

To cut a long story short, there was no surprise when the 2 Lib-Dems voted against (because it wasn’t their party in power but they would have done the same as Labour did last night if they were) and 4 Labour votes for the scheme. There was one totally pointless abstention from a most bizarre Lib-Dem councillor (who used to be a Tory councillor) from Dulwich. At telling moment came about 20 minutes before the vote when Dolezal was rushing to finish and in a moment of pushing things along, he said ‘Oh, I’m getting serious now‘ to which we would add: Well, it is probably a serious business, no? You wouldn’t think so given Dolezal’s constant gum-chewing, jokes and lack of impartiality.

To give you a clue as to how The Elephant was sold last night we will highlight the fact that when Lend Lease were questioned on whether they will receive the freehold of the Heygate Estate land, Dolezal ruled that this question had no bearing on the planning permission. It’s a bloody good question though! When you consider that the whole scheme delivers only 71 truly affordable socially rented units to replace the 1100+ council tenancies that made up Heygate and the rest of the ‘guaranteed‘ 25% of affordable homes are of such a tenure type* that they are actually extremely unaffordable for local people and also many Londoners, you might start to wonder how it is that this scheme can be granted approval. When you consider that Lend Lease reckons that the scheme is barely viable at approx 10% affordable housing but are committed to 25%,  and that no-one is allowed to actually look at the figures because they are commercially sensitive, you might wonder if a load of porkies is being told. Would they really commit to something so obviously risky? When you consider all this, the question of whether Southwark will give Lend Lease the freehold to this currently publicly-owned land is a good and pertinent one.

(* In addition to the 71 target rent places (socially-rented) there will be a further 194 ‘Affordable Rent’ places, these rents being set at a rate of 50% of the private market rental rate locally. i.e not affordable to many. And this despite Southwark’s own 2011 objections to the concept of ‘Affordable Rent’ and the 2012 London Plan’s examination criticisms).

Lend Lease的壞公司

Lend Lease的壞公司

Anyhow, we have on tape Lend Lease’s absolute commitment to seeing this project through. So of they ever wangle out of it over the next 16 years, we will find them and subject them to a merciless replaying of this promise.

Oh, by the way, we would really be fools if we actually believed their promises. Like the Council, promises are made to be broken and to be forgotten.It is a rule at these meetings that no photography or sound / video recordings must be made and so with no actual official record of last night’s proceedings being made for public scrutiny, all of Lend Lease’s promises remain words in a room in a particular moment in time. Happily, to keep an important unofficial record, there were camera’s-a-g0-go (as you can see) recording the proceedings and at least two people in the audience taped the whole thing.

There was many a moment like this: When asked about interim uses on the Heygate site before the new houses are built and whether it would get in touch with Celia from Victory Park who had initiated a tree nursery with local school children in the Heygate Rose Garden*. They said ‘Yes, they would‘. It was common for them to nod and solemnly say ‘Yes, they would‘ to remaining open to alleviating many concerns that were raised. But with no minutes or record, who is there to keep them to their easy words?

(* We can add that this lovely example of a local community-led labour of love was not so heart-warming to the Council. They have welded the gates of the Rose Garden shut so neither Celia nor the kids can now get in there)

Poster 101
We will say it again: Southwark has no interest in hearing objections, useful criticism or local wisdom. It has no interest in even pretending (like Lend Lease) that it’s consultation is meaningful to any planning inquiry. It is wholly unaccountable to it’s voters. It is a total joke for anyone who cares passionately ebnough to engage in local politics through this kind of framework. This way of working is flawed. It simply cannot work to the benefit of local people. We spent years in consultation with these people, taking it seriously and giving up our knowledge and passions for free but we have not seen one single thing barring a few saved trees taken seriously or put into the Masterplan. The Masterplan remains a totally blatant and greedy land grab at the expense of local people.

heygate flush
After attending Lend Lease’s One The Elephant luxury flats ‘community preview‘ last week and last night’s farce, we were starting to get resigned to all this, to start to think it’s all over or that there is no alternative to the private investment model of housing and regeneration. It was a tough week.

But there is another way and we need to find it. We will continue doing what we do and we invite you, as always, to join us in that work.

villain
Here follows our shorter review of last night’s show:
PURE PARTY POLITICAL PLANNING PERMISSION PANTOMIME. PAH!

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

DSCF2934
‘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.


Housing
  • 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.


Ecology

  • 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. 
 
Trees
  • 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)


Sustainability

  • 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.
 
CYCLING 
  • 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.     
 
 
Employment/Retail

  • 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

One The Elephant development: ‘Community Preview’ Thursday 10th Jan 6-8pm

gentrification top trumps st marys
One The Elephant will be a 37-storey high tower right in the heart of The Elephant and across from the Shopping Centre. It will be the little-ish sister of the Strata tower and the stalled but inevitably forthcoming 360 London tower on Newington Butts. It will contain only private homes with the currently advertised off-plan (i.e not yet built) starting price of £320,000 for a one-bed flat!  With zero affordable housing of any type, all of its 284 units will be luxury flats for the open market and some with access to a secluded garden on the roof of a 4-storey building beside the tower. We have yet to see the plans for the drawbridge, moat and boiling oil!

Needless to say, the development is not really being marketed to local people (surely one of the key features of any regeneration scheme) but is being heavily marketed to overseas investors in the Far East as were, as we have been pointing out repeatedly over the years, Strata, Tribeca Sq, Metropolis etc.

one elephant HKone elephant singapore

There is aCommunity Preview on Thursday 10th at 6-8pm at London College of Communication, SE1 but this is a different kettle of fish from the real deal of the first buyers launch weekend on Sat 12th and Sun 13th January at Siobhan Davies Dance Studio, St Georges Rd, SE1. (Not too late to book your sales appointment over the launch weekend. Just call 020 3667 1522).

Quite what a ‘community preview’ is you can only tell us. Isn’t it a bit like rubbing our noses in it really when from January 2013 you can also buy a one-bed flat for £421,500 or if you need an extra bedroom you will need to stump up £535,000. A three-bedroom flat at Floor 30 will cost you a cool £1,065,000. On-site resident facilities include ‘a green roof for growing produce, a communal reading garden and a play zone for the under-fives’ plus residents of One The Elephant ‘will have a wide variety of activities a stone’s throw from their front door’ such as kebabs, betting shops, Chinese, numerous pound shops and also Bright House and the kiosk that sells bongs in the Shopping Centre!

RIP-OFF NUMBER 2312452
This development has slowly become linked to the building of a replacement Elephant leisure centre. The Council argument goes like this: if we let Lend Lease demolish the old leisure centre, use the front of the building footprint for a massive profit-expanding 37 storey building of luxury flats and get them to pay for a smaller leisure centre at the back, everyone will be quids in! Of course, this is only a very new and dastardly adulteration of many of the old regeneration plans where a new leisure centre came as part of the overall package of changes and not as something we have to now swap public land and size for. It is in this slow trickle of giving in to developers that all community benefits and gains have been ripped-off from local people who were prepared to give the regeneration a go.

Having played a smokes-and-mirrors consultation game, the Council and developers offers something which doesn’t even ‘re-provide‘, in their words, let alone ‘regenerate‘ the old leisure centre: we lose the borough’s only public squash courts and it all gets smaller and tucked behind the big thing in the sky. With Lend Lease’s announcement in mid-2012 that they will invest their profit from dumping the Greenwich Peninsula scheme (something in the region of £25 million) in the Elephant, the £3.5 million they are putting into the new leisure centre is humble to say the least. To top it off, they successfully refused to build affordable housing against all recent London-wide and local Southwark plans and the inevitable high profits of the scheme using the secret and untouchable mumbo-jumbo argument –  it ain’t financially viable –  will never be known to be measured against whether regeneration is offering value for money for long term local residents.

LEND LEASE GET THE SHAKES
In one sense, the One The Elephant scheme is something of both a necessity for Lend Lease and a bone given to them by the Council as Lend Lease still have the financial jitters on the Heygate redevelopment. Although with tears in his eyes, a Lend Lease person told us last year that they aren’t making ‘so’ much money on One The Elephant. Luckily our violins were close at hand and we consoled him with a nice bit of Concerto No.5 in A, the second movement by Mozart. Or not!

It would not be a big shock if Lend Lease didn’t complete both Phase 1 (Rodney Rd) and Phase 2 (Heygate St) over the next decade. Maybe the money to be made is in One The Elephant and Phase 1 where density and height pays dividends on such a small site. Will Phase 2 ever get built or will it get dumped and flogged in a perpetual round of selling on and risky speculation? It’s not impossible that once demolished the Heygate estate area will sit empty for years and years (like Tribeca Sq) waiting out the financial crisis.

estate-agent
FOUR PARTS HYPE AND AN ESTATE AGENT
As a long-ish aside, we had a reputable Estate Agent write to us the other day asking if he could write something about Bankside and it’s potential for investors and home buyers on our estimable blog as they were keen to expand their web presence. We were intrigued and immediately commissioned a piece although in the end it was not suitable to publish here bizarrely enough. However an extract does give you an insight from the lowest part of the global property construction chain:

‘Bankside is a very attractive area which is exceptionally dynamic and vastly improving in developments making it one of the most up and coming areas of London….For potential buyers, this redevelopment of Bankside is quickly making it a very attractive area to invest in. Homes along this area range from between £800 and £1,300 a sq. ft. which is exceptionally good value for money for such a diverse and bustling area, with so much action on its doorstep. Away from the river there are cheaper areas notably around the Waterloo, London Bridge and Elephant and Castle area, where homes are typically around £500 and £700 sq. ft. Homes range from extravagant riverside flats, classical Victorian terraces, public housing and private developments, charitable and church housing, factory and warehouse options and live work units’.

Our presumed insight is that this formerly unloved area that nobody posh or with more money to invest for high returns would ever take a taxi too, has now fallen under the spell of those who operate with either a keen ironic sense of humour or a superb sense of optimism to write these kind of local summaries. Perusing the One The Elephant website that seeks to market the Elephant area to lots of people who have probably never been here we can find all sorts of funny things. For example, despite being firmly in the centre of The Elephant, the publicity cannot bring itself to show any real photos of the actual Elephant area and especially not the Shopping Centre. The one pic we could find was taken in La Chatica café on Elephant Rd, this being a suitably ‘exotic’ and ‘vibrant’ niche kind of place for those who want to invest. Other local attractions featured on the site under the heading ‘Elephant & Castle’ are (listed here in an ascending order of the improbability of localness) Burgess Park, Kennington Park, The South Bank, Borough Market and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben!

By the way, it would be churlish to name the estate agent involved. We were just nonplussed and took it as a sign that the operation of hype is out of control. Who could possibly ask to increase web presence of their local business of selling overpriced housing in the area to a website that has spent over 5 years relentlessly criticising the effects on the local population of such a property business!? We did ask him where he got the web address from but he never answered this pertinent question.

Anyhow, more important than estate agents and their whims is the very real and material question of One The Elephant – now there’s a real trendsetter!

Here is a massive development that

• was inexplicably separated out from the vast Lend Lease Outline Masterplan so that it had it’s own planning application and so we are guessing would appear separate when it is intrinsically linked to the wider Lend Lease development and those within the Elephant Opportunity Area.

• had zero real consultation on the topic of whether it should be built on top of the old leisure centre in the first place as opposed to just consulting on what new leisure centre people want.

• has zero social housing in an area desperate for truly affordable housing.

• has not been subject to any detailed assessment of the impact of 450 extra people on existing services and resources in the area (health, education, etc)

• does not provide any retail opportunity for traders displaced from the Shopping Centre refurbishment

• is an architectural eyesore that sits very uncomfortably next to the Grade ll listed Metropolitan Tabernacle.

• will have 46 car parking spaces in a development that is centered right at one of the most publicly accessible transport interchanges in London (buses, tube and rail) and the regeneration zone itself was always supposed to be a car-free development zone.

• has a very stupid name!

Take that to the community preview!

Untitledst mary skel2

POST MORTEM: Even the dead aren’t safe!
Before the ‘One the Elephant’ name was cunningly devised in some blue-sky thinking session this development was previously known as St Mary’s Residential after the churchyard on which it is partly to stand. But it’s not only the name that is lost in favour of the yuppie cachet of One The Elephant (as if), Walworth loses its dead to regeneration, since they are disinterring remains that go back to the Middle Ages. Some of the 500 skeletons dating back to medieval times unearthed beneath the site in 25 crypts will be reburied outside of the borough, some in Southwark’s functioning cemeteries. The Elephant regeneration finally spells displacement for the living and the dead. Of course the bodies that were missed in the diging will keep spinning in their grave and keeping many a private penthouse buyer nonplussed at the eerie and eldritch sound! It could be so. Woooo! Woooo!