Tag Archives: Tribeca Square

The Murder of The Elephant

murder elephant cover new

This is a Whodunnit written in advance of a murder. It’s a very serious life and death affair.

Anyone who visits and uses the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, as we have been doing for over 25 years, knows that it’s exactly what it is. It’s exactly what it says on the tin – a Shopping Centre. It has about 80 businesses that go from the big Tescos and Smiths to the smaller shops like hairdressers and food places to the smaller kiosks for all sort of the things – clothes mending, coffee, handbags and so on. In what is really the moat of the Castle, for the Shopping Centre was built like a castle, there is the popular small market of numerous and varied cheap stalls. Mostly the shops and services are independent and often family-owned businesses where the owners live locally.

The Shopping Centre is more than just a series of shops though. Any day of the week sees people meeting friends there, hanging out, chatting in the cafes, loitering, keeping warm, watching the day go by or whatever people want to do there socially within reason. Although we can buy dog food, bags of nails or bibles (if you want), we also go there to catch up with what’s happening, with who is there, with what funny things are going on, with all the long-formed non-shopping things that people do under the Centre’s roofs. It’s a place that contains all the great funny stuff that local people bring to it, both funny ha-ha (the banter between people and shopkeepers) and the funny peculiar (like the guy stuck inside the service tunnels somehow before the subways were shut!). This is what makes the place human and simple. It’s the very heart of The Elephant and a poke in the eye to recent claims by developers ‘The Elephant & Castle has no soul..there is no community here’ (as Rob Deck, former Lend Lease Project Director of The Elephant regeneration told us all once).

We aren’t out here to tell tales of simple folks doing simple things as this is just patronising rubbish and there are plenty of people already painting this picture. The Shopping Centre is as complex as all the people’s lives are who use it: stressed, joyful, skint, getting by, on their uppers, begging, coping, living large, whatever and it’s within those complexities that lies the Elephant’s care of its community. But we have to say it’s a cheap and cheerful place with no apology required. It’s not a fancy place. It’s not an expensive place unless you need a wee. It’s not a place for coming to for a Next or H&M or Wagamama or Giraffe or EE or Waitrose.

To return to our serious affair, we know that once this central heart of The Elephant is gone and replaced by 1000’s of expensive flats and mostly chain stores and restaurants, there will be very serious consequences for local people. This is the murder in its planning stages. This is the premeditated death of the Elephant community. Some people like to talk about how there is no such thing as ‘community’ but we tend to think those people don’t know because they either have never lived in one or they do but don’t know how to be in it. Community, such as The Elephant area, is always more like a community of different overlapping communities who mostly get along but it’s a recognisable physical, emotional and economic mish-mash of all of us.

The Shopping Centre is a kind of second home for many in those communities. It’s a place to go where you feel safe, there’s a familiarity, there’s a stability in visiting and a purpose, be that your dogfood or bibles, or sitting shooting the breeze seeing what’s up. It can be and is for many a place of direct social contact with traders you know, friends or strangers. It’s the breaking for many of the everyday isolation. It’s a vital connection for many but particularly older folks. It can be a place of sharing, of trust and of generosity in even the smallest encounter. Contained in all these moments and interactions is a sense of well-being and the positive affect this brings to people’s healthiness. What helps these feelings and meanings flow is that it’s a big place with places for sitting and its sheltered and it’s central. It’s the Shopping Centre, the centre being the Heart.




The plans to demolish the Shopping Centre as part of the by-now infamous ‘regeneration’ of the Elephant area go back donkey’s years. By February 2004, Southwark Council had adopted a Supplementary Planning Guidance called ‘A development framework for the Elephant & Castle’ that proposed demolishing the Shopping Centre and the Heygate Estate. The vision they dreamed up was a new ‘town centre’ with new homes and new leisure and shopping facilities based around a network of new streets at Elephant and top of Walworth Rd instead of a centrally-located Shopping Centre. More plans and negotiations with the owner of the time St Modwen went nowhere past the envisaged removal of the shops ‘between June 2008 and June 2009 with demolition in early 2010’. There was always a big tension in the fact that the larger regeneration plans were hampered by the Council not being the owners of the Shopping Centre site. The Council could agree with Lend Lease to demolish the Heygate but had little real say in the Shopping Centre.

Then there was a funny moment when St Modwen and the Council seemed to suddenly agree to a ‘in-principle decision’ to not knock it down (as had been planned since 2002) but to refurbish the Centre and bung loads of new private homes on top. In the end, the Council were unhappy with St Modwen’s homes idea and refused to consider more than 500 units on site. St Modwen claimed this would not be ‘financially-viable’ of course but having also been playing a long and difficult game of speculation by holding on to the site for as long as possible finally sold to Delancey in 2013 for £80 million. St Modwen had bought the site of UK Land in June 2002 for £29 million anyow so ker-ching!

Delancey is major property company owned by Jamie Ritblat (see photo of one of his modest houses above) . You can Google that name to revel in his tax-dodging and avoidance of paying millions in stamp duty. Delancey is a British company registered in tax haven the British Virgin Islands (23,000 residents, 1,000,000 shell companies registered there!). Delancey’s ‘principal client fund DV4’ is the owner of the ever name-changing new development on Elephant Rd where three large ugly towers have gone up recently adjacent to the Shopping Centre. Here we are talking serious money and serious investment and serious land values.

Here’s how complicated the financing is:

In late 2013 Delancey and APG, the Dutch ‘pension fund asset manager’, formed a new ‘Joint Venture’ to deliver 3000+ new homes in London particularly at the ex-Athletes Village site post-Olympics in East London. Their other main development is the new retail and homes at the Shopping Centre. In 2016 there was a £1.4 billion merger between Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company, Delancey’s client fund DV4 and the Dutch pension fund asset manager, APG.

Qatari Diar is a real estate company established by the Qatar Investment Authority in 2005, itself a ‘sovereign wealth fund’ owned by the state of Qatar, a country with a dubious record of workers rights amongst other things. APG is a €343bn Dutch pension fund asset manager owned by ABP, a public sector pension fund for people working in the Dutch government and education sectors. ABP slogan is ‘Tomorrow is today’ but we’ve known for ages that ‘Tomorrow is actually tomorrow’.

Anyhow, because they are only thinking about you, Sheikh Jassim Al-Thani, chief development officer for Europe and the Americas at Qatari Diar, says that they have a ‘vision to create vibrant, sustainable local communities where people aspire to live, work and visit’. You could be forgiven for thinking that paying into your pension fund was really about you having a few quid after you retire rather than the money being ending up being used by an international cluster of disreputable friggin’ sharks to make money from the gentrification and displacement of locals and local businesses wherever they happen to have their eyes on. The financing is as global as the resulting displacement – London, Sydney, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Luanda etc – and that’s how the system works! Money circulates internationally in ever fewer hands looking to land and make a profit. Any statements  about making ‘new great places to live for everyone’ is pure guff. The bottom line is profits. The Elephant is just one more example of how regeneration is just the making of money dressed up as an urban planning matter. To put it another way – they don’t care about you!


elephant crushed delancey

Interestingly, although these companies don’t give a toss they do go along with the game of pretending they care about what we think. In a monumental time-leap from 2000 to now we are still subjected to what they call ‘consultation’ but we have come to callpantomime’. It’s worth thinking through how any of these plans to destroy the community are supposedly validated by the community.

In the early 2000’s, the Council conducted a ‘consultation’ at The Elephant about their plans to demolish it and replace it with a Town Centre. It’s published results were somewhat skewed. Of 464 responses to their viewing of the new plans, 80% of replies were either ‘strongly or moderately in favour’. Hence we calculate from an area containing 1000’s of local people, 371 were either dead keen on the plans or were ‘moderately’ in favour i.e their agreement was actually quite limited. From this consultation, the Council begins to trumpet a mandate for demolition from local people.

If we jump to Delancey’s public consultation in July 2015 when the first few details of the proposed plans are shown, we can see how such ‘consultation’ (asking for people’s input) is skewed by the misleading and bogus questions people are asked. There is no point going over old ground again and so you can read our critical responses to those questions here! Worth pointing out that at no point does this question – Would you like the development to include homes for people who love and live in London? – ask about what kind of homes are they talking about? Why are there no questions about types of tenure so that people answering the questionnaire can specify types if tenure they desire locally. People could then also talk about the absent question of social rented and affordable housing in the scheme.

As part of the ‘regeneration’ of the area, the Elephant & Castle zone has been awarded the dubious status of being an ‘opportunity area’ which we read as being an area ripe for the picking for opportunist investors, developers and more international shitehawks. Such an ‘opportunity’ means that the area is set for a ‘minimum of 4000 new homes to be built by 2031‘. This also supposedly includes at least 1,400 ‘affordable’ homes although few truly affordable social rented homes are being built or even if they are promised through the contract of S106 provision, they are being switched to unaffordable rents at the last moment. These are the same ‘affordable rents’ that the Council says ‘we do not think that the new affordable rent tenure is affordable for people in housing need in Southwark’.

What is becoming increasingly clear is Delancey’s plans to maximise the number of private homes across the whole Shopping Centre site and what will be the former site of the London College of Communications over the road by building 650 homes. (You’ll remember from earlier that St Modwen sold up after being refused only 500 homes!!) The LCC deal means that’s acres of prime land where the college now sits will be the landing place for numerous tall towers (19 to 31 storeys) adjacent to the other tall towers (20 to 31 storeys) planned for the Shopping Centre land themselves adjacent to Strata tower, the One The Elephant tower and the 44 storey tower at Newington Butts. We wonder if any daylight will reach us mortal at ground level?

For us, the question remains: who is this new housing for? Already we know that it will be entirely made up of towers of ‘built to let’ properties. This is a new fast growing housing sector that means developments are only made up of new private rental properties. None of the flats are for private sale, or for shared ownership and none are socially rented or ‘affordable’ rented (rents up to 80% of local private rents). Instead they are all owned by the developer and rented out to people for a maximum of three years. When Delancey’s Stafford Lancaster was asked by Council members what guarantee Delancey would give as to the level of social rented housing in the development, he ‘stressed again that these were very early days’ and said ‘that as the rental model was a mass-market product rent levels would need to reflect this. No firm commitment or comment was possible at this stage but there would be a robust discussion about the viability assessment’. This is simple code for no cheap housing as they are allegedly a drain on profits. Back in the real world of property and profits, Realstar, a large Canadian developer of the private rental market, is offering studio flats at their Courland Grove tower in Stockwell for £246 per week! What rents will Delancey be offering at The Elephant? We shudder to think.


ec displace tr autodsec disp[lace chaplinec displace latinoec displace 4


If we are to think of the number of times promises have not been seen through by the Council and developers, we shudder to think again, of the fate of the independent shops, kiosks and market stalls who make their living in and around the Shopping Centre. There has been a great campaign being run by Latin Elephant that raises the question of how to protect the strong local Latino businesses and culture that has been around the Shopping Centre for over two decades now. At the end of the day, of course, everyone is in it together and all the businesses there have to come together to fight for the rights and against being shafted.

For many of the Latino businesses outside of the Shopping Centre redevelopment, being mostly in the railways arches, they will have to face the aggression of Network Rail who have a disregarding  flair for kicking out their tenants once an area is ‘up and coming’. Network Rail’s vision is for more Nandos and more high fee gyms and not necessarily the often precarious tiny business created inside mini-malls in the arches. But inside and around the Shopping Centre are numerous small businesses that will have no place in the new retail zones to be built. There will be some provision for ‘affordable retail’ built into the plans with phased rent-free periods and discounted rents but the few that have been built locally have been tiny and unsuitable for much (see the minuscule unit set aside for Shopping Centre traders that’s in Dashwood Studios student building 120-38 Walworth Rd). Such ‘affordable retail’ units will be set out in developers Section 106 contracts but we’ve been seeing that increasingly such S106 agreements are being weaselled out of.

Delancey’s Elephant Rd development is still supposed to have a market square in situ but we doubt this will be for the kind of popular market stalls the Elephant currently has. Delancey has also used their provision of this market square as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ for why it could not possibly include any affordable homes in their development. Delancey has also been making dubious movements on its promises of affordable retail in its development (see ‘Delancey – a morality tale’ in this post from 35% Campaign). It has also lined the Council up to use its Compulsory Purchase powers for traders who are unable to agree a compensation level for their business move or closure.

None of us here at Southwark Notes Towers can remember a time when traders at the Elephant were happy with the regeneration plans. The most common complaints have always been that traders had no idea what was going on, felt that the Council weren’t talking to them and that they would not survive any regeneration of the Elephant area. By 2007, things were so bad that the traders managed to present a Traders Charter to the Council detailing their concerns: ‘As small business traders at the Elephant and Castle we feel that the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle, approved in 2004, has significantly disadvantaged us, by damaging our existing business livelihoods and future prospects. We have suffered a slow and progressive cloud of regeneration induced recession with the prospect of extinction. Our businesses have suffered over the past four years, with little hope of any improvement. During this time many small businesses have folded, through being driven out of business by the regeneration’. The demolition of the Heygate and the displacement of those residents resulted in a drop in trade for many of the local businesses.

Jump ahead with us once more to 2014 and the ‘Trading Places: Research at The Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre‘ report from consultants Social Life found traders still saying ‘it will kill my business’ or ‘I will lose everything’. Traders told Social Life’s researcher that they fear rent rises, displacement, closure and lack of compensation and the majority said they were not being talked to by the Council. Many traders also affirmed the social role they and the centre plays in people’s everyday lives saying ‘It’s not just about shops, it’s community, saying Hello’ and ‘We look out for our customers. Some of them come at special times or on certain days so if they are not they I ask about them’.

The following story does not add much conviction to Delancey’s commitment to traders in the Shopping Centre. Paulette Simpson of the Jamaica National Building Society spoke at a meeting of the Council where Delancey were present on behalf of businesses from the Caribbean community. She said that the community was concerned at the lack of consultation, the provision for displaced businesses, whether businesses would be able to afford to return to the new shopping centre and how long the development would take. What profile of businesses was Delancey was envisaging, including size and rents, and what reassurances were there that current businesses would not be driven out. Stafford Lancaster from Delancey stressed that consultation was at a very early stage and that he looked forward to engaging with all businesses.

At the recent launch of Latin Elephant’s ‘The Case for London’s Latin Quarter: Retention, Growth and Sustainability’ on 6th June 2016, Mark Williams Cabinet Member for Regeneration & New Homes said the Council will “shout it to the rooftops” that E&C is London’s Latin American quarter and that the Council will “fully support” the report on protecting and enhancing The Elephant’s Latin Quarter. It’s a tricky situation for us overly pessimistic types and we don’t want to pour any cold water on the amazing work of Latin Elephant in engaging with the Council and others to ‘voicing the concerns of Latin Americans in the Elephant’ but we wonder what real guarantees the Council can give traders that they will be benefiting from the ‘regeneration’ and not being thrown out of the area. It’s simply not possible for all the little businesses to survive regeneration which then beggars the question of how and who does regeneration really benefit? It’s also tricky because over years we’ve simply ended up believing that the Council cannot be trusted and between us and numerous other local blogs there is not a week goes by when another shoddy and scandalous revelation is laid at the Council’s door. BUT we support 100% Latin Elephant’s engagement with Southwark and it’s organising around protecting the Latin American community. It’s vital work.

ec kiosks kebab

Interestingly, until forced by statutory requirements of the Equalities Act (2010), no assessment of the effects of regeneration on the area’s more marginal, vulnerable or precarious people had been carried out despite the numerous policy plans that were produced both Borough-wide and for The Elephant. The first Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA) was undertaken for Southwark’s 2011 Core Strategy document that provides a ‘local development framework’ for the borough. It’s worth looking in detail at the EqIA for the Shopping Centre and Walworth Rd area and the Council’s own noting that East Walworth ward still ranks in the 10% most deprived areas in the country and that parts of Faraday and Newington wards rank in the 20% most deprived areas in the country. It’s a long document but we can summarise quickly by simple quotation the main thorny question of ‘regenerating’ The Elephant.

The report says ‘The plan could unintentionally fail to meet local housing needs by not providing the right housing type and mix for the local community which could sustain or result in overcrowding and poor quality accommodation which in turn disproportionately affects older people, young and Black & Minority Ethnic community’. Following on from this insight, the report continues that ‘The regeneration of Elephant and Castle may result in a rise in house prices and housing may become unaffordable to those currently living in the area, especially for, lone parents, disabled people, the BME community and elderly people. This may also result in a dilution of the community as people are forced to move out of the area as they no longer can afford to live there’. Is this the only ever common sense to be found in Council thinking and experience of the real community-smashing effects of regeneration schemes? What does Heygate show about displacement and replacement of council homes with unaffordable Housing Association rentals? It then beggars belief when right after the above two lines the Council can assert that ‘redevelopment and regeneration of areas may result in the disruption of communities’ and that ‘as part of the Elephant and Castle SPD we will look at how we can successfully create mixed communities with a range of housing types and tenures. This should help to improve social cohesion’. The Council’s EqIA’s solution to the problem of ‘social cohesion’ is to ‘mitigate’ displacement by building 4000 unaffordable homes and destroy the local community business base at The Elephant.





We’ve long been critical of the use of the term ‘regeneration’ to signify much that’s positive for local people. It sits alongside the Council’s use of the term ‘revitalise’ for places like The Elephant, Peckham, Old Kent Rd etc. Do they really mean that they will ‘give new life’ to these places where we live? What on Earth do they mean when these places are already full of life. We know they already think we are the ‘wrong sort of residents’. Do they know think we are the wrong sort of lives too?

When we were thinking about the title of this writing, we thought about how some of those displaced from their homes on the Heygate suffered terrible ill health from stress and anxiety at being removed from the deep social bonds they had created and maintained for years and years. We thought of how some people had died prematurely from the awful experience of decant and displacement. We also thought how the Council had no monitoring in place to keep in touch and be aware of the circumstances of those who it moved at of their area just so they could see if people’s lives, health, employment, happiness and so on was improved or denigrated from being moved off the Heygate. Is this going to be the same for 1000’s of Aylesbury Estate residents too as they get the heavy hand of ‘good for you’ regeneration?

When we say that The Elephant is being murdered we refer to the area and to the killing of a long-term home-grown neighbourhood with special characteristics, peculiarities, strengths and weaknesses. When we say murder though we also mean it very specifically in that regeneration in this cynical fashion that seeks to replace deep bonds of community togetherness (with all its problems too!) with an alienating and sterile landscape of chain shops and pseudo-public places will result in a few local deaths from the removal of the heart of the area and the familiarities and connections it brings. Such community networks, developed and grown over years, provide people with support from neighbours in addition to, or instead of, the help from family. These informal support networks give people a level of emotional resilience derived from the sense of safety and well-being that comes from knowing and trusting people in the immediate locality. But the Council or Delancey won’t ever be consulting us on loneliness, or stress, or depression or isolation. For them the plans are all shiny wonders of progress that we should all be in awe of. For us these plans are deadly!


elephnt fuck off

‘Should Art Be Used to Push London’s Rents Up?’

‘Syd Gale of local blog Southwark Notes told me, “I would think a better symbol of The Elephant is not one up on its hind legs but one shot in the head and it’s ivory tusks ripped out. The Council shot it and the developers poached the valuables. All day-to-day events in the regeneration safari.

Yes, our great man Syd Gale breaks it down quite easily in answer to this question and the rather odd story of the Sam Keil artwork / not artwork proposed to and supported by the Council bigwigs but now denied by all. Luckily, we saved the PDF that no longer appears in public on Sam Keil’s website: not here!

PDF is here: Sam Keil PDF

LL safari-hunter
Full story here at..er..Vice. Glad our researches keep gaining some ground wherever they are published. A truly bizarre story made even more bizarre by Hayden Vernon approaches to Sam and the Council. Nice one.

We like the bit in Vernon’s story when ‘I approached Fiona Colley and she told me that Keil’s comments were unwelcome and laughed off the proposal as silly and self-aggrandising‘. Here is a letter from October 2013 by Jon Abbot, Southwark Council’s Elephant and Castle Project Director to Chris Allen of Oakmayne, the former developer of Tribeca Sq, proposed site of Keil’s bronze elephant:

abbot to keil

We can highlight this bit in that letter to break it down further:
“I managed to meet with both Cllr Fiona Colley and Eleanor Kelly and I wanted to inform you they were both very enthusiastic about the proposed Samatha Keil elephant sculpture and are very supportive. They think it would be well received locally and think it’s a strong idea from a place making point of view”.

Syd is available for further comments should the Council need him to explain what they are doing.

Regeneration Rip Off @ The Elephant Sat 19th July: Walk, Sound, Films

SNAG walk JULY 2014 NEW

SATURDAY 19th JULY: All day Regeneration Rip-Off at The Elephant

ANTI-GENTRIFICATION WALK: 1pm at 56a Infoshop,
56 Crampton St, Walworth SE17. Leaves 1.30pm

• This will be another one of our local walks round the area looking at different sites, developments and characters around the local ‘regeneration’ of the area. We decided not to go over old ground too much (Strata, Heygate etc) but to focus the walk on the new sites – Shopping Centre, One The Elephant, Artworks Box Park, The Signal Building, Eileen House, Newington Causeway Peabody sites and many many more.

In this walk we will ask ‘who benefits?’. With this in mind, we will talk about that very issue – if the local community is not benefiting as promised, which companies and which individuals are benefiting. We will also be looking at how regeneration attempts to place itself on top of people’s local life and history and pretend it was never there.

Intended as a community conversation rather than just us lot going on about it all, please bring your stories, experiences, knowledge, gossip etc and share as we walk, stop and talk.

‘ELEPHANT ENDANGERED’: Outside 56a Infoshop,
56 Crampton St, Walworth SE17 from 4 -6pm

• “Elephant Endangered is a sonic investigation into community and gentrification in the London neighbourhood of Walworth.  The area has been subject to several contentious ‘regeneration’ schemes that have already caused the loss of 1100 socially rented homes of the Heygate Estate.  Elephant Endangered is made up of the many  sounds of the area which are overlaid with conversations had with neighbours, friends, and longstanding residents.  The work is set to continue with new sounds and voices being added through continued dialogues, events, and activities in the community”.

56a Infoshop, 56 Crampton St, Walworth SE17 from 7pm

• We are pleased to be showing locally a stones throw from Heygate site, the excellent new film ‘Concrete Heart Land:
“Concrete Heart Land exposes the social cleansing of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, South London. It marks the moment that the estate was finally lost as social housing to make way for an unjust ‘regeneration’ scheme. Assembled from 12 years of archive materials the film charts the struggles of the local community to keep their homes, stay living in the area, and maintain communal benefits in the face of the advance of this now notorious ‘urban redevelopment programme’. Throughout the film we hear the community engaging in some of the crucial battles with elected officials, planners, and barristers in municipal planning meetings, public enquiries, and interviews”.

We will also be showing the new film about residents struggles to save their homes at Cressingham Gardens, “Homes under the Sledgehammer:
“The film is directed by Sanda Kolar and includes several of the estate’s residents speaking about their experiences of life on the estate. The overwhelming  feeling the film projects is that of community spirit amongst the residents. Nicholas Greaves, Cressingham Gardens Residents’ Chair, said: “It seemed like a jewel in Lambeth’s crown of estates, so it seemed crazy to me that you would want to demolish it.”

Also up is ‘9 Stories In Brixton‘:
“9 Stories in Brixton is a tale about nine residents who live in and around The Guinness Trust estate in heart of Brixton. Earmarked for redevelopment for a number of years, the landlords are now proposing to demolish the estate and rebuild the blocks nine stories high, thereby increasing the capacity of the estate by 30%.  A group of concerned tenants, held meetings to discuss estate issues, and have subsequently endured attempts by the landlords to set up a rival tenants association”.

Plus other short films on housing and other topics that take our fancy. If you have any short films pertinent to the night’s screenings, please bring on USB stick!

See you there on the 19th!

Pent-Up Housing: Definition of A Top-Floor Flat

At Southwark Notes, we motley collection of council tenants and private renters and mere mortals often fail to understand the very local world that we spent too much time researching. Here is one good example.
One of our favourite Elephant property developers Oakmayne were responsible for one of the first new expensive apartment blocks in Walworth when they made the South Central building off of Steedman St. It was finished by 2005. After this time, Oakmayne acquired the Elephant Rd site, closer to Old Kent Rd for a large set of three towers and other amenities  plus zero social rented homes. To cut a long story short and as we understand it, they didn’t do too well on the financing side and the site remained a desert for years. Saga is here! In late 2012, the site was taken over by Delancey.

Oakmayne Penhouse Magicsm

Now, when one buys a top floor flat of a new swanky apartment block off Walworth Rd (as you do!), do you expect that the ‘top floor’ part of it has meaning. Doesn’t that really mean you are at the top of your game. There are no mere mortals like ourselves thumping up and down on your ceiling on our mini-trampoline or jogging circuits round all that luxury space and making a right earful of racket. Anyhow, as you can see in our picture, the last year has seen the mushrooming on top of the top floor of a new penthouse at South Central thus making…arghhh…a new top floor! The company responsible for this are Fisherking who for all extents and purposes judging by their announced portfolio being the same as the old Oakmayne one, one and the same, minus a few directors here and there. Chris Allen, one time of Oakmayne and living in Monaco fame (as was or is?), is one of the the main cheeses again. Price is a cool £1,350,000 for the new top floor flat! Unsurprisingly, as we no longer have any surprise credit left, is that it has been bought, subject to terms, already!

steedman penthouse please

Is there no limit to this? In five years time will financial urgencies demand that a new set of penthouses be added on top of those that have just been built. It’s a never-ending regeneration funny! Unless you live in the flat formerly known as ‘the top floor’.

The usual answers on a postcard to our email if you can provide us with any logic to this!:
elephantnotes (at) yahoo.co.uk

Regeneration Seeks Amnesia (1): The Artworks

SUMMARY: Public park taken away then given back under false pretences in the guise of community use – Southwark Council, The Artworks, Lend Lease.

Tribeca Se Locked
Yes, it’s another long post ahead!

Here at Southwark Notes mansions, we have been following the unbelievable saga of the planned The Artworks ‘arts and creative enterprise community‘ for Walworth with er….disbelief. Long before the large yellow and green ex-shipping containers arrived at the old Shell Garage site in front of Swanbourne block of Heygate Estate, long before before the invention of the Flat White coffee and probably long before even Picasso died. Well it does seem that long to us as Artworks has been rumoured, planned, delivered, amended, delayed and now hoping to move to a new site.

We have a lot of things to say on this proposed Lego-land labyrinth of creative types and market-as-theme park for urban adventuring amongst the, by-now everywhere, ‘Pop-Up’ Street Food places. (A fellow traveler of ours describes these places as ‘Throw-Up shops’!). We are also wondering whether Artworks are renting the land from the Council and on what sort of lease? However, we are gonna set those opinions aside as we prefer to begin our first exploration of what we are calling Regeneration Seeks Amnesia.

heygate allotments 2


When the Heygate Estate was almost finally cleared of residents, some local people began muttering about how the site itself should not be just put behind hoardings for years and years. As the land is still publicly owned those trees and garden areas are still considered ours, so the public spaces within and some of the buildings should be use for temporary benefits to continue to offer something to local residents rather than being a walled off non-space that waits on the developers profits.

There was even a day long gathering organised by Elephant Amenity Network of local folks to discuss and plan what sort of interim uses they wanted to push The Council and developers for. A large report of the days wishes and desires was published with an emphasis on people being able to still both enjoy the green spaces of the estate and also to focus on future gardening, food growing, space for community gatherings, space for creative endeavours, space for sports and recreation and even a call to maintain short life housing within the estate if the flats were to be empty for another 2 or three or more years.

Heygate Enclosed

It must be said that despite this engaged and positive forward thinking, the battle with The Council and Lend Lease for temporary uses has not resulted in many real gains. There is the Mobile Gardeners project on Wansey St and there is also the giving over of the old Doctors Surgery on Heygate to Reuben Powell, a local artist.  The battle for continued access to the lovely Rose Garden is still a sore point and the new fencing-off of the estate has meant access to the community pond, poly-tunnel, allotments, occasional Heygate cinema and growing areas has been stopped.

shipping containeradd

The proposed Artworks container park scheme was the 3rd item of ‘give’ that Lend Lease had finally committed itself too. Between September 2011 and June 2012 various small meetings and consultations were held to generate interest and discussion on the scheme. It was suggested that the soon to be empty site where the old Shell Garage was on Walworth Rd would be a suitable site for what was dubbed the ‘box park’ (after the trendy container ‘pop-up’ mall in Shoreditch). In May 2012 the Council sought tenders for the scheme and by March 2013 Artworks became the ‘preferred partner‘ to run the scheme at the ex-Shell site. In late March Artworks presented their proposals at a Lend Lease-run Community Forum.

Artworks View 1

Although such a project needs planning permission and has to be subject to many and varied considerations and conditions stemming from Southwark Planning policies, strangely enough Artworks were able to deliver 48 containers to the site.

walworth rd desist
You can contrast this un-permitted dumping with the recent flurry of warning notices to named businesses on Walworth Rd who use the pavement for a couple of chairs outside their caff or to display a few wares or two. Bearing in mind the desperate retail crisis facing those traders and the truly independent nature of those small businesses, you’d think the Council would try and support them out rather than getting all heavy and pedantic!

Artworks Shell Site Plan 1Artworks Shell Plan View 2

It was a month later when Artworks applied for permission for the ‘Erection of 48 modular units to accommodate business/workspace, retail, markets, cafe/restaurant, gallery, community, and stay-work uses (Use Classes B1, A1 to A5 inclusive, and D1) together with ancillary structures and the change of use of the existing former petrol filling station kiosk to cafe for a temporary period of 5 years’.

The planning application was very loose and free with many of the requirements for such a large development. Artworks argued that as it would be a temporary development community benefit contributions should not be applicable. They were also light in detail on how the Southwark Plan that requires ‘training, employment, childcare facilities, public realm improvements for those with disabilities‘,  and sustainability would be fulfilled as planning obligations as part of their scheme. Submitting a later Addendum to this Planning App, they attempted to flesh out their original plan based on its numerous oversights, missing fulfillments and vagueness. Restating a desire to have the benefits overlooked as their scheme brought no ‘adverse impacts‘ they wrote:

‘The Development provides a number of key temporary benefits to the local community to off-set the need for any planning obligations’.

“This Development provides an opportunity for the regeneration benefits of the wider Heygate Masterplan scheme to be delivered at an early stage in one of the early, and visible, interim uses on the Site”.

Here it is still not actually clear what ‘benefits‘ they are being to the area with this unexpanded statements. Answers on  postcard once again please!

Around the time of the dumping of the containers, it was clear that the notion of community interim use was slipping slowly away as rumours of the containers becoming ‘Live / Work’ units with rents of £200 per week were starting to be heard locally. The ‘Live / Work’ units were then mutated into Artworks specially invented ‘Stay / Work’ units when they realised that residential studios would trigger an affordable housing requirement of them. Then the whole ‘live in a box and create art’ schtick began to slowly disappear from their promotions in favour again of non-residential studio, retail and market space.

In April 2013, some very switched-on local artists, journalist Paul Coleman and some of Southwark Notes who happened to be passing by, were able to see the containers close up as the developers were inspecting their investment. Keen to show folks around, both the artists and we lot were hardly impressed that a metal box could be a ‘live / work‘ unit for £200 per week despite it having a ‘kitchenette‘. The whole stacking of the containers created a weird and unappealing dingy inner space that didn’t seem conducive to public hanging out or a sense of retail headspace or an inviting market. Also strange was that the mysterious developers who were unwilling to provide any details of who they were beyond names seemed entirely clueless about artists needs space-wise, about the area itself or the history of the Heygate. (See very below for who they are)

The artists were on that day conducting their own cheerful consultation with tea and cakes on what local people thought about the containers and getting them to fill out the official consultation form. Have to say that overall out of about 100 conversations most passersby thought the scheme was a bit useless and also unworkable both as a site and with those rental rates. Paul Coleman wrote a nice piece about this spontaneous site visit.

Artworks Shonky Ad

Months later, in September 2013, with nothing happening at the site and still no planning permission yet granted and with very little fanfare other than a dismal Twitter campaign (“Happy Friday people! What’s everyone got planned for tonight?‘ or ‘Good morning people of twitter! We hope you have a great week!!‘*) and some fading A3 posters in a few of the containers, there was an Artworks Tweet bombshell. The whole thing had suddenly gone interstellar.

Yes, the game was well and truly upped when Artworks announced that due to the fire at Cuming Museum next door to their planned site, they would be moving to a new site at Elephant Rd instead to ‘facilitate repairs to the Town Hall that was seriously damaged in the fire‘. This is a somewhat disingenuous statement. Garland Court TRA in Wansey St although not against the scheme had objected to their planning application on the basis of possible noise and lack of proper consideration of public toilets, impact on local views, parking and litter among other things. Lend Lease had also announced a change of the phasing of the Heygate development that meant that the Shell site and environs would no longer be vacant for 5 years. Any road up, the new project now ups the number of containers to 56.


Anyhow, after this long starter, we get to the main meal of our disgruntlement which is that we live here, we know what’s going on, we haven’t forgotten what’s happened so far and so we won’t be taken in by the Spin.

What is it about regeneration and in particular, ‘regeneration’ at The Elephant, that attempts to erase what is both in front of our very eyes and what is a trusted series of memories in our heads?


With this attempted amnesia in mind, we say again that the proposed Artworks site at Elephant Rd was the well-used open space that contained a large expanse of grass, large mature trees and a small kids playground. On Sundays, it hosted football between different local Latin American teams. In February 2011, the well-used site was hastily fenced off by Southwark Council without any consultation to enable Oakmayne, the then developers of this long empty site, to function as a extra site compound for the development. This public land was then unaccountably enclosed to facilitate the future building of a private development (that funnily enough contains no social housing). Particularly galling was then how nothing happened and nothing is happening at that site with the proposed Tribeca Sq development. That space, those trees, that football, that community resource has been denied local people for two and half years now at the whims of a arrogant Council and a non-developing developer. No wonder we continue to question when the benefits for all of this regeneration will see something for us long term locals.

Artworks Site Trees In Prison

So it is even more upsetting and rage-inducing when, once again, with no public further consultation (other than a paper one that is statutory for planning applications), Artworks now seeks to open up a public space that was taken away from us to run what is essentially a private business that then pretends to provide or will provide minimal community uses. Planned rental costs will be: £180 per week  for a 320sq ft container workshop / retail space. Electricity not included. £180 per week, including all bills, except electricity.  Or smaller retail units at £80 per week (64 sq ft). There are also ‘hot desks‘ for £35 a week ‘for businesses whether it be a small company starting out or a large corporation on the go‘. Large corporations are probably about as far away from community interim use as we can imagine it. Will Artworks be renting a few hot desks to junior Lend Lease executives?

So these are not cheap units really ‘predicated on affordability and aimed at business start-ups and incubator units‘ as was set out in their planning application. Comparable space in well-established studio buildings made of bricks and with actual large windows costs considerably less. Long term reputable studio companies such as Space or Acme are offering spaces well cheaper than Artworks (£720 approx) with studios for £300 or £400 a month (although it is not easy to get these). Commercial (non-metal) studios are also available for £500 a month for about 300 sq ft.

artworks new elephant

The fenced-in box park scheme will provide ‘open space within the Development for use by the general public, other than when it may be used for specific and occasional private events‘ so public access remains provisional to the management’s decisions. However, there is one more insult to add to the utter absurdity of the situation. Contained within the new planning application for Artworks at Elephant Rd is the proposal to use the once-public land now turned into a hollowed out community interim use for the siting of a marketing pavilion for Lend Lease:

“7.19    The Development seeks temporary planning permission for 2 modular units to be used as a ‘pavilion’ to house an information centre and marketing suite (Use Class Sui Generis) for Lend Lease.

7.20    The pavilion will be used by Lend Lease to provide a early presence on the wider Heygate Masterplan development site in Elephant and Castle during the initial demolition and construction phases, and a facility for the public to find out further details of the wider Heygate Regeneration and information on the new residential units that are for sale as part of Lend Lease’s Heygate Masterplan, Trafalgar Place, and One The Elephant developments…

7.22    The information centre and marketing suite will have a separate entrance and opening hours to the rest of the Artworks Development and will be managed by Lend Lease.”

Artworks Shell Pavillion LL

Here Lend Lease gains a nice marketing suite to market their new buildings to the undoubtedly investment-happy Buy To Let landlords and the numerous overseas investors that will be snapping up places in Trafalgar Place and One The Elephant. How do you negotiate that one under the notion of community use?

Here at Southwark Notes palaces we are endlessly critical of the ‘regeneration‘ that we are suffering at The Elephant but it is tiring to feel like we have to do our best to document these abuses and downright cynical behaviour from The Council and developers.We document it in the hope that at some point The Council and the developers might take seriously the fact that local people have a long and deep knowledge of the history of this shameful regeneration project. We have an acute and critical eye for detail when the hype and lies they spread tries to erase from the public mind the losses of council homes, public space and valued communities.

However, in this instance, we base our argument not solely on slagging off how this regeneration is being run or how it is being sold to us as if we have no memory or anything to say on what is plain to see before our eyes. These rip-offs are so blatant yet the Council just spins it’s vile fairy tales in the press as if nothing was wrong or no-one was saying anything other. We also base our concerns on the roots that are local people who have come together repeatedly and put in their precious time to seek that genuine community benefits come to the area. They have put forward serious considered proposals for creative uses, employment chances, health matters and maintaining public spaces. But most of this has been ignored except where it suits the needs or a developer that can easily use a few small and heavily sanctioned projects to talk up it’s own accountability and working with the locals. Yet the battle of the local community with Lend Lease has been one long hard fight to gain very little. If the very first things you finally see getting built from the Lend Lease Masterplan is One The Elephant (starting price £325,000) and some wonky overpriced pseudo-trendy designer retail outlets in a metal box, you probably are wondering where you fit in to all this regeneration lark.


We couldn’t resist a bit off simple detective work to understand this seemingly shonky outfit that can get away with no planning permission for the arrival of 48 containers, cannot update it’s own website to say that the project is no longer on Walworth Rd and is able to make deals with The Council to get a new and much better site in the infamous enclosed Elephant Rd Park. All this from essentially a quite small scale and risky business plan.

As we learnt from our long years doing this, business like this (i.e not Lend Lease or St Modwens) is a fairly boring and everyday affair of people knowing other people who can set you up with something or sort you out, go into partnership with etc. Here at Artworks, the Sam Minionis side is a kind of shipping container enthusiast with business connections to a property developing family who have a vague connection to some Oakymayne property thing from way back. He is a big part of the company My Space Pod that seeks to containerise building developments with a passion for re-using shipping boxes. Charlie Fulford is the markets side of things and also more of a property developer with a father who is both a serious market developer (establishing Camden Lock market in 1971 amongst others) and a Professor of Philosophy. What a carry on!

artworks directors daig

Regeneration Seeks Amnesia Part Two Coming Soon!
Heygate Vacant Possession Secured, Comes With Major Public Art Spectacle


* Our favourite Tweet from Artworks:
Artworks Kissinger Of Death
We remember how Henry Kissinger signed the orders for the illegal bombing of Cambodia in 1969, a policy that led to an estimated half million civilian deaths. He also had a large hand in the legitimating via US foreign policy of military coups, death squads, disappearances and repression in several Latin American countries. A perfect and creative act and especially sensitive to the Elephant Rd Latin-American community.


See you in 2012 for more activities from The Old London!!

PS. It’s good to know that when someone searches in Google for ‘borough market london phesants for sale’, they turn up here!


Top Trumps is a card game. Each card contains a list of numerical data, and the aim of the game is to compare these values in order to try to trump and win an opponent’s card. A wide variety of different packs of Top Trumps have been published. Enjoy our first eight cards. Keep ’em peeled!

* PS We encourage other parts of the world to prepare their own sets of Gentrification Top Trumps. Mail us here if you do!! Nice!


UPDATED: Nov 12th 2011: Regular readers of this website will know that we have a particular loathing for property developer Oakmayne who have been throwing up buildings in the local area for quite a while now (see Appendix below). Even though we have no love for LendLease, at least they try to pretend that it is interested in what local people say and want. Oakmayne’s history in the North Southwark area is really at the other end of the scale – arrogant, crass but omnipotent! Their large site on New Kent Rd and Elephant Rd has been subject to lots of delays over the years but now the plans are out there, the brochures are being emailed out to interested persons and the hype is on. Here we have two towers of flats, one tower of student housing, four restaurants, a Sainsbury, a digital cinema and a small market place outside.

Comprised of 243 student rooms, 146 one-bedroom flats, 190 two-bedroom flats and only 37 three-bedroom flats, the starting price is £299,990 for a one bedroom. There are no socially rented flats in the development. Even the annual service charge on a one-bedroom flat works out at about £57 per week! Simple question: Where you ever asked anything about this development?

1 Bedroom Apartment from £299,900
2 Bedroom Apartment from £375,900
3 Bedroom Penthouse from £860,000

Projected Rental Return:
1 bed £355 – £425 pw
2 bed £435 – £535 pw
3 bed £720 – £950 pw

Estimated South Tower Service Charge
1 bed £2,040 – £3,000 pa
2 bed £2,550 – £3,270 pa
3 bed £3,610 – £4,500 pa


Oakmayne’s dimwitted rebranding of what had been called Oakmayne Plaza as ‘Tribeca Square, New London’ seems stupid on many counts. Tribeca is famous for being a posh district in New York, not London. Why would a part of London need to be called Tribeca? So if it’s New London, why is named after something in New York? If they want to have some of the cachet of Tribeca rub off on The Elephant then they should go and visit Tribeca and see that it is made up of ex-industrial and warehousing buildings from the period 1860 to 1920’s that are historically worthy of saving. But Tribeca Square is made up of three bland new build towers with some retail at the base and a piddly market at the side, all of which will probably be pulled down by the year 2040 and replaced by something equally as demolishable. But if you look at it from Oakmayne’s point of view than you realise that calling the development The New Elephant is not going to attract many buyers. So maybe it’s a crass but shrewd move?


When you read the brochure for Tribeca Square, you see that it is primarily aimed at global investors who are looking for good returns on properties worldwide but especially in the UK where the pound is weak against other currencies. These are the investors who are flicking through the same kind of brochures and attending property launches in swanky hotels for new developments in Sydney, Vancouver, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro or any city where development is being given a free reign. You can see Tribeca Square being marketed in this way here for investors in Hong Kong.  The article text is copied straight out of the Tribeca Sq brochure. The launch was at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental 5-star hotel from November 4- 6th, £500 pound a night for a single room. It was launched here in Singapore for investors on 28th, 29th & 30th October at The Hilton Hotel. You can see a Chinese newspaper blurb here too. Some pics from Singapore:

Oakmayne doesn’t even try to be candid about the fact that they are building over-expensive housing for investment and profit making rather than for Londoners who need homes . They don’t care who actually buys them, or even if anyone who buys one will actually live in them, as long as they are sold. It’s this openness on display when they write:

‘Recent research by CBRE has shown that above and beyond normal market growth, house prices in regeneration zones have been found to have an annualised 4.9% growth rate over the period of regeneration…Residential prices in central London have risen since March 2009, and residential property in the capital continues to be seen as a safe, stable and lucrative long term investment by investors from around the world. Whilst domestic buyers are happy to purchase a product that may need refurbishment, rental tenants and overseas buyers tend to want a high quality finished product. The lettings market remains buoyant (sic), helped by an influx of tenants from continental Europe…Elephant & Castle, with its Zone 1 location right in the heart of central London, currently remains undervalued in relation to the districts that surround it, an indication that an investment now will have benefits in the future. With its mixture of iconic new buildings, historic Victorian buildings, quiet side streets and local parks, Elephant & Castle has a cosmopolitan and city-centre ambience. The retail and leisure hub of Elephant & Castle is undergoing planned regeneration which, along with planned transport improvements, should help to further lift residential values…Elephant & Castle and the other inner London districts have always demonstrated sustained growth in prices and values over an extended period of several decades. With its high population density forecast to increase, London benefits from demand outstripping housing supply. Pricing should be further protected by restrictive planning procedures…Inner London will continue to remain a hotspot for international investment and the capital continues to lead the UK as the main centre for job creation, financial trading, legal advisory, consultancy businesses, inward investment and corporate expansion. All these factors will help to ensure that the local housing market remains sustainable and for the right high quality product there will continue to be an upward pressure on residential prices…There are many reasons why investors from abroad find the UK property market so attractive, but one of the most important is tax. UK regulations treat overseas landlords generously, and recent changes to the law have made the tax climate even more liberal’

Doesn’t really seem to say much about enjoying your new home but says a lot about global investors property portfolio’s. Recent housing activity in The Elephant area reported that ‘30% of flats in new development at corner of New Kent Road & Harper Road were sold in Singapore‘. Get the global picture yet?

These London property market reports prepared by global property consultancy King Sturge make fascinating reading especially if you like to read from the point of view of the rich and how the rich stay rich: ‘Several key themes are likely to mean that both sales and lettings markets in Prime Central London remain vibrant and active during 2011.The flight to quality, the safe-haven benefits, the immunity from austerity measures and the funding advantages of the rich and super-rich are all likely to mean that demand at the top end of the London residential sales market remains strong this year despite a more dour mood elsewhere in the country’.

Download some of their reports here, here and here! Enjoy, as we say!

Also this:‘ King Sturge has sold 1500 homes in London to buyers, mostly in Asia, on 28 developments in the year to March worth some £500 million. To put that into context, Knight Frank says the total sales to Asian buyers in the same period was £761 million…Simple arithmetic will tell you that King Sturge’s average sale price of £333,000 won’t buy you a broom cupboard on Bankside. But Tim Wright, who heads the sales teams based in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore, says that the market has always been there for midpriced flats bought unseen and off-plan at roadshows in Asia…These markets, especially where there is a historic link to the UK, can be treated as subsidiary to the home market. London is a leader not only in commerce but also education. The city is seen as a safe haven for overseas buyers to purchase a pied-à-terre — or for their children to use whilst gaining higher education.’


When Oakmayne trumpets New London the New London they are trumpeting is the very same London that has been trundling along with a few people doing alright and a load more people struggling. It’s not hard to see the inequalities of London these days. Everyday it gets more apparent. Southwark Notes noticed a few people camping out in Burgess Park the other day (before the hoardings went up). New York, as well as being similar to London in being a capital of the finance industries and crazed property speculation, has a similar trajectory of the wealthy being enticed back into the inner city once it had been made ‘safe’ with a brutal displacement of local working class communities and a State / Police policy of harassment of the homeless population that was so violent that thousands of the homeless people had no choice but to flee to outside the NYC area.

The history of Tribeca in New York is similar to places such as Hoxton and Spitalfields and Covent Garden in London. Once a ’gritty, light-industrial corner of Manhattan’s lower West Side’ its gentrification began in the 1970’s when the nearby rents in SoHo area went through the roof. The artists who had first opened up SoHo as a new hip quarter of town were soon priced out and moved to Tribeca which then underwent a similar cycle of eviction and displacement, the catchy new moniker TriBeCa (or, Triangle Below Canal Street) only being invented as a good sounding name for estate agents to pitch the area with. Since the 1980s, large scale development and conversion of the area has transformed it into a super-upscale residential area Tribeca now bring one of America’s most fashionable and desirable neighborhoods and known for its celebrity residents and its 10013 zip code being New York City’s most expensive. The unprecedented feeding real estate frenzy in Tribeca in the late 80’s and 90’s has been likened to “truffle pigs” following “the law of the market”. Why we could ask would The Elephant & Castle need something such as this?


Homelessness exists not because the system is not working but because this is the way it works
Peter Marcuse

You could just as well substitute the word ‘poverty’ for ‘homelessness’ and the equation would be just as sharp and precise. If we focus in on Southwark and look at the housing waiting lists we can see that there are 1000’s of people who need housing. These are people who need a place to live and are waiting to be housed in public housing. We can assume that most of these people are either working poor or unemployed and we can presume that many of these people work in low-wage jobs such as retail, security, delivery, cleaning, office work and so on. They will never be eligible for what is laughably known as ‘affordable’ housing or even the new buzzword ‘intermediate‘ housing. An estimated 866,000 households in Britain fall between public housing availability and private rented affordability. What they need is cheap and quality public housing. The question remains: why are houses not being provided for these members of our local society?

It’s simple really. In this present day and age, housing means big money for those in the housing industry from investors to developers to construction firms to insurance companies to estate agents. But housing is a social resource like our parks, libraries, health centres and so on. You could even say that decent cheap housing is a ‘social wealth’. Housing and house-building for all is not something that should be left solely in the hands of the private sector or free-market because money-making will always override the common sense that everyone needs a home and not just those who can afford expensive places outright or those who are fleeced by paying £300,000 for a single bedroom flat in a crappily built new development. The housing free market is never really a pure one anyhow but is heavily subsided with public money from taxpayers pockets and handbags through numerous Single Regeneration Budgets, Homes and Community Agency payments, tax breaks and incentives, regeneration zones, New Deal for Communities etc. All of these helping hand-outs have played a part in the destruction and loss of public homes in The Elephant and Walworth area.


Have you ever thought that regeneration of an area increases the amount of local homelessness? With all those new developments in The Elephant, Bermondsey, The Borough and so on, that has to be good, no? Well, you might see new flats going up but the cost is an increase in homelessness through loss of public housing and public land where new housing could be built for poorer people, loss of local affordable rented flats, loss of vital family housing, loss of local networks of employment and advice and community wisdom all of which are how poorer people house themselves. Not only does displacement from an area displace the immediate folks and families from where they were living, it also has a knock on effect of displacing the future sons and daughters of those people.

If we look at the recent removal of Heygate tenants, those tenants did not disappear into thin air! Through the demolition of the estate 1000+ units of public housing were lost. That’s 1000+ less available flats for those on the waiting list. The decant process also means that tenants were taken out from existing council flats and moved into other already existing council flats. That’s a lot of households that needed to be found within the Southwark Council housing stock placing further pressure on availability for those on the waiting list. Worth noting again here that the LendLease plans for regeneration of The Heygate site are talking about only 13.5% of all the new flats being for social rent as opposed to 100% of the original Heygate Estate.

Peter Marcuse, the writer on housing who we quoted above, writes a lot of good stuff about displacement. He has analysed how homelessness is created and broken it down into three inter-related ways:

1) The Profit Structure of Housing which means homes are built for the profits of developers and not to satisfy desperate housing need. In London there is an absolute crisis in housing whereby thousands of people need cheap and secure and good quality homes but their needs are not being taken seriously. Instead the profits of developers or investors (and this includes those who buy Council Homes to let them out to private tenants at inflated prices) are first and foremost what seems important.

2) Income inequality in society. The gap between poor income and rich income has never been greater.

3) Government policies on housing, work, finance etc. Politicians in the U.K (and elsewhere, of course) still believe that an economy run on the back of an unsustainable overpriced housing bubble and massive levels of personal debt is still a good way to run the country despite the crisis from 2007 to the present day in the housing sector.


Let’s take the above three notions and dig into some statistics from Shelter, the housing charity who maintains its own databank that it sources from Government statistics.

PUBLIC HOUSING LOSSES: Locally, from 2000 to 2010, 6115 Council homes were bought through the Right To Buy scheme and removed from the public housing availability. In the same decade approx 1000 households per year joined the Southwark Housing Waiting list, the total number on the list reaching a current high point of almost 11,000. It’s worth pointing out that the figure of 11,000 households does not mean 11,000 people are waiting but means that 11,000 people and in many cases their family and dependents are also waiting for homes. See this article here for the figure of close to 20,000 people on the waiting list: ‘More than 19,000 applicants are on the current list, which has risen by more than 2,000 in 12 months…Southwark is the biggest local authority landlord in London but still has a desperate shortage of homes to let…The rise in the number of people on the list is thought to be due in part to the high cost of homes in the capital and increased rents in the private sector‘.

NEW BUILDS and WEALTH: In the same period 5470 ‘affordable’ homes were built across the Borough although this has not in anyway impacted on or diminished the massive Council waiting list suggesting that ‘affordable’ housing is not an option for most on the list. In the same period again house price to income ratio has nearly doubled in the Borough and the average selling price of a home in Southwark has quadrupled. Again from 2000 to 2010 average incomes on Southwark have rocketed as a result of the new middle class residentials in the area. It’s not that poor people are earning any more money that makes the statistics high, its that the new wealthy people in the area skew the stats upwards.

One final addition worth adding is that the figure for empty homes in Southwark now stands at 3367 dwellings.


We will make the same point again as we have done so many times before on this website – that the term public housing has been subject to spin and demonisation as it presents too close a real picture to what it really is – Housing for all. Instead the term ‘Council Housing’ or ‘Social Housing’ has been used politically to replace the good term ‘Public Housing’. This change has been used to portray council tenancies and council tenants as the bottom of the housing pile. It’s been used as a stigma to undermine the value and sense of public housing for all with council estates being made to see like criminal wastelands that everybody can’t wait to escape from.

Some of us were living on an estate in Walworth Estate in the early 1990’s and we were cheek by jowl with council tenants who ranged from cleaners, doctors, musicians, bank clerks, electricians, therapists, delivery drivers, yoga teachers, unemployed people, gardeners, post men and women and so on. It was only as a result of attacks on the idea of public housing with the introduction of the Right To Buy that this was slowly eroded. Spurred on by the super discount available for long term tenants many people bought their own house and then either sold up at super profit (some of our neighbours bought for £23,000, sold for £169,000 and moved out to a new place) or people got second mortgages on the old place and then bought a new place, leaving the old place as a nice money earning Buy-To-Let (£150 per week!! or more). The old mixed community was then shattered as the Estate became and more about private housing – the TRA was taken over by middle class people whose main concern was their house prices, hence their main concerns were with rubbish, noise, crime, teenagers and getting the Council to enforce penalties on offenders. They weren’t at all interested in the stories or reasons why rubbish, noise, crime or teenagers might be issues or problems or even in how a local community might act to deal with these things themselves.

We have two stories that are becoming a bit like our party stories (you can see how fun we are at parties!) that seem to sum up the changes on this estate which by this time had become over 50% private flats. Our first anecdote concerns the last time we felt like we could attend and stomach a Tenants and Residents Association meeting. It was during the Heygate Estate decant and some new build ‘affordable’ housing was being built near the Estate. At the meeting one of the new private housing TRA people asked with some fear and loathing ‘If people form the Heygate would be offered some of the new HA flats across the road’. Aside from the disgusting ignorance, it is as if it had never struck them that they themselves were living on a council estate despite the fact that they had a leasehold property within it. It was and still is a Council Estate. Our other experience from the same TRA meeting was the hysteria around people putting rubbish out on the wrong days. Things like chairs, tables, lamps, rugs, TV’s and bags of rubbish were appearing on the estate but not on collection days. As long term tenants we knew that this had always been the case and also as folks who enjoyed taking or giving the old piece to the street on the wrong day, we knew that some people’s rubbish is another person’s free table and chairs or free collection of music magazines or free dvd player. We call this a Rubbish Economy although it’s different and better that the more general rubbish economy of the UK (Boom Boom)! Any how, our point is, some things more wealthy people just can’t understand. For them it’s all about the sanctity and value of their house, their investment, their asset, or their other rentable property.

Even though Southwark Notes is highly critical of Southwark Council and it’s dubious role in the disastrous regeneration and gentrification of the local area, we are still proud to be council tenants and know that on the incomes we earn we could never afford a good a place as our council flats. Not only that, we enjoy living on our estate as many people there seem more concerned with estate life as it is, how it works and how people live together and what can be done together. This is not to say that all housing should be public housing but to say that many more options exist to house people than overpriced and badly built new builds. We just seem to have entered an age where people have forgotten why decent homes for all is a worthwhile and common sense approach to housing.

So you could say that there is a certain obscenity to building a one bedroom flat in The Elephant and selling it for £299,000 when the area itself is one of the most deprived in London. That’s £540+ per sq foot for your one bedroom flat! It’s certain not taking seriously the underlying problems of the area. There is no real believable argument that increasing the tax base of the local area will advantage local people in the dim distant end as we know that trickle down economics do not shower the poor with cash and opportunity (especially when they have already been chucked out of the area).

Our favourite line from the Oakmayne Tribeca Square brochure is this one that underlines what we said above: ‘With its high population density forecast to increase, London benefits from demand outstripping housing supply’. Basically you can translate this as loads of people need housing but there isn’t enough so if you own some 1, 2 ,3 or penthouse flats you can charge a fortune. Benefits for the lucky few. What price housing? What price homelessness? The madness continues…

Appendix: Oakmayne developments in Southwark so far:

1993  Leathermarket Court, SE1 (91 housing units)
1997: 32-34 Borough High St, SE1 (10 housing units)
1998: Horseshoe Wharf, Bankside SE1 (?)
2002: Telephone Exchange, Liverpool Grove, SE17  (14 housing units)
2002: Winchester Wharf, Bankside (?)
2003: Victor Wharf, Borough
2004: Tennis Court, Bankside (12 housing units, one office)
2004: Winchester Stables , Bankside (7 housing units, one office)
2005: Disney Place, Borough (14 housing units, 3 offices)
2005: Wireworks, Borough (?)
2005: South Central East Walworth, (93 housing units 7 commercial)
2007: O-Central Walworth 2007  (188 housing units, 14 commercial)