Thursday, May 19, 2011

Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

On Tuesday at our Southwark Cabinet meeting we took the decision to enter into an agreement with St Modwen, the owners of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, and Lend Lease, our partners in the Elephant & Castle redevelopment, with regard to the rebuilding of the shopping centre.

Under the Regeneration Agreement, which we signed last year with Lend Lease, provision was made for us to compulsorily purchase the shopping centre on behalf of Lend Lease if no agreement could be reached on the future of the centre with St Modwen. No specific time was provided for within the agreement and it was anticipated that given the current uncertainty in the retail market that the shopping centre regeneration was likely to be at the end of the 15 year programme.

Happily our prospective agreement with St Modwen and Lend Lease brings that regeneration forward, but it is the result of some very tough negotiations by all parties.

The original vision for the Elephant & Castle regeneration envisaged the demolition and rebuilding of the shopping centre - increasing the permeability of the whole area and punching through the railway arches to open up the new housing on the Heygate site to the shopping centre and the transport links there. Over the past twelve months both Lend Lease and St Modwen have explored options which do not involve wholesale demolition, but rather envisage stripping the centre back to its' core and building and extending around that core. At the same time access into and through the centre would be improved in all directions, and the links through the railway arches provided.

It took me a lot of persuading that anything other than demolition was the way forward, but having seen some of the thinking and plans put forward I can see that it is possible to create a new shopping centre for the Elephant & Castle and achieve the objective of making it a new and open gateway to the housing on the Heygate.

There is a lot more work to do on these plans, and the local community will be able to start their conversation with St Modwen and Lend Lease at the Forum which is due to be held on the 26th of May. But the momentum behind this project from the political leadership of this council is unstoppable -and we are determined to deliver on our commitment of regenerating the Elephant and Castle for the benefit of the local community, Southwark and London.

6 comments:

Zefrog said...

You are just going to muck the whole thing up, aren't you?!

Peter John said...

Er..No!

jamesup said...

Cllr John, What concerns me is that this agreement has been entered into with no consultation or openess (beyond the statutory meeting, during working hours).

Perhaps I, and all residents, would fully get behind the scheme if we had the chance to be convinced, as you have, of its merits. Having a consultation after the key decision has been made doesn't help those that feel very strongly about maintaining the qualities of the original masterplan.

You're speaking against people who are judging it before seeing it, but is that fair you've not let anyone see it?

We're going to have to let this one go now and move on to the consultation, but I hope you can appreciate why people are concerned by how this decision has been taken.

Zefrog said...

You are probably thinking that I was little lse than a troll with my previous comment but there seemed little point arguing the point since as Jamesup points out, the decision has been taken.

For something a little more articulate, I copy below the email I sent to my local councillors when the new of a refurbishment (rather than the promised demolition) first surfaced. It is probably slightly out of date but should give you an idea of where I come from and how disappointed I am with your decision:

"I was alarmed to hear that the rumours that the Elephant and Castle shopping centre could be refurbished rather than demolished were seriously bolstered towards reality by a comment from the Council Leader last night.

Almost 7 years ago I made a conscious decision to move to the Elephant as place not only central and practical but also full of promises. Last year I became part owner of a flat in Strata, which is arguably a very strong symbol of the promises the regeneration of the area has to offer.

Hearing the u-turn made by the council administration is more than
disheartening. It is very sad indeed that they should decide to slowly chip at the whole project for short term financial gain, leaving it in danger of becoming a huge failure.

While I can see that the shopping centre could indeed be refurbished
(and by that I mean more than a lick a paint), this would still leave the fundamental problem of its location and the environment in which it sits which can not be altered while the building remains.

I would therefore urge you to everything in your power to try and make sure that rumour does not turn into a firm decision from the council which would be detrimental to the lives of all those attached to the area."

James said...

Ok, so planning ideals sometimes have to be pragmatically balanced with issues of ownership and funding. However, in terms of re-structuring the public space of the Elephant and the Walworth Road, I see it as potentially disastrous to abandon the plans to extend the Walworth Road through the current site of the shopping centre.

An extended shopping centre in its current location blocks pedestrian flows, forcing pedestrians (and cyclists, and perhaps in the distant future a tram) to follow the line of the dirty, noisy major roads through junctions, which may be improved, but are still unpleasant and far from brilliant public space. Indeed the descriptions of the new plans suggest that some of the newly created pavement space at the southern roundabout will be sold/given to St Mowden to expand the shopping centre meaning that any attempt to traverse the shopping centre may become more difficult not less.

If council demands that the design includes a 'pseudo street' running through the middle of the shopping centre from the Walworth Road to the square that will replace the northern roundabout, the re-modelling of the public space and channels of movement could still work. Done sensitively it wouldn't need to look like a shopping mall. But this won't be St Mowden's first choice. The council will have to insist. You've already given up a huge amount of ground by not demanding the demolition of the shopping centre. Please don't now abandon the fundamentals of the Elephant masterplan in relation to bringing life back to the northern end of Walworth Road.

Amelia said...

"The council will have to insist. You've already given up a huge amount of ground by not demanding the demolition of the shopping centre. Please don't now abandon the fundamentals of the Elephant masterplan in relation to bringing life back to the northern end of Walworth Road." I fully agree James.

Peter, you may be picking your battles, and this is one to fight and win.

Amelia