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.