In December, property developers Delancey put in an application to demolish Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and London College of Communication. Councillors on Southwark Council’s Planning Committee refused to approve the plan, yet accommodated an eleventh-hour promise from Delancey to make an improved offer. This means the committee will hear the proposal again this month.
Meanwhile, the Shopping Centre is being run down, conveniently bolstering the claimed 'need' for demolition. Certain entrances are now being closed during trading hours (right). Empty units are no longer available for re-let, enhancing a 'ghost town' feel. Escalators have been left broken for long periods. Pedestrian access has been unsatisfactory since removal of subways. Yet the building is structurally sound and could be imaginatively refurbished, re-landscaped and re-clad. This would avoid nine years of environmental destruction, intense construction noise, degraded local shopping and leisure facilities, and enormous disruption to nearby residents' home delivery access.
However with an entrenched Labour-Lib Dem consensus to rebuild the site including new flats, the local community continues to demand that 35% of new flats must be affordable, with half of those at genuine social rent. Developer Delancey is now claiming that it can only afford to improve its paltry affordable housing offer if the taxpayer pays, and is further backpedalling on social media announcements of small improvements. Delancey, based in the Virgin Islands (an alleged tax haven), are projected to make a profit of over £150 million on the scheme. The community has particularly criticised Southwark Council for not standing up to Delancey’s claims of how much profit it must make for the scheme to be “viable”, and even fighting to keep secret Delancey’s own “viability assessment”.
Writer and North Walworth resident Guy Mannes-Abbott said: “What is the point of having a Labour council and a Labour mayor of London contorting themselves to enable this? What community facilities could be saved by trimming just 3%, or 10%, of the profits?”