6 March 2009
Collapsing into floods of tears in public is not considered respectable behaviour for politicians, but I can't think of a time that I felt more like doing just that than last week's Mayor's Question Time at City Hall.
Green Assembly member Jenny Jones and I had agreed that we would use our limited time to come in together to press Mayor Boris Johnson to be more supportive of the Elephant and Castle Regeneration scheme. Jenny pointed out that forcing developers at the Elephant to contribute to Crossrail would lessen the amount of money available to invest in public facilities.
I came in to ask Mayor Johnson about the variety of delays and hiccups on the plans at the Elephant which arise from his neglect.
The joint TFL and Southwark Council plans to remove the pedestrian underpasses and lay out the roundabout as a junction with surface pedestrian crossings has been delayed for a redesign by Boris for nine months now, because he feels that it might slow down the cars going round this fast dangerous gyratory system.
In the meantime the edges of the pedestrian steps crumble dangerously and the road surfaces crack, making it uncomfortable and risky for cyclists. The area generally deteriorates and the shops slowly move out of the centre. Tfl are also delaying the signing of the regeneration deal between the council and developers, Lendlease, because they haven't yet declared what the costs will be for the necessary enlargement works in the underground station.
In the meantime, thousands of Elephant based families are being told to expect to be moved out of their homes - but the work for their permanent replacement homes hasn't yet started.
So if you wonder why I wanted to weep it's because it’s frustrating to try to appeal to the concern of someone who responds with a silly joke - demanding that he will only meet me at the Elephant for a briefing if I go there on a bike.
Mayor Johnson, if I had to go to the Elephant naked on a white horse like Lady Godiva to get your attention I would do it, but I would rather you cared enough to be interested in local people to come along and take their problems seriously anyway.
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