23 October 2007
What a difference a few weeks makes. Big changes have grounded major local regeneration schemes. This is bad news for all businesses and local residents, because progress on long hoped for major local regeneration has come to a halt on four major schemes:
ELEPHANT & CASTLE:
The London Development Agency (LDA), who are major development partners in the project, have announced that it will take a further six months before the regeneration scheme can be given the green light. Further studies have yet to be carried out on the Southern and Northern roundabouts because of the potential impact of traffic flows on the whole of Central London.
The traffic flows at the Elephant and Castle are critical and it is understood that the impact of the reduction of traffic flows on the Walworth Road have already caused higher levels of traffic to pop-up elsewhere. Are we surprised?
The Southern and Northern roundabouts are on the critical bypass route of the Congestion Charge Zone.
There are concerns that the plans to replace the pedestrian underground tunnels at the Elephant and Castle with surface crossings for pedestrians will not work. Thus a major benefit of the regeneration to replace the dreadful tunnels is under threat if it is found that the surface crossings will hold up traffic and block up traffic in the whole of Central London.
The tunnels were also planned to be used to carry key environmental services, so any changes may threaten the greening of the Elephant and Castle regeneration.
Let us all hope that the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle can be all cleared and ready to go. Meanwhile the local small businesses in the Shopping Centre are starting to close down at a much higher rate and are getting no help from the landlords St. Modwens, who have been warned by their small business tenants that the gloves are now off, as they had not been chosen as the new commercial developers. Southwark Council chose the consortium led by Lend Lease instead, but it has been reported that St. Modwen's are trying to negotiate their way back into the deal by asking for a £60m plus figure to acquire their land.
Meanwhile the small business tenants in the whole area suffer under a cloud of increasing blight with demolition sites all around them in neighbouring developments. Whose benefit is regeneration really for?
SHARD OF GLASS, LONDON BRIDGE:
This mega scale high rise development will be based around Europe's tallest building. Everything has already been approved and was supposed to be ready to start this year, finishing in 2011. But the developers have insufficient money to go ahead now. So everything is on hold until they can find some more money.
This inability to raise sufficient money is not because of lack of tenants though. A major tenant for the Glass Shard was to be Transport for London (TFL) - one of the richest parts of the Greater London Authority family.
They are now looking elsewhere for accommodation as they have a get out clause in their agreement.
The "credit crunch" consequences are not going to help anybody wanting to raise money for new developments. This is an important development for Southwark and London and should not be allowed to lapse.
Only some two weeks ago Mayor Livingstone announced that some 94% of funding had been secured for this key development for the whole of London. But Ruth Kelly for the Government put a last minute spanner in the works.
Whilst recognising that some of the funding would come from a proposed supplementary business rate imposed on all businesses, Ruth Kelly has decreed that the bigger beneficiaries, particularly London Heathrow and Canary Wharf, should contribute more towards the cost of this public/private partnership project. This would appear to be a benefit for smaller businesses in London, but perhaps a hollow one if the scheme is delayed beyond its scheduled 2015 completion date.
BATTERSEA POWER STATION:
This long lasting skeleton from the Thatcher years was just ready to be developed by Hong Kong property developers in 2006. Then as a Christmas present to their supporters they sold out to an Irish developer - an international pass the parcel perhaps.
The new developer is now scrapping all earlier plans and is starting to plan the development all over again. Maybe it could go back to being a power station.
In fact, if nuclear power is really as safe as it is made out to be, then we should perhaps build a nuclear power station in Battersea. London's own sustainable power source in up-river Wandsworth.
Copyright Southwark Chamber of Commerce 2007. All rights reserved.
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