Elephant and Castle campaigners have come to the end of their legal challenge against the demolition after the Appeal Court upheld decision in support of the regeneration scheme.
Although the court found there were no grounds for a u-turn, after a four-year campaign activists say their work is far from over, highlighting that pressure put on landlord and developer Delancey and Southwark Council led to significant gains including upping the number of social housing and a better deal for displaced traders.
Demolition is already underway with hoarding up along the decommissioned shopping centre, which finally shut its doors last September.
Jerry Flynn, from the Up the Elephant campaign, said: “We are naturally disappointed that the court has not found in our favour, but we can be pleased with the victories we have had in our fight with Delancey and Southwark.
“There was zero proper social rented housing to begin with and it is only by the efforts of local people that we have the 116 homes now promised.
“But this social rented housing still has to be delivered and Delancey’s track record shows that it is practiced in passing these costs back to the public purse.
“We will continue to campaign to make sure that we get the promised 116 social rented units and that Southwark does not have to pay for them.
“There have also been gains for the traders – many now have somewhere to move to you, with Castle Square and other spaces, although not enough space for everyone who needs it and traders are still in negotiation with Southwark for a new market space.
“We will continue the fight to get them a better deal, alongside the Latin American community, who have made the Elephant their home.
“We also got together a great legal team and are very grateful for the part that they have played in this battle, which has shone a light on the advantages our planning system affords big developers like Delancey, even when they fail to meet their affordable housing obligations. We will continue the fight to change this.”
Tanya Murat, from Southwark Defend Council Housing, a group which supported the campaign and legal challenge said losing the legal challenge was ‘always the most likely outcome’.
“This has been an inspiring campaign, which proves that if you fight for more, you can get it. There was no affordable retail space, or trader’s panel or trader’s relocation fund before we began our campaign,” she added.
“We won all these concessions from Delancey, although sadly many traders will still be left out in the cold.
“It is a tragedy that we have lost the opportunity to rehouse more people who rely on council housing for a decent home.
“Southwark has a policy that should have got us at least another 55 social rented homes and even that would have meant less than 200 out of nearly a thousand new homes.
“Southwark must stop caving in to developers like Delancey if we are ever going to solve the housing crisis.”
Paul Heron, of the Public Interest Law Centre, who acted as solicitors for Jerry Flynn, who launched the appeal, said the local authority should ‘now be on notice’ that future developments should have the maximum of affordable and council homes.
“While we have lost this case, we have demonstrated we have the capacity to hold Southwark and big developers to account and we will not hesitate to mount more challenges where we think it is justified”.
The scheme, a regeneration aiming to create a new ‘town centre’, improved transport links and a new campus for the University of the Arts London was approved in July 2018, two years after a first iteration planning application was first deferred due to hundreds of objections over lack of social housing and retail space.
The final plans will see 979 build to rent homes, of which 330 are ‘affordable’ and 116 for social rent on land where there is currently no housing.