Controversial plans to redevelop Elephant and Castle shopping centre failed to get approval by a council committee after a tense, packed-out seven-hour meeting on Tuesday evening.
Protestors demonstrated outside the council’s Tooley Street HQ, and managed to get in to the foyer, as the meeting began on Tuesday evening.
Councillors voted four against and three in favour of passing developer Delancey’s plans, while one abstained, prompting many campaigners to celebrate – but the following morning the council confirmed the decision did not mean the plans had been rejected.
The fate of the proposals will not be known until councillors discuss what the formal decision is at a meeting on January 30 – and vote once again.
Delancey’s huge ‘town centre’ development plans for Elephant and Castle proposes to demolish and rebuild the existing shopping centre and London College of Communication campus, and bring 979 homes, an additional Northern Line entrance, and a cinema and music venue to the area.
However, they have been met with fierce opposition from traders, residents, and councillors, who are concerned over the amount of affordable housing and retail on offer, and the loss of a popular bingo hall, among other things.
Days prior to the meeting, a number of Southwark Labour politicians wrote an open letter setting out their reasons for opposing Delancey’s plan in their current form.
And scores of protesters gathered at the council’s Tooley Street offices with placards ahead of the meeting, chanting “let us in”.
Tanya Murat, of Southwark Defend Council Housing, who helped organise the demonstration, said the “anger” was “palpable” among those gathered.
“It would destroy a vibrant south American community and remove a key social space for older people [the bingo hall],” she said. “We will not let them rip the heart out of our borough.”
Patrick Duffy, who runs the bowling alley and bingo hall on the top floor of the current shopping centre, told the meeting the council would “destroy the social lives of thousands of people” if they approved the plans.
“It is something that is real, it is something that is part of people’s lives,” he said. “If you obliterate us – bingo and bowling – you will be doing a great disservice to Southwark and the people you serve.”
However, a representative for Delancey told the meeting that the D2 leisure space proposed in the plans could potentially be used by the community for a bingo hall in the future.
Patria Roman, of Latin Elephant, representing the Latin American businesses in the area, said there was concern over the relocation strategy for traders – and that they needed a condition for an additional fund allowing for traders to return.
A resident also voiced concerns over the impact on daylight and sunlight for those living in Oswin Street, and the disruption caused by construction.
A spokesperson representing London College of Communication said she did not think the college could remain in its current building for another five years if the plans did not go ahead.
The meeting also heard objections from Jerry Flynn, of the 35% Campaign, Chris Cooper from London Metropolitan Tabernacle, and a representative of Elephant and Castle Traders Association.
Cllr Mark Williams, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, said in a statement yesterday: “We respect the vote of the planning committee not to approve the application last night.
“We understand the strong feelings of many local people, particularly regarding affordable housing and business space, as these are priorities that the council shares.
“We remain committed to finding a solution for a new shopping centre and home for UAL’s London College of Communication that works for everyone.”
A spokesperson for Delancey said: “We are proud of the proposals that were presented to the planning committee last night for a new town centre for Elephant & Castle. They are ambitious, innovative and offer great benefits for a wide range of people who want to live, work and learn at The Elephant.
“The motion proposed and recommended by officers was to approve these plans. We are disappointed that the committee, by a narrow margin, rejected this motion and recommendation.
“However, the committee were unable to formulate grounds for this refusal and in the absence of these, voted to defer to the planning committee on January 30. As such, the planning application has not been refused at this stage.
“This is particularly disappointing as the proposals reflect four years of dedicated work. We have consulted widely and over 90% of people who took their valuable time to engage with us were in favour of the proposals.
“The proposals include desperately needed new transport, retention of London College of Communication at Elephant & Castle, 1000 new homes where none currently exist, with 35% of these subsidised to an average of 50% of market rents.
“These homes will respond to the needs of many working Londoners with household incomes that currently makes Zone 1 housing unaffordable. Of course there is a wider issue around social housing. But Elephant & Castle town centre cannot answer all of these issues alone and remain financially viable at the same time, as concluded by the Council’s own independent expert.”