The council’s final decision on whether a temporary unit for traders displaced by Delancey’s Elephant and Castle regeneration plans should be approved or kicked into the grass has been postponed until next year.
Campaigners left disappointed by Mayor Sadiq Khan giving his assent to the controversial regeneration and full-scale demolition of the shopping centre have pinned their hopes on a second planning application for the Castle Square development, as they say a rejection could leave the entire scheme in jeopardy.
Protesters from the Up the Elephant campaign staged a demonstration outside the council’s Tooley Street offices on Wednesday, December 12, before the scheduled planning committee meeting where proposals for Castle Square were due to be voted on.
But the decision was deferred on the night as councillors wanted more clarity on current rents and how they compare with what will be on offer.
Tanya Murat from the Up the Elephant Campaign told the News the following day: “We are pleased that the planning committee decided to defer the Castle Square application last night.
“Traders representing Latin Elephant, the Elephant and Castle Traders Association and nightclub Distriandina spoke in objection to the scheme.
“It was clear from what they were saying that the temporary unit would have been charging much higher rents than they currently pay in the shopping centre and that there is no place for a nightclub venue in the scheme either.
“The council should push Delancey to come up with a scheme that doesn’t leave the traders out in the cold.”
Ms Murat had previously told the News after City Hall announced it would not hold an inquiry into the scheme that she was ‘shocked and disappointed’ and said the project could be a ‘disaster for the community’.
The final offer approved by the London Mayor includes 330 ‘affordable’ homes, including 116 at social rent, 53 at London Living Rent for households earning up to £60,000, and 161 homes at market rent.
Delancey has also committed to offering ten per cent affordable retail space – discounted for fifteen years – with first refusal to existing independent traders who want to return to the newly built town centre.
The developer has also committed to compensate traders forced to relocate, and says its estimate of £634,000 ‘should not be regarded as, or mistaken for, a hard cap’.
But despite Delancey’s assurances, many are concerned the scheme will particularly impact Latin American traders and see the loss of live music and club venues in a blow to the area’s nightlife.
Cllr Maria Linforth-Hall, the Liberal Democrat councillor for St George’s ward, which includes Elephant and Castle, is supportive of redeveloping the area, but warned: “What we don’t want is for the Elephant to be just another generic identikit shopping centre that looks and feels like any other in any part of the country.
“The local traders and the BAME community are a big part of the distinctive character and culture of the area and Southwark more generally. That can’t be thrown away.”
Getting the Castle Square application approved is Delancey’s last hurdle.
A spokesperson for the developer told the News last week the legal terms and conditions were now all in place, paving the way for demolition and construction to begin, five years after consultation on the new town centre first started.
“We know that many people remain deeply concerned about how we will bring about this change.
“We face a significant challenge in the delivery of this project over a number of years.
“As ever, our reputation will need to be hard earned in the long-run.
“We would like to reassure the community and other interested parties that we take this responsibility extremely seriously.
“We will work tirelessly with all stakeholders and neighbours to manage the interim period sensitively and collaboratively.
“We will deliver a new Town Centre that we will all be very proud of in the end and will continue with an open dialogue as we progress with the plans.”