The future of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre and the surrounding area is set to be decided on next week.
The huge ‘town centre’ development 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.
Dozens of businesses in and around the shopping centre would need to be relocated before its demolition in 2019, if councillors rubber stamp the proposal at a planning committee this Monday, December 18.
The plans, drawn up by Delancey Ltd, which owns the shopping centre, have so far been met with significant opposition from traders, residents and councillors alike.
A meeting was held at the shopping centre on Tuesday, where representatives of the 35% Campaign, traders, university, and the Latin community discussed the plans.
One representative, who did not wish to be named, told the News: “The principle concerns were social housing – that the development is non-compliant both with existing policy and emerging policy in the New Southwark Plan.
“The headline to our mind is that this is a development where there are 979 dwellings – and 33 of them are going to be social rented. It’s inexplicable.
“There’s also considerable concern regarding overshadowing of properties in the conservation area and as far as the traders are concerned there’s a very large representation of the BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] and Latin community among those traders who’ve not been given any assurances that they will remain grouped when they move out.
“There’s also concern regarding the provision of amenity for older residents who make considerable use of the bingo hall and we have grave doubts that that facility will be included in the revised plan.”
East Walworth councillors Rebecca Lury, Darren Merrill and Martin Seaton said they were not opposed to the shopping centre being regenerated, but raised concerns over the level of both affordable housing and affordable retail space, and the closure of the bingo hall.
Chaucer ward councillor Karl Eastham voiced “serious concerns” about the planning application, while fellow ward councillor Helen Dennis also objected to the plans online.
Tree Shepherd, a business and employment social enterprise, was brought in by the council to work with 25 of the independent traders in the existing 1960s shopping centre.
Colin Crooks, who set up the organisation, said: “Obviously the bigger companies like Boots will be fine but these guys who’ve been invested in that community, some for 20 or 30 years, will be quite severely affected by the process.
“Of course they are worried and it’s frightening and distressing to suddenly see the place they’ve worked in being uprooted, but I think a lot of them are also saying that the space itself is very run down.
“They are anxious and they’ve got some concerns about current activity levels in the centre so one of the things we are really keen to get across it that the shopping centre is still open.”
A spokesperson for Delancey commented: “Thirty five per cent of the homes will be offered at affordable rents, with some below social rented levels, on a site where previously there were none.
“The new homes being proposed will be funded solely by the private sector and, as a result, affordability is balanced with financial viability.
“Up to ten per cent of the retail units will also be marketed at discounted rates for the first five years, to allow local businesses to continue to trade alongside the new amenities.
“Existing retailers are being offered free-of-charge business guidance and assistance in finding suitable new premises.”
To view and comment on the plans online, visit: http://bit.ly/2iXAo6G