A judicial review into the Elephant and Castle shopping centre regeneration will begin next week, as campaigners dispute accusations their legal challenge has led to more uncertainty for traders – and lay the blame squarely at landlord and developer Delancey and Southwark Council’s doors.
The High Court hearing is due to be held on Wednesday, July 17 and Thursday, July 18, where campaigners will find out if the entire scheme could be called into question over its lack of affordable housing and impact on small businesses, a majority of whom are from the Latin American community.
The last-ditch legal challenge to Delancey’s plans is supported by the Public Interest Law Centre and Southwark Law Centre.
The shopping centre has been slated for demolition since 2016, when landlord Delancey first submitted its application for redevelopment. But its blueprint for a new town centre has been beset by years of disputes. A decision was deferred on three occasions and gained more than 1,000 objections.
Despite assent from the Mayor of London, there is still no formal timeframe for demolition, and, meanwhile, remaining traders are attempting to continue business as usual – despite high-profile closures including, most recently, Tesco.
In March, after the judicial review was announced, a Delancey spokesperson told the News: “It is now likely the timeline for starting on site will be pushed back, which is likely to have a direct impact on a significant number of existing businesses located in the shopping centre, who were hoping for stability and certainty in order to plan for their future.”
Tanya Murat, spokesperson for Southwark Defend Council Housing, poured scorn on the idea uncertainty was the campaigners’ fault: “The local community and traders have had to fight hard for just about every improvement made to Delancey’s proposals, over nearly three years,” she said.
“We had no real social housing, no place for the traders to move to and no relocation fund when we started.
“It is outrageous that Southwark Council and Delancey are blaming us for delays.
“If they gave us a scheme that included space for Elephant traders and enough proper social housing we would not be in this position”.
Her comments were echoed by Public Interest Law Centre solicitor, Paul Heron, who said: “This is a vital legal challenge that campaigners have been forced into making, by Southwark Council and Delancey’s failures.
“Going to court is not something anyone does lightly and Delancey and Southwark should not be using the up and coming judicial review to cover up their own lack of progress in assisting traders.”
A fund covering the cost of relocating – including fitting out new premises – stands provisionally at £634,700, but Delancey have gone on record saying this is not a final figure and offers will be made on a case by case basis.
However, the process has been paused in advance of next week’s hearing, with payments yet to be made.
Southwark Council’s cabinet member for growth, development and planning, Cllr Johnson Situ, said the council ‘strongly refuted’ any claims it had not delivered on its promise to do ‘all it can’ to support Elephant and Castle shopping centre traders.
“Since the start we have pushed developers to ensure traders have relocation support and funding, and the approval of the planning application is clear that it is subject to this support and the £634,700 relocation fund being in place,” he said.
“This can only really kick in when the planning permission is free from challenges, such as the current Judicial Review application.
“While campaigners are able to bring this challenge forward on any application, the fact remains that it does have an impact on the timeline for the project, which leaves many of the independent traders uncertain about their future.
“In the meantime we have been working with traders and Tree Shepherd to find new homes in spaces at the specially created Castle Square and Perronet House arcade, and in Delancey’s Elephant One.”
Thirty-six businesses, he told the News, have already taken up offers on these units.