Elephant Traders - not in the pink

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We blogged on 12th July about Social Life, a social enterprise based on the Pullens estate. They have now completed their research on the Elephant & Castle shopping centre redevelopment and how it is affecting the traders there. A concise and impressive report is now available here. Its conclusions will not surprise people familiar with the shopping centre. It says: "Overall, traders are anxious and concerned about the redvelopment. Many of the traders have mixed feelings about the plans.";"The shopping centre is an important social space for traders, local people and regular customers and it plays a hugely important role in the social life of the local community.";"The shopping centre supports dense networks of social relationships in the local area, across London and globally."

We hope developers Delancey have read this report and are giving it full weight in their forthcoming planning application for the shopping centre's redevelopment. However, we hear from several sources that they are not treating the current occupants very well: rents are being raised and new rental agreements are in the form of licences rather than leases, which points towards them getting rid of shopkeepers rather than keeping them. An interview with respected academic and Director of Latin Elephant Patria Roman paints a similar picture. Nevertheless, one shopping centre leaseholder and popular venue for Latin American events appears to be fighting back - the 'Save the Coronet' petition now stands at 3,856 signatures.

Sorting Office sorted?

Two contentious planning applications are pending just down the road from the Elephant in Walworth. One of these would see the effective demolition of a local heritage asset - the former sorting office on Penrose street, the other could jeopardise the future of much loved and valued local mental health charity Cooltan Arts.

The Sorting Office was built in 1897 and the Walworth Society has long been campaigning to have it retained as part of the extensive redevelopment of the area. A previous planning application was refused after a large number of objections to its demolition. Its owner is now back with another application which looks like a prime example of 'facadism': an increasingly common practice which has been described in the development industry as a "wilful two fingers up" to local planners.

The application is for 6 x 3 storey and 2 x 2 storey town houses, 8 being just below Southwark's threshold for an affordable housing contribution. They will be squeezed behind the retained facade and side wall, but require the demolition of the rest of the sorting office and surrounding outbuildings.

Cooltan Arts - threat

Cooltan Arts, long term residents of the Walworth road were relocated last year on the promise that they would be able to return to redveloped premises on their former site off the Walworth road. But a revised planning application for the site no longer contains this promise to reprovide space for Cooltan (nor does it contain the amount of affordable housing required by policy). Objections to the application ref:(14/AP/0830) can still be sent to planning.applications@southwark.gov.uk.

Developers award Southwark top marks

Southwark Council has been shortlisted for two awards at the latest property developers' jamboree 'MIPIM UK', due to be held at Kensington Olympia on 15th-17th October. Southwark is in the running to be both "UK best planning authority of the year" and "Public-Private Partnership of the Year" for the Aylesbury estate. The MIPIM awards web page claims that for developers, Southwark is both "welcoming and demanding". We agree that it is certainly welcoming but as we have shown, it is not so demanding - especially when it comes to enforcing its own minimum policies on affordable housing contributions.

MIPIM also states in the citation for the Aylesbury partnership award that 75% of its affordable housing will be social rented. We doubt very much that all the new social rented homes will be at social rents and suspect that the forthcoming Aylesbury outline planning application will replace at least some of it with the new so-called 'affordable rents'of up to 80% market rent.

MIPIM itself is usually held in sunny Cannes. In 2013 the Council leader was accused of 'going on a jolly' to the event paid for by developer Lend Lease and last year he withdrew after protests and demonstrations. This year it is proving equally controversial: several Councils have pulled out after media pressure and an open letter signed by several local campaign groups asks Southwark to join them. So far Council leader Peter John is unimpressed.

The Radical Housing Network is organising protests during the exhibiton on 15th - 17th October.

Heygate viability assessment latest

After a long appeal against the Information Commisioner's decision, the Information Tribunal ordered Southwark Council and Lend Lease to disclose the Heygate viability assessment back in May. The Tribunal extended the time for forwarding the assessment to the Information Commissioner back in June, but the assessment has still not been revealed. After inquiries to the Tribunal by Mr Glasspool who requested the information, a case management hearing has now been scheduled for 15th October.