Campaigners fighting against the demolition and redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre have demanded that the University of the Arts London (UAL) withdraw from the controversial scheme. The demand was made in an open letter to the UAL's Rector, Sir Nigel Carrington.
UAL’s London College of Communication (LCC) is to benefit from a new campus in the development, after its current premises are demolished. The shopping centre is due to be closed at the end of September 2020. UAL is a key stakeholder, along with offshore developer Delancey and a signatory of the s106 legal contract that underpins the development.
Fifty traders with nowhere to go
Campaigners wrote to Sir Nigel Carrington in response to UAL’s publication of a statement in respect of the Black Live Matter protests taking place across the world. In its statement, UAL declares:
“We aim to build our anti-racism commitments through collective engagement into actions that make a meaningful difference.”
The letter points out that many traders at the Shopping Centre have not been given any relocation space and they are all from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. According to a Southwark Council report at least 28 of the displaced traders have not been offered relocation premises.[^1] Local charity Latin Elephant and Petite Elephant has conducted their own research which shows the figure is nearer 50 traders.
Urgent action is needed now
The letter goes on to state:
“Urgent action is now needed to rectify this distressing situation and it is within UAL’s power to effect this ... We are therefore asking UAL to withdraw from the redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre if the organisation is genuinely committed to anti-racism.”
The letter says:
“UAL’s alleged commitment to anti-racism will not stand up to scrutiny if it allows the imminent erasure of this community in Elephant and Castle. In this case actions will prove to speak louder than words.”
Campaigners acknowledge that the London College of Communication (LCC) is itself an important part of the Elephant and Castle, but while so many traders from BAME backgrounds have suffered under the redevelopment LCC is a big winner, gaining a new, state-of-the art campus.
The letter’s signatories are Planning Voice (Southwark Law Centre), Latin Elephant, Up the Elephant campaign, Anita Israel (#UALstillsowhite), Stand Up To Racism (Southwark) and Southwark Notes. The letter has been copied to Natalie Brett (Pro Vice Chair UAL), Stafford Lancaster, (Investment Director, Delancey) Cllr Peter John OBE, (Leader, Southwark Council).
The letter was sent on the 17 July 2020 and no reply had been received, at the date of this blog post.
Southwark is listening, again...
Simultaneously with UAL, Southwark Council is conducting its own 'listening exercise', Southwark Stands Together, asking anyone who lives, works or visits the borough about their experiences, so that they can 'identify solutions to address entrenched, persistent racism and injustice'.
But Southwark has been down this road before - back in 2005, London Mayor Ken Livingstone called for the Commission for Racial Equality to investigate the Elephant’s regeneration, after shopping centre traders voiced concerns about how they would be accommodated in the redevelopment. Southwark had already commissioned the Lord Herman Ouseley to investigate its borough wide practices and in 2007 the Council’s Executive signed up to a ‘Traders Charter’, setting out how 'continuity of trading' could be secured and how to facilitate '..the transfer of existing businesses to new trading locations'.
Nobody should be left behind...
So, the problems traders face because of the regeneration are well-known and long acknowledged. According to Southwark forty-five traders have been relocated, but as many still have nowhere to go [^2]. The relocation and transition funds set up to assist traders are a fraction of the £148.4m profit Delancey stand to make from the redevelopment.
There can be no more blindingly obvious injustice than that longstanding shopping centre traders, all from BAME backgrounds, should face the loss of their stalls and premises, with no compensation and little prospect of continuing their businesses, to make way for a profit-spinning development that has no place for them.
We do not believe that between them the University of the Arts London, Southwark Council and Delancey with the vast resources at their command, cannot either find all traders new premises or pay them suitable compensation for the loss of their livelihoods. Now is the time for them to do so.
[^1]: Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre Progress Report Appendix D para 23
[^2]: number of relocations given in email correspondence 24 April 2020