Thousands of flats and the largest new park created in central London in over 70 years will transform a neglected neighbourhood after planning chiefs approved redevelopment of a notorious council estate.
The Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle featured in videos for songs including David Guetta’s Love Don’t Let Me Go and was the backdrop for fantasy film Attack the Block.
Its high-rise concrete walkways, popular in the Seventies when the estate was built, became synonymous with crime. Demolition started in 2011 and will now be stepped up, with the aim of the first home buyers moving in at the end of 2015.
Southwark council approved a £1.5 billion masterplan by developer Lend Lease to build up to 2,500 homes on the 22-acre site, the biggest regeneration scheme within Zone 1. But at a six-hour planning meeting, local protesters claimed there will not be enough affordable homes.
Police were on standby as dozens of activists held placards with slogans including “Elephant and Castle rip-off” and “Gated communities are zoos”. Committee chairman Nick Dolezal threatened to hold the meeting behind closed doors unless the protests ceased but continued after security staff removed the placards.
Southwark MP and Lib-Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes was among about 200 people at the meeting, which ended in the early hours yesterday. Mr Hughes said he supported the regeneration of the estate but was against the plans because just 25 per cent of the homes will be affordable.
He added: “The council has a policy that 35 per cent of all housing should be affordable. They are breaking their own rules.” He also criticised planners for meeting in a room too small to hold all those who turned up.
Objectors’ spokesman Jerry Flynn said: “Over 850 social rented units will be lost, and the so-called affordable rents are way beyond what most people who live in Southwark can afford. Southwark has more than 17,000 people on its housing waiting list — but none of them will be living on the new Heygate.”
Dan Labbad, chief operating officer of Lend Lease, said the project was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity... that will not only transform the Elephant but will be a global example of regeneration and best practice”.
Prices have not been revealed but Lend Lease is already offering flats on the site of the former Elephant and Castle Leisure Centre, from £320,000 for a one-bedroom property.
The project was originally supposed to see the famous pink shopping centre, roundabout and link road demolished to create a civic square and emphasise the area’s good public transport connections.
As recently as 2004 the “vision” also included a new arts and cultural facility, performance square, theatre, science museum, library, council offices and secondary school.
However, the breakdown in negotiations with the shopping centre owners resulted in a more piecemeal approach. The northern roundabout, the most dangerous interchange for cyclists in London, will be reconfigured, while the shopping centre will be refurbished and get a new tower.
The Heygate Estate was emptied in 2008 and the tenants were promised new homes. However, all but 15 have been rehoused in older properties.
CBI warns property shortage is threat to economy
London's chronic housing shortage has leaped past unreliable transport as a threat to its growth for the first time.
Senior executives at the capital’s biggest companies rated “housing” above “transport” in a poll carried out by the CBI. Housing charities said the watershed findings showed that the “brain drain” caused by the dearth of affordable homes to buy and rent is now the biggest single obstacle to London’s economic success.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “This alarming report shows just how wide-reaching the impacts of the capital’s housing crisis have become. Rising rents and house prices mean that for many talented professionals, living in London isn’t the attractive prospect it once was.
“We’re going to see a growing exodus of employees who’ll be able to find a better life elsewhere.”