Regeneration at Elephant and Castle and affordable homes

20 April 2017

A Statement regarding regeneration at Elephant and Castle and affordable homes from Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council.

"The regeneration of Elephant and Castle has its opponents, but since we began work on this project in 2010, the council has always acted in the interests of all our tenants and residents.

"When we signed the agreement with Lendlease we got the best deal we could to build thousands of much-needed new homes for people in Southwark, including a minimum of 25 per cent affordable housing across the Lendlease site. The private sales will help to fund the total 1,624 affordable homes – a mix of social housing and shared ownership, creating genuinely mixed communities across the whole of the Elephant and Castle opportunity area. Until the government comes up with a new model to help councils to build new homes, partnerships with developers are pretty much the only game in town, and there is no question that London desperately needs new homes.

"As this is such a long-term development the final figures aren’t set in stone and it may be that many more of the homes available will be at social and affordable rents, as we have agreed a minimum. More importantly these homes are fantastic quality across the piece – whether you’re living in a private home or social housing in Southwark, I believe you should expect the very best. In these difficult financial times, it is naïve and narrow-minded not to accept we need the private sale homes to provide the money to build brand new council homes on the rest of the Elephant and Castle masterplan, which is much bigger that just the former Heygate footprint. In addition to the minimum of 587 affordable units on the former Heygate estate, the deal with Lendlease has released a further £11m that has allowed Southwark to put £6m towards newly-built social rented units, with a further £5m being used for more social rent homes in the coming years, for example Manor Place Depot, which will provide 44 new social rent homes off the Walworth Road in 2019.

"Lendlease has invested significantly in its local sales and marketing to attract local buyers in the first instance and is a signatory of both the Home Builders Federation code of practice and the Mayor of London’s Mayoral Concordat, which commits developers to market new homes in the UK first or at the same time as overseas.  Elephant and Castle is in Zone One, in a prime location, and the prices may reflect this, but help is being provided for local people including the new Help to Buy homes, advertised first within Southwark, which are additional to any other agreements we’ve made. 

"The regeneration of the area has also brought many other benefits for local people. It fully paid for a brand new leisure centre in the area, which has welcomed more than 200,000 visitors since it opened last year, helping our residents live healthy lives. It provided an opportunity for us to open the Southwark Construction Skills Centre to help local people get the training they need to get sustainable work on the developments happening in their communities, with more than 1,000 people taking advantage in the first few months. There have also been hundreds of jobs and apprenticeships created for Southwark residents, and there is no question the area is improving with new retail, culture facilities and other opportunities.

"Campaigners have focussed on the initial loss of the homes on the Heygate site for many years, but local people are increasingly satisfied with the developments happening in Elephant and Castle, and many more are enjoying the wide range of benefits that have come with the regeneration, including those who have returned to the area and are living in some of the best quality, socially rented homes in the borough.

"Our commitment to council housing is unrivalled. Southwark Council is one of the largest social landlords in the country with around 53,000 council homes that we have invested over £450m to bring up to a decent homes standard over the last few years, with even more investment planned to provide quality kitchens and bathrooms over the next few years. In addition we are building 11,000 brand new council homes that are already springing up across the borough. Demolishing estates is absolutely the last resort, and one that we will only consider when we are convinced that refurbishment is not a viable option. The former Heygate estate has been held up as a haven of social housing but this is simply not true. The buildings, like many others built at the time, were at the end of their natural life and the whole estate had significant design flaws that resulted in regular and costly breakdowns and maintenance charges. Something needed to be done and the council did not take the decision to demolish the estate lightly, making sure measures were in place to mitigate the disruption to residents. Every tenant who wanted to be re-homed in the borough was and they have all been offered the right to return in the new social rented properties on the site if they choose. While we know some leaseholders were unhappy with their deal, they were offered a number of options to remain in the area, and were offered open market value if they chose to sell.

"It is right and proper that council decisions are held to account, but in this case the opinions of a small group of people, with claims and accusations based on misunderstandings or twisted truths, have completely dominated. These views are not truly representative of the people living and working in the Elephant and Castle area that the council represents. It is perhaps impossible for councils to take decisions that everyone is happy with, but I hope the majority can see that Southwark is committed to its residents, to improving the borough in which they live, and to always putting the most vulnerable in our community first."

Page last updated: 20 April 2017