Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again.

From the Guardian:

It sounds like a fairy tale - until you get there. But now a magic wand is poised over the Elephant and Castle.

From the article:

'This is the week that the London Borough of Southwark sets about asking local people and businesses what they'd like to be done about one of the city's oldest shopping centres. The Borough has a pretty shrewd idea of what to do, but is asking all the same.

'The Borough. . . spurred on by . . . it's intelligent and indefatigable Director of Regeneration and Enviroment . . . plans to transform the Elephant into a "new landmark of urban and environmentally-friendly design: a development that could be seen as exemplary, worldwide."

'The emphasis here is on public transport and the linking together of many railway stations and bus stops that serve the area. They may also include working with approved firms of architects - not just developers' puppets, but those who will raise the standard of architecture here to the highest global standards. This includes new housing and the renovation of existing stock.

'The borough insists that it is not trying to turn the Elephant into a new middle-class ghetto or just another shiny downtown development . . . in raising it's cultural sights, however, Southwark must be careful not to undermine it's indigenous population . . . It is, at heart, a working-class quarter of London, made up of many creeds and colours. What it needs to do is find ways of engineering in the hearts of those who live and work here a sense of belonging to a new world in which they all stand to benefit if and when the Elephant comes into it's own.'

Sounds great doesn't it? The problem? The article is dated, '15 March, 1999'.

I hadn't realized it until I read this article - I was away from England for over 12 years until I went back in late 2007 - but the regeneration process has been in place for a decade. The original company pulled out not long after this article was written and the plan languished ever after.

Today, from LondonSE1: Elephant and Castle regeneration: Southwark Council leader 'cautiously optimistic' that a deal can be reached with Lend-Lease by the end of 2009. From the article:

"I am cautiously optimistic about the chances of reaching a development agreement with Lend Lease by the end of the year," Cllr Nick Stanton told members of the cross-party Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the town hall on Monday night.

"I've said before that if Lend Lease were going to walk away from this they would have walked away by now. They clearly have walked away from a number of propositions where they felt that the numbers weren't stacking up for them."

"They are still very interested in the Elephant & Castle. They are talking with us and we have been doing some financial modelling work with them. I'm told that that's gone very well."

If a deal isn't signed, what happens then? Does the estate just sit there year after year, falling into total disrepair? Or will the council demolish it, no matter what the cost, just to get rid of it? What then? A vacant lot that sits on the site for years afterwards, taking up valuable land?

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