4.1 Steve Platts, Director of Regeneration, reminded the committee of the council’s long-term goal to redevelop the shopping centre and reported that its ownership had changed on the previous Friday. He also reminded the committee about the funding that was being provided by the council, TfL and the GLA for a new underground station, peninsularisation of the roundabout and upgrade of the public realm. The council’s objectives were a proper town centre, to improve the retail and transport offer and permeability through the site, to increase residential accommodation and to improve the public realm.
4.2 Stafford Lancaster represented the new owners of the shopping centre, the property developer Delancey which was partnered by APG. Stafford Lancaster explained that Delancey was London based, backed by family investors and had customer service at its heart. It specialised in long-term retail and residential developments such as the Southside shopping centre in Wandsworth. Its existing assets included the former athletes village at the Olympic Park and it had already invested in Tribeca Square, a site adjacent to the Elephant & Castle mainline station. Stafford Lancaster also explained that Delancey’s partner, APG, was Europe’s largest pension fund with pension assets of 400 billion Euros and the ability to bring an international perspective.
4.3 Stafford Lancaster stated that Delancey was in the early process of engaging with tenants and had not yet begun consultation but had a lot of ideas for the project. It had not been able to consult to date due to strict non-disclosure undertakings with the previous owner. Delancey recognised the strong relationship between Lend Lease and the council and was keen to consult al stakeholders in order to develop a scheme that connected to the wider place. While acknowledging the very early stage of the project, Stafford Lancaster stressed that redevelopment rather than refurbishment was the aim in order to develop a new facility which integrated well with transport links. Delancey was also very focussed on delivery of housing with an emphasis on private rented units.
4.4 Members were concerned that the new development would be based on a holistic approach which took into account the recent scrutiny of businesses on the Walworth Road. Councillor Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration & corporate strategy, indicated that Delancey would submit a scheme to the planners but emphasised that the council’s objectives were a new town centre and to open up links and permeability. Jon Abbott, Head of Regeneration North, added that the council aimed to increase the public realm, improve transport, integrate with the Walworth Road and ensure that any proposed retail complimented Lend Lease proposals for retail. Part of the planning process would consider how the scheme impacted on the wider area.
4.5 A member was keen to see a strong link to the Aylesbury Estate and asked the likely timeline for the new shopping centre and how this would fit in with the peninsularisation and works to the Northern Line. Stafford Lancaster replied that a full planning application would be developed over the course of next year with hopefully a decision early in the following year and a three-year delivery programme. Delancey was in very early discussions with TfL with a view to the Northern Line and mainline stations being an integral part of the eventual scheme. There would also be close consultation with other major developers in the area, for instance on the Aylesbury. The Head of Regeneration North added that now a new partner was in place, a process of engagement with Network Rail could begin. The Director of Regeneration indicated that a report would be submitted to Cabinet in January on choosing a partner for the Aylesbury development.
4.6 Members asked whether Delancey would give any guarantee as to the level of social rented housing in the development. Stafford Lancaster stressed again that these were very early days. He indicated that as the rental model was a mass-market product rent levels would need to reflect this. No firm commitment or comment was possible at this stage but there would be a robust discussion about the viability assessment. Delancey’s aspiration was to provide a retail element that was the same or slightly more than that currently existing (but of a modern, high quality standard) and a significant residential element. In response to further questions, Stafford Lancaster confirmed that Tribeca Square and the shopping centre were seen as integrated projects whose success depended on integration with the wider place. Tribeca Square already had planning consent and was under construction. A member asked if there would be a joint announcement about the purchase. Councillor Colley indicated that a press release had been issued that morning.
4.7 Members asked whether Delancey and APG had purchased all land to the West of the railway line and whether the council would need to purchase any land by compulsory purchase order. Stafford Lancaster confirmed that Delancey and APG held ownership on a fifty-fifty basis. The Director of Regeneration added that the council would use its statutory powers to deliver a comprehensive redevelopment.
4.8 Members were concerned about whether stall-holders would be offered alternative pitches while the development was taking place and whether proper cycle lanes would be introduced around the Elephant & Castle. Stafford Lancaster stated that all occupiers would be fully consulted and that relocation was an important matter. The Project Director reported that cycling was a big part of the design process with options being considered for cycling routes at the Elephant & Castle, including segregation and also how to connect with routes linking to Blackfriars. The number of buses in the area also needed to be factored in. TfL are working on proposals and a consultation would take place around February.
4.9 A member commented that the last Council Assembly meeting had received a deputation from the Latin American community claiming that there had not been any engagement in respect of the shopping centre. Councillor Colley stated that she had made a commitment to meet with Latin American businesses to discuss how the aspirations for a Latin American Quarter could become a commercially viable proposition and that with the change of ownership it was now possible to engage properly. Stafford Lancaster added that Delancey’s consultation with all stakeholders would commence early in the New Year. Delancey had given a lot of thought to aspirations for the project but was open-minded. The one clear direction was that the shopping centre would be redeveloped. Members asked whether, if current traders returned to the shopping centre after its redevelopment, their rents would be lower in order to allow them to re-establish themselves. The Director of Regeneration indicated that an affordable retail policy was already built in to the Tribeca scheme. Stafford Lancaster stressed that Delancey took the impact on existing traders seriously and would discuss proposals with them. The challenge was to create a unique town centre which was viable, a successful trading place and appealed to the local community.
4.10 Members drew attention to the desirability of attracting a big anchor store, which might require car parking, but at the same time felt that it would be important for the new development to be relatively car free. Stafford Lancaster pointed out that a key driver was the fantastic public transport at the Elephant & Castle. Another attraction was the potential to create a vibrant mix of businesses, a “point of difference”, and not just the usual multiples.
4.11 Paulette Simpson of the Jamaica National Building Society addressed the committee on behalf of businesses from the Caribbean community. The community was concerned at the lack of consultation, the provision for displaced businesses, whether businesses would be able to afford to return to the new shopping centre and how long the development would take. She asked what profile of businesses Delancey was envisaging, including size and rents, and sought reassurance that current businesses would not be driven out. Stafford Lancaster stressed again that consultation was at a very early stage and that he looked forward to engaging with all businesses.
4.12 Lina Usma of Extra Media in Manor Place put forward the concerns of Latin American businesses who had traded in the area for over forty years and contributed a lot to the commercial sector. The traders needed to ensure that they had a place in the new development. Dra Patria Roman, a researcher working with the Latin American community, stated that the major problem was one of sustainability in terms of how businesses could keep going throughout a long process of redevelopment. She also stressed the importance of providing information at appropriate community centres and the need for it to be bi-lingual. A representative of the business team of the Elephant & Castle/Walworth Society reiterated the concern of local businesses that they be shown proposals in order to be able to make their own plans.
4.13 In conclusion, the chair of the committee expressed her concern that at the end of a process of redevelopment the Elephant & Castle might be missing its local community traders. She hoped that an imaginative creative scheme could be developed that would be financially viable for local businesses and the developer. Councillor Colley agreed with this sentiment and repeated that she was keen to meet with community businesses and hoped that Delancey would participate in this. A member hoped that the development would result in a building of exceptional design. Stafford Lancaster indicated that these were both clearly the objectives of Delancey.