Published on January 22, 2013 | by Vanessa Smart

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Heygate masterplan approved despite protests

People wait in Southwark Council lobby as councillors approve Heygate regeneration

Protestors met amid concerns that life-long residents will be driven out of the redeveloped Heygate estate. [Alastair Johnstone]

Southwark Council has granted outline planning permission for the redevelopment of Elephant and Castle at a meeting which was disrupted by protests from the gallery.

The six-hour planning committee meeting was halted for almost half an hour as a group of protesters held up posters which said the regeneration would gentrify the area, forcing out lower earning, life-long inhabitants.

Planning committee chair, councillor Nick Dolezal, threatened to clear the public gallery and call the police, saying: “You’re disrupting the meeting.”

Some of the protesters had been evicted from the Heygate Estate and replied: “You’re disrupting our lives.”

Detrimental plans

Ruben Miller was among the protesters who explained how the redevelopment will be detrimental to local residents. He said: “They’re here to rob us and build luxury apartments. The people that live there will be richer, but it will not be the same people.”

Although Miller does not live on the Heygate Estate he feels very strongly about the treatment of the area and its inhabitants.

“The people that live there will be richer, but it will not be the same people.” Ruben Miller

“It’s my city. I think it’s rank,” he said.

Liberal Democrat MP for Southwark and Bermondsey, Simon Hughes, also said the new housing will discriminate against current residents.

“The council has not kept to its policy of insisting that 35 per cent of new housing everywhere in the borough should be affordable,” he said.

“Residents of the Heygate agreed to the redevelopment on the basis that there would be at least as many replacement homes at council or target rent as there were when the blocks went down.

“It is now clear that Southwark’s Labour Council is not going to honour this commitment,” he claimed.

The plans – created by Make architects for property and infrastructure company Lend Lease – were approved by four votes to two with one abstention. Labour councillors voted in favour while Liberal Democrat committee members either voted against it or abstained.

Once-in-a-lifetime

Lend Lease will provide a minimum of 25 per cent affordable housing over 12 plots in Elephant and Castle, with low, medium and high rise buildings on each plot.

The specific design of buildings and details are still to be decided and the development plan is subject to change.

Former chief executive officer and now Lend Lease’s group chief operating officer, Dan Labbad expressed his enthusiasm for the project. He said: “It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

“It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation opportunity.” Dan Labbad

Labbad, who flew from Australia to be at the meeting added: “It is nothing short of a fantastic scheme. Our vision is to create the best places. It’s important to us, our reputation relies on it. Lend Lease has the resources to deliver this project.”

Ken Shuttleworth of Make architects, who also led the team that designed London’s ‘Gherkin’ building, said about the development: “We feel privileged to contribute to the vision which we believe will vastly improve Elephant and Castle.

“Over time the master plan has developed extensively. This scheme will be a massive improvement. We’re one of the best architects in the world. We want this to be brilliant.”

Overcrowding

The limited capacity at the meeting meant that many people were refused entry and subsequently set up their own meeting outside. Due to public demand over a dozen local residents were later allowed to attend the meeting.

In a later statement Hughes said he disagreed with how the meeting had been organised.

He said: “It was completely unacceptable that the council held the planning meeting in rooms that could not accommodate all those who wanted to attend.

“There were about 40 people still kept outside when I arrived at about 8pm – sitting in the main hall of the council offices when the meeting could have been held with room enough for everybody.”

Hughes added: “It is not surprising that there was a public protest at the committee. I am writing to the chair of the committee this week to ask that all future controversial planning applications are dealt with in venues large enough to accommodate all of the interested public.”

 

 

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