Published On: 7th August 2023Categories: General

Southwark community ask Michael Gove to stand by his housing ambitions and intervene on Lendlease’s battle to build a giant office block instead of housing.

‘Community Objectors of H1’ (‘COH1’) are intervening in a Planning Inquiry in which Lendlease are appealing the decision of Southwark council not to grant them planning permission on ‘Plot H1’ – the final plot of Elephant Park, a controversial redevelopment which stands on the former site of the Heygate estate. Although this site was originally identified for housing (as per the Outline Planning Permission), Lendlease are now battling to build an 18-storey office block instead of housing on a ‘standalone planning application’.

Further to Gove’s recent speech in which he talked of the “failure to turbocharge the redevelopment of inner city London” and of the government’s commitment to a “new era of regeneration, inner-city densification and housing delivery across England”, which would encourage housing in city centres and the “supply of beautiful, safe, decent homes”, COH1 have written to Gove asking him to ‘recover this appeal’. That is, personally determine the outcome. COH1 say this represents the perfect opportunity for the Secretary of State to demonstrate his commitment to these ideals in practice.

As it stands, compared with the position prior to demolition, the redevelopment of Elephant Park will result in a loss of 931 social rented homes. COH1 say this dramatic loss of housing is of country-wide importance, given the national housing emergency – in Southwark alone, over 14,000 are on the housing register.

Background

On 21 December 2022, Southwark council refused permission for Lendlease’s plans for the following reasons:

  1. The excessive height, massing and bulk of the application would cause harm to the character and appearance of Elephant Road, Elephant Park and Walworth Road; and
  2. That the proposal would cause unacceptable harm to the neighbouring amenity due to loss of daylight.
  3. The third reason related to the absence of a s.106 agreement – although this is likely to be resolved prior to the Inquiry commencing.

Lendlease are appealing this decision and reasoning, in a Planning Inquiry set to commence in September 2023.

COH1 have successfully secured Rule 6(6)2 status in this Inquiry (an interested party). They are a collective of local residents and campaigners living on and near Elephant Park. The group include the long established 35% Campaign and the Walworth Society.

As well as supporting the Southwark Council’s reasoning to reject the application, COH1 are raising the following points.

  1. The policy requirements and principles to build housing on estate redevelopment.
  2. That the provision of offices in this location is not a substantial benefit.
  3. That proposals fail to provide affordable workspace and/or retail space – which is a significant issue given the displacement of traders in the neighbouring and demolished Elephant and Castle shopping centre.

Jerry Flynn, spokesperson for COH1 states:
“Local people were baffled and shocked when they learnt that Lendlease were going to build a giant office block instead of housing on the final plot of Elephant Park. Southwark desperately needs housing, particularly affordable housing. Southwark Council made the right decision when they refused this application last October and we are looking to the Secretary of State to uphold that decision.”

Alexandra Goldenberg, solicitor at Public Interest Law Centre states:
“This is a matter of public significance. Lendlease’s planning application should be treated as an application for estate redevelopment on a former council estate and as such must follow the London Plan Policy 2021 and increase housing supply. In the midst of a housing crisis, they are seeking to circumvent these policies by overbuilding and have reneged on promises made through consultation with the local community.”


COH1 are represented by Public Interest Law Centre, supported by Southwark Law Centre. Instructed counsel is Charles Bishop of Landmark Chambers.

Photography: LASZLO ILYES