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Creating a More Sustainable Elephant

Heygate Leaseholders Submit Their Objections

Having been served with a Compulsory Purchase Order by Southwark Council, Heygate leaseholders have fought back by submitting an objection to the Secretary of State. You can view the objection here. What the objection basically says is that the regeneration scheme originally promised a number of significant public infrastructure improvements, that these have been dropped and that the scheme now resembles a purely commercial development. Therefore CPO powers are not appropriate as there are no public benefits to the scheme.

The Council’s original ‘Statement of Reasons’ in which it makes the case for the CPO can be downloaded here. The document makes interesting reading.

The leaseholders group are currently in the process of organising their ‘Statement of Case’ against the CPO. This will also be published online once it has been submitted.

Meanwhile the group have published their objections to the planning application for the Heygate redevelopment:

Objection to revised Heygate Outline Planning Application - 12/AP/1092

1. Affordable Housing - Whilst the new revised housing statement does now include a minimum target of 25% affordable housing, it is not proposing the type of affordable housing required by planning policy or negotiated in the Regeneration Agreement. Both the local planning policy and the Regeneration Agreement state clearly that half of all affordable housing must be social rented. This is not the case with this application which has substituted the new ‘affordable rent’ tenure in its place. These new ‘affordable rents’ are anything but affordable and are beyond the means of most of our former neighbours here on the Heygate estate. As a result there will be insufficient social-rented homes in the new development for Southwark to be able to honour its promise to rehouse former Heygate residents in the new homes.

Furthermore, the planning application makes no provision for the retained equity homes which it was originally agreed would be offered to Heygate leaseholders like ourselves. The result is that we are being priced out of our community and that we have been asked to give up our homes on the back of promises which have not been kept. Only a limited number of former Heygate tenants will now be able to return; the exact number is unclear, but phase one of the Heygate development provides an indicator where the detailed application has now been submitted for 235 new homes, only 8 of which will be social rented.

This is an insult to the 3,500 former Heygate community who were told they would be able to return to new homes on the site. It will result in the creation of a private gated community for the wealthy, and will lead to further segregation between the capital’s ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. This is further exacerbated by the planning application’s Estate Management Strategy, which proposes that the entire 10 hectare footprint comes under the control of a privately-managed ‘Estate Management Company’ patrolled by a private ‘Town Centre Security Team’.




2. Sustainability - The Elephant & Castle’s existing Energy Centre used to supply heating & hot water to homes on both the Heygate and neighbouring Salisbury Row estates and a housing development on Rodney Road.

Up until January 2011, the regeneration masterplan promised to replace this with an Energy Centre which would supply up to 10,000 homes in the entire E&C area with renewable energy. This was part of the ambitious ‘zero carbon’ growth initiative endorsed by Bill Clinton.

However, this strategy now appears to have been abandoned in its entirety: the outline planning application makes no commitment to any renewable energy whatsoever. It proposes a replacement district heating network significantly smaller than the existing one, which supplies only those homes included in this planning application. It fails to make a firm commitment to supply any new homes on the first phase of the Heygate redevelopment or any other developments in the area; moreover there will be insufficient capacity to do so.

Whilst there are two energy efficient Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants proposed within the Energy Centre they will be of relatively small capacity (1248 kW in total), and CHP will only be meet half of the total heating requirements of the new development. The other half will be met by good old-fashioned gas boilers.

Biomethane gas would make this a greener option but the supply is still in doubt. It won’t be produced on-site or off-site by Lend Lease. The gas will come from the national grid but will be paid for at a premium: a bit like green tariff electricity. Whether you will actually be able to get biomethane will depend on whether there is enough being injected into the grid. There are currently no operational biomethane plants injecting into the UK gas grid. Despite this, Lend Lease claim that there is a possibility that 15% of the gas supply could be supplied by biomethane by 2020.

It is also a surprise to learn that there is no guarantee that the new Energy Centre will be connected to the Phase 1 development. The separate Phase 1 application proposes having its own separate Energy Centre - again reliant on gas boilers with CHP providing just half of its total heating requirements. The outline planning application also optimistically lists 14 other sites including Phase 1 that could ‘possibly’ be linked at some future date. But this would only be possible by installing significant extra plant. However, questions still remain as to whether there is enough room in the Energy Centre for extra plant and who would pay for it.

The fabled ‘MUSCo’ was going to provide 10,000 homes with renewable energy. It was a pioneering scheme endorsed by Bill Clinton as a global example of ‘carbon zero’ development. The ambitious plans proposed a biomass CHP plant generating green heat and power from organic waste. It was also going to provide a bore-hole for a green water supply and an automated vacuum waste collection system moving municipal waste through underground tunnels.

Now it would appear that Lend Lease have submitted applications which barely connect one side of the estate with the other.

Tree Strategy-

The planning application’s Tree Strategy is equally ambiguous and non committal. Whilst it identifies a number of trees for ‘possible retention’, the application’s small print contains the following caveat: “As many of the best of the existing mature trees will be retained where possible” subject to ‘further more detailed testing” at later design stages. The application therefore makes no firm commitment to retain any of the 400 mature trees on the existing site.

3. Transport - In the past two and a half years, nearly 300 people have been killed or injured on the roads in and around the Elephant & Castle. Since Christmas 2011, 4 pedestrians have died including most recently a 5 year old boy. The danger to all but most clearly to pedestrians and cyclists is endemic and long standing, owing to the domination of the area by vehicle traffic.

The original regeneration plans included proposals to tackle this problem by creating a pedestrianised ‘Civic Square’, which would span across the Northern roundabout connecting the two tube stations and creat a pedestrian precinct. The Northern roundabout is officially the most dangerous traffic interchange for cyclists in London and cannot be crossed by pedestrians without negotiating a labyrinth of subways.

However, the final masterplan application now appears to have dropped all plans to reduce car domination: the civic square has been shelved, and it is actually proposing to reduce the size of the roundabout in order to increase the width of the vehicle traffic lanes: “Part of the overall central island removed within the vicinity of access for the electricity substation to accommodate improved circulation and better lane discipline on the internal gyratory, with amendments also along the eastern side to better accommodate the full five lanes” (Section 11: pg. 104)

In addition, - despite strong objections from City Hall - the application proposes to block TFL’s plans for a much needed eastern cycle bypass as part of the proposed Cycle Superhighway 6 (Penge to the City):

“A route for the new cycle superhighway (CS6) is not intended to be provided through the proposed Development. At the heart of the Proposed development is the provision of a new Park, a place for people to visit and enjoy as a leisure activity. The Proposed development is therefore designed to support leisure cyclists rather than being used as a cycling commuter route through the development which may discourage less confident cyclists and conflict with pedestrian movement.” (Transport Statement - 6.8.2)

Thus, not only is the application proposing to widen the E&C roundabout to provide an extra lane of vehicle traffic, it is also opposing plans for a much-needed cycle bypass avoiding a key collision blackspot.

Beyond this it is also planning to create 678 new parking spaces at the Elephant: “The Development will provide a maximum of 616 car parking spaces. A maximum of 62 car parking spaces could be provided on street.” (Transport Statement -15.1.2) This is a breach of planning policy, entirely unnecessary in a zone 1 public transport hub, and wholly incompatible with claims of delivering a car-free sustainable development.

4. Timescale - The planning application proposes that the development will be built in phases and will not be fully completed until 2026. The original Heygate development was completed in 1974 and took just 4 years to complete. The delay is unacceptable and will lead to long-term blight affecting residents and businesses in the area. The reasons for the delay are commercial rather than technical and are based on well-established speculative ‘land banking’ practices employed by developers. The long delay allows the developer to benefit from speculative land value increases, and is also used to shore up its balance sheet with the land appearing in its accounts as an asset. This increases its credit ratings and lowers its borrowing costs on other projects. The applicant’s track record here is an unforunate sign of what is likely to befall the Elephant if this planning application is approved:

  • In 2001 it signed a Regeneration Agreement for 150 acres of land at Greenwich Peninsula.

  • An anxious political administration is forced to make significant concessions on planning obligations in the 3 years before outline planning is finally granted in 2004.

  • 8 years pass without any development whatsoever until Lend Lease sells the land in June 2012 to Hong Kong developer ‘Knight Dragon’. This site remains undeveloped.

  • Meanwhile, the estimated profit share expected to be clawed back from the scheme by the Authorities falls by around £30m for each year the scheme is further delayed. (National Audit Office Report – 14 July 2008)

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