I am responding on behalf of the Elephant and Castle regeneration team to outline our position on local business issues. Further information can be found on the regeneration website www.elephantandcastle.org.uk
Context - Southwark Council
has embarked on a ten-year programme of regeneration in Elephant and Castle with the aim of improving both the quality of life for local residents and the business environment. This follows in the footsteps on the successful regeneration of Borough, Bankside and Peckham, and is managed alongside the council's other regeneration programmes at Canada Water, Bermondsey and Aylesbury.
Extensive consultation undertaken with Southwark residents reveals that people like the area for its diversity and central location, but are frustrated with the run-down facilities, pollution and fear of crime in Elephant and Castle. These factors contribute to local residents spending 90% of their money outside Southwark. This directly affects local employment levels and inward investment, and has created a negative cycle resulting in local residents being among the poorest 10% in England.
Local business context - Southwark wants to bolster and improve the trading environment for local businesses. At the same time we need to balance the evident demand from local people to have a much bigger and improved range of shopping and leisure facilities.
Businesses trading in Elephant and Castle reflect the area's diverse cultural population and many have operated for years in a difficult trading environment. Southwark wants these businesses to stay in the area where possible, and has pledged to support and assist businesses to continue trading through the transition to establish themselves in new, improved locations.
Support for local business - We recognise that all regeneration proposals cause uncertainty. This is why we have been working with traders for the past two years to identify the best possible working arrangements to assist them during the period of change.
We have established the Shopping Centre Liaison Group as a consultative forum and through this we assist businesses with a free business review and free legal and surveyor advice. The council's wider commitment of support for local businesses is set out below:
1.The right regeneration model
Southwark rejected a developer-led ‘Bluewater' model that favours national multiples. Instead an open-streets approach is being pursued that will be more able to nurture small/medium sized independent businesses.
2.Maintaining trade at the shopping centre from now until demolition
It is essential that businesses remain strong enough to continue their operations and are able to make a move into new premises when the opportunity arises, if they wish to do so. This requires the council, the shopping centre owners (St Modwen) and the individual businesses to work together to promote the centre. It is also essential that St Modwen, as the landlord responsible for the tenants within the shopping centre, take every reasonable step to help businesses to trade successfully. This includes active management of the centre to ensure it remains full.
3.Assisting businesses to transfer to new premises
In a survey undertaken in July 2005, 70% of businesses stated that they are eager to remain trading in Elephant and Castle. Southwark Council
is using its position as a local planning authority to require all new commercial, mixed-use developments to offer a proportion of their units to existing businesses. In addition there are many new schemes now under way in the area, which is a reflection of market confidence in the regeneration plans. The first of these schemes is scheduled to be finished in 2008, more than a year before the shopping centre is due to be vacant. Several other schemes are likely to be finished in time to allow a similiar transition for existing traders.
Southwark is seeking to impose a ‘stepped rents' structure upon new developments in order to allow relocated businesses adequate time to adjust to their new trading environments. In addition Southwark is establishing proposals for a council fund that help businesses during the transition. Finally, the council has set up Business Extra, a business support agency to support local businesses and has recently employed a specialist Business Regeneration Manager who will work with businesses on a one-on-one basis.
Conclusion - Southwark is committed to creating a diverse and successful local business economy that meets the needs of both residents and local traders. As a local authority, Southwark wants local businesses to stay in the area and continue to serve the local population.
The regeneration programme will vastly improve the local environment and make it more clean, modern and attractive. Retail space within Elephant and Castle will increase six-fold and businesses in the area will be able to benefit from local people spending more of their money in the area.
Finally in response to a couple of comments above:
Call for compensation - The shopping centre is owned by a private landlord, St Modwen, to whom tenants in the shopping centre have a contractual rent agreement with. The council can not interfere with this agreement, and nor can we legally pay compensation from the public purse on an ad-hoc basis. Compensation is legally governed by the Landlord and Tenant Act and is dependant on the length of leases-which St Modwen governs. What the council can do is help to influence St Modwen to be fair to traders-which we are actively doing, and we can put in place measurs as outlined above
James' comments about the council downtalking the shop- this was an issue raised in the Shopping Centre Liaison Group over two years ago. It came on the back of the announcement to regenerate the area, and there was a lot of press at the time about the shopping centre being an eyesore. As you'll appreciate we can't control what journalists write! We recognised at this time that we needed to be positive about the change process and respected that some officer comments may have been taken the wrong way. I challenge you to find any negative quotes from any officer or councillor since that time!
Declining population - Not true. A handful of Heygate tenants will be moving in the new year, and probably no more until autumn 2007. In any case, replacement homes for Heygate tenants are being built in and around Elephant and Castle, in order to meet the demand from Heygate residents to stay local- a hugely positive thing. In the meantime, a number of private developments are under way with new people moving in all the time. An example of this is the newly completed Oakmayne South Central develoment, which has in total about 130 new units.
Edited 2 times. Last edit at 2 December 2005 1.09pm by EC development team.