"The [economic] pause will have a much bigger impact on the Thames Gateway that it will on the Elephant & Castle," says Nigel Hugill, chairman of Lend Lease Europe.
The developer was speaking at Fresh or death?, a debate about the future of the Elephant & Castle held last week at the Southwark Street offices of architects Allies & Morrison as part of the London Festival of Architecture.
Responding to a question about the effect of the economic downturn on the ambitious £1.5 billion regeneration of the Elephant, Nigel Hugill said: "We wouldn't be in a position to start building this year or next year, so this is a perfect time to be doing the planning, to get fantastic co-operation from the architects ... and by the time we're ready to start building the economic cycle will have picked up again."
It's nearly a year since Lend Lease was selected as Southwark Council's preferred development partner, but the timetable for the signing of the final deal has slipped till the end of this year.
The debate was chaired by Paul Finch of the Architectural Review and the panellists were Sarah Gaventa (CABE), Nigel Hugill (Lend Lease), Rowan Moore (Architecture Foundation), Tony Travers (London School of Economics), Jon Abbott (Southwark Council) and Richard Powell (First Base).
Jon Abbott – who earlier this year took over from Chris Horn as Southwark Council's Elephant & Castle project director – spoke about the effect of the change of regime at City Hall and alluded to Boris Johnson's willingness to water down Ken Livingstone's tough affordable housing targets.
"I think that some of the changes recently might be helpful to us in the sense of the discussion we have all the time about section 106 – is it vast quantities of money into affordable housing? – of which have got a lot at the Elephant & Castle," he said.
"So there may be some movement on the debate about affordable housing versus public transport infrastructure and public realm improvements which are massively important at the Elephant & Castle."
"I think where we are now is that many of the peripheral areas ... have largely been built out and we're left with the big challlenges: the shopping centre, the gyratory, the public transport system and the Heygate Estate," said Abbott.
"And the challenge is to redevelop that in a way that means we're not back here in 30 years' time having this kind of debate as planners and architects and developers. We've got to get it right this time and make sure it's sustainable."