The redevelopment of the vacant former Volvo garage site on New Kent Road at Elephant & Castle moved a step closer this week as councillors endorsed the latest set of development proposals.
Now the economic downturn has forced developers Oakmayne and Eadon to rethink their proposals and incorporate an extra 61 homes to ensure the scheme's viability.
The current scheme comprises three towers above a podium including 373 flats and 243 student rooms, as well as a 4-screen cinema (reduced from 6 screens) and a supermarket facing New Kent Road.
The revised scheme will still incorporate 'affordable' retail units which will be made available to existing local traders.
The planning committee met to consider the latest proposals on Tuesday evening.
Bob Woodman of planning agents DP9 told the committee that his clients had worked hard to reduce costs and increase values. He warned that that economic conditions are not getting any better and are likely to deteriorate further in the new year.
Committee chair Cllr James Gurling pressed the developers to set out a firm timetable for construction should planning permission be granted.
Chris Shaw from Oakmayne said that September 2009 would be a realistic start date for works on site.
Instead of the usual affordable housing, the developers are providing a large servicing area below their site capable of being connected with future developments at the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and Heygate Estate sites. This deep basement will cost more than £11 million.
Conservative councillor Toby Eckersley wanted to know about contingency plans should the Lend Lease-backed regeneration deal not materialise, warning that "there are some important public perception issues" if the council requires the developer to spend so much money on a subterranean servicing complex that "might turn out to be a huge white elephant".
Members of the planning committee resolved unanimously to grant planning permission subject to the signing of a section 106 agreement which is expected to be concluded early in the new year.