162 new homes in five housing association-led developments that form part of the Elephant & Castle regeneration were approved last week by Southwark Council's planning committee at a seven-hour meeting.
The five schemes approved last week are being developed by housing association L&Q Group as part of the so-called 'early housing programme' at 15 small sites to replace some of the 1212 homes to be lost when the Heygate Estate is demolished.
Although it was originally intended that Heygate Estate tenants would be able to move straight to the new developments, the estate is now 70 per cent empty and it is likely that demolition will be under way before any of the new homes are built.
Some Heygate tenants will exercise their 'right to return' to the Elephant & Castle area but it remains to be seen how many will want to move home twice.
Most of the homes in the new developments at the 15 sites will be for private sale (524 units) as there is currently no Government subsidy available for the affordable housing element (431 units). The council says that it has had "encouraging" feedback from the Government's new Homes & Communities Agency about extra cash to increase the affordable housing quota.
It is hoped that construction work will start in late spring next year at the five newly-approved schemes:
• Library Street SE1
• Land in front of Prospect House, St George's Road, SE1
• Townsend Street SE17
• Land next to Albert Barnes House, New Kent Road
• Brandon Street SE17
“This is a very important milestone and shows that the council's commitment to the regeneration of Elephant and Castle is as resolute as ever," says Cllr Paul Noblet, Southwark Council's executive member for regeneration.
However, the approval of the five small housing schemes coincides with news of a further delay to the council's deal with Lend Lease for the main regeneration sites including the cleared Heygate Estate land.
All five schemes are 'infill' developments which will replace existing car parks, gardens, lawns and games courts and all the planning applications attracted objections from local residents.
Although the proposed development includes a new community garden to be managed by BOST, the charity's chairman Tim Wood spoke against the scheme at the committee meeting.
"I very much regret that we ... find ourselves as objectors," he said, explaining that BOST has been in negotiations with the Elephant & Castle regeneration team for two and a half years and that commitments previously made by the council to bring forward a planning application for a temporary home for the gardening charity at the same time as the housing scheme had not been honoured.
The council received more than 70 letters from BOST members and supporters objecting to the loss of the community garden.
The committee was addressed by Sean Silk, representing the occupiers of 42 Davidge Street, who explained that if the committee resolved to approve the scheme, his clients would have grounds to seek an injunction on the grounds of loss of daylight and sunlight.
Architect Joseph Watters of Metaphorm told the committee that his design took cues from neighbouring buildings and used a "contemporary language that expresses today's cultural context".
Cathedrals ward councillor David Noakes told the committee about his concerns about the scheme's design and layout as well as the impact on the amenity of neighbouring residents and urged that a decision be deferred or the application be refused.
The scheme was approved by five votes to one. The only dissenter was Cllr Gordon Nardell who called the design "extremely austere" and argued that it wouldn't find favour if proposed elsewhere in London. "I'm not prepared to accept that 'it's only SE1' so it's acceptable," he said.
The meeting heard from Prospect House resident Louie Sieh – herself an architect – who outlined a range of concerns about the scheme including the provision of refuse storage.
The scheme was approved unaninmously by the six committee members.
Councillors were cautious about the dark facade of the building. Architect Jason Skinner explained that the laminate facade would fluctuate in tone and that the colour palette had been chosen for its robustness given that a lighter cladding would get dirty more quickly.
Councillors unanimously resolved to grant planning permission at 1.10am.