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Boris Johnson accepts invitation to tour ‘dilapidated’ Elephant & Castle

The Mayor of London has accepted an invitation from the London Assembly's Val Shawcross to see for himself the state of the Elephant & Castle as well as announcing a 'cycle superhighway' and renewing his backing for a Bakerloo line extension.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson on his bike at Elephant & Castle last month after a visit to the area's Latin American community

At Mayor's Question Time on Wednesday Lambeth & Southwark's London Assembly member Val Shawcross (Labour) asked Mr Johnson what he had done to help the regeneration of the Elephant & Castle since he took office last May.

The Mayor replied: "We are determined to support the regeneration of the Elephant & Castle in any possible way and I think it was only the other day that I was describing to you the potential of extending the Bakerloo line, for instance, which is something I think we should drag on to the agenda."

Mr Johnson first suggested last year the possibility of using tunnelling machines purchased for Crossrail to extend the London Underground in South London once the east-west link is completed.

But Ms Shawcross told the Mayor that his record on the Elephant & Castle was one of "delay and delay and delay".

"Everything you have done with regard to the Elephant & Castle has stalled that major regeneration scheme: you dropped the tram project, you stalled ... the replacement of the dangerous fast roundabout and appalling underpasses, TfL have stalled on the discussion with Lend Lease and the council about the cost for the Underground station and the whole project cannot be signed off until that information is provided."

She added: "Will you make efforts to push the Elephant & Castle project forward rather than continually holding it back?"

"Cycle superhighway" will pass through Elephant & Castle

The Mayor didn't directly address the points raised by Ms Shawcross but instead announced a new cycling initiative for the area.

"One of the very first cycle superhighways that we want to create will help people to go around the Elephant & Castle gyratory which as you rightly say is extremely perilous for cyclists," he said.

"We are determined to improve the amenity of the that area in that way. I think it will be a very far-reaching and wonderful scheme and I urge you to support it rather than striking this tone of surprising negativity."

Mayor promises to visit the area

Ms Shawcross persisted with her line of questioning: "Mayor, will you get off your bike next time you're at the Elephant & Castle and visit – with Jenny [Jones] and Caroline [Pidgeon] and myself – and look at the deterioration of the condition of the underpasses, the closing of the shops, the general dilapidation of the area and take some action to progress the work on the roundabout and the work to sign off the whole regeneration scheme?

"There are literally thousands of people who are about to be decanted from their homes in the Elephant & Castle and the major project that would bring back the new centre to the Elephant & Castle has not been signed off.

"Transport for London are the key blockage at the moment and I need you to understand that."

The Mayor replied: "Insofar as you are correct that TfL are the major blockage in delivering what we want to see at the Elephant & Castle then I will certainly do everything in my power to remove the blockage."

Mr Johnson eventually agreed that he would visit Elephant & Castle with the three assembly members so long as Ms Shawcross agreed to come by bicycle.

Crossrail and the Elephant & Castle

The Mayor was also questioned by Green Party's Jenny Jones about the impact on the Elephant & Castle of his proposed 200 million levy on central London office developments to help to fund the Crossrail scheme.

Last month Southwark Council warned the London Assembly's planning and housing committee that development in the north of the borough could be hampered by the proposed levy.

Earlier this month Labour, Lib Dem and Green members of the London Assembly wrote to Mr Johnson warning that the levy could be the "final straw" for the area's regeneration.

Last week the Assembly's planning and housing committee published its response to the Mayor's proposal which called for a sliding scale to be adopted to reflect how close an office development is to the Crossrail route.

"I am of course aware of the particular difficulties and sensititivities that you describe," said Mr Johnson.

"I don't want to get in to any detail ... about the decision that we may or may not make but each case will be considered on its merits.

"I certainly don't want to do anything that would frustrate an important redevelopment or disadvantage the prospects of a new transport development in that area."

The Mayor continues to argue that Southwark will see real benefits from Crossrail, even though the rail link will not directly serve the borough. "The information that we've got so far is that Southwark residents will benefit to the order of 60 million a year as a result of the Crossrail development," he said.

"We can't be seen to be indulgent or lax in our levying of the section 106 for Crossrail because otherwise everyone will pile in and claim that they deserve a special exemption and it simply won't be possible to get the funds necessary for this vital development of London's transport."

Public meeting

Jenny Jones AM will be one of the speakers at a public meeting this Friday which will consider the loss of local green spaces and play areas as part of the Elephant & Castle regeneration.

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