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Elephant & Castle: Lend Lease still "very interested" says chief exec

The chief executive of Lend Lease Europe, which has been in negotiations with Southwark Council about the regeneration of Elephant & Castle for more than two years, says that the firm remains "very interested" in the project.

Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre
Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

Dan Labbad, chief executive of the Australian property group's European arm, was speaking at Invest UK, an online conference organised by Property Week magazine.

"We believe that we're close to the bottom of the market in the UK," said Mr Labbad, adding that "the UK is ripe for investment".

"We see that the opportunity exists to place a number of holders down on opportunities [during] the market recovery over the next five years and seek to extract value for our shareholders, our partners and also the UK Government."

Mr Labbad said that he believed that the residential market would recover first, followed by the commercial market with the retail market taking longest to emerge from the downturn.

"It's the right time to invest in regeneration schemes which is why we are very interested in our position at Greenwich, our discussions at Elephant & Castle and also being involved in Stratford for the medium to long term," he said.

"We feel that moving forward there are still some significant barriers to entry.

"Notwithstanding the credit market needing to come back, I think we need to work with government to look at new ways of investing in partnership.

"Not expecting all risk to be taken by the private sector but early risk when we're enabling these large projects to be shared in partnership; in return the rewards could be shared in a different way than has been done traditionally.

"We're in discussion with a number of government departments both nationally and in local government to look at how we can work together differently moving forward."

Southwark Council first selected Lend Lease Europe as its development partner for Elephant & Castle in July 2007. At that time it was expected that a deal would be signed within a few months, but more than two years later a development agreement has not yet been reached.

The council and the Australian developer signed a new exclusivity agreement this summer but there is still no clear public timetable for the process to move forward.

Last month Southwark Council leader Nick Stanton said he was "cautiously optimistic" that a deal would be reached by the end of 2009.

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