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Elephant & Castle: council accused of 'abandoning town centre vision'

Last week's decision by Southwark's cabinet to cooperate with St Modwen on the refurbishment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre will be considered by a cross-party scrutiny committee after the decision was 'called in' by opposition councillors.

As we reported last week, the council's 9-strong Labour cabinet voted unanimously in favour of cooperating with shopping centre owners St Modwen on plans to build a new centre incorporating the core of the existing structure.

This scheme stands in contrast to the council's adopted masterplan for the Elephant & Castle which envisages the creation of a new pedestrian boulevard across the middle of the site currently occupied by the shopping centre, connecting Walworth Road with the New Kent Road.

Liberal Democrat councillors Lisa Rajan, David Hubber, Tim McNally and Paul Noblet have requested that the Labour cabinet's decision be 'called in' for further discussion at a meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee at Southwark Town Hall on Wednesday 1 June.

They argue that the decision was not made in accordance with the principles of decision-making set out in the council's constitution.

The Lib Dem councillors' call-in request says that: "The masterplan for the Elephant & Castle envisaged a coherently planned town centre, not a piecemeal approach to development, including the Heygate, Rodney Road and shopping centre footprints – this decision contradicts paragraph 32 of the regeneration agreement [between the council and Lend Lease], which states that 'The shopping centre is included in the RA and the agreed strategy for bringing forward the development of the shopping centre within the RA is that: the shopping centre will form part of the outline planning application along with the Heygate'."

They also allege that the cabinet failed to take proper advice on funding for improvements to the transport interchange between the main line, the Underground and buses in relation to the development of the shopping centre site.

The Lib Dems also claim that "the council is opening itself up to possible challenge by abandoning the original town centre vision as in the masterplan and failing to go back to the market on what is now essentially two separate development plans – the report [to cabinet] gives no indication that advice was taken as to whether the council needs to reprocure".

A St Modwen spokesperson said on Thursday: "We understand that London Borough of Southwark's overview and scrutiny committee is reviewing the recent cabinet decision on the redevelopment of Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre.

"This is part of the normal process of decision-making at the council and does not give KPI cause for concern."

• On Thursday St Modwen is expected to show initial concept images of its proposed shopping centre refurbishment and expansion at the inaugural meeting of the Elephant & Castle regeneration forum established by the council and Lend Lease to act as a conduit for information and views between the development partners and local community groups.

• The Elephant Amenity Network is organising an independent 'visioning event' on Saturday 4 June. Local residents are invited to discuss the issues facing Elephant & Castle and how they might be tackled at the free all-day event to be held at Crossway URC Church on New Kent Road.

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