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Southwark still pursuing Elephant civic square plan says regeneration boss

Southwark's interim director of regeneration, Steve Platts, has told a town hall committee that the council is still pursuing plans for a civic square on the site of the Elephant & Castle northern roundabout despite resistance from Transport for London.

Southwark still pursuing Elephant civic square plan says regeneration boss
The civic square was a "key part" of the 2004 masterplan, says Steve Platts

Steve Platts was questioned by members of the cross-party regeneration and leisure scrutiny sub-committee at Southwark Town Hall on Monday night.

Asked by Cllr Martin Seaton about transport plans, he said: "In the past there has been a lot of talk about 200 million transport improvements at the Elephant & Castle.

"To be honest, there has never been a 200 million scheme for transport improvements at the Elephant & Castle. That was a budgetary figure which was developed by Transport for London.

"Within that budget there is well over 50 per cent contingency, and their proposed scheme isn't actually deliverable due to land ownership issues.

"We are working with Transport for London on what is appropriate and what is affordable."

Chaucer ward's Cllr Claire Hickson pressed Mr Platts on the timetable for agreeing a transport solution at Elephant & Castle.

"If we are going to get a planning application [for the Heygate Estate site] in the spring we really need a transport solution in the autumn and we are working to that timetable," replied Mr Platts.

"There was a meeting [on Monday] with the Greater London Authority to move that forward.

"We are making progress but it's quite a tight timetable to agree what the appropriate transport solution is."

Cllr Lisa Rajan raised the question of the plan to create a civic square at the Elephant by turning the existing northern roundabout into a peninsula.

Mr Platts' answer echoed the explanation given by the council's deputy chief executive, Eleanor Kelly, at a previous scrutiny meeting.

"At the moment TfL is resisting [the peninsula plan] from their network assurance department who look after the roads," he said.

"They are very concerned that it would restrict traffic flows through the Elephant which would have a detrimental impact on their strategy to keep cars moving in London."

The sub-committee's chair, Cllr David Noakes of Cathedrals ward, reminded the committee of the Mayor's previous support for the civic square idea and asked Mr Platts whether the council remained committed to the proposal.

"We still see it as a desire and we are still trying to pursue it," said Mr Platts.

"It was a key part of the previous planning framework for the Elephant & Castle and provided the opportunity to create a quite significant public space at the heart of the Elephant & Castle."

He added: "We are also quite conscious of dealing with the subways at the northern roundabout as well. The experience of the pedestrian is pretty terrible at the moment."

Cllr Noakes asked whether the council had sought meetings with Boris Johnson to press the case for the civic square proposal.

Mr Platts confirmed that representatives of Southwark Council had met the Mayor in recent weeks.

He said that the council is "trying to get support from the Mayor in negotiating with TfL who aren't the easiest organisation to be in negotiation with".

He added: "[the Mayor] was non-committal in connection to the 'peninsularisation' of the northern roundabout and took his advice from his experts in the room, who included network assurance."

Cllr Noakes said that the Elephant civic square had been raised with him by "quite a few" constituents and urged Mr Platts to continue to press Transport for London for a rethink.

"It's something that does matter to people," said Cllr Noakes. "Unless they can come up with some other solution that is going to make the Elephant work for pedestrians and cyclists, it's something we wouldn't want to lose."

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