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Demolition of Heygate Estate to be brought forward 'by 2 to 3 years'

The demolition of the Heygate Estate at Elephant & Castle is to be completed two to three years earlier than planned after Southwark's cabinet decided to make changes to the regeneration agreement with developers Lend Lease.

Heygate Estate
Under the latest proposals the northern part of the Heygate Estate, seen here from Strata SE1, will be prepared for demolition in about a year's time

At Tuesday afternoon's cabinet meeting councillors agreed to make a series of variations to the July 2010 regeneration agreement between the local authority and Lend Lease.

The changes to the agreement include the early demolition of the remainder of the estate.

"At the moment, having that big empty estate really is a blight on the area and the sooner we can get the estate down, the better for the area," Cllr Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration, said on Tuesday.

"It's also quite costly for us to be securing. Also I think having [the buildings] there is preventing us from making interim uses of the area."

The variations to the regeneration agreement include provision for the deal to be reviewed on an annual basis. Cllr Colley says this is "a common-sense move for something that is a 15-20 year partnership".

The report submitted to cabinet by council officers hints that political and economic changes in the last 18 months have not been favourable.

"Funding for affordable housing through the Homes and Communities Agency has been severely curtailed and this was not anticipated at the time of negotiating the regeneration agreement," says the report.

It continues: "The anticipated improving housing sale market has not materialised. Indeed with concerns over European debt and a further recession in the western hemisphere the market outlook has deteriorated."

Council leader Peter John asked the director of regeneration, Steve Platts, to explain how much earlier the demolition would now be happening than previously envisaged.

"At the moment we are proposing to demolish the rest of the Heygate Estate in two phases," he replied. "The next phase will be south of Heygate Street.

"The reason why that is the next phase is because we have vacant possession.

"We hope to start fencing off that bit of the estate in December. We'll start the soft-strip early in the new year and the physical demolition will be late summer or early autumn next year.

"The remainder of the Heygate Estate, which is north of Heygate Street, is really dependent on when we get vacant possession."

The council says that there are currently seven leaseholders who have not yet reached agreement to sell their homes back to the authority.

"We are hopeful that we will get vacant possession to enable the programme to roll straight on from the south of Heygate Street to the north," said Mr Platts.

"We would hope that we would be in a position to start preparing [the buildings] north of Heygate Street for demolition late next year."

In response to further questions from Cllr John, Mr Platts added: "It is probably bringing forward demolition, in practical terms, by two or three years.

"The previous arrangement was that demolition wouldn't commence until the agreement [with Lend Lease] goes unconditional, and that depends on planning consents etc."

After the meeting Cllr Cathy Bowman (Lib Dem) said: "The good news is that the council is bringing forward the demolition of the Heygate.

"As is usual with these things the really interesting bits were in the closed session which we are not allowed to talk about.

"In my role as chair of scrutiny and an Elephant & Castle councillor I'll be having a good look at the fine print."

At the same meeting the borough's Labour administration also made important decisions about future planning policy for the Elephant & Castle and agreed to sign a deal for the 'transformation' of the shopping centre.

Last month Lend Lease held an exhibition of its latest proposals for the Heygate Estate site; an outline planning application is due to be submitted in March.

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