Southwark approves new Elephant & Castle planning policy

The subways at Elephant & Castle's northern roundabout could be gone by 2015, says the man who has written the area's latest planning policy document which was approved by Southwark Council's cabinet this week.

The Elephant & Castle Supplementary Planning Document / Opportunity Area Planning Framework was published in draft last November and a consultation period began at Christmas.

On Tuesday Southwark's Labour cabinet agreed to adopt the crucial planning policy document which will provide a framework for the next phase of development in and around Elephant & Castle.

The wide-ranging document sets out a possible timetable and funding model for changes to the northern roundabout at the Elephant & Castle and the remodelling of the Northern line tube station to meet future demand.

Since the November draft was published, the estimated cost of providing extra lifts at the station has risen from 85 million to 96 million.

The revised draft makes clear that the preferred option for both Transport for London and the council is to install new escalators. TfL has now priced this option at 139 million.

The language of the draft SPD – which described the 10 million transformation of the northern roundabout with surface crossings to replace the pedestrian subways as an "aspiration" – has now been strengthened to set this as a "requirement" of the policy.

"Our view, with TfL, is that the improvements to the northern roundabout can take place independently of development and within the first phase of the plan – so that's between now and 2015," said Tim Cutts, the council's acting head of planning policy, at Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

"The improvements to the Northern Line station need to coincide with the redevelopment of the shopping centre," he added.

Planners estimate that developers will contribute around 48 million to the cost of transport improvements at the Elephant & Castle over the next 20 years – but that taxpayers will have to meet the immediate costs and bridge the funding gap.

"We've stated in the SPD that the public sector will meet that forward funding requirement," said Mr Cutts.

"We've talked about 140.4 million – it may be more, it may be less – depending on how much section 106 money and community infrastructure levy contributions come forward and what the final cost of the works is.

"We do know that there will be a requirement to provide funding up front. Our view and our understanding is that it should be TfL providing that forward funding."

In February eminent property journalist Peter Bill claimed that Mayor of London Boris Johnson was on the verge of agreeing to fund the tube station upgrade but no announcement has been made and City Hall is now in 'purdah' in advance of the 3 May elections.

TfL backtracks on plans for London Road

A key change since the November draft of the SPD is the watering down of proposals put forward by TfL to convert London Road into a public transport-only corridor and return two-way traffic to St George's Road.

"I think that worried a lot of people, particularly on St George's Road, who felt they had not been consulted about it," said Cllr Fiona Colley, Southwark's cabinet member for regeneration.

"On going back to TfL it turned out that it wasn't particularly a priority for them any more, so we've made amendments [to the SPD] to make it clear that, although there's an idea in existence, there would be a lot more consultation and a lot more discussion before it would ever become a reality."

She added: "I think generally taking out one-way systems is a good idea and is something that can reduce traffic speeds. That's something that we would be generally supportive of but we realise it's something we'd need to do in full consultation with residents."

Latin American community is an "asset" to Elephant

Cllr Colley also highlighted steps the council had taken to reassure the local Latin American community.

"We've also made some changes to increase the prominence of the Latin American community and businesses in the SPD," she said.

"I've also been talking to our communications team about how we can make the fact of our sizeable number of Latin American businesses more of a feature of Elephant & Castle and how we can start weaving that into the messages that we give out and the press work that we do.

"We do think that [the Latin American community] is an asset to Elephant & Castle and we want to make more of that."

Elephant Amenity Network

The cabinet received a deputation from Jerry Flynn and Richard Lee of the Elephant Amenity Network who talked about the two public consultation events the group had organised since the publication of the draft SPD.

They asked for the cabinet to consider a range of changes to the policy document including improvements to the northern end of Walworth Road and a greater emphasis on affordable housing.

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