How long does it take to regenerate an area? Well, lest we forget, (Applicable nationwide, but in SE1 terms, crucial insofar that it timetables how long it took to get the cash to regenerate Elephant and Castle):
1998: Southwark council is invited by the Labour Government to submit plans on how to regenerate the Elephant area. The deal is that if Southwark council produce a high quality plan, central government will stump up the cash to fund it.
1999: The plans for regenerating Elephant are approved by Ministers and Southwark council is informed of the decision. The cash is awarded (a significant sum running to many millions of pounds) on the strict understanding that Southwark council ensures that the regeneration programme begins immediately (ie: Summer 1999).
April 9 2002: Southwark council finally admits that they have completely cocked up the EandC regen., by delegating the job to a bunch of incompetents rather than running it centrally. Southwark council promise that they will have sorted out the mess "early in the life of a new administration after the May 2002 elections."
Six months on: Ashenden Tower Block still standing. Elephant shopping centre still standing. The maze of subways as grotty as ever. The traffic chaos as bad as ever. I would just like to take this opportunity to say well done, all you tragic local bureaucrats, you really are the most incompetent bunch of losers I have ever had the pleasure of not meeting. I dare say one of you will reply along the lines of "look what Elephant links is now achieving". Such as?
I read an interesting academic book last month about the regeneration of the Isle of Dogs (sorry can't remember the author or title)
During the 70s the local councils had a partnership to try to regenerate docklands. What they achieved was filling in docks and the Tower Thistle Hotel (surely one of London's uglier buildings), but nothing else. They took the approach that regeneration should be centered around local people's needs and conducted regular consultations. With their strategy of replacing dock areas with public housing and light industry they could not get the private money they needed to really make things happen.
Then in the 80s, Thatch set up the LDDC, they saw Docklands as a resouce for the whole of London and redeveloped them on that basis. This led to them riding roughshod over the feelings of existing locals and making mistakes, but they made the regneration happen. Overall, the end theyachieved justified the means.
The lesson I think from this is that Southwark need to face up to E&C being the most important project in the whole of South London. If they haven't got the guts to push through what needs to happen in the face of local opposition, then an independent body with sufficient powers needs to be set up to do the dirty work.
We've voted these politicians there to take the tough unpopular decisions on our behalf, but they then base all their decisions on keeping as many votes as possible at the next election (trying to avoid offending anyone by endlessly consulting).
The biggest problem with Southwark council is that they are desperate to be seen to be "listening to local communities" as a substitute for doing anything radical. And, yes, call me a blair-ite or a thatcher-ite, but I believe that radical means using private money and private investment to achieve greater public goods. But I think there is also another problem. Just as in some parts of the city (and country) there is a dearth of council (and "social") housing, there is a complete overload of the stuff in Southwark. Consequently, the simple fact is that much of the borough is a complete sh*thole. If we are to achieve genuine balanced communities, we should be revisiting the planning system to encourage greater provision of social housing (eg: in rural areas) and actually LESS social housing in areas like Elephant and Castle. That is the only way that you will start to tackle the great class divides is by challenging the views of so-called caring lefties and liberals who are still very much in power at a local level, even if they have been banished to the sidelines in national politics. The Left's actions (ie: both Labour and LibDems on a local level) merely exaccerbate the situation where you have huge social ghettos in certain parts of South East London (with all the social burdens that it brings) and at the same time, stuck-up NIMBYs living in rural Buckinghamshire (or Westminster, or Wandsworth), who block every new-build housing development going. The NIMBYs of the rural SE are especially keen to block new build if it is social-housing, because "it will lower the value of their neighbourhood house-prices". But the simple reality is that you will never get Southwark Council (or many of the other inner London councils) sanctioning the building LESS social housing in the inner London boroughs, because they don't have the vision (or to be fair, the remit) to deal with the bigger picture of genuine mixed communities. One thing is certain, though, the longer Southwark Council maintain the status quo of the borough being a 60s estate ghetto, the longer they will be playing into the hands of the toffs in other parts of the country who are all too happy to see the inner cities remain the lock-up for the socially excluded and dispossessed. And for those who say, but we need more not less affordable housing in London ("where can our teachers, nurses afford to live?") I would merely point out that, if Southwark and the other councils got their backsides in gear, and sanctioned high-rise PRIVATE development on levelled sites like Elephant, your young single nurses and teachers would have somewhere to live that they could afford to buy. Its simple supply and demand economics.
Yes, six months is as the twinkling of an eye in local authority time scales, so don't expect anything earth shaking yet. Actually there are lots of rules surrounding this sort of thing, such as you can't runit centrally, you have to give it to other partners to do what the government tells you to do. This slows things down even more as most people don't understand the rules (don't worry i don't either)
Gosh MM - totally agree with that stream of consciousness. Private entreprise built decent flats like Peasbody that will last 100s of year rather than pre-fab '60s cr*p down by the roundabout. You need social housing plans that people will actually be proud to live in - the high rise flats were a massive improvement on pre-war slums and outdoor privvies but I think we can move on. Does the council monitor is website to gauge local opinion?
What effect will the Tories proposed extension of right to buy to housing association have on this issue? Won't this just discourage investment in social housing because ultimately it won't pay off? Have the Tories gone mad? (Actually, don't answer that!!)
I agree with MM, but I'd also point out that virtually all planning applications for housing development these days have to include an element of socially affordable housing (however you define that). Look at the ridiculously-named Perspective Tower on Westminster Bridge Rd - next door, as part of the development, there's a Housing Association block. I don't think there's anything wrong with this in principle, and I don't think it's a barrier that puts off property developers - they make huge profits in the current climate anyway. What's far more detrimental is the mind-boggling number of endless consultations and publicly-funded quangos (ie Elephant Links) who waste so much time and money and do nothing apart from hold up the regeneration process.
it's probably not as simple as we think, and would any of us actually want the job of doing it? as a life-long lib-dem supporter i'm prepared to give the new council just a little longer to unravel the Elephantine mess created by the last council leadership...
Southwark council has massive debts built up over the years so it's hardly surprising that things take a long time to get done. Having just spent 3 weeks working at the council at least I can say that the people there do, in general, work very hard.
As the gap widens between those who can afford to buy and those who rent but are being forced out, it would be great to have more social housing, but if it's just going to be bought up by cartels, or by anyone else for that matter, then there's no point building it.
in any case, i like the whole mix that is elephant & castle, and i'd like it even more if it was painted pink as it used to be!