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Elephant regeneration in crisis

The collapse of the agreement between Southwark Council and developers SLR has cast doubt on the future of the Elephant regeneration process.

On 9 April Southwark councillors agreed that the council should acknowledge its co-operation agreement with Southwark Land Regeneration has come to an end.

Southwark's Chief Executive Bob Coomber said: "It is regrettable that SLR are unable to continue to work with us, but the case for the regeneration of the Elephant and the strength of its location are beyond question."

The council's Ratification Committee has agreed plans continue with preparation of a "comprehensive approach to regeneration of the Elephant", including plans to rehouse the residents of the Heygate Estate. But this approach was criticised last week in a statement from SLR: "The Elephant and Castle will not be transformed, and the hopes of the Community will not be met, by piecemeal development of individual sites and by a reduced role for the private sector."

SLR claims that its plans were "visionary, committed to quality, founded on rigorous commercial and technical analysis by an outstanding team and deliverable. They bring together all the essential elements for successful regeneration, including creative participation of the local Community and wide ranging proposals to ensure that the Community benefits, is involved throughout and takes more control over its own future. The proposals are a superb opportunity for Southwark and the Community."

Whilst Southwark's press release states that the parties "decided unanimously to acknowledge that the co-operation agreement with SLR has come to an end.", SLR's statement puts a different spin on events: "SLR did not withdraw from this important regeneration project."

According to SLR, it's not too late to rescue the plans: "SLR remains willing to work with the Council in any commercial structure which meets the Council's requirements and makes the regeneration commercially viable and deliverable by the private sector."

SLR's statement adds: "SLR invited the Council, jointly with SLR, to set a swift and early timetable within which agreement of key commercial terms should be finalised so as to be ready for approval by the new Council immediately after the local elections – so that the momentum could be regained, the Elephant Links Partnership Board Single Regeneration Budget Programme fulfilled for the benefit of the Elephant and Castle and the thousands of jobs created by the SLR masterplan delivered."

According to Southwark Council the search for a long-term commercial partner is expected to be undertaken – and concluded – early in the life of a new administration after the May 2002 elections.

Southwark's Bob Coomber added: "The Elephant & Castle is now recognised as one of the most significant opportunities in London to deliver the new urban agenda, and the development potential is substantial. Local people have actively participated in this scheme from the outset and they will continue to be equally involved in all future proposals.

"We must take full advantage of the benefits that this can bring to local people through regeneration and redevelopment of the area.

"The Elephant and Castle is a key scheme within the London South Central area and is identified as an opportunity area in the Mayor's Spatial Strategy for London. The Council sees a continuing opportunity for a substantial mixed use development that can bring the highest standards of urban design and development to the area, and expects very strong market interest in the development."

The rejection of the plan clearly comes as a blow to SLR, who hoped that the proposal "would have been acceptable as it would have undoubtedly benefited the local community hugely. We hope that the 5m that we have spent to date will in some way provide the foundation for the local community to in the end receive the benefits they deserve."

Their statement also paid tribute to the other groups involved in the length consultation process: "We were throughout the process greatly encouraged by the cooperation and support which we received from a number of organisations and individuals locally together with the inspirational and inventive input from our professional consultants. We are disappointed not to be able to progress matters further at this stage."

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