Southwark Council has chosen Lend Lease as its development partner for the £1.5 billion regeneration of the Elephant & Castle.
Introducing the meeting council leader Nick Stanton said that it was fitting that the meeting was being held at the heart of the Elephant and Castle and spoke of the council's aspiration to "make the Elephant and Castle the new fashionable quarter of Central London".
The decision taken on Tuesday won't take effect for five days to give councillors of all parties an opportunity to call the decision in for scrutiny.
Lend Lease's partners in their successful bid include First Base – developers of a new tower on the London Park Hotel site – and Oakmayne – the firm behind the mixed-use development on Elephant Road between New Kent Road and Walworth Road.
"The basis of our selection was our judgement of the partner's ability to bring finance, resources, experience and capacity to work harmoniously with the council to add value and to deliver the programme.
"We're very conscious that we've been talking about the need to regenerate the Elephant and Castle for a long time, and it's paramount that we get on and show people that we're serious about actually delivering.
""I want to stress that the project was – and remains – Southwark's. Unusually – perhaps uniquely for a project of this scale – it's led by a public body."
"We, and our partners, are obviously delighted," says Lend Lease Europe chairman Nigel Hugill.
"Certainly, it has been a long road, but the pace of change already taking place on the ground tells you everything about what can now be achieved.
"Big mistakes were made only thirty years ago, but the preparedness of Southwark and the Mayor to face up to the enormous resulting challenges with a commitment to quality and to the community is another clear sign of London's renewed confidence. The reconstruction of Elephant and Castle can become another example of London showing the rest of the world how things can now be done."
Asked about how Lend Lease will work with existing businesses in the area, Nigel Hugill said: "It is always tough. Change is – of itself – difficult, challenging and frightening. What we will work to do is to make sure that things are much better at the end than they were at the beginning. We will take people through that process by a pathological commitment to public consultation."
"I am obviously disappointed with the decision as our team has worked closely with Southwark over a period of five years and made an excellent submission," says Anthony Glossop, chairman of St Modwen.
"However, I welcome the fact that a decision has been made because it brings to an end a long period of uncertainty and enables the project to move forward.
"Whilst the regeneration programme will be driven forward by Lend Lease and Southwark Council, KPI will be seeking to liaise with them at the earliest possible opportunity, and establishing redevelopment timescales for the shopping centre will be central to these discussions. Other key stakeholders such as the traders in the existing centre deserve a clear statement on the timescale of what lies ahead."
Before going into closed session to discuss the bids the meeting received a delegation from the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre Traders' Association.
Chair Valerie Stevens, who has run a business in the shopping centre since it opened more than 40 years ago, asked councillors to ensure that small businesses are supported "prior to, during and after" the regeneration process.
She called on the council to ensure that long-established businesses are able to relocate to "suitable and affordable" units. "There isn't a great deal that looks as if it will be suitable," she warned.
Traders' Association committee member Ian Fraser called on councillors to ensure that the new development partner provided a clear timetable leading up to the demolition of the shopping centre to provide greater certainty for businesses. "We're still pretty much in a fluid situation," he said.
Responding to the comments made by the delegation, council leader Nick Stanton said that he was "very conscious" that uncertainty was the greatest problem for local traders and he would be pressing the chosen developers to provide clear business continuity arrangements.
"We have always been clear that the Elephant and Castle regeneration is for the benefit of local people, not at their expense," said Cllr Stanton, who went on to describe the regeneration as "a fantastic opportunity for entrepreneurs".
Executive member for regeneration Cllr Richard Thomas added that the council was deliberately avoiding building "another clone town", but he conceded that "no-one's managed to achieve that before".
"This is a great opportunity to transform the Elephant and Castle area over the next decade and I hope that it is a success for all sections of the community," says Cllr Mary Foulkes, Labour's regeneration spokesperson.
"I'm concerned that there is a significant amount of work to do on the detail of what this partnership actually means for the residents and businesses affected by the regeneration of Elephant and Castle."
"There are currently no targets or solid commitment to train and employ local people. There are no commitments on the amount of affordable units and space which will be available to small and medium sized businesses. To cap it all the council is giving away a lot of the day to day decision-making authority to Lend Lease."
East Walworth Labour councillor Kirsty McNeill added: "Local residents have been telling me for months about their anxieties about the upheaval this will mean for their families. Many will be delighted that, at long last, we have a bit more certainty about this long delayed development."
"But we need clarity from the Lib Dems about what lessons have been learnt from similar projects with residents left in unsuitable and often unsafe situations for months, even years, as crime moved in during the re-housing process."
"This is a very exciting day for the Elephant and Castle and for Southwark," says Simon Hughes MP.
"The choice of development partner has been carefully and thoroughly considered and is very welcome.
"I have every confidence that the council and the developers have listened and responded to local residents who want more and better housing, local businesses who want more and better places to trade, and the local communities who want a dynamic, exciting and successful Elephant and Castle for the 21st century.
"The Elephant and Castle has been one of London's major interchanges for people and transport for the last 100 years. Successful regeneration over the next few years will make our area a south London centre to be proud of, and make the Elephant one of the most exciting and happening places south of the river but in the centre of London."
"I met the leader of Southwark about 10 days ago to discuss how they're progressing with this and made absolutely clear that they can't have a repeat of the problems that they've had in the past because that would endanger the whole project," said Ken Livingstone.
"I think that they've taken it on board and they'll be much more proactive in trying to make sure that ethnic minority businesses continue in the Elephant and Castle under the new development."
But the traders aren't convinced. Ian Fraser told the London SE1 website: "The problem is that history isn't on our side. There is no other scheme of this size and complexity of regeneration where the independent retailers have survived."
"We hear the council and they're very sincere in their objectives ... but we're in uncharted territory."
This week's decision is the culmination of a process which began in 2002 after the collapse of the previous Labour administration's deal with Southwark Land Regeneration.
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