Southwark councillors have approved plans for 408 private flats in buildings up to 40 storeys high to be located next to Elephant & Castle's Bakerloo line tube station.
They propose to construct new buildings designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) ranging from 8 to 40 storeys in height, with 408 private flats and twice as much office space as the existing building.
"We want to bring a world-class piece of architecture to the Elephant & Castle," Geoffrey Springer of London & Regional told Southwark's planning committee on Tuesday night.
A roof garden on top of one of the buildings will be open to the public free of charge daily from dawn till dusk.
On the lower floors an auditorium with capacity for 350 people – similar to the Kings Place concert hall at King's Cross – is proposed.
At ground level Skipton Street, which used to cross the site, will be reinstated as a pedestrian route.
There will be no on-site affordable housing but the developers are offering to construct affordable housing to the value of £16.8 million on sites elsewhere in the borough.
Three sites in SE17 – Salisbury Close, Manor Place and Braganza Street – are under consideration. The homes built are likely to form part of Southwark's programme to build 11,000 new council homes across the borough.
Jerry Flynn of the Elephant Amenity Network told the planning committee that the developer's affordable housing offer equated to 20 per cent rather than Southwark's policy level of 35 per cent.
He argued that L&R's affordable housing offer was based on an "unreasonably elevated" view of the site's current value.
The developer's planning consultant Neil Lucas of DP9 told the committee that by providing the affordable housing off-site, they were able to offer four times as much as would be possible if it was built on the same plot of land as the private homes.
Maureen Mele addressed the committee on behalf of residents of Metro Central Heights.
She raised concerns about the high density of the proposed development, the likely loss of light to homes in Metro Central Heights and potential disturbance from late-night use of the sky garden.
Ms Mele warned councillors that if the scheme is built, resident of MCH's north block "will never again see sunshine after 2pm".
The developer's light consultant admitted that the north block would see a reduction in daylight but that the levels would remain "adequate in an urban environment".
Other objectors to the scheme include Historic England, the Royal Parks Agency and the Twentieth Century Society.
Cathedrals ward councillor David Noakes addressed the meeting on behalf of his constituents and urged the committee to reject the scheme.
He criticised the low level of affordable housing and the fact that it is being provided on a separate site.
Cllr Noakes also noted that to demolish a relatively modern building – Skipton House dates from the early 1990s – "seems wrong from an environmental and sustainability perspective".
The committee voted 5 – 2 in favour of granting planning permission with one abstention.
L&R will be issued with a planning consent valid for five years rather than the usual three as there is some uncertainty as to when the Department for Health will move out of Skipton House.
LSBU is expected to find a new home for the Perry Library elsewhere on its campus, and the council will relocate its hostel to another site.
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