South London shopping centre closes despite local outcry
Dec 14th 2018
London — City Hall has announced that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan approved the planning application to demolish and redevelop the Elephant & Castle shopping centre in South London, prompting outrage from local communities and business owners.
City Hall’s decision comes after the local Council of Southwark voted in favor of the Elephant and Castle Regeneration Project in July 2018.
The decision allows property giant Delancey Real Estate Management Ltd to replace the 60 year old centre, in part by a new campus wing for the nearby London College of Communication, as well as retail space and housing.
Local shop owners and tenants claim that the project will put independent businesses at risk due to unaffordable rents.
The shopping centre is currently home to 63 businesses of which 25 are independently run.
Local carpet business owner Reza said in an interview « We don’t know where to go. There hasn’t been any progress in a long time. They have told us we can rent in the new building but the price will be too high »
In addition, business owners have been required to provide evidence of financial viability should they want to rent space in the new building. « I have owned this shop for 30 years, why should I need to submit a business plan? » said Reza.
In a statement published on December 11th, the Southwark Council said they would “continue to respond to the concerns raised by some local residents about aspects of the regeneration, and work with our residents, businesses, local councillors and Delancey to ensure the new development works for local people.” The Council did not respond to emails about the requirement for proof of financial viability.
Weakening consumer demand and increasing rents have put pressure on independent retailers across the UK. The Centre for Retail Research expects 10,000 stores to close by the end of this year, one of the worst in 10 years for the industry, with thousands more expected to shut down by 2022.
In the final proposal, Delancey has committed to offering 10% of the retail space across all new sites in the Regeneration Project in first priority to existing businesses and at a discounted rate for the first 15 years.
Yet according to local traders and residents organization 35% Campaign, this limited amount of affordable space is still out of reach for most of them, forcing them to relocate or close down.
« We know that many people remain deeply concerned about how we will bring about this change … as ever, our reputation will need to be hard earned in the long-run. We would like to reassure the community and other interested parties that we take this responsibility extremely seriously. » A Delancey spokesperson said.