Socialist Worker

Elephant and Castle campaigners tell developers to pack their bags

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2588

Protesters arrive outside Southwark council offices

Protesters arrive outside Southwark council offices (Pic: Socialist Worker)


A strong campaign pressured the Southwark council planning committee to vote down proposals to redevelop the Elephant and Castle shopping centre in south London on Tuesday.

Earlier hundreds of people had gathered for an angry demonstration and students had occupied against the plan.

The vote was to confirm approval of a planning application by Delancey. If it had passed it would have seen luxury apartments built on the site, with expensive shop spaces at the base.

A document relating to the redevelopment raised concerns that “there is no traditional social rented accommodation provided.”

“One of the most scandalous aspects is the company can make a £150 million profit but say it is ‘unviable’ to make more than 33 social homes,” said Tanya Murat from Southwark Defend Council Housing.

The committee’s vote went through at 1am on Wednesday morning, after a seven hour meeting. Four councillors voted against the applications, three voted for it. There was one abstension.

As the meeting began protesters listened to speeches from activists and councillors opposed to the plans.

Speaking

“I will be speaking tonight against the application,” said councillor Rebecca Lury. “The scheme doesn’t comply with council policy.

“Members of the community are having community assets taken away from them.”

Protesters forced their way into the council buildings. The planning committee meeting, supposedly public, was a ticketed event.

On Monday night students from University of the Arts London (UAL) occupied part of the London College of Communication’s campus opposite the shopping centre. They supported local residents’ and campaigners’ demands for the site to remain in public ownership. 

On Tuesday evening students joined the demonstration. “We’ve come down to show our support,” Morgan told Socialist Worker. “We want to show our support for local people being affected by the ridiculous drive for profits.”

Councillor Paul Fleming

Councillor Paul Fleming (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Before the protest set off people heard from Labour councillor Paul Fleming. “This is not just about the big questions” like the role of housing in society, he said. “The bare minimum is being ignored by the developers.”

Demolition

GMB rep at UAL Matt Phull told Socialist Worker that the anti-demolition movement is pulling people to the left inside Southwark Labour Party. “The left haven’t made the same gains in terms of councillors, but we are seeing people on the right taking up our demands,” he said.

In a similar way to Haringey Labour councillors are split over the question of redevelopments, and not just down a left/right divide.

With local elections set to take place in May, Labour councillors are weighing up their options.

Some on the right have become opposed to redevelopments.

Some councillors are sincere in their opposition to redevelopments which will see ordinary people kicked out of their neighbourhoods. Others are positioning themselves to ensure their political survival.

Either way, it is an opportunity for the left to push forward in united campaigns including people in the Labour Party and those not in it to defend housing from the developers.

A further meeting of the planning committee has been called for 30 January. There is every possibility the council leadership will try and force the committee to pass the planning application in another way then.


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