Spinning Elephant

By Craigie_B Last edited 128 months ago
Spinning Elephant

Some new research has been published claiming that Elephant and Castle will become a top retail destination in the next 10 years.

Now, we're as optimistic as the next blog, as demonstrated by our views on the 2012 Olympic logo. But, even for us, this seems quite a stretch.

While the odd stall outside the shopping centre adds a bit of character to the place, the centre itself is a bit of a dive at the best of times. It was plonked in E&C as a way of attracting visitors and business. It failed - and the gloomy outlook is demonstrated with retailers there either signing short leases or leaving altogether.

The research ranks E&C shopping centre as currently 1,186th in the national table of retail centres. The prospect of redevelopment of the whole area will be crucial - new quality affordable housing must be a priority, as is demolishing the terrifying underpass/roundabout area by putting the roads and cars underground rather than forcing people and life down into the dark. The £400m project to achieve all this is impressive-looking, but its dates have repeatedly slipped (and under different political control of the council) so don't expect anything soon.

In any case, this doesn't sort out the shopping centre. Expecting the centre to rise to 113th in the table by 2017 without doing much to it is a major error. Southwark Council is proudly telling the press that the centre will become "a jewel in London's crown", but they don't plan to rebuild it - instead pledging vaguely to "work hard" to make it "more vibrant and exiciting".

After the Mayor of London used his Labour conference speech to slam Southwark Council's approach to housing and planning, perhaps he could intervene here too? He could start by getting them to look again at the shopping centre and what to do with it, with a more radical approach in mind than just spinning a bit of research.


Image taken from Nicobobinus' Flickrstream

Last Updated 08 October 2007


I have no connection with Southwark or the regeneration other than living here.

The article is grossly factually incorrect.

The shopping centre is going to be demolished in 2010. It is a big part of the masterplan and always has been. They are using the entire area for a new pedestrianised high street and 'Civic Square' through which the Cross River Tram would run.

Why not download the masterplan documents and read them, then print a correction!


The timeline is also shown at:


Mayor Ken's politicking about Potters Fields is completely irrelevant to Elephant and Castle. Firstly, the Mayor awarded Southwark Council the award for ‘best public sector planning organisation’ in his Planning Awards 2004, precisely for its Elephant and Castle regeneration scheme. Secondly, Southwark's approach involves the existing local people and businesses in regeneration, whilst the proposals for Potters Fields which Ken is so keen on, have been strongly opposed for all kinds of reasons by Simon Hughes MP and English Heritage and not just the council.



another thing - it was the largest covered shopping area in Europe when it was built in the 1960s.

At this time people drove Morris Minors, no-one had double glazing and few had colour TVs. That area was still visibly bomb-damaged. The centre was popular and very modern.

I don't think Bluewater or any given retail location will be loved forty years from now but the context in which they were built should be remembered!



I think you need to look in a bit detail at what's happening at the Elephant before being so dismissive.

I live here, and like you, I've seen the old ideas come and go. But I've not given up hope, and I think you're underestimating what's going on this time. There are too many moaners around here.

To correct a few things, the regeneration scheme is £1.5 billion, not £400 million, one of the biggest in Europe. £400 million is the amount of money already being spent and is the reason there are diggers all over the place. We don't have to cross our fingers for that money, because it's already here. They are building cinemas, hotels, restaurants, leisure centres, all sorts. The subways are going to be filled in, part of it will be pedestrianised, and apparenlty it's all going to be done without increasing the carbon footprint which has got to be a good thing. And by the time its completed, there will be more affordable housing than it started with, so it's definitely not gentrification like Ken's described in the past.

Another thing - there isn't a 'vague pledge' to do something with the shopping centre. It's going to be completely demolished, replaced with streets of shops, cafes, markets and theatres (the Southwark Playhouse is moving there too) - you can't get more radical than pulling the whole thing down. That centre is an embarrassment to us, so knocking it down is all that's good for it.

People are always complaining that nothing's being done round here and I agree that its taking ages. I want them to hurry up, but I think the time for telling the Council to reassess has gone. let them get on with it, I say - they've had more than enough time to think about it.


Having spent the evening researching this regeneration project, I can see that I made some mistakes in this article. For that I apologise. Sometimes all of us are wrong in life, and this was one of them. I based my information on 1 news source and I should have done more research around this. In particular:

* The total project worth will be more than £400m, that's the current work. It will be worth £1.5bn.

* If the plan is developed as planned, then the shopping centre is indeed demolished in 2010.

The best article about this, and probably in the right tone for Londonist, is here: http://www.timeout.com/london/features/1916/1.html

Overall, it must be noted that redevelopment of Elephant has been in discussion since 1997. Plans since have come and gone, and the current version has seen delays and passing deadlines. The completion date of 2014 is, therefore, up for debate. I lived in the area until last year and I know that many local residents of long standing had little faith in the project being completed, due to so many false dawns.

I hope there are no further slips. If those underpasses are removed and if the centre is actually demolished then Londonist will be the first to congratulate the authority on Elephant and Castle regaining its reputation as the 'Piccadilly of South London'.