A piece of news that is unlikely to please many residents of Elephant and Castle came closer to being confirmed last night at a Southwark Council Assembly meeting.
When Cllr Tim McNally challenged (includes audio) the Council leader, Peter John, on rumours that the Elephant and Castle shopping centre (which is not owned by the Council) was now unlikely to be demolished, John's response was that he is "absolutely committed to see the shopping centre improved at Elephant and Castle".
He added "We have the potential for something which — to all intents and purposes — is a brand new shopping centre for Elephant and Castle at a much earlier stage than we were looking at just nine months ago."
This seems to be signalling a departure from the original plans (supported until now by Cllr John) to demolish the existing building; something that local residents have long perceived as one of the key elements of the regeneration project.
As Europe's first covered shopping mall, the shopping centre has undergone many facelifts over the years. Most famously it was painted bright pink in the 1980s, as yet another attempt to try and counter the lack of popularity it has wallowed in since its opening in 1965.
According to Cllr McNally, spruce-up rumours vary from the addition of glass fronts to just another lick of paint — blue, this time.
While the building itself is not as poor a space as some may think, it's clearly in need of more than just redecorating. We suggest a solution might be to strip the building of the various ungainly appendages it has gathered over its lifespan of nearly 50 years and return it to its original glory. That's the original intended glory, not the reality of its opening tarnished by budget cuts that ensured corners had to be cut and compromises made on quality.
Meanwhile, with the regeneration agreement — which doesn’t include the shopping centre — finally signed in July last year, preparatory work has started on the site of the Oakmayne Plaza building (at the top of the New Kent Road, to the east of the shopping centre), which was originally planned for completion in 2007. This will see the creation of homes and student accommodation, a multiplex cinema, a supermarket and a selection of shops and restaurants overlooking a new market square.
The first part of the demolition of the mostly abandoned Heygate Estate, has started in Rodney Place while Ministry of Sound is still fighting a potential tower block on its doorstep. Another tower project, 360 by Richard Rogers, which had been buried with the economic downturn, was resurrected last month.
The regeneration process is expected to take about 15 years. Find out more on the Elephant and Castle development website.