Inner South London is quite big on the notion of fortification, in all its many and varied forms. There’s the Imperial War Museum, of course. There’s the Church of England’s impregnable stronghold at Lambeth Palace. And not so long ago there was ‘The Fort’, a scary looking pub with all the windows blacked out. On Googling, it turns out that this was not in fact the centre of Bermondsey’s gangland underworld, but a gay pick-up joint.
Now, it seems, the Elephant is getting a new castle. Southwark council has lodged a planning application with itself to erect a “three metre steel mesh fence” around part of the Heygate Estate. This fence will sit there for up to five years, securing the contents of the building site that the estate is about to morph into.
The plans to renovate the Heygate have long been a matter of heated debate. One the one hand, it’s one of the ugliest, most desolate estates in central London, and through a combination of poor design and neglect has been falling down for years. On the other, the new version will halve the amount of affordable accommodation on site, in favour of more privately owned properties. This, say some, amounts to little more than social cleansing.
But now the plans are definitely going ahead, securing the site seems sensible enough: it is, after all, round the corner from several pretty busy music venues, and the last thing anyone wants is the dazed and confused tumbling into a hole at five in the morning. What’s more, turning half a squire mile of inner London into something resembling a prison camp makes an apt last hurrah for the old brutalist Elephant we’re about to say goodbye to.
So, are there any other bits of London you’d like to see fenced off, for their protection or ours? Should we put a wall across Sloane Square to keep the cast of Made in Chelsea away from the rest of us? Do let us know.
You can see the extent of the new ring of steel below.
View Heygate in a larger map