One the Elephant is a 37 storey, 284 unit residential tower with zero affordable housing, being built by the council’s regeneration partner Lend Lease on the site of the former leisure centre.
Land Registry documents reveal that Southwark Council sold 1.4 acres of the old leisure centre site to developer Lend Lease for the bargain price of £6.5m. The Council claims that it will receive a share of the ‘overage’ profits from Lendlease when the development is completed. We submitted an FOI request asking how much overage profit the Council has received, but it said the overage hasn’t yet been calculated.
By way of comparison, the neighbouring and smaller site (1.2acres) of the former London Park Hotel was bought by a government agency for £17.7m in 2004. New shopping centre owners Delancey had to pay £40m for another neighbouring site (Tribeca Square - 1.5 acres) to property developer Eadon Ltd, who thereby made a handsome profit having bought the land for just £18m from the council in March 2007.
One the Elephant came under fire from London Assembly members in October last year for proposing no affordable housing. Instead Lend Lease proposed a payment of £3.5m1 towards the estimated £20m cost2 of the new (pint-size) leisure centre. This payment is a fraction of Southwark’s affordable housing policy tariff, which should have netted it £32m3. The council’s planning report for the development claimed that “a second core would be required to provide separate access, including lifts and circulation areas, to socially rented accommodation within the development.” and that “not doing so would have significant implications on the values of the private residential properties.” (para. 37). The cost of the separate entrance for affordable housing thereby justifying the argument that there shouldn’t be any at all.
According to its 2013 annual report 61% of Lend Lease’s new homes at the Elephant had been pre-sold off plan. The buoyant sales are undoubtedly due in part to Lend Lease’s sales pitch that new homes would have a brand new leisure centre on their doorstep.
In Jan 2014, it was reported that council chiefs had ignored the results of a public poll created in order to name the new leisure centre, in favour of a suggestion put forward by Lend Lease.
In October 2012, government body Sport for England criticised the council’s plans to reduce the size of sports facilities at the leisure centre site.
The officer report for the development explains that the facade of the building will be decorated with a “tactile bronze cladding material” (para. 71)
The start of work on One the Elephant was marked with some ceremony by developers Lend Lease, including a visit by the mayor of London Boris Johnson. However it was a bit unfortunate for both him and Southwark Council that the symbolically important development has no affordable housing.
The event was covered by ITV and the BBC:
The TV reports emphasised the lack of affordable housing. Mayor Johnson and Councillor Colley responded with the well-rehearsed defence that One the Elephant was providing a leisure centre instead, and that 1600 ‘affordable’ housing units will be provided elsewhere in the regeneration. As we reported previously, these new ‘affordable’ units comprise ‘affordable’ rents of up to 80% market rent and shared ownership homes requiring a minimum salary of £57,500 to qualify.
The controversey surrounding the development did not stop council leader Peter John, his Chief Exec and Cabinet member for regeneration celebrating the topping out ceremony for One the Elephant.