Labour Party

The Elephant in the Council chamber

SOME SOUTHWARK Labour councillors have been halted – if only temporarily – in their quest to turn Elephant & Castle’s dilapidated but community-oriented shopping centre into a mecca for the middle classes.

A property developer Delancey bought the site and has applied to re-build it with no adequate plans to relocate existing small traders and rents too high for more than 5% of them to return.

Worse, it plans to match other recently built skyscrapers in the area with a residential tower block in which only 3 per cent of the units will be available at social rents.

For years Southwark Labour councillors have washed their hands of the disastrous gentrification of the former Heygate estate, renamed Elephant Park, saying this was the policy of the former Lib-Dem council. It likes to contrast this with its only slightly less anti-working class treatment of the Aylesbury estate (which has been fought all the way by the tenants and residents there).

But given the chance to alleviate the plight of the Heygate’s former tenants, the councillors have instead twisted the knife. There’s no room at the inn at the Elephant either.

A 200-strong demo invaded the planning committee meeting on 23 January, where after 7 hours of hot debate and arm-twisting the application was narrowly voted down. The movement is now organising another protest at Tooley Street Town Hall on 30 January, fearing the right will have another go.

  • But unless we can change Labour policy, gentrification will continue to raise its ugly head, uprooting and casting aside working class families.
  • Tenants, residents and those on waiting lists must control all redevelopment proposals.
    All developers must promise at least 50% social housing provision and more at truly affordable rents – or have their contracts withdrawn.
  • Labour councils must prepare, in conjunction with other councils if feasible, to build council housing with in-house, direct labour bids.