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New vision for Elephant and Castle

Southwark council has commissioned a new development vision for the regeneration of London's Elephant and Castle after pulling the plug on KP Architects' £1billion masterplan. Tibbalds TM2 is to produce a new plan for the area after the council pulled out of negotiations with developer Southwark Land Regeneration (SLR) last week. SLR won the bid to develop the plan in June 2000, which included designs by Foster and Partners, Ken Yeang, Benoy and HTA Architects.

Southwark's project coordinator Jon Abbott said the council would not be talking to the architects in the original consortium with a view to keeping them on board. However, some of the key elements within it could remain.

It will pursue the principle of high-quality, tall buildings on the site - but whether this would be Ken Yeang's original design was yet to be decided, Abbott said.

And while a plaza - similar to that designed by Foster and Partners - is likely to be part of the future development, the practice's role is 'open to question'. The council is now inviting fresh bids from potential developers.

But the original design team has vowed to continue pushing for its plans. Brian Pattenden, senior associate director of Benoy, which was due to develop a subterranean shopping centre, said all four practices were presenting a united front.

'We're not giving up that easily, ' he said.

Negotiations between Southwark and SLR broke down last week after the two failed to agree on financial arrangements. According to Abbott, the breakdown followed a change in the agreement over social housing. Southwark had originally briefed SLR to produce an 'innovative' solution to the area's social housing. However, the council was not happy with the proposal it presented - which included the wholesale transfer of the council's housing stock into private management. Having decided to keep control of its housing stock, Southwark decided SLR's financial bid was no longer acceptable.

Southwark will now remain in control of the social housing element of the scheme, and HTA Architects' scheme could be the one it pursues.

Some observers have blamed Southwark for the crisis. Pattenden said the council had 'lost its balls' and was 'chickening out'. Another accused it of inconsistency in its handling of the project. Graham Neil, chair of the Elephant and Castle Residents Regeneration Group, welcomed the chance to look again at the plan: 'There's a lot more cohesion among the community than there was two years ago and we will rise to this challenge.'

Southwark expects no further progress with the plan until after the council elections in June.

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