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Southwark Council threatens to raze social housing

The ambitious competition to regenerate the Elephant and Castle area of south London could see the area's social-housing stock being slashed by up to 40 per cent, it emerged this week.

The unofficial guideline was set after meetings between Southwark Borough Council, local interest groups and development consortia, officials at the council said. If followed through, it would spell the permanent removal of around 500 dwellings from the area.

The original brief for the 69ha retail and housing development was issued last March and gave developers a free hand to determine the number of affordable houses to be rebuilt. But a recent council-commissioned mori poll of local residents revealed that just 63 per cent of Elephant and Castle residents are determined to remain there.

Three masterplans for the complete transformation of the shopping, housing and transport facilities in the area are due for submission to a 25-strong board of local interest groups on 31 March. The council will confirm the winner in the summer. The three shortlisted development consortia are: Terry Farrell & Partners with London & Amsterdam and the Countryside Consortium; Tibbalds Monro with St George and Southwark Land Regeneration which includes kp Architects, Benoy and hta.

But local residents association North Southwark Community Development Group warned that there may a lack of public support for the plan and that the disruption to housing cannot be justified.

'It's not clear whether the majority of residents favour the whole thing. It seems extraordinary to talk of a reduction to social housing in a central London borough,' said local resident and member of the group, George Nicholson.

A more detailed brief on the housing requirements for the project will be issued next week.

'The brief will be aspirational and it will be down to developers to figure out the costs and how to deal with these guidelines,' said the Council's Elephant and Castle project manager, Karen O'Keefe. The council is keen for social housing to be complemented by private accommodation, she said.

The local authority owns more than half of the land for the estimated £600 million scheme.

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