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All change at London's Elephant and Castle

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Three development teams last week took the wraps off controversial plans to demolish around 500 council homes as part of a £1 billion attempt to convert the Elephant & Castle in London into a vibrant urban centre.

But one of the schemes, which includes a 55-storey tower by Foster and Partners, immediately ran into trouble when local resident leader, Anne Keane, hinted that residents would resist the tower plans if views from existing towers were compromised. Keane, the chairman of the Elephant Links Partnership Board, will advise the nine-strong council committee appointed to select a winning entry on 21 June.

Foster's 55-storey residential tower is part of the Southwark Land Regeneration bid which also includes three 'garden' towers by Ken Yeang and HTA Architects, one of which 45 storeys tall. These would be the first buildings by the Malaysian skyscraper specialist in London.

Other architects working on this scheme are Benoy, which is designing a subterranean shopping centre and KP Architects, working as masterplanners. It also features a new covered transport interchange and 'world square' with an amphitheatre by Foster's.

London Amsterdam Countryside worked with Terry Farrell & Partners and Michael Hopkins and Partners on its scheme (below), which features 2of commercial space aimed at generating £400 million to build or refurbish 5000 homes along a network of 'green lanes'.

Michael Hopkins said: 'Architecturally the challenge is to create a place that is successful not only at a local level.' In common with the Foster scheme, these plans include a new urban square free of traffic.

Meanwhile, the St George Consortium with John Thompson Architects proposes to adopt a lower impact approach which it described as 'small scale urbanism' including the refurbishment rather than the demolition of the shopping centre and the rebuilding of the Heygate estate on the same site. Its plans are billed as the start of a 15year programme which could be expanded to a £1 billion investment.

Southwark Council officials commented privately that this approach could achieve results quickly and with minimum short-term disruption.

The selection looks set to be a highly political process amid complaints that the decision to demolish the Heygate estate and re-house residents on the fringes of the area amounts to social engineering. But bidders have attempted to avoid this criticism by proposing to re-house 100 per cent of council tenants within the masterplan. Planning guidelines show the council willing to see up to a third of social housing removed from the area.

'This move is going to be influential with the local residents and they have a big say in this decision process, ' said Fred Manson, head of planning at London Borough of Southwark. The competition selection committe is composed solely of councillors.

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