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New residents' offensive over Southwark's Elephant plans

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Local residents groups in the Elephant and Castle have stepped up their attacks on the London Borough of Southwark's plans to demolish homes as part of the regeneration of the run down area.

Draper House residents have called for the government to protect their homes by listing the 60s estate and the Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations (sgto) has threatened that its members would 'vigorously resist' plans by developers to sweep existing communities out of the area.

Anger has bubbled up over recent weeks as the 21 June decision on a development consortium to overhaul the area draws near. The three development consortia feature architects Terry Farrell and Partners, Foster and Partners and collaboration between Benoy, hta and kp Architects. But separate plans from Assael Architecture to build a new tower block to provide accommodation for students on the Draper Estate has led to the calls for a listing on the entire five-block estate which was built in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One block, Castle House, has already been earmarked for demolition.

Julian Cripps, an architect and Draper Estate resident, said: 'The social cohesion within the estate is very good. For such a hostile site, it has a very strong community feel and it is remarkably safe. But we don't want to preserve the estate in aspic, we just want to make it better.' He described the estate as an early piece of London's 'mega-structure' and compared it to Churchill Gardens in Pimlico.

The Draper Estate is not the only housing area under threat: sgto fears four other council estates could face demolition under the development proposals. sgto chairman Gary Glover said: 'What the developers are saying is simple and straightforward. They are not interested in the Elephant and Castle area if they cannot breakdown and disperse the existing communities to create an attractive area for a new breed of residents.' Southwark Council has given developers scope to cut the area's social housing stock by up to 40 per cent - meaning the demolition of around 500 homes (aj 27.1.00).

The cost of the scheme to regenerate the 63ha area is estimated to be £600 million.

Robert Booth

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