A new masterplan for the £1.5 billion regeneration of Elephant and Castle has been approved by Southwark council. Work is expected to start this year on the scheme's key buildings, including new affordable homes on the flattened site of the notorious Heygate Estate, two new residential towers and a showpiece leisure centre.
The whole project has been a stop-start story for the council and Lend Lease partnership. The fresh masterplan, to be completed by 2020, includes a "tall buildings strategy", two new conservation areas, a market square, the biggest public park to be created in London for 70 years and the upgrading of several "tributary" roads that converge on Elephant and Castle's town centre.
Southwark has also reached agreement with the owner of the landmark pink shopping centre for its complete redevelopment, a crucial step forward. "If we don't change the shopping centre, we don't change Elephant and Castle," says Fiona Colley, a Southwark councillor.
About 35 per cent of the 4,000 new homes in the 170-acre zone will be "affordable" and integrated with the private homes, not isolated in separate blocks.
GOODBYE SUBWAYS AND ROUNDABOUTS
Streetscaping improvements have already improved the public realm at Elephant and Castle. The antisocial pedestrian subways and an unwieldy roundabout have been replaced, while St Mary's churchyard, next to the handsome Metropolitan Tabernacle, has been given a careful makeover.
Coming next are two "gateway" developments. The first will be on the site of the current outdated leisure centre and includes a 30-storey residential tower. Another tower with 250 apartments will be built on Rodney Road.
Southwark is working with several housing associations and architectural firms. The aim is to achieve design variety, a mix of high-quality buildings in a series of "character areas" with lots of greenery, rather than a grey, monolithic housing estate.
More than 600 new affordable homes - a mix of tenures, including shared ownership and outright sale - across 10 sites have been built or are under way. London and Quadrant is the main housing association allocating and selling homes within the zone. To register or check availability, call 0844 406 9800 or visit lqgroup.org.uk. Private developments on the plan include Tribeca Square, which will have 374 apartments, due to be launched in spring. Call DTZ on 020 3296 3837.
Strata, an unmissable completed skyscraper with 399 flats, will remain the tallest building in the zone. Another tower, designed by Richard Rogers's architectural practice, is to be built across the road on the site of the London Park Hotel.
Printworks, on Amelia Street, is a good-looking scheme of 97 apartments, with up to three bedrooms. Rising to eight storeys and with striking bronze and aluminum cladding, apartments have floor-to-ceiling windows, full-height doors and a terrace or balcony, some with views towards Parliament or Canary Wharf, others overlooking a courtyard garden. Flats there have been snapped up by eager buyers but rentals, from £300 a week, are available through estate agent Gordon & Co on 020 7703 7088.
Elephant and Castle prices have nudged up during the last five years but the area stands out as the cheapest location in travel Zone 1. Typical newbuild values are about £500 a sq ft, less than half the price of most Zone 1 addresses. However, up-and-coming, buyers should not expect a quick transformation to gentrified heaven.
"Buyers are advised to take a medium- to long-term view," says DTZ's Andrew Palmer. "As local regeneration takes hold it will become a much better place to live."
The area's hard urban edge is softened by a few pretty pockets of period housing. Larcom Street and Elliott's Row, which have Victorian terraces, are new conservation areas, and the wider Walworth district is a good hunting ground for cheaper homes close to central London. A good many of these are ex-local authority properties.
East Street market is lively and colourful, but there are no signs yet of a Shoreditch-style makeover along Walworth Road, the main drag, which was once lined with handsome houses and now has mainly low-rent shops.
* To see the regeneration plans in more detail, visit the "consultation hub" at 182 Walworth Road