From flames to fiasco in Peckham

Peckhams residents and businesses have reacted with horror to regeneration plans - claiming the proposed shops would be too upscale and push 60 local businesses out of the area.
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More than four years after the London riots, Southwark council remains locked in a row over how to spend the £5.07 million awarded by Mayor Boris Johnson to help Peckham recover.

Shops in the area were torched and cars set ablaze while gangs of youths clashed with riot police in some of the most shocking scenes of the 2011 summer of unrest that followed the police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. 

The Mayor selected Peckham to receive Greater London Authority regeneration funding and Southwark council, working with Network Rail, decided to create a new “gateway” to the area at Peckham Rye railway station, with smart new shops and a restored square and railway arches.

However, when the plans were unveiled, the local community — residents and businesses — reacted with horror. They complained the planned new shops would be too upscale and would push 60 local businesses out of the area.

After two years’ work, the plans went back to the drawing board. “We thought we would take a bit more time and make sure that the design brief had as much buy-in from local people as possible,” explained Councillor Mark Williams, Southwark’s regeneration chief.

So the council launched a “co design” process last year to feed local views into the project. A series of public workshops were held, resulting in the publication of a 30-point plan that the council describes as an “atlas of aspirations”. 

These include everything from providing public lavatories to more ephemeral aspirations such as “green threads moving into the community”.
But still there are unhappy locals. “I am so disappointed by the process,” says Eileen Conn, coordinator of Peckham Vision, a consortium of residents, workers and businesses based in the area. 

Local residents were left out of the initial design process and, she adds, the “co design” project, which cost about £70,000, focussed on a narrow area around the station and not on the wider neighbourhood. 

She says there have been “remarkable signs of self-regeneration” in the area as new businesses spring up, but these are being ignored in favour of a “slash and burn” approach where the site will be bulldozed and built afresh. 

The council has hired architects to draw up detailed plans for the area and its plans will be unveiled later this year. It also plans to issue Compulsory Purchase Orders to take over buildings around the site, which will leave some 25 businesses homeless. “It has been a fiasco,” says Conn.

Councillor Williams believes that the delays have been necessary to ensure the regeneration of Peckham Rye benefits the whole of the local community. He pledged that the existing businesses would be relocated and the new shops would not be geared exclusively towards affluent young professionals, who are increasingly being lured to the area by its relatively low prices. 

“We are keen to get on and deliver this project, but there is no quick fix,” he adds.

The Mayor’s office says: “We are continuing to support this project by working with Southwark and others to ensure the delivery of these improvements.”

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