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A STUDENT occupation has stalled plans to bulldoze London’s Elephant & Castle shopping centre to make way for luxury flats.
The activists, who have finished a week-long occupation at London College of Communication (LCC), are claiming victory after Southwark Council accepted a delay to the development on Tuesday night.
Property developer Delancey is working with the college, part of University Arts London (UAL), on plans to build 1,000 homes, offices and a new campus on the historic site.
Campaigners have warned the plans will not only see the shopping centre, its bingo hall and bowling alley demolished but will also evict 70 local businesses.
The Stop the Elephant Development campaign group points out that only 3 per cent of the homes will be social housing.
This is despite the council’s planning policy stating that all housing developments should provide a minimum of 35 per cent affordable housing, half of which (17.5 per cent) should be available at social rents.
The student occupiers believe developers tried to exploit a common loophole used in housing developments that allows them to avoid building the recommended number of social housing if partnered with not-for-profit organisations.
In this case, the not-for-profit organisation is LCC and is why the plans included a new campus for the college, the students argued.
Delancey and UAL decided this week to stall the development to submit improvements to the project.
UAL students union campaigns officer Sahaya James said: “The deferral should be seen as a victory for the campaigns that have worked tirelessly to fight the sweeping gentrification in Southwark.
“This has proven that direct action and putting pressure on LCC’s reputation worked.
“Delancey and UAL realised that they would not have been able to receive approval for the project in its current form and have scrambled to make improvements.
“However, we shouldn’t be taking this as a sign to be complacent. We must keep on holding them to account and push for genuine social housing and a plan which will truly benefit the community. There is still work to be done.”
Delancey and UAL had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.
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