The current “Concept Masterplan”

From 19th October to the 22nd October, Lend Lease are displaying their “concept” masterplan at the hub on Walworth Road. We encourage you to go and have a look, and to comment.


Lend Lease’s display boards

And some photos from the exhibition courtesy of the People’s Republic of Southwark are here.

But commenting in a meaningful way is very difficult – not least because the council is developing their wider policies, to be set out in an “Special Planning Document” for the area, in parallel with this masterplan. That means there are no parameters for evaluating the concepts being displayed, which is how developers like it. Why is this? Because after 15 years of stalling and nothing, there is now a desperate rush to get something built.

Car parking is one reason why this is important. A key public, wider, benefit of the original masterplan was going to be provision of surface crossings of the Northern Roundabout. The Mayor has now vetoed this because of impacts on traffic – and if even a small percentage of the thousands of flats here are going to have car parking, that will put many wider benefits of the regeneration at risk. Recent policy has been for this to be a car free development – reflecting the fact that Elephant has two underground routes, is on Thameslink, and has a huge number of bus routes, not to mention that it is within easy walking and cycling distance of the City and the West End.

But there are many other strategic issues that also need to be addressed – for example, is this to be public space, or will it be private, where public gatherings are prohibited, and arbitrary decisions made and enforced by private police (as Southwark allowed at MORE London?)

That there are any trees on the concept masterplan is a huge step forward – the previous masterplan developed by MAKE showed none at all. On Phase it is still not clear which trees are to remain and how many more are to be removed, though the recent hugely patronising “consultation” there allows us to “prioritise” existing trees without saying what the plan is or why any have to be removed at all.

And what are the private courtyard spaces going to be like? Will they be on the level, allowing trees to be planted, and to be passively enjoyed by the millions who will walk through the development? Or will they be elevated, as proposed on Phase 1, and therefore only for benefit or residents – raised above inefficient ranks of car parking spaces? And did Southwark Council approve Lend Lease’s “design brief” to their architects, which specifies 25% parking provision (and which is thus behind all the raised courtyards?

These seem to to be entirely basic questions that a concept masterplan should be addressing – when will we be allowed to engage properly, with the benefit of a properly-consulted-on local planning policy guiding the developer and setting the parameters?

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