The regeneration of the Elephant & Castle is one of the largest and most controversial redevelopment programmes underway in London. It involves the demolition of the Heygate Estate, the redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and the creation of new housing, shopping and commercial spaces. There is fierce local opposition to the gentrification of the Elephant & Castle, in particular, anger and anxiety at the loss of affordable housing. Southwark Council and the developer Lend Lease have received much criticism for their approach, which has seen the displacement of many former residents of the Heygate Estate.
Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre will be redeveloped as part of the wider regeneration process. At the time of writing the future of the Shopping Centre and its traders is uncertain. It is not clear if the Shopping Centre will be demolished or where current traders may be relocated. The Shopping Centre is a place of huge diversity and is much loved by many local people. Local blogs point out that Elephant & Castle’s current residents rely on the many independent shops offering affordable goods and services and do not want, and won’t be able to afford, many of the high street chains being imagined for the redeveloped shopping centre. But more importantly, local blogs point out that the regeneration process makes the strength of local communities invisible in the planning and development process by focusing on deprivation and social needs and not on what the Shopping Centre contributes to the local community.
Social Life is carrying out an independent research project to understand how traders in the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre are being affected by the proposed regeneration. We want to understand how the proposed changes are affecting people now and how they will impact on traders and customers and their businesses, livelihoods, friendships and local relationships in the future. We want to understand more about the Shopping Centre’s social value.
Stay tuned for the results of the research which will be made available in a number of ways: we will write up a short report, which will be available on Social Life’s website; we are planning to organise a local exhibition of stories and photographs; we will share the research findings with local groups that would like to use the work such as Elephant Amenity Network; and we will talking about the work as part of The Unusual Suspects, a festival about social change being organised by the Social Innovation Exchange. The research findings will be available in September 2014.