Elephant and Castle residents are raising money to fight a multi-national developer over plans to build a huge office block in Elephant Park.
Southwark Council refused Lendlease’s application to build an 18-storey office block on the site of the former Heygate Estate in October last year.
Rather than accept the decision, Lendlease had dug its heels in and decided to fight the council’s decision at a public enquiry in September.
An alliance of local residents and organisations known as Community Objectors H1 hope to speak against the office block, and in favour of Southwark Council’s decision, at the enquiry.
The upcoming legal battle is the latest in a series of highly-publicised disputes between residents and developers in Southwark.
Campaigners, many of whom are active in the latest legal challenge, spent four years fighting against developer Delancey’s plans to demolish the Elephant and Castle shopping centre.
After numerous twists and turns, and a case heard in the Appeal Court, Delancey won in 2021.
Jerry Flynn, of the local housing group the 35% Campaign, said: “We want to take part because we played our part in getting the application rejected and we think Southwark Council took the right decision.
“We want to see the inspector uphold that decision and see the inspector reject Lendlease’s appeal.”
He added: “Lendlease wants to build an office block on H1 whether local residents like it or not. We’re fighting the power.”
Lendlease’s £2 billion Elephant Park regeneration has been controversial ever since it was approved in January 2013 – largely because it meant the demolition of its 1,214 homes.
The development’s last empty plot – H1 – was originally earmarked for housing but Lendlease, having met its housing obligations elsewhere on the site, changed its plans.
The developer submitted an application for 48,750sqm of office space instead, almost ten times the 5,000sqm outlined in the original masterplan.
Southwark councillors however rejected it, saying it was too big, out of character with the area and would cause unacceptable light and privacy loss to neighbours.
One councillor thought it was so big that she compared it to Ayer’s Rock – a vast sandstone formation in Australia rising 863 metres.
In April, this paper revealed Lendlease would fight the decision in a public showdown.
Local objectors have secured Rule 6 status, meaning the inspector accepts they can make a positive contribution to the enquiry.
Jerry Flynn said one of the few positive aspects of Lendlease’s application was its inclusion of a health hub. He explained: “First and foremost, we don’t want an office block.
“The office block does come with the promise of the health hub and that would be great. But we would also like to see homes and open space.”
After just a week, they have already raised over £3,600 but they need to get £5,000 in total.
Comparing this upcoming legal battle to the one he fought against Delancey in 2021, Jerry Flynn explained: “The planning issues are different and there is no displacement of residents or traders but I think the similarity is whether or not Lendlease, as a big developer, is going to do as it likes.”
The public enquiry will take place in September and is expected to last eight days.
A spokesperson for Lendlease previously said: “We’ve been working in partnership with Southwark to deliver a thoughtful and community-led regeneration at Elephant Park for over a decade and have submitted an appeal regarding our application for a new office building.
“When complete it would have the potential to provide work for around 4,000 people, include a new community health hub, support the growing economy of independent retailers, first rate leisure amenities and world class education already in the surrounding area; and build upon the sustainability commitments already made across Elephant Park.”