An iconic south London shopping centre built in 1965 on a bomb-damaged 1890s estate is being ripped down to pave the way for a £1 billion town-centre regeneration.
It was originally believed that the three-storey Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre in Southwark would become a commercial hub for south London, with its 115 shops taken on mostly by local traders.
But, as the capital expanded and swanky indoor shopping malls sprung up citywide, the 55-year-old shopping arcade quickly became redundant, before later falling into disrepair.
Now, Keltbray, a specialist construction and engineering company, is set to demolish the 2.5-acre site and replace it with a £1 billion development, including approximately 1,000 new flats – 116 of which are social rental homes, a new tube station for the Northern Line, and two new university buildings.
One of the sites best-known features an elephant with a castle on its back, was taken away to be restored but is set to be put back once construction begins.
When the construction is finished, the sculpture will take pride and place in the new town centre, along with old signage and artefacts from the shopping centre.
Campaigners have blasted the lack of affordable homes, inexpensive retail space and council housing in the new plans.
In November, a judge granted permission to appeal Southwark Council’s decision to grant Keltbray planning permission to tear it down.
Images taken at the site show walls pulled down as the demolition begins, with the area blocked off to the public.
The shopping centre was opened in 1965. The building was built on the sight of the Elephant and Castle Estate, built in 1898, which was later damaged by bombs in the Second World War.
The £21 million shopping centre was designed to bring Londoners away from the busy roundabout below to carry out their shopping.
Ray Gunter, then minister of Labour, unveiled the iconic statue of an elephant carrying a castle on its back which was taken from a since demolished pub.
The new plans, which were granted planning approval in 2019, strive to keep noise and disruption to a minimum throughout construction.
The demolition process is estimated to finish in the summer of 2021, with construction commencing the same year.
The new Northern line station to be constructed on the demolished zone is future-proofed for the Bakerloo line extension with significantly enhanced capabilities.
Two new structures, one for the University of the Arts London and another for London College of Communication, will also be built, and Keltbray said the project will bring substantial employment to the region.
But is this going to be the amazing place they say it is, or is it going to be in five years a total mess hidden in graffiti? Because sometimes nothing changes, whatever it costs because usually, it’s the people that make the area and not the buildings, and it will probably end up being a bleak, grey, soulless, miserable wind tunnel with no eco-credentials, like they all are.
Over 10 per cent of the flats are being earmarked for social housing, and I’m sure it will be marvellous for those turning up on boats to get housed in a brand new development in the heart of one of the most costly cities in the world, and all for free.
And it’s no surprise that some people don’t want to work or do anything in this country. The others, however, just carry on laying down in front of the steamroller one by one.
But it’s about twenty minutes walk from the city, and of course, they will sell, but they will have to live alongside boat people.