An architecture campaign group has described a development in Elephant and Castle as “social cleansing” and criticised a national body for shortlisting it in an award.
Elephant Park, which controversially replaced the Heygate estate when it was demolished by 2014, has seen hundreds of previous tenants, many of them social renters, forced to leave the area permanently.
A building within the new development has now been shortlisted by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for its annual Stirling Prize.
The campaign group, Architects Can!, said the prize shortlist was an attempt by the industry to “pull the wool over the eyes” of communities.
In a statement the group said: “The Elephant Park ‘regeneration’ scheme, which includes Orchard Gardens, saw the demolition of the Heygate Estate and forcible displacement of council tenants. In all, 1,194 social housing units were replaced by 2,700 homes, of which, only 92 units remain socially rented.
“Twenty per cent of council tenants remained in the SE17 postcode, with the majority relocated to the outskirts of London.
“The developer, LendLease, was able to weasel their way out of providing more social housing on the basis that a profit margin of less than 25 per cent would be detrimental to their business case. Southwark council, a partner in the development, accepted this.
“Unnecessary demolition further fuels climate breakdown. The replacement of social housing with high end homes is an act of social cleansing, which exacerbates growing inequality facing our societies.”
The Heygate estate in 2009 Picture: London SE1/Flickr
RIBA describes the award as “given to the architect of the building thought to be the most significant of the year for the evolution of architecture and the built environment”.
RIBA President Simon Allford said: “The six buildings on this year’s shortlist demonstrate a clear understanding of the role construction must play in mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis.
“Materially and operationally, they are not net-zero buildings, but their ambition to deliver sustainable design for long-term community benefit shows promise.
“This is a shortlist of our times that demonstrates hope and ambition for a sustainable future.”
In 2018, Lendlease said the project was worth £2.3bn and that by 2025 it will create 3,000 new homes, with 25 per cent of them “affordable”.
A spokeswoman for Lendlease said: “At Elephant Park we’ve set ourselves the ambition of creating one of the most sustainable inner-city urban regeneration projects in the world.
“In practice, that means creating a low-carbon community that improves air quality, becomes a healthier place to live and work, and significantly reduces the use of non-renewable resources.
“We’re honoured that Orchard Gardens, which embodies those values, has been recognised by RIBA and shortlisted for the Stirling Prize.”
Pictured top: Construction of Elephant Park in Elephant and Castle (Picture: Robin Stott/Creative Commons Licence)