SE1 - London Bridge, Waterloo, Blackfriars Road & Elephant and Castle

Tuesday 10 December 2013

The next phase of development in London’s SE1 will seek to bring regeneration from the river deep into its heartlands, with Blackfriars Road and Elephant & Castle a particular focus. But the redevelopment of Elizabeth House and Shell Centre are ‘vital’ and undersupplied sectors such as workplace need to be addressed if the wider area is to become a truly mixed use neighbourhood.

The views emerged from a wide-ranging conference held at the Southbank centre last week, itself a key area of change as speakers Jude Kelly and FCB Studio’s Ian Taylor detailed the way its masterplan will attempt to lift its accessibility and attractions but keep it a cultural centre for the people. ‘We want to keep our buildings but also extend their remit’, said Kelly.

Southwark Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and planning Cllr Fiona Colley said there had been ‘tremendous change’ in the area, with projects such as the reworking of London Bridge Station – now under construction – set to unlock a 45% increase in capacity. But equally important to the area is the prospective renewal of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre since it passed into Delancey and APG’s hands last week, and a reworking of the roundabout to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. ‘Elephant & Castle was the elephant in the room’, she said.

Lend Lease development director Rob Heasman said it was the developer’s vision to establish E&C as one of London’s ‘most flourishing urban quarters’, including the redevelopment of the Heygate Estate and planting of over 400 trees. ‘One thing is for sure’, he said, ‘the Elephant is happening.’ Indeed, Transport for London head of capital development Nigel Hardy said that the area was used as a launch location and exemplar scheme as part of the Roads Taskforce – as it is, the roundabout has a very high collision rate, with 49% of incidents involving cyclists. The new plan proposes a ‘peninsularisation’ of the roundabout, opening up dead space in its centre and connecting it into a ‘significant open space.’ 

The Blackfriars Road is also the subject of a new plan for cyclists, especially since 46% of the morning traffic is now a bike – one every two seconds. Hardy showed a scheme with a segregated cycleway on the western side of the road, which Southwark’s Steve Platts said is part of the ‘Blackfriars Mile’ plan to ‘zip together opportunity areas.’ Over 18 developments are planned on the road, including the development of Ludgate House and Sampson House into nine buildings at its northern end shown by PLP Architecture partner Bernard Storch. Meanwhile, the Tate Modern extension will help to bring the focus and more regeneration away from the river, with better accessibility to the south of the building and beyond, said Allies and Morrison’s Graham Morrison.

Other key projects to come in the area include the tackling of the Imax roundabout, said Lambeth’s assistant director for strategic and neighbourhood investment Sarah Roebuck, along with the Thomas Heatherwick- designed Garden Bridge from Temple to east of the Southbank Centre. Farebrother partner and head of leasing, sales and development Julian Hind said £2.1bn had been invested in the area over the last five years but that second hand Grade A space was ‘pitifully undersupplied’ and really what the market needs, and it was ‘absolutely appalling’ that other areas had attempted to stop the Shell Centre and Elizabeth House schemes coming through. 

This was also a theme picked up by David Joyce, assistant director of planning and development planning, who stressed the - as he saw it - unreported public space elements of the scheme. Elizabeth House was a ‘vital site for us’, right in the heart of Waterloo, which will unlock 8,000 new jobs and 150 new homes. ‘If we don’t get this scheme coming forward we won’t reap benefits and still have the barrier that is Waterloo station.’

David Taylor, New London Quarterly

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