Students occupy the London College of Communication

A section of The London College of Communication was occupied in protest against the Elephant Shopping Centre and College campus  gentrification plans and the LCC partnership in the social cleansing of the area. The occupation comes the night before the developer firm Delancey’s proposal for the redevelopment  goes to planning.

The redevelopment plan, described by local campaigners as “destructive”, involves the demolition of the shopping centre, including 140 years old Coronet Theatre, and a popular bingo hall  and replacing it with a mix of housing and retail units. The developer will also build a new campus for the London College of Communication. LCC would move from its present campus, allowing that land to be incorporated as part of the redevelopment scheme.

Despite of local concerns, Delancey neglected to say what will happen to the current shopkeepers and stallholders, many of whom  depend on the centre for their living and provide a valuable service to the local community. If the proposed plan goes ahead, only  5% of new retail units will be made affordable for displaced local traders.

What’s more, Delancey refuses to include any proper social rented housing in its investment. It instead offers something it calls “social rent equivalent”, starting at £160pw, with a 3-year tenancy. The “social rent equivalent” will only be available to “economically active” households, however, the developer failed to explain what that means. Delancey proposes 33 “social rent equivalent” units out of a total of 979 new homes – 3%. This falls well short of the council’s current minimum requirement in the area, which is 17.5% social rented housing.

The student activists issued a statement:

“Gentrification has ripped through London, pricing students and working class people – particularly BME people – out of their communities.

Elephant & Castle is home to Walworth residents, a large Latin American community, traders and UAL students. This community is under threat from the proposed Delancey development of hundreds of new luxury apartments with only 3% ‘fake’ social housing (by the company’s own, flawed definition) and 10% affordable retail units. And if any more proof was needed that this is about profit and not developing the area for the people who live and work there, it’s the fact Delancey, a gigantic property firm managed offshore that pays no UK taxes, are set to pocket £154 million from the development.

The relocation guarantees currently offered by Delancey to local traders and independent business people operating in the area are totally insufficient, and no adequate offers of compensation have been offered to those that cannot wait for new premises, such as market stalls across the city. In addition, the consequences of closing the Bingo- the heart of a community of hundreds of elderly people – will be cruel and catastrophic. Students will also be amongst the worst affected by the gentrification of Elephant and Castle, as the cost of rent and local commercial outlets will soar.

This is social cleansing, and UAL are complicit – directly benefiting from the development which will give the university permission to build a new LCC building while raising no objections to the consequences of Delancey’s plans, and the consistent lack of transparency and shutting out of residents and traders throughout this process.

This is far from the first time there’ve been plans to demolish the Elephant shopping centre, or far from the first time big businesses have claimed to operate under the guise of progress and improving the lives of people in Southwark. The issue here isn’t our opposition to improving LCC or even to the construction of a new building, but instead about the effects of gentrification on the local community. UAL must come out in opposition to this outrageously offensive proposal, call for planning to be pushed back until proper effort is given to genuine transparency and meaningful involvement from the community and push for 100% real social housing, more affordable rental units and guarantee that the bowling alley and bingo centre will stay.

Let’s make sure LCC remains the London College of Communication and not the London College of Gentrification.”

In addition to the occupation, local campaigners called for a demonstration to oppose Delancey’s plans. It will assemble tomorrow 16th of January at 4pm at London College of Communications and march to Southwark Council office on Tooley Street for the Planning Committee meeting scheduled for 6pm.

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Photo: Stop the Elephant Development