It has become Southwark council leader Peter John's mantra: "This is the best borough, in the best city, in the best country in the world" – words he repeated on 4 December at Lendlease's Elephant Park suite in Elephant and Castle, at an event to mark the 20th edition of Southwark magazine.
“With that in mind, I think we can safely say this is the best regeneration magazine in the world,” John added, to laughter from an audience made up of stakeholders in the transformation of the borough, including real estate professionals, architects and those representing cultural institutions. There were about 75 people in attendance.
John said: “The magazine started with humble beginnings and it has now risen to greatness.” Issue 20 of Southwark looks at the buildings, people and businesses which have defined its change since the first issue was published in 2005, as well as looking to future projects which could have a positive effect, such as the potential to extend the Bakerloo line. This could bring three new London Underground stations to Southwark, as well as opening up opportunities for housebuilding and other development.
“In terms of regeneration projects in Southwark, there are none more important,” said John. “We need you all to keep making the case to the transport department in government and to the mayor and TfL [Transport for London]. We have already approved thousands of new homes for the Old Kent Road, including 40% which are genuinely affordable. People are calling for more genuinely affordable housing and in Southwark we are delivering it as we promised we would.”
John also highlighted the Construction Skills Centre, supported by developer Lendlease and the opening of the Passmore Centre last week – a collaboration between the council and London South Bank University – as evidence that Southwark is equipping young people with the skills and apprenticeships they need to benefit local employers.
The space for startup businesses and “magnificent cultural offer” were also highlighted, with the Southwark Playhouse theatre and Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, which recently opened in Peckham. The latest issue of Southwark features an interview with Mountview’s executive director and joint CEO Sarah Preece.
John also touched on the UK’s uncertain economic future, in reference to the mystery surrounding ongoing Brexit negotiations. “But what I do know for sure,” he said, “is that London will continue to be the beating heart of our nation’s economy. If London is not prospering and growing, the rest of our country isn’t either. We have to make the case that investment into our infrastructure – and our housing – is vital for our national economy.”
Kristy Lansdown, project director for Elephant Park at Lendlease, also spoke, pointing out it is about 20 years ago since Southwark Council embarked on the “journey to drive the transformation of Elephant and Castle”.
“It’s great to stand here now, realising the vision and the strength of leadership the council had 20 years ago, and now be celebrating 20 issues of the great magazine. I think for all of us, when you open the pages of the magazine and see the diversity of things happening in this ‘greatest borough in the world’, you realise the great things happening for the community, such as jobs and culture. And we’re very proud to be a part of it."
Southwark 20 was supported by Lendlease, Berkeley Homes, British Land, Grosvenor, London Square, Alumno Developments, Great Portland Estates, A&E Elkins and Franklyn Shaw Associates.
A new website for the local community, which explains the council's plans for the regeneration of Old Kent Road, has been launched