Building deemed too large for south London site

ACME’s plans for an 18-storey office block in Elephant and Castle have been unanimously rejected by Southwark council despite the planning officer’s recommendation that they be approved.

Councillors threw out the application for the 86m-tall scheme because it was deemed to be too large for the site, despite its design having been tweaked to reduce its visual impact.

The planning committee’s four-and-a-half hour debate over the plans went on for so long that the decision on a second application on the agenda, for Stitch’s 25-storey residential tower near the Old Kent Road, had to be deferred to a later meeting.

Acme elephant 5

The 83m tall scheme was rejected because it was deemed to be too large for the site

Designed for Elephant & Castle developer Lendlease, the scheme would have occupied the final parcel of land at Make’s £2.3bn Elephant Park masterplan for the replacement of the demolished Heygate Estate.

The plot had originally been earmarked for a smaller housing scheme consisting of a slender 83m tall tower. With a total floor area of 64,000sq m, the new proposals are almost double the size of the former 36,000sq m scheme.

More than 430 objections were received in response to the application’s first consultation, focusing on the scale and design of the building and a perceived lack of need for office space in the area.

The loss of housing in the new plans had been a key grievance among objectors, who questioned why the Elephant Park redevelopment contained more than 300 fewer homes than the Heygate Estate.

One objector had described the scheme as a “fat, ugly looking building” which would block light and views for nearby buildings, while another compared it to Rafael Viñoly’s divisive Walkie Talkie.

In its recommendation for approval, the planning officer’s report had said the original residential proposals could not have been completed as the maximum residential floor area of the wider redevelopment had already almost been reached.

A spokesperson for Lendlease said: “We’re disappointed that our application for a new office building has been turned down as we’ve been working in partnership with Southwark to deliver a thoughtful and community-led regeneration at Elephant Park for over a decade.

”The landmark building proposed would be designed to the very highest environmental standards, include a new community health centre, create thousands of new jobs and be of huge support for the local community as well as the growing economy of independent retailers, first rate leisure amenities and world class education institutions already in the surrounding area.

”We’ll await the formal decision notice to understand the reasons behind this refusal and then consider our next steps.”