Saturday, 20 March 2010

London village: Elephant & Castle

Times Online Logo 222 x 25
March 18, 2010

London village: Elephant & Castle

The area has suffered myriad setbacks, but there’s more to SE17 than concrete council estates and roundabouts

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre in SE London due for major 
redevelopment, 28th February 2007.
Elephant & Castle has been in a perpetual state of regeneration since the 1960s, when town planners hit on the idea of encasing everything in concrete and forcing the population to scurry along dark tunnels beneath roundabouts.
Everyone agrees that something must be done, but no one currently has the money to do it. Southwark Council is desperate to house the 15,000 people on its waiting list. A £1.5 billion masterplan, involving the demolition of the shopping centre, has been stagnating for a few years but in December the council announced a new development deal and will publish further plans soon.
In the meantime, the Heygate estate will be demolished and subways filled in. New parks, shops and homes (mostly in tower blocks) will follow — eventually.
So where is it exactly?
SE1 and SE17, around and to the south of the roundabout, between The Borough, Bermondsey, Walworth and Kennington.
What are house prices like?
“As low as £145,000 for an ex-council flat,” says Jack Gundry, of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward. “The top end would be £500,000 for a four-bedroom family house on Liverpool Grove.”
Any architectural gems?
The Victorian library on Walworth Road and the new Strata tower.
What about decent shops?
If you want to pawn your watch, place a bet or eat a kebab, Walworth Road is a paradise. Shop the socialist way at the vegan food co-op on Crampton Street.
Any good schools?
The best primary is St John’s Walworth. David Cameron launched his education manifesto in January at Walworth Academy, on Shorncliffe Road.
What about transport links?
Northern and Bakerloo Tube lines; 36 bus routes; trains to Blackfriars take 3min.
And the politics?
Simon Hughes has been the Lib Dem MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey since 1983.
How’s the nightlife?
Sparse, but the Beehive on Carter Street is “good for grub and a pint”, one local says. Clubs include the Ministry of Sound and the kitsch South London Pacific.
Not renowned for culture, is it?
Proximity to art colleges including Camberwell College of Arts, London College of Communication and Goldsmiths College ensures an edgy scene. The artistic community at Pullens Yard is seriously hip. The Nolias Gallery on the Old Kent Road does “cool stuff for people with cool haircuts”, one resident says. The Royal Court Theatre is currently staging plays in the shopping centre and the Coronet Theatre hosts gigs.
Any good restaurants or bars?
The Dragon Castle on Walworth Road is highly rated. Locals recommend Mamuska!, a new Polish restaurant: “super nice, cheap and cool food”. The Electric Elephant café is a little piece of Hoxton on Crampton Street.

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