Focus on... Elephant & Castle: Take a stroll through Elephant Park

WHEN you think of Elephant & Castle, your first thought probably isn’t “green”. But a £1.6bn regeneration scheme is aiming to make it the greenest place in Britain.

By green, we mean eco-friendly, of course, but there’s also going to be a fair amount of God’s own carpet around as well. In 2024, you should walk out of a modernised Tube station into Elephant Park, the largest public green space to be built in central London for 70 years.

“We’re not on a river or on the oceanfront but the Heygate Estate was designed to be surrounded by trees,” says Pascal Mittermaier, project director for Lend Lease, joint developers with Southwark Council. “So we started thinking what we could do with that and one thing led to another until everything in the park served an important ecological function.

“There will be French shrubberies that are designed to absorb rainwater and we’ll use that somewhere else.”

Development partner Delancey is responsible for revamping the concrete brutalism of the 1970s shopping centre, while Mittermaier’s team focus on the park, One The Elephant (a 37-storey landmark), and transforming the Heygate Estate, which has been ripe for an overhaul for decades.

In total, Elephant and Castle is set to see around 3,000 new homes sprout up within the next 10 years, 25 per cent of them classed as affordable housing. It’s a huge undertaking but Mittermaier wants to prove that sustainability sells and it can be delivered on budget. “It’s a very deep personal passion of mine. I believe you can find outcomes that are good for people, planet, and profit. Not only will this be a desirable place to live, it will also be a great product and we’ll make these things work for no extra cost.”

In the early stages of development, the team has been experimenting with innovative technologies such as “grey water toilets” that flush using recycled water from your sink; photocatalytic paint that absorbs toxins from the air; entire homes built from cross-laminated timber; and townhouses that are so well-insulated they don’t need central heating.

Delegates from Copenhagen and Tokyo have already visited to hear of the plans and it’s one of only three developments in the world to be a Clinton Climate Participant, a world leader in sustainable urban regeneration. But all this is necessary, Mittermaier says, if we’re to comfortably live in London with an extra million people in it by 2025.

The eco-showpiece of the regeneration is an energy centre that’s part educational exhibtion and part functional generator. It will display how much energy each residential block is using to pit each against the other and spur them on to be carbon neutral.

“We’re hoping it will be a bit of fun and encouragement for the people living there,” Mittermaier explains. “But it also serves a really important function which is to make a connection between cause and effect so people can see the consequence of their energy consumption. When you think of all the stress points that there are for people living in somewhere like London, I believe this development has a solution for each one of those. I think it will be used as a blueprint for sustainable living, not only elsewhere in London, but for mega-cities in general.”

For more information, visit elephantpark.co.uk.

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