ACME’s ‘bulky’ Elephant and Castle office scheme approved on appeal

Southwark Council unanimously refused plans for the building on the corner Walworth Road and Elephant Road, known as H1, which also features space for a health centre, in October 2022.

Councillors acting against the advice of planning officers, cited the scheme’s ‘excessive height, mass and bulk’ and ‘the unacceptable harm to neighbouring amenity due to the loss of daylight’.

An appeal was lodged in May this year by the project’s backer, Lendlease, which is also the developer behind the wider £2.3 billion Elephant Park regeneration scheme.

Issuing a decision on the 86m tall block last month (30 November), planning inspector Paul Griffiths said the development ‘would have a significantly positive impact on the character and appearance of the area’ through its design.

Griffiths said ACME’s proposal would also stand in contrast to the rest of Lendlease’s Elephant Park scheme, which he described as ‘somewhat dry’ without a building that ‘stands apart, as a focal point’.

He said: ‘I do not suggest that is necessarily a failing of the development, nor that continuing in the same idiom would be a mistake, in design terms, but it does mean that there is the potential to provide a pleasing contrast or counterpoint on Plot H1.’

Lendlease submitted ACME’s designs for the five-sided plot – the final piece of the Elephant Park scheme to be completed – in May 2021 following feedback from Southwark’s design review panel which led to the designs being tweaked so they stepped back more.

Southwark Council’s planning had described ACME’s design as ‘distinctive, characterful and highly articulated’, and ‘a fitting final piece of the Elephant Park masterplan contributing positively to the commercial vitality of the area’.

But councillors were not persuaded and, in light of more than 430 objections, rejected the development after nearly four and a half hours of debate.

A spokesperson for Lendlease said: ‘We’ve been working in partnership with Southwark Council to deliver a thoughtful, community-led regeneration at Elephant Park for over a decade and this new office building is one of the final pieces of the puzzle.

‘On a project that is delivering over 3,000 new homes in central London, this building will complement the emerging town centre development and help local independent businesses to thrive, as well as provide a new community health hub.

‘With workspace for up to 4,000 people, it will drive footfall to the retailers, first-rate leisure amenities and world-class education in the surrounding area; and we know it will be a significant draw for businesses seeking space for their teams in a zone one location.’