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Elephant Park project director - talking sustainability, Covid and community

Elephant & Castle is one of the most interesting and colourful parts of London, with a fascinating history and a wonderfully diverse population. Some label it a horrible eyesore, while others praise its grit and authenticity and argue that regeneration and gentrification is happening too fast and pushing lower income people out in favour of glossy towers and fancy restaurants aimed at young professionals.

Here, we speak to Kristy Lansdown, Lendlease's project director of Elephant Park, one of the area's largest regeneration schemes, about sustainability, community, Covid impact and the latest phase of development.

Q: How important are sustainability and eco-friendliness when regenerating an area? Do buyers, tenants and investors now expect these things as standard?


At Elephant Park, Lendlease’s ambition and vision for the project has been to set new standards for sustainable, urban development. We’re doing this, not just because we recognise the responsibility we have as a global property company to do everything we can to help limit the impacts of climate change, but also because we’ve seen that it’s increasingly important for our residents, tenants, investors and for the community we’re working with too.

The benefits of creating a neighbourhood that  connects people with nature, is actively minimising carbon emissions, and is resilient to climate change, are huge. 

The team has set itself the high ambition of being among the most sustainable inner-city urban regeneration projects in the world. In practice, this means a low-carbon piece of city that improves air quality, becomes a healthier place to live or work and significantly reduces the use of non-renewable resources.

The landscape and public spaces in Elephant Park will be a key feature of the completed development, playing a crucial part in mitigating the impacts of climate change, providing new habitats for wildlife, and creating a more engaging and inclusive environment to support community wellbeing.

At Elephant Park, our aim is to be a net zero carbon community in operation by 2025. We are already making substantial progress towards this, with all homes and businesses being supplied with net-zero heating and hot water, public spaces being lit by renewable electricity, and we’re continuing to work with our tenants to bring them on the journey with us too.

Q: Elephant & Castle has long suffered a mixed reputation - with some seeing it as an eyesore, and others seeing it as a place full of character and heart - how do you view its regeneration?

We have always been immensely sensitive to the character and spirit of Elephant & Castle. It’s a place rich with history. Since the 18th century it has been a busy intersection for travellers to London but before that it had a past as a key supplier of fruit, vegetables and flowers to Covent Garden’s markets. 

It’s also important to understand that our plans have been influenced by the community every step of the way, and the regeneration of the area is all the better for that community input.

One area we’re particularly proud of is the approach we’ve taken to our retail mix. Elephant Park is home to a number of local, independent businesses, some of whom we have supported even since they were taking temporary, incubator space with us at the pop-up meanwhile project, Artworks Elephant. 

It has also been really important to us that we include community spaces as part of that retail mix and are delighted that Southwark Council have opened the new Walworth Library and Southwark Heritage Centre at Elephant Park. When it comes to engaging with your community, retail, F&B, and leisure all play an important role, but in new developments culture and heritage are often overlooked. Having a heritage centre and library is a key part of our scheme given it is a place that is about inspiring people’s sense of pride in their community.

Elephant Park also provided an opportunity to return to the community that connection with nature which is an intrinsic part of the area’s history. Across Elephant Park we’ve retained over 120 mature trees from the area, and planted a further 1,300 new ones, and these are of great importance in helping to mitigate climate change and air pollution, whilst also improving people’s mental wellbeing.

Q: Lendlease has some bold targets when it comes to carbon emissions - how will this be achieved?

At Lendlease we are aware that our industry contributes 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions from construction processes, manufacturing of materials, and operational emissions. 

We have a responsibility to make sure that these places are fit for the future, and the company has pledged to do everything in its power to help prevent the world from reaching dangerous and irreversible levels of climate change. We have set targets to be Net Zero by 2025 for Scopes 1 and 2, and Absolute Zero Carbon, Scopes 1, 2 and 3, by 2040. 

These are ambitious targets, and whilst some actions we need to take to meet these can be taken immediately, others are not within our direct control right now. 

Our new homes will be at least 35% more energy efficient than current regulations require and use 30% less water than the average London household. They will be connected to the Elephant Park energy hub, a combined heat and power plant that will deliver low carbon, heat and hot water to residents and businesses across Elephant Park, with the capacity to connect into a further 1,000 homes across the Elephant & Castle Opportunity Area.

The landscape and public spaces in Elephant Park will be a key feature of the completed development, playing a crucial part in mitigating the impacts of climate change by sequestering carbon, providing new habitats for wildlife, and creating a healthier and more pleasant environment.

Q: You say community is at the core of what you're doing with Elephant Park - can you tell us more?

We have sustainable, social outcomes for the community top of mind in all decisions we make. We aim to create a place at Elephant Park where everyone feels welcome and has a reason for spending time there. We have also undertaken extensive community consultation through all stages of the project to date and our plans have been influenced by the community every step of the way.

For example, in response to community consultation during early stages of the project, we adapted the masterplan to devote almost half the land area of the development to public realm, comprising over 11 acres of new and improved public spaces including a new park, new playgrounds and pocket parks as well as new retail streets and civic squares. This allowed us to retain over 120 mature trees across the site, which was incredibly important to the local community. 

We are also committed to creating sustainable employment opportunities for the community. Over 1,500 Southwark residents have gained employment at Elephant Park to date, with over half of those from previously unemployed backgrounds, and training has been delivered to over 9,500 people through the Southwark Construction Skills Centre, located on the project.”

Q: What does the latest phase of development at Elephant Park involve?

Elephant Park has now passed the half-way point of the project, marked this summer by the completion and opening of a brand new two-acre park, and our new residential offering, Park Central East and Park Central West, brought to market by Lendlease’s new build to rent product, Living By Lendlease. 

A landmark feature of the park, Elephant Springs, a rocky, watery, playscape for people of all ages to enjoy was opened last month and has already become a key destination for Londoners and visitors looking to cool off in the city over the summer.

Under construction we have plot H11A which will be additional Living by Lendlease properties and new affordable housing and we have just started construction this week on our latest phase known as Park & Sayer, which also enjoys direct park frontage and includes a new residential offering with homes currently available to purchase.

Q: Has Covid had any impact on this, or changed EP's priorities?

Health & Safety has always been and always will be Lendlease’s number one priority, and we’ve put in place a number of measures across Elephant Park to best protect our people, sub-contractors, residents and customers as well as the communities in which we operate. 

In terms of wellbeing and our focus on the design of quality public spaces, it has long been known that proximity to green space and nature can have a significantly positive impact on mental and physical wellbeing, and this is just one of the reasons that Lendlease has gone to great lengths to make Elephant Park such a green and leafy environment to be in.

In this post-Covid world, however, it is more important than ever that people have access to green spaces, fresh air and the outdoors, to provide healthy environments to minimise the spread of infections. Creating areas of high-quality public realm that encourages activities outside rather than indoors is just one way to promote a healthy lifestyle and we hope that our new park and Elephant Springs will play a part in this outdoor experience and have a positive impact on health and wellbeing.

We’re also very proud that against the backdrop of the pandemic we’ve continued to progress the build program, open our glorious new park and Elephant Springs, alongside completing over 650 new rental homes in Park Central East and Park Central West and additional affordable housing.


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