For many people, Elephant and Castle is purely a transport interchange or a place to pass through on the bus or a train.
The area is probably Europe’s busiest bus interchange and its physical form has been defined by, and dominated by its road system. Until now, this has pushed the thousands of people who move around the area to the margins; secondary to the movement of vehicles.
All that is changing. The vision for the Elephant is to create a great town centre that feels like it is planned for people. A place that’s enjoyable to be in, not just pass through.
Part of the transformation has been a radical change to the area’s ‘northern roundabout’, to reduce the impact of traffic and make the area feel cleaner and greener. Transport for London has removed the roundabout, forming a new ‘peninsular’, and with it, the creation of a major new public space; Elephant Square.
For the first time since the 1960s, all pedestrian crossings are now at street level, not through a network of underpasses. There are also new dedicated and direct cycle routes through the area, improving cycle safety.
In all, some £150m is being invested
In all, £150m is being invested in transport, including the road network and the spaces around it. A significant part of this will be the improvements to public realm, with places to sit, good design of the new and existing public spaces, and planting across the area. This will not only form an attractive backdrop but also to help soak up traffic noise and emissions.
Better walking and connectivity
Equally important are the changes helping to make better connections across the area, linking different transport modes, while new signage (both temporary and permanent) will help visitors move through the area.
New routes are being opened up, and many of the developments have been designed to re-establish the street pattern that was lost with the building of the shopping centre and the road network. These will include re-establishing the connection between Walworth Road and the Elephant and Castle town centre and reintroducing the connections to the wider road and pedestrian network.
The redevelopment of the shopping centre will also include a new vastly improved entrance to the Northern Line underground station, as well as better connections to the Elephant and Castle mainline station.
A green place to live and visit
Indeed, this is just part of the major investment across the district’s public realm. The jewel in the crown is Lendlease’s Elephant Park scheme, which will have at its core a new 1.5 hectacre public park. This is the largest new park in central London for 70 years and, of the 400 trees across the park, 122 are mature trees retained from the former Heygate Estate.
There is also an extensive tree planting programme elsewhere, with 1200 new trees being planted in total. Investment is going into open spaces at Pullens Gardens, Victory Square, Dickens Square, Nursery Row Park, Newington Gardens and St Mary’s Churchyard (the first phase of which has been completed).
London is placing more and more emphasis on attractive and walkable streets and neighbourhoods, designed for people on foot, rather than just vehicles. Elephant and Castle is a vital part of that change.