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Universities are becoming the acceptable face of gentrification

The great redevelopment plans that are carried out at the expense of the existing communities have been a well-known subject in London for many years, from Haringey to Heygate. But worryingly, universities are getting involved in the act.

Prestigious institutions such as the University of Arts of London (UAL) and University College London (UCL) have partnered with real estate developers, using their public position to cover up gentrification.

In Southwark, UAL has established a partnership with Delancey, a property company that avoids taxes, in a new plan to redevelop the Elephant and Castle shopping center, which currently houses 70 local and mostly BME-owned businesses, in apartments luxury. In exchange, the UAL's London College of Communication (LCC), which is located across the street from the shopping center, will get a new building on the site.

The development will create almost 1000 new luxury apartments, but only 33 houses have been included in the plans at affordable prices. No clear relocation plans have been made for businesses and merchants on the shopping center site and no right of return has been guaranteed, with only 10% of the new planned points of sale available at affordable prices. Like many boards, Southwark has a rule that all new housing developments must have at least 35 percent of new housing available at a social rental price. But Delancey has found a loophole that allows them to use their own definition and cut this to only 3 percent; this gap is the argument that a new university campus is an invaluable asset to the community.

The planning committee of the Southwark Council voted four votes against three on January 17, but Delancey later made clear in a public statement that he will contest the validity of the vote at a council meeting on January 30.

UAL made it clear in the meetings with the representatives of the Students and Trade Unions that maintain the plan despite the vote. Delancey "is proud of the proposals", which "are ambitious, innovative and offer great benefits for a wide range of people who want to live, work and learn at The Elephant", while UAL stressed the importance of ensuring that the LCC be retained in the area so that he can continue his various outreach projects in the community.

While UAL is presented as the heart of the community at Elephant and Castle and makes great commitments to social justice and expanding participation in its prospectus and website, many people fear that this plan will directly boost the working class. and BME communities outside the area, by closing businesses in the mall and the market outside of it, while making homes in the area inaccessible. Meanwhile, Delancey is ready to get £ 154m in profits from the sale of these luxury apartments.

For the Southwark locals, this plan brings back painful memories of previous regeneration schemes in the area. As of 2011, the Heygate town hall property was demolished in stages, to be replaced by the luxury complex Lendlease's Elephant Park, while its 3,000 residents were "settled" outside the district. The development was scheduled to meet 35 percent of Southwark's income, but Lendlease found a gap and by the time the final floor was sold in 2017, not a single social income house had been made available to him.

The last decade has seen a slow transformation of Elephant and Castle, not to mention the rest of London. Social housing, affordable retail and community facilities have been replaced by gleaming luxury apartment buildings, independent cinemas and chain cafes. Regeneration in this form, even when delivered without active displacement, too often excludes residents there before, who find themselves at a price outside their communities.

The new ULC LCC campus is only the latest in a series of regeneration plans proposed by the universities of London in conjunction with the main developers of properties. In 2011, UCL announced plans to build its new £ 1bn Stratford campus at the Carpenters Estate site in Newham, home to more than 700 residents who would be "settled" from the area.

Although UCL and Newham Council presented the plan as a great opportunity for the area, part of its broader regeneration scheme for the area that started with the Olympic Games site and was followed by the gigantic Stratford Westfield shopping center, the plans were they met with great resistance from the community and UCL was forced to eliminate the plan in 2013 after having been publicly criticized.

But five years later UCL is back in Stratford again, this time hand in hand with Delancey. In 2011, the company and the investor arm of the ruling family of Qatar jointly purchased the Athletes' Village from the 2012 Olympic Games in Stratford to the Government at a loss of £ 275 million for the taxpayer. Renowned as "Here East", the former Athletes' Village will soon house the new UCL East campus of UCL, as well as Loughborough University in London and a large number of digital companies.

Jamie Ritblat, CEO of Delancey, and his father John Ritblat, former CEO and current president of Honoury of lead developer British Land, sit on the boards, boards and property planning committees of King's College London, London Business School, the Royal Academy of Music, International Students House, Wallace Collection, Southbank Center, British Library and Tate Foundation.

Connections between developers and universities have become common with universities, such as UCL, which directly supervise the planning of developments that have the potential to displace local communities. But whichever strategy they choose to adopt, it seems clear that our educational institutions have become a central part of the process of development and gentrification of property that some consider tearing apart the social fabric of London.

Sahaya James is the Campaign Officer in Arts SU, Student Union of UAL, member of the National Committee of National Campaign for Rates and Courts and is presented as president of NUS

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