Advice for responding to the Canada Water Masterplan

What is it?

A hybrid application which is in outline for most of the huge 45-acre site of Surrey Quays Shopping Centre and car park and the Surrey Quays Leisure Park behind it but detailed for three sites:

  • A1 is the 33-storey residential tower and office buildings planned for the Overflow Car Park in front of the Dock Office
  • A2 is the Leisure Centre and Office block planned for the Tesco filling station
  • K1 is the social housing block on Robert’s Close next to Russia Dock Woodland.

These sites will be the first to be built if permission is given. The rest will come forward for future planning applications BUT the massing and location of these plots will be fixed. So if you don’t like the size or location of a building which is only in outline now, you have to speak out now.

Where do I find it?

Online until 20th July here

Note that there is a 5000 character limit if you respond online. You can therefore also email the planning officer: or write to him at the Council offices.

It is likely that he will not write his report till after the summer and has given assurances that he will take account submissions made after 20th July. We recommend doing this by the end of August at the latest.

If you want more information on how to makes sense of the planning documents, see this excellent advice:

What can I object to?

The planning officer will only take into account Material Planning Considerations. Here is a briefing on what these are. If you think you, the community, the environment or our infrastructure will be harmed in any way, say so and focus on the outcome of the plans on these areas. In other words, list the harm and then the effect of it.

As a community, we have workshopped some responses to the plan which you will have received if you are on our mailing list. Contact to join our list and receive a copy.

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Other Open Space: a new campaign for Ada’s Garden

Canada Water West Residents Action Group is encouraging our supporters to request ‘Other Open Space’ status for Ada’s Garden, the woodland on the western edge of the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre. The site was previously under threat of destruction to make way for a new leisure centre – a plan which we persuaded Southwark Council to abandon last year.

We hope that a designation of ‘Other Open Space’ will safeguard this wildlife area from other forms of development in the future.

Supporters can request this by responding to the New Southwark Plan consultation by the end of Friday 28th April.  Follow the link and enter your comments in support in the ‘Rotherhithe’ section of the consultation form.

Our own submission highlighted the biodiversity of the area, its role in reducing pollution and improving health, and the visual interest it provides pedestrians and cyclists on the Prince of Orange Walkway to the Shopping Centre.

We also hope that it will allow the community help persuade British Land to conduct more active ecological management of the site, or to allow a community gardening project. The appetite for this was demonstrated by a ‘guerrilla gardening’ event in April 2016 which saw 20 volunteers clear litter, plant further wildflowers, put up bird feeders and a bee hotel.

Furthermore, with the huge levels of development to come as part of the Canada Water AAP, other trees in the vicinity will be lost – for example the avenue of 18 lime trees leading from this site to the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre. While new trees will be promised as part of the plans, there will be a gap of several years before they are planted and they will not be as mature as the trees that they replace.

Here is some of what we put in our submission:

Ada’s Garden is an important home for wildlife because it is untended and has grown wild. It therefore provides a woodland habitat that is distinct and unlike others in the vicinity. The area also forms a potential habitat corridor within an otherwise urbanised location.

Within the last 12 months, the following bird species have been spotted: dunnock, wren, blackbird, wood pigeon, robin, greater spotted woodpecker, chaffinch, great tits. The dunnock is a species of principal importance under S.41 of the NERC Act (2006) and has been placed on the Amber List of birds of conservation concern.

There is evidence from residents’ observation that nesting is taking place with young robin and tits spotted in summer 2016. There is an abundance of birdsong which can be heard from the Tesco car park. Ada’s Garden also supports a high level of insect life and mammals such as squirrels and foxes.

In an ecological report conducted by Watermans in September 2015, the following tree species were noted: sycamore, yew, cherry, ash, field maple Acer campestre and Norway maple Acer platanoides. There are also a variety of shrubs, and wildflowers including bluebells and wild garlic in the spring.

Ada’s Garden provides a dense green screen and natural amenity for residents of Lower Road, China Hall Mews, Hithe Grove and Hothfield Place whose properties border the area on its western edge. For the hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists using the Prince of Orange Walkway on its eastern edge each day, it provides a calm green haven. The area is filled with birdsong and changes with the seasons to provide visual interest to the built environment.

This area is subject to a high level of pollution and noise from the busy Lower Road arterial route (A200) which, as an approach to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, is frequently gridlocked. It is essential, for reasons of reducing pollution and safeguarding the health of residents that the trees are kept for their environmental benefits.

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Seven Islands in its heyday: what we’ve lost and what we need to fight for

A supporter recently sent me the  official opening brochure from 1965 for the Seven Islands Leisure Centre (then called the Rotherhithe Baths and Assembly Hall).

With the Centre currently shut for refurbishment and its future uncertain, it is fascinating to be reminded of what it once was: a state of the art community asset with a range of facilities including the pool with three diving boards, a sun deck, steam baths and cafeteria.


Extract from the brochure showing the innovative diving boards (now lost)

Over time the facilities have degraded and the number of facilities have shrunk. It’s not clear what the current refurbishment will bring and how many years extra life it will bestow. Southwark Council has asked the leaseholders of the Canada Water Masterplan site, British Land, to identify a new location for a leisure centre.

Reading the 1965 brochure is a salutary reminder that as a community we must ensure that facilities are maintained and not allowed to be taken away from us, especially as the population of our area is set to increase.

Whether the new leisure centre being mooted for Canada Water is built on the Seven Islands site or not, as a community we must ensure that the replacement facilities are as worthy of celebrating as the original was in 1965.

Catherine Whitaker, Chair

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Council has change of heart on leisure centre site

After over a year of campaigning, we were delighted to hear today from Mark Williams, Cabinet Member for New Homes and Regeneration, that he has changed his mind about the Council’s ‘preferred’ site for a new leisure centre for Canada Water. Last August Mr Williams decided without consultation that the new building should be located on the wildlife area behind homes in Hothfield Place, Hithe Grove and China Hall Mews. Canada Water West was formed to oppose the plans to move the Seven Islands Leisure Centre and destroy the trees and wildlife on the site that is now known as Ada’s Garden.

After a battle to ensure that a fair consultation took place, residents were consulted during a series of events this spring and summer. The first inkling we had that our campaigning was paying off was during a meeting on 28th June when Mr Williams said he would consider other sites. Today we heard that he has listened to the community and the 60% of people who opposed the plans and has taken Ada’s Garden off the table as an option.

We are thankful to everyone who has turned up at events to support us, who has written to express support and who let their voice be heard during consultation. It is heartening to know that community action can pay off.

Of course our campaign doesn’t end here. We will continue to campaign to ensure that NO development threatens Ada’s Garden. And just as importantly, we need to ensure that all our members and supporters in Lower Road, Ann Moss Way and Gomm Road are properly consulted about the existing leisure centre site. Many support keeping the leisure facilities where they are and hope that as new plans emerge for the Canada Water Masterplan, lesson are learnt about engaging the community from the outset.

Click here for the full text of the email from Cllr Williams

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Guerrilla Gardening event attracts the attention of the Evening Standard

Under the headline “Campaigners across London fight to save their community’s green spaces” the Evening Standard featured our campaign to save Ada’s Garden in a video published online on 29th April.

You can watch the video here and see footage of our recent guerrilla gardening event here: 14.51.14l

Volunteers  braved April showers to come together to show that the wildlife area at the back of our homes is a valued resource that we do not want to loose. We collected sacks of litter, cleared dead growth, planted and sowed wildflowers and erected our beautiful hand-crafted oak sign. We also put up bird feeders, two bird boxes and a wonderful bee hotel. To judge by the birdsong from Ada’s Garden this spring, our efforts are being appreciated!

The last community meeting on the location of the new Leisure Centre was held on 30th March and was very well attended by local residents who were overwhelmingly against the Council’s plans to close Seven Islands and build the new centre on Ada’s Garden. Arguments against the plan came from all angles, from residents bewildered about why it has to be built on top of their homes to leisure centre users who want to know why the community hasn’t been consulted about what facilities will be on offer. Questions were also raised about transport, the prominence of the location, the loss of the trees, disabled access and the fact that the Council has already made its decision and is justifying it retrospectively.

We are waiting for the promised follow up meeting and have been told this will be after the Mayoral and GLA elections on May 5th.




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Residents dedicate threatened wildlife area to famed local campaigner Ada Salter

ada_garden_bYesterday supporters of Canada Water West gathered to unveil a beautiful  handcrafted oak sign to rename a wildlife area, situated on the edge of the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, “Ada’s Garden”. We are highlighting the importance of the site to the local community, in the hope that even more people will respond to a Southwark Council consultation that could yet save it from being cut down.

British Land, the owner of the shopping centre, abruptly removed a sign that had been located there just over a year ago. The old sign explained how the wildlife area helped “support and safeguard the diversity of plant and animal life”. We see this every day with  dunnocks, blue tits, wrens, robins, wood pigeons and blackbirds making regular appearances. The old sign was removed shortly after it emerged that Southwark Council, British Land’s development partner, wanted to cut down the trees to build a replacement for the Seven Islands leisure centre.

The old wildlife area sign

The old wildlife area sign

The beautiful new sign

The beautiful new sign







The naming of the garden  is a 150th birthday tribute to Ada Salter (1866 – 1942) who planted thousands of trees locally and understood the importance of areas like this for people’s wellbeing. Ada was the first woman Mayor in London (Bermondsey, 1922) and a social and environmental campaigner. “The cultivation of flowers and trees is a civic duty,” she said. Ada had a vision for a garden city and cared deeply about our area.

The Council’s consultation on the site of the new leisure centre glosses over the fact that the area is full of mature trees and is a rare wild space that cannot be replaced. It claims that there is no other suitable location on the 45-acre Canada Water Masterplan area.

You can help save Ada’s Garden by responding to the  consultation here and answering ‘No’ to Question 2. The consultation closes on 4th April.

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Consultation now open: speak up to save our trees!

DSC03307Southwark Council has now opened its consultation on its plan to cut down dozens of trees and destroy a wildlife area to move the Seven Islands leisure centre to a vastly inferior site. You can find the consultation by clicking here.

When you go to this site, don’t be fooled by the council’s boasts about the shiny new facilities that the new leisure centre will have. This is not about whether or not a new leisure centre is going to be built: it is about where it is to be located. Continue reading

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The latest from British Land and Bye bye trees, hello traffic

In December members of our campaign team met with representatives of British Land to get more information about the consultation process on the Canada Water Masterplan.

The headline from the meeting is that British Land is proposing to turn Deal Porters Way – currently the 5mph service road at the back of the Shopping Centre car park into a bus route. If you live between Lower Road and the Shopping Centre site, you face the awful prospect of having major roads both in front and behind your home – an island surrounded by traffic. We can’t help feeling that plans like this show that the area is being developed for the benefit of the residents and businesses that will come to the area rather than the existing community.

Full notes on the meeting are available here.

Consultation on the Masterplan and the site of the new leisure centre will begin next month. We’ll be fighting to ensure that our community doesn’t see our quality of life diminished in the rush to ‘regenerate’ our area.

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Key Southwark Council committee says Seven Islands is “most plausible” site for new leisure centre

The trees at risk are outlined in red in this Google Earth image (copyright Google)

So, it appears that the committee tasked with holding Southwark Council to account agrees with us on a pretty major point.

The Southwark Council Oversight and Scrutiny Committee in recent days said that “the most plausible option” for a new leisure centre is the total redevelopment of the Seven Islands site.

This is part of the revised recommendations it issued after grilling Councillor Mark Williams, the cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, last month on the council’s deeply controversial plan to cut down dozens of trees and build it on a wildlife area (outlined in red) instead.

You can find all the committee’s recommendations here.

Several other points leap out:

1. The committee gives support to our assertion that the council documents prepared so far on the matter have been skewed towards rubbishing any site that is not the wildlife area – it recommends that pros are listed as well as cons in a forthcoming consultation;

2. The council is being told to explain why it changed its mind about the car park diagonally opposite the library, given that the extensive research it did in 2013 had identified this as the best site for the leisure centre (research that came to light in a hidden document only released after a Freedom of Information Act request);

3. Frustratingly, Councillor Williams has been allowed to disregard the committee’s previous recommendation that he publicly commit to reviewing the preferred site if there were overwhelming public opposition – this has now been watered down to a feeble request that he merely “listen to the consultation”.

There is now going to be a public consultation on the council’s determination to build on the wildlife area. It has all the makings of a rubber-stamping exercise for a decision it has already taken – unless local people make themselves heard.

The Canada Water West Residents Action Group will be going door to door during the consultation period to fight this half-baked scheme and we’d be enormously grateful if more people got in touch to offer help. Please email

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The hidden Southwark Council document that proves its plan to replace Seven Islands leisure centre is half-baked

In response to a freedom of information act request, Southwark Council has released a document drawn up as recently as November 2013 that examined its options for renewing or replacing the Seven Islands leisure centre.

The research, carried out by AFLS+P Architects, looked at three sites for a new leisure centre (see excerpt below). Not one of them was the wildlife area site on the edge of the Surrey Quays shopping centre site that it now wants to chop down.

Screenshot of three site options in Nov 2013 document

The document revealed that the council had identified three potential sites that could accommodate a new leisure centre at Canada Water.

The first was the site of the current Seven Islands leisure centre on Lower Road. The second (site 2 on the picture above) was opposite the Canada Water bus station and library on the shopping centre’s overflow car park. The third was part of Harmsworth Quay.

Nowhere in the document did the council or its architect advisers discuss the wildlife area site that has suddenly emerged as the council’s favourite location for a new leisure centre!

But just a year and a half after this detailed research was published, the council has decided to ignore the three sites it examined at length and push to locate the leisure centre on this wildlife area instead, which would involve cutting down dozens of trees and damaging an established ecosystem of plants and animals.

To us, it appears that this u-turn has clearly come about because Southwark Council now wants to use the Canada Water regeneration as a cash cow – no matter what the impact on the scheme’s neighbours, who face having a huge building erected claustrophically close to their back doors.

At a meeting of the Southwark Council oversight and scrutiny committee last week, the Canada Water West Residents Action Group did not receive a satisfactory answer as to why the council was now pursuing this controversial site.

Even worse, at the meeting Southwark Council refused to accept a recommendation made by its own oversight and scrutiny committee when it analysed the leisure centre issue last month.

The committee had called on Councillor Mark Williams, the cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, to give a public commitment that he would review his preference for the wildlife area site if the controversial plan received overwhelming public opposition in a forthcoming consultation.

Yet Cllr Williams insisted that he should not be bound by such an undertaking, claiming that it could disadvantage the council in commercial negotiations with British Land, the developer that is responsible for the lion’s share of the Canada Water regeneration.

The Canada Water Residents Action Group will, however, continue to fight this shortsighted plan, believing that the council needs to think less about commercial considerations and more about local residents.

After all, the council’s own research has shown that the wildlife area site is not the first choice, second choice or even third choice for a vital new facility for the community.

You can read the research that was unearthed by the freedom of information act request here.

Southwark News also ran a short piece on the latest oversight and scrutiny committee meeting here.

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Council rejects opportunity to rethink Seven Islands plan

At October’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, Cllr Mark Williams and his team will again be justifying his decision to build a new leisure centre on top of the Surrey Quays Wildlife Area. He has spent a month reflecting on his decision and doing the work that was missing in his previous report i.e. naming alternative sites and discussing their merits.

We have been promised a full presentation tomorrow (20th October) which will include architectural sketches of the new leisure centre and more information on the facilities themselves.

Make sure you’re there to hear it first hand. Just go to the reception at the Council’s offices (160 Tooley St) and ask for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

We still have lots of questions which we hope get answered tomorrow and whatever happens, we will fight on to prevent the destruction of trees and the relocation of the leisure centre.

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Residents and Supporters meeting 12th October

Come along to the Mayflower TRA Hall in Neptune Street at 7pm to meet the group and some of your neighbours. We’ll be serving food and drink and bringing the community up to speed on our campaign so far. If you want to come to volunteer your time or your ideas, this is a great place to get started. Everyone welcome.

Full details here

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Southwark Council promises to look again at alternatives to building leisure centre on wildlife area

The trees at risk are outlined in red in this Google Earth image (copyright Google)

We have received an email from Southwark Council with the good news that it will go back and look again at alternatives to its plan to knock down Seven Islands and construct a replacement leisure centre on the Surrey Quays wildlife area.

The email, from Councillor Mark Williams, the Southwark Council cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, came after residents were able to present their case to the council’s Oversight and Scrutiny Committee meeting earlier this month.

He said it was clear at the meeting that “members and local residents have concerns about the council’s proposed preferred location of the new leisure centre”.

He added:

Therefore, given the ongoing public concern I will look again at all of the other sites we considered, look again at the emerging Masterplan of the wider redevelopment with British Land, to make sure that we have properly considered all of the options and are putting forward the best possible option. I will then go back to the Overview and Scrutiny committee later in October and report our findings. We will then undertake public consultation on both the location and the possible design for the new centre wherever that may be, including the best possible measures to mitigate any impact on residents. While I cannot commit to change the council’s preferred site, I hope that the steps I have outlined provides assurance to local residents that we will be as thorough as possible in reaching the best outcome for both yourselves and people from the wider area.

We welcome this move and will engage constructively in the hope we can secure a rethink.

Councillor Williams’ email followed confirmation on Friday of the resolution passed by the Oversight and Scrutiny Committee, which includes a recommendation that he gives a public commitment to review the council’s preferred site plan if it receives “overwhelming public opposition” in the forthcoming public consultation.

The four recommendations are listed below:


1. The consultation takes place at the same time for all residents in the affected area of the proposed site and those in the wider area.

2. In order to reassure affected residents regarding the consultation on the proposed new site for the Canada Water leisure centre, the cabinet member should give a public commitment to review the council’s decision to have a preferred site should the consultation receive overwhelming public opposition.

3. The consultation be amended to include details of the options that have been considered and rejected, including other sites within the footprint of the land where the council owns the freehold and whether or not the existing Seven Islands can be demolished and rebuilt, in addition to the preferred option of the council.

4. The consultation should include space for additional comments and suggestions to be put forward. This would include details of the options, including full costs for all options; and possible time scales for all options

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Canada Water Consultative Forum criticises Southwark Council plan at committee meeting

The Canada Water Consultative Forum was set up in 2000 to consider all the major plans and policies relating to the regeneration of the Canada Water area.

Its chair, Pauline Adenwalla, gave evidence to Southwark Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee earlier this month. She said:

In our opinion the decision to proceed with expensive consultation on the preferred site for the new Canada Water Leisure Centre is premature and based on a somewhat flawed report and jeopardises further meaningful consultation on the wider master plan.

British Land had been promising an Olympic-sized swimming pool when it won the bidding to redevelop the wider Canada Water area over a decade ago, she pointed out – that would have been 50m long rather than the 25m now being planned (which will also be a reduction on the 33m pool we have at Seven Islands currently).

She added:

A leisure centre in the ‘preferred location’ is likely to be airless and have very little natural light. Quite different to the current 7 Islands which has floor to ceiling windows on both sides and overlooks a garden.

She also drew attention to the uncertainty over whether Transport for London would agree to the new leisure centre being erected on the wildlife area, given how close that site is to its Overground track, tunnel and ventilation shaft.

The trees that the council now wants to cut down in the wildlife area were supposed to be preserved as a landscape buffer in the Canada Water Area Action Plan, she added. This area action plan was adopted by Southwark Council.

You can read her submission here. Or watch her evidence on video above.

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Survey shows overwhelming local opposition to plan to relocate Seven Islands

The Canada Water West Residents Action Group has canvassed more than 100 residents in Lower Road, Ann Moss Way, Gomm Road, Hothfield Place, Hithe Grove, China Hall Mews, Courthope House and Orchid House.

No-one was supportive of the plans to relocate the leisure centre. The majority of those canvassed were unaware of them before we brought it to their attention.

The survey was part of a presentation to Southwark Council’s Oversight and Scrutiny Committee by action group member Tom Holder earlier this month, in which he also highlighted the historical significance of the Seven Islands site, which was the Rotherhithe Slippers Baths as long ago as 1880.

He also drew attention to the crazy circular argument being deployed by Southwark Council: namely, that it did not make financial sense to rebuild the leisure centre because the council had decided to move it!

You can read his submission here. Or watch the video of his testimony above.

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Campaign to save Seven Islands leisure centre and Surrey Quays wildlife area appears to win concession

Rotherhithe residents at the committee meeting

Rotherhithe residents at the committee meeting

Last Monday’s meeting of the Southwark Council overview and scrutiny meeting gave us the chance to put the residents’ view to the council and listen to Councillor Mark Williams defend his decision to push for a resiting of the Seven Islands leisure centre to the Surrey Quays wildlife area without real consultation.

The result is that although consultation is going ahead concerning the preferred controversial new site, the committee made various recommendations including giving residents a chance to suggest alternatives. They have also asked Councillor Williams to publicly state that he will reconsider if opposition is “overwhelming”  – as we know that it is!

We are still waiting to see the final wording of the resolution passed by the committee but it appears to be a small concession. The meeting was also a great chance for us to show some of the wider council how united and fierce our opposition is.

After the meeting, Catherine Whitaker, spokesperson for the Canada Water West Residents Action Group, said:

“Local people are willing to take up the council’s challenge to prove that there is overwhelming opposition to the plan to tear down Seven Islands and relocate it on a wildlife area, destroying dozens of trees in the process. No-one we have canvassed locally supports the plan.” Continue reading

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Southwark Council plan is “called in”: now help us show councillors the strength of local feeling next Monday (Sept 7)

We have had some good news: the “calling in” of Southwark Council’s attempt to name the wildlife area by the Surrey Quays Tesco as its preferred site for a new leisure centre to replace Seven Islands.

This is a significant opportunity. We now need to redouble our efforts to get Seven Islands refurbished instead and save the wildlife area.

What does “calling in” mean?

Up until now, one councillor, Mark Williams, was set to decide on a preferred site, without consulting local residents or others in the borough first (or name what alternatives have been considered, if any). Continue reading

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Two more articles reporting on the battle to refurbish Seven Islands leisure centre and save the wildlife area

Southwark News story 2Southwark News has run another article on our cause, this time focusing on the strong case for refurbishing the Seven Islands leisure centre rather than tearing it down and building a new one on a wildlife area just metres from residents’ back doors.

It also highlights controversial comments by Southwark Council leader Peter John, who is accused of “trying to shut down discussion” of the issue. The article can be found here.

Meanwhile, The Wharf newspaper and website has also caught up with the growing local backlash against the Southwark Council and British Land plan. You can read that piece here.

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Southwark News reports on our battle to stop the wildlife area being cut down

Southwark News story

The influential Southwark News local paper has run a piece on our fight to protect the wildlife area from destruction by Southwark Council and British Land this week.

It has run both online and in a page eight spread in the newspaper. We are very grateful to Joey Millar, the reporter, for listening to us. You can read the article here.

To read more about the wildlife that is at risk, click here. More details about the site and what Southwark Council is planning are here.

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Choice of Seven Islands replacement site: a done deal?

Local residents campaigning against the destruction of the wildlife area

Local residents campaigning against the destruction of the wildlife area

When Southwark Council went public last week on its plan to cut down a wildlife area containing dozens of trees to build a replacement for Seven Islands leisure centre, it said there would be time to lobby it before a decision was made on its preferred site.

Specifically, it said that there would be “five clear working days” between the publication of the report outlining its preference and the taking of a decision, which was entrusted to Mark Williams, a councillor who is cabinet member for regeneration and new homes.

It also confirmed that this meant that the decision would not be taken before Thursday August 13.

Imagine the surprise of local residents to open a letter today from the same Mark Williams, dated August 5 – the same day as the report came out. It reads:

I am writing to invite you to a meeting to discuss my decision, as Cabinet Member for Regeneration and New Homes, to agree that the site shown on the reverse side of this letter is selected as the council’s preferred location for a new public leisure centre for Canada Water.

So the decision has already been taken. Even in the context of the woefully inadequate consultation that has gone on before, this is breathtaking.

The Canada Water West Residents Action Group has received great support in recent days after it revealed the damage that will be done to the local environment and local homes by this hasty process.

Please email Mark Williams ( and your local councillor to comment on the plans and register your opposition.

Update August 11: we are hearing that it is still important for as many people as possible to email Cllr Williams before 5pm August 12 laying out their concerns about the plan, its impact on them, and the adequacy of consultation – please don’t miss the deadline! 

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