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.

seven-islands-diving-boards

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:

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/campaigners-across-london-fight-to-save-their-community-s-green-spaces-a3230926.htm2016-04-16 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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