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.
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.