What are we fighting for?

Canada Water must not become Canary Wharf II

British Land with its Canada Water Masterplan is proposing to build a second Canary Wharf in our neighbourhood. Ignoring the wishes of local residents looming skyscrapers and bulky office blocks are projected to be signed off by Southwark Council unless we can stop them.

We believe firmly in the once-in-a-generation opportunity presented by redeveloping Canada Water, and are strongly in favour of creating more housing, retail, and office space for local residents and businesses. British Land and Southwark Council have a wonderful opportunity to break the mould, and deliver a redevelopment plan which meets future needs without disadvantaging current local residents. But what we have seen so far does not meet either current or future local needs.

New buildings – heights and types

We are appalled by the height and massing of proposed new developments, with tower blocks and office buildings built to overshadow existing homes. We are watching to see what is proposed for the Rotherhithe Police Station site and the current Seven Islands Leisure Centre site and are concerned that the current residential, low rise and historical nature of our area will be compromised by new buildings out of proportion to existing buildings.

As local residents ourselves, we understand the need for new, high-quality, high-density development. Four to six-storey development is the standard for the area, from pre-war (Orchard House), post-war (Courthope House) and more recent development such as the Lodge building. This ties in with the historic character of the area, and fits with existing listed buildings on Lower Road.

 Likewise, there is no clarity on housing mix – we fear that the high rises will become empty luxury flats. Overpriced, empty buildings overshadowing existing homes is not what London needs.

No new building on – or adjoining – Lower Road should be higher than 4 storeys.

A firm commitment to social and affordable housing being part of the first wave of development must be given.

Leisure Centre

The proposals for a new leisure centre continue to be unfit for purpose. Southwark Council and British Land want to close down Seven Islands. They think we should be happy with a smaller pool tucked away in the basement of an office block.

The previous (2017) consultation was wrong not to include the current Seven Islands site as an option. Why not ask the existing users whether they mind a break in service rather than using that as a pretext to sell off the existing site and build something inferior?

The facilities themselves have also never been consulted on – a smaller or like-for-like replacement won’t be big enough to support new residents, let alone the all the office workers in the proposed development.

proper consultation on the new leisure facilities is needed – and they need to be fit for future growth in the area.

Proximity

 The quiet, residential, cul-de-sac Hothfield Place is going to be overshadowed by a bulky office block. The proposed new building is claustrophobically close to houses and will box in the whole road.  The noisy, smelly, service road – goods-in, rubbish-out – will be troublingly close to the homes on Hothfield Place.

The full impact of the Masterplan on the western edge is not known because there is no vision for Hothfield Place, Ada’s Garden or the existing safe cycle-friendly access route. We believe this is salami-slicing – deliberately taking a piecemeal approach to wear down local residents with consultation after consultation.

BL want to wait until plans are drawn up for plot B to propose what happens to Hothfield place but these are apparently likely to take several years.  Other parts of the Masterplan have lovely drawings imagining the future – why not the part that most affects existing residents? We are not happy with a ‘let’s not worry about that now’ approach.

For Orchard House residents, the prospect of access being opened up at the back of their property from the back of the Dock offices is a grave concern.

A clear and detailed plan for all parts of the Masterplan site adjoining existing homes – now, not later

Infrastructure

How can planning permission be sought for the first buildings without any firm commitments in the wider plan to infrastructure such as health centres/school places/other leisure facilities and solutions to the dire problem of transport capacity?

It is already impossible to rely on getting into Canada Water in the morning rush hour – the Brunel Bridge, Crossrail, and Cycle Superhighway 4 may help, but won’t do much to alleviate the Overground route.

We understand many of the new developments may not have parking – this is a national approach to reduce reliance on cars. It makes sense. But what has been done to ensure – for example – enough parking for the new shops, to replace what is being lost? Or to ensure adequate cycle parking and connectivity across the area?

Across the Thames, the Isle of Dogs presents a cautionary example. Housing thrown up without regard for infrastructure means that transport GPs, dentists, schools and all local facilities are at bursting point. We cannot afford to repeat that mistake in Canada Water.

A joined-up plan for infrastructure – keeping Canada Water fit for purpose as a residential, shopping, leisure and business destination 

Consultation

We respect the difficulties British Land must have in raising awareness, and getting residents interested to respond. But this could be done much better than the current ‘death by PowerPoint’ approach. More concise documentation, more follow-up with residents, and a broader choice of channels would go a long way to improving engagement.

Having spent significant time engaging with British Land and having had a community meeting promised, we were not happy to find that only some households had been invited to residents events during the consultation, that invitations were hand delivered and looked like junk mail and that two separate sessions were held in an attempt to focus smaller numbers on only one area of the new plans. Single flyers are not enough – British Land should ensure a genuine focus on getting people to attend.

The Masterplan represents a colossal change to the area that we know and love. There is a massive opportunity to get this right – to deliver thousands of new homes, thousands of square feet of business space – without upsetting existing local residents. But British Land seem unable or unwilling to embrace that opportunity.

We fear that the current piecemeal approach is intended to wear down local residents, and that the consultations act solely as a fig-leaf for the aim to shoehorn in luxury flats.

BL might be hoping that we start suffering from consultation fatigue but all that has been achieved is a renewed energy in our group to campaign for a Masterplan that recognises that there is an existing community here that cannot be ignored.

Proper engagement with the community that is already here.

 

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