Southwark Liberal Democrats' written response to British Land regarding the Updated Canada Water Masterplan.
Dear Miles Price,
Updated Canada Water Masterplan
We are contacting you on behalf of the Southwark Liberal Democrats in response to the updated Canada Water Masterplan.
We welcome British Land’s plans to develop the Rotherhithe area bringing with it new homes and jobs however are keen to ensure that any development is done ‘with’ local residents, and not ‘to’ them. We are pleased that British Land is holding this consultation with exhibitions displaying plans for the area. We are however concerned that the consultation period is short and taking place during a period running up to a General Election and recommend extending the consultation period to allow full resident participation.
Residents shared their concerns at the previous consultation about the height of the towers which are set to be built. Unfortunately these concerns will remain as the updated masterplan still contains tower blocks which are significantly higher than any current buildings in the area dwarfing many local homes.
We are pleased to see that British Land endeavours to implement a policy of 35% affordable housing for new homes however we would like to see more detail on what constitutes affordable. We are keen to ensure that any affordable housing that is built is ‘genuinely’ affordable. We hope that feedback from the previous consultation, which saw requests for social housing, will be adhered to. There is a dire need for more socially rented homes at council rents in the borough and we look forward to seeing additional detail on how British Land plans to incorporate social rented homes into their plans.
We also have serious concerns regarding the lack of additional social infrastructure currently outlined as part of the updated masterplan. With the growth in population, there will be increased pressure on both schools and GP surgeries in the area. In addition, transport infrastructure, particularly the Jubilee Line and local buses which are already under strain, will also see increased numbers using the services. Liberal Democrats continue to campaign for an additional circle shuttle bus around the peninsula and to relieve stress on current transport infrastructure.
We are also in full support of a new bridge from Rotherhithe peninsula to the north side of the Thames and were delighted to meet with Transport for London to hear that progress is being made to ensure that this is constructed. Like many residents, we would like to see the London Cycle Hire Scheme extended out to the peninsula and hope that this can be incorporated into any future plans.
Despite raising it in our response to the pervious consultation, we were disappointed to see no mention of the issues surrounding local water pressure and broadband speeds in the updated masterplan. Owing to the ongoing issues currently experienced by current local residents, these are two matters which need to be seriously examined.
We also noticed that there is no provision for the retention of the bingo hall as part of the updated plans. With both the Surrey Quays and Elephant & Castle bingo halls set to close, we worry that the elderly population, who regularly use these leisure facilities, may become isolated. We hope you will work with the owners of the bingo hall to provide alternative sites.
Liberal Democrat councillors have reservations about the location of a new leisure centre. The three sites currently under consideration all have issues which mean that they will not be suitable. As highlighted in our response to the previous consultation, like many residents, we feel the consultation plans give the impression that a decision on the site has been pre-determined. The seemingly preferred site of British Land at Site A is on a green space which is not apparent from the plans. We believe that the location of the existing leisure centre should be considered as a potential site. The position in which the leisure centre is currently found has been a site for a pool since the Rotherhithe Slipper’s Baths in 1880 and it would be a real shame to see this link to the past eroded. We also would like to see the site, which was found in the most northerly section of the overflow carpark, reconsidered. In addition to this, reasons for why this location was removed from the list of original proposals would be welcomed.
We are also disappointed to see that the original proposal for an Olympic-length (50 metre) swimming pool has been removed from plans. Providing an Olympic-length sized pool with a diving board would be a genuine improvement to current facilities not just in Rotherhithe but across the borough.
Reading the plans, it is clear that there needs to be additional detail on social infrastructure and any future plans need to carefully acknowledge how basic infrastructure is going to be improved in line with the increased population.
We seek assurances that the long standing proposal for a King’s College campus in the area does not get neglected. In addition, earlier versions of the masterplan included a ‘cultural space’ – we are disappointed that this space is been omitted from the latest consultation and hope it can be considered as part of the final planning application.
Liberal Democrat councillors welcome plans for a new crossing at Canada Water Dock which would help encourage interest and engagement with the Dock. Encouraging the provision of independent shops is also essential and we are pleased to see this is highlighted in the consultation paper. We hope a target of 10% affordable retail units can be reached to encourage the provision of independent shops.
Finally, we are deeply concerned that there is seemingly little or no involvement from the Council in the consultation. We will write to Southwark Council to share these concerns.
Canada Water provides a unique opportunity to provide new homes, jobs, leisure and infrastructure to the area. As mentioned in our response to the previous consultation, it is also an opportunity to create huge profits for British Land. It is essential that maximising profits for British Land does not become the driving force behind regeneration of the area. With the Council taking a diminished role in consultation, British Land must listen carefully to residents’ feedback and return with a masterplan that protects and enhances the local environment.
Councillor Anood Al-Samerai
Leader of the Opposition, Southwark Council
Sir Simon Hughes