Southwark Council has agreed to look at new sites for the proposed Canada Water Leisure Centre after months of pressure from local campaigners and Liberal Democrat councillors.
The move follows the consultation exercise on the Canada Water Masterplan, the Council’s regeneration plan for the local area, launched earlier this year. As part of the consultation residents were asked where the new leisure centre should be located.
The consultation follows uproar last year when the Council announced over the school holidays that its ‘preferred site’ for the leisure centre was land currently designated as open space at Hothfield Place/Hithe Grove. The Council wants to demolish the existing Seven Islands leisure centre in Lower Road.
Local Liberal Democrat councillors have backed residents’ concerns and feared that the administration’s choice of site had been dictated by its developer British Land. Over the past year Liberal Democrats have helped slow down the rush for a final decision and won major concessions from the Council to consult the community properly.
At a recent feedback session organised with the Canada Water Consultative Forum though, the Council acknowledged the strength of feeling locally and stated that it will not now rush into a decision on the centre site or the facilities it will provide. The Council has promised to liaise with their chosen developer, British Land, to look at all the potential alternative sites suggested by residents and report back on the findings later this year.
Surrey Docks Liberal Democrat councillor Dan Whitehead, whose recent election campaign focused on the Canada Water regeneration plans, said:
“It’s good that all our pressure has forced to the Council to finally listen to the community and say that it wants to ‘re-set’ its relationship with residents. It is a shame that it has taken almost a year to get to this point though.
“The way ruling Labour councillors have tried to bulldoze through their preferred site for the new leisure centre has symbolised for many residents how the Council just doesn’t take consultation seriously.
“The Canada Water Masterplan will change the face our local area radically in the coming years with at least another 4,500 new residents on the way. So it’s crucial that the regeneration is done with the community and not just imposed on the community.
“There are other possible sites that should be looked at and I am glad that residents and Liberal Democrat councillors have pushed the Council to slow down and look at all the options properly. I will continue to fight residents’ corner.”