Furious Rotherhithe residents have accused Southwark Council of ‘betraying local people’ after learning that a wildlife area is being earmarked as the possible site for a new leisure centre.
A ‘green haven’ on the western side of Surrey Quays Shopping Centre car park is being considered as the site for the new facilities, which will replace the current Seven Islands centre in Lower Road. Dozens of mature trees would need to be felled if it was selected.
Adam Jones is a resident of Hithe Grove which, along with Hothfield Place and China Hall Mews, would back onto the proposed new site. He is one of a number of residents who have formed the Canada Water West Residents’ Action Group to fight against the proposal.
He told the News: “No consideration is being given to residents or the environment. There is a huge variety of wildlife present here: dunnocks, wrens, robins, blue tits, wood pigeons and even bats, not to mention insects and plant life. They depend on this area for shelter and food.
“There was a tremendous amount of green rhetoric in the Canada Water masterplan but Southwark Council and British Land are just not living up to it. These green pockets support ecosystems and the masterplan explicitly acknowledges their importance. But now they have given up their principles and betrayed local people and the environment because of financial issues.”
He added that residents were worried about a myriad of other issues with the proposed site, including light problems, the nearby Overground track, possible re-routeing of buses and whether the swimming pool would be as long as the one at the current Seven Islands centre.
Cllr Mark Williams, Southwark cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, said: “We are working with British Land to bring forward the redevelopment of Surrey Quays shopping centre and the Harmsworth Quay printworks.
“This will deliver new homes, a new town centre and a new public leisure centre for residents in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. We are in the process of consulting with local residents on our preferred location and this will continue into the autumn.
“Seven Islands has been a good centre for local people but it is old, difficult and expensive to maintain and can’t offer the top quality facilities we want for local people as part of our free swim and gym promise. We will continue to have these discussions with local people and I will be meeting with residents soon to personally hear their views.”
Richard Wise, Head of Retail Development at British Land, said: “Southwark Council will soon start consultation with residents on the preferred location for a new leisure centre at Canada Water, and later this year, we are planning to consult on the wider Canada Water Masterplan proposals, including the new leisure facilities. We remain committed to working with both Southwark Council and the local community on our development proposals at Canada Water.”
The first drop-in consultation session will take place at Canada Water Library on September 2 from 6.00pm-7.30pm.