Councillors last night unanimously approved British Land’s £3.3bn Canada Water Masterplan, which will see the transformation of 53 acres of Rotherhithe and Surrey Quays over fifteen years.
The colossal scheme, the largest in Southwark history, will see the creation of around 3,000 new homes, of which 35 per cent are affordable, up to 20,000 new jobs and a new leisure centre among other benefits.
Three plots as part of the first phase were approved in detail last night, with the rest of the Masterplan approved in outline.
Concerns had been raised by a delegation of objectors over the two-part marathon meeting, most notably around transport.
Last week it was alleged by the Canary Wharf Group, a rival to British Land, that the Masterplan would be a “catastrophe” for the already crowded Jubilee Line – and that up to £100m was missing in transport investment.
But a British Land representative last night told councillors that they had been ‘misled’, adding: “What’s apparent from the sign-off from TfL is that they’re confident the [transport] package we’ve put together is sufficient to mitigate our impact.”
The £33m measures include increased capacity at Surrey Quays, more staff at Canada Water station and two new bus routes.
The meeting also heard from supporters of the scheme, including Rotherhithe residents and councillors for Rotherhithe ward.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to create a world-class town centre,” said Cllr Bill Williams, (Labour, Rotherhithe.)
He added that the scheme provided a “fantastic example on how we can deliver on our promises to provide more social homes.”
However Cllr Nick Johnson (Lib Dem, Surrey Docks) opposed the scheme, saying: “There’s much to commend in this Masterplan … [but] Canada Water station is regularly closed in the morning rush hour due to overcrowding.”
He added that if the plans were passed as they were, residents would be consigned to “decades of transport chaos.”
The decision did not always appear easy, with committee members speaking variously of “going back and forwards” (Cllr Whittam, Labour, Rotherhithe) and “up and all over the place” (Cllr Newens, Labour, Dulwich Village) over approving the plans.
“I believe on balance this is an excellent scheme,” concluded committee chair, Cllr Martin Seaton (Labour, North Walworth.)
Referencing concerns previously raised that the scheme’s social housing was being ‘segregated’ in a site near to Russia Dock Woodland, he said: “I went to K1 [the plot] last night, and it’s a wonderful location to live, I would’ve thought.”
The remarks drew applause from supporters of the scheme in the crowded hall. The green-light has been welcomed this morning by council leader, Peter John.
He said he was “delighted” that the vision for Canada Water had been approved, drawing attention to the “hundreds of new social rent homes” the scheme will deliver.
British Land’s Emma Cariaga added: “We are committed to continuing to engage and work with the local community to deliver the project and ensure that the Masterplan benefits those living, working and studying in the area for years to come.”