The closure of the Mail Group printing site on Surrey Quays Road – called Harmsworth Quays for years now renamed SE16 Printworks – brought to the fore the potential for a substantial redesign of the Canada Water plan. When earlier this year British Land who also own Surrey Quays Shopping Centre and the whole car park and delivery area around it, decided to bring that site into a single planning unit, the implications for the area became huge. With a site that stretches from Canada Water to Surrey Quays stations and from Quebec Way to Dock Offices, the plan to transform this area will have profound effects on the lives of all who live, work and visit the area. From the impact on wildlife to the stress on traffic and transport, from the opportunity for many new affordable homes to the potential for substantial new leisure facilities, the plans being developed for this enormous site will not only take a decade to come to fruition but also shape life in SE16 for decades to come.

Ariel view across Shopping Centre

British Land plc have engaged consultation experts Soundings to lead on the community’s engagement with the development. In Spring and Summer 2014, they took the temperature of local opinion about the development – initially solely about the Printworks site and then in August the combined sites viewed together. They have so far produced two exhibitions and two reports all available on their website. Three newsletters have plopped through the letterboxes of local residents outlining the current state of thinking about the sites and how they might be handled from the height of the buildings to the sort of shops, bars and restaurants locals want to see in their area. Over the Summer and Autumn of this year, the architects, developers and planners have been working up the next phase of their consultation and have now published a Masterplan which outlines their current thinking about the combined site and with this they have now come back to the community for view and opinions.

The Masterplan offers readers a broad brush overview of the site as the developers are seeing things at the moment. It asks questions and raises possibilities whilst remaining quiet on some key aspects that planning permission will require are addressed head-on. The plan points to five key areas for conversation at the forthcoming consultations – the four ‘gateways’ to the Shopping Centre site and Canada Water frontage itself. The four ‘gateways’ are the Surrey Quays stations area, the point on Surrey Quays Road where the two sites meet, the Canada Water station area and most innovatively the links between the site and Lower Road and beyond it Southwark Park. All four will bring out major areas for debate and discussion but bridging the Overground railway line in a way that allows free and inviting access to Lower Road will be the most complex.

Ariel view across the Printworks

Some questions strike me as worth asking at this stage.

  • what are the anticipated number of additional homes on the site? What is the expected increase in population as a result?
  • how high will be the development go and where will be highest buildings best fit?
  • how will the congestion on Lower Road and the high volume of passengers for tube and train be handled?
  • how can the strong ‘green’ characteristic of the Canada Water part of the site be made real throughout?

425f70d8c449b4f985d258d59fe43e93.jpgThe consultation events are all open access and are being held in the vacant shop opposite the entrance to Tesco in the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, where Barretts most recently closed. The exhibition opens there on Saturday at 10:00-16:00 and again on Tuesday 9 December 13:00-19:00. Two workshops are being held, one on Thursday 11 Dec 18:45-21:00 and the other on Saturday 13 December 14:00-16:15. On Saturday morning 13 December 09:00-13:00, visitors to the exhibition will be able to talk with the consultant team about for example transport, ecology, public spaces and building form.

This is a key stage in the development of the site. The comments and suggestions at this stage will provide the developers with guidance about how to deliver their vision for our community. If you care about SE16, your voice is important and this is a real opportunity to be heard. And as I wrote above, this development will have a lasting impact on all aspects of our lives from schooling, leisure, transport and shopping to environment, parking and the feel of the area. Get along and be heard!

For background on the consultation please read our previous posts on the subject from July 2014:

Redesigning Canada Water

Printworks and Shopping Centre