A series of redevelopment projects are set to transform the Canada Water area of London’s Docklands, as the area reaps the benefits of greater transport connectivity.
The location, in zone 2 but close to Canary Wharf and well linked via the Jubilee and Overground lines, is about to undergo a makeover taking it from a secondary retail location to a much denser residential centre. And at the heart of the changes is developer Land Securities, which has patiently spent five years buying in and assembling a series of sites that have set it back £250 million.
The developer completed its acquisition plans in March 2015, buying the Surrey Quays Leisure Park from Aviva Investors. This added to its existing holdings, the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre and Harmsworth Quays, giving Land Securities around 46 acres of land in one major site. “An exciting new place for London” is promised, working with the borough of Southwark on a masterplan that will include living, working, retail and academic accommodation.
Fortunately, the area is already enjoying the attentions of transformative redevelopment activity, as Sellar Development has started work on its joint venture development with Notting Hill Housing. Their seven acre site sits to the north of the British Land site, and is proceeding with a first phase of a scheme that will ultimately deliver 453 homes for sale, 346 for private rental, 162 affordable and 69 shared ownership homes.
The existing retail operator on the site, Decathlon, will be relocated into a new store while there will be waterside retail and restaurants, workspace, a new cinema, health centre and sports facilities. The scheme also includes a large public space overlooking Canada Water basin. The residential accommodation will include a landmark 40 storey tower. The developers expect to have the first housing ready for occupation in 2017.
Also under way on an adjacent site, is Quebec Quarter, a housing development by L&Q on a site to the east of the British Land holdings. The scheme includes 151 flats for sale, and 69 shared ownership homes, with the focus on creating a sense of community. The scheme is due to complete next year, with many of the units already reserved.
Late last year, in a clear nod to the direction it plans to take, British Land hired Roger Madelin to head the Canada Water project. Madelin spent the previous 29 years at Argent and was widely credited with that developer’s placemaking success on projects such as at King’s Cross. and Brindley Place in Birmingham.
As the appointment was announced, British Land chief executive Chris Grigg commented: “Canada Water provides an exceptional and exciting opportunity to create a mixed-use scheme with office, retail, residential, leisure and community space. Roger Madelin is a highly experienced developer and brings enormous experience of delivering major mixed-use developments. Placemaking lies at the heart of what we do and I look forward to working with Roger to create a vibrant new destination for London that caters for a wide range of modern needs.”
The company held a consultation in February into its Canada Water masterplan, with more than 2,000 people taking the opportunity to see, and comment on, the emerging plans. It expects the development of its 46 acres to take place over the next 15 years.
Speaking at a March council meeting, councillor Peter John said that tall buildings would be allowed in key destinations: “Canada Water I think is likely to become a cluster of tall buildings, going forward, and that is allowed for within the Area Action Plan.”
The area does have some restrictions, with a protected viewing corridor running across the south west of the British Land site; but taller buildings are likely around the rail stations and the new urban centre.
For Canada Water, the action plan was approved by council assembly in November 2015. Its aspirations include at least 4,500 new homes, at least 1,000 new affordable homes, a minimum 12,000 sq metres of employment space, and the re-providing of cinema and leisure uses. The mayor’s London Plan also suggests there is an opportunity to create a major new town centre.
LPA Perspective: When London’s Docklands was first revived in the 1980s and 1990s, this area was not central to anyone’s desires, as Canary Wharf to the immediate east got lots of attention. The open, flat spaces around the docks were ideal for retail warehouse development, and this was what dominated initially. Now, with better transport connections, the site can be transformed and find itself a proper identity.
This is a major opportunity to create a new urban centre, giving Canada Water a new centre and a real town feel. With British Land holding such a major slice of land, roads can be moved, new urban squares and green places can be created.
Thankfully, as the main developer in the area, British Land is taking its time, and will be able to plan the redevelopment in stages that should minimise a half-finished feel in the meantime. And, so far, other developments around their central site look to be complementing, rather than conflicting, with the masterplan’s aspirations.