All eyes on Canada Water: £2 billion masterplan set to create major new urban centre in London's Docklands

Roger Madelin, the driving force behind the 15-year transformation of King's Cross, is now casting his spell over Canada Water with a masterplan set to bring hundreds of homes, alongside new shops and businesses.

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A £2 billion master plan is emerging to remake a 46-acre slab of Canada Water, creating a new Docklands urban centre, boosting the local population by tens of thousands — and bringing all the attendant new homes, shops and businesses.

Southwark’s new waterside town centre will take 15 years to complete — the same length of time it took to realise architects Allies & Morrison’s 67-acre master plan for the revolutionary new-look King’s Cross. Roger Madelin, then with developer Argent, was a driving force behind that project and he begins work this month on Canada Water for British Land, builders of the City’s Cheesegrater skyscraper.

Allies & Morrison are also the architects at Canada Water. At the Table Café in Southwark Street, below the Allies & Morrison offices, practice co-founder Graham Morrison unfolds a map of the vast site. “There is a tremendous opportunity to create a new urban centre in an area planned in the Eighties on a suburban scale more suited to a home counties town than a bustling, expanding city,” he says.

Masterplan: the plans include a cycle/footbridge to Canary Wharf


“The natural heart of the new centre sits between Canada Water and Greenland Dock, astride a spine running between Southwark Park and Russia Dock Woodland. I see the new centre with a street pattern similar to the old Covent Garden — shops, offices and several thousand homes in both low- and high-rise buildings.” 

In the spirit of the new mixed-use philosophy, Morrison says: “The centre needs to have a strong identity, be memorable, real, and create a sense of cohesion and community.”

New Thames bridge
Canada Water sits in Surrey Docks. The freshwater lake takes its title from timber-carrying ships from Canada, which berthed at Canada Dock. 

The London Docklands Development Corporation took over the derelict docks in 1981, and judged the area fit only for suburban development. Today you can still get a three-bedroom flat for £700,000, the price of a one-bedder north of the river. Prices will rocket if plans for a pedestrian and cycle bridge to Canary Wharf are realised.

Commuters, already experiencing a crush at the top of the single down escalator between the London Overground and Jubilee lines at Canada Water station, will welcome the news of better things to come. 

Measuring the mood
Consultations over Canada Water began in May 2014, after British Land bought the Daily Mail and General Trust printworks and concluded delicate negotiations with a supportive Southwark council, freeholder of the Surrey Quays shopping centre. 

Roger Madelin, 56, says of his new challenge: “The combination of the physical opportunity at Canada Water and working with British Land was too exciting to turn down.”

New plans: a sketch of the new urban centre

A cycling fan, he rode to thousands of community meetings to explain King’s Cross to doubting locals, and he will be on his bike again this month. A second wave of consultations has begun. Google Canada Water Masterplan if you want to find out where and when the five meetings take place. Mild approval and a relatively small number of objectors appears to be the mood. 

An “emerging masterplan” is due soon. The scale, height, density and mix of uses will be fixed by summer.

The plans are likely to include a new campus nearby for King’s College London, which has permission to build 770 student flats on the former Mulberry Business Park. The college wants to build a total of 2,000 student flats at Canada Water, plus 400,000sq ft of teaching and research facilities.

What’s emerging is a giant amphitheatre: tall towers looking down into a lower-level central shopping area. That much can be construed from Morrison’s “Covent Garden” remarks and the fact that the Sellar Property Group has permission to build a 40-floor tower nearby. 

British Land is to apply for planning permission this year and begin work in 2017.

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