SPR Site Visit
Canada Water Development, 17th July, 2019

The Canada Water Development aims to transform a 53-acre area of former docklands into an urban centre for South-East London that will attract people from across the capital to work, study and shop.

The SPR visit began in dramatic style with a bird’s eye view of the site from the top of a 25-storey residential tower at its centre.  The breath-taking vistas of the City and Canary Wharf highlighted just how close the development is to the heart of London – as Roger Madelin, Head of Canada Water at owners British Land, who led the tour explained, it is a mere 10-minute cycle ride from Bank station, while the existing tube/overground hub and the coming of Crossrail mean that it will also be extremely well connected.

Madelin set out his vision for this unique project, which will use water ‘in all is forms’ to create, in the words of a recently captivated FT journalist, ‘the most romantic place in Britain.’ To help make this happen, a globally renowned fountain designer has been signed up to build on the attractions of the existing Canada and Greenland Dock waterscapes with their abundant wildlife and cooling breezes.  Madelin believes that this will be a place where visitors are enticed to sit, watch and walk, in the spirit of the Italian idea of passeggiata.


Besides the docks, a number of other existing structures are set to be integrated into the development, perhaps most notably the massive Printworks building, where the Daily Mail once came off the presses.  Symon Bacon, Project Director for the development, explained that this is now a venue for live music, DJ performances and video filming.  These activities have raised the cultural profile of the area, something that British Land are looking to incorporate into the project.  Later in the tour, SPR members were able to experience the cavernous scale of this structure from the inside and see that a number of creative start-ups have already begun to use a small part for office space.

However, these premises will be dwarfed by the amount of workspace planned for the whole project, which is scheduled for completion in about 12 years’ time, assuming Southwark Council shortly gives its blessing to the plans as expected. In his presentation at the end of the tour, Madelin explained that as well as 2m square feet of offices, there could be as many as 3,000 new homes, housing 10,000 residents, and 1m square feet of retail and leisure, the latter taking the offer of the current Surrey Quays Shopping Centre to a completely new level. He did however stress that these are maximum areas which will allow for flexibility as the various phases are completed over time.  Much will depend on the market climate and the partnership arrangements that can be established to take the project forward.

The visit really brought home the scale of the Canada Water project, which ultimately could potentially rival Kings Cross, whose development Madelin also led, during his previous role at Argent.  The SPR would like to thank him, Symon Bacon and their colleagues Georgina Weller and Joseph Bass for organising the tour.

Tim Horsey