Essential works to keep the Rotherhithe Tunnel operational could cost as much as £178 million, according to Transport for London.

The expected cost range of the Rotherhithe Tunnel works was revealed this week in a written answer by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to a question tabled by Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon.

“The renewal of the Rotherhithe Tunnel is currently progressing through concept design and, at this early stage in project development, Transport for London (TfL) estimates that costs will be in the range of £116 million to £178 million, subject to funding being available,” said the Mayor.

“TfL plans to complete the concept design work later in 2020. An updated estimate will then be produced, prior to the appointment of a contractor in 2021 to progress detailed design.

“”In addition to the project activities, TfL will continue regular maintenance and progress any short-term minor renewal work to ensure the tunnel remains safe and operable.”

TfL’s 2019 business plan had put the cost of the Rotherhithe Tunnel works at about £140 million.

Ms Pidgeon also asked the Mayor about TfL’s  plans to fast track proposals for a Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf ferry service if the prospect of regular or long-term closures of the Rotherhithe Tunnel increases.

Mr Khan said that as with the decision to pause plans for a walking and cycling ferry, “full implementation of [the Rotherhithe Tunnel] works is similarly dependent on greater certainty over TfL’s long-term funding position”.

The Mayor added: “I can assure you that the impact of any long-term closures of the Rotherhithe Tunnel on local residents and businesses will be a key consideration in the further development of this work.”

The future of the scheme to create an upgraded ferry between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf will depend on negotiations with the Government on the capital’s post-COVID-19 transport funding settlement, Sadiq Khan said this week.

Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell asked Sadiq Khan for an update on the Rotherhithe ferry project at Mayor’s Question Time on Thursday.

Mr Khan replied that the ferry proposal “will be part of the negotiations that we have with the DfT [Department for Transport], which will be tough negotiations.

“I’m not going to pretend that the Government has not been very difficult in relation to the monies that they give to London going forward.”

Just before lockdown, Sadiq Khan was asked about the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf ferry at the 11 March People’s Question Time event. He said that it was “full steam ahead” for the electric ferry proposal.

In the three months since the Mayor made those remarks, Transport for London’s finances have collapsed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Earlier this year TfL published a list of future contract opportunities that revealed that it expected to award the contract for “detailed design, build, supply and performance” of the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf ferry in March 2021.

For the first time, TfL put a cost on the proposal, categorising the contract value as being above £50 million.

This compares to a cost of more than £400 million for a bridge across the river linking Rotherhithe with the Isle of Dogs.

Southwark Council’s director of regeneration has this week approved a deal that will see the redevelopment of the former Cherry Garden School site redesigned to take the proportion of council homes in the scheme from a third to half.

We reported in January 2019 that the proposed redevelopment would have 18 council homes out of 56 new flats to be constructed by Higgins Homes.

According to a council report: “Concerns were raised by members [ie councillors] of the need to maximise council retained social rented units on the site.

“This was due to the council’s new policy focus to provide 50% council rented units, where feasible and viable, to maximise council homes; this proposed change would address those concerns.

As a result of this week’s decision, the council will pay Higgins Homes £2.6 million in lieu of the sales revenue they would have received from the nine intermediate (shared ownership or similar) homes originally proposed.

The redesigned scheme will have 26 council homes and 30 homes for private sale.

Affordable housing is assessed on the basis of habitable rooms (bedrooms and living rooms) and on this calculation the private and council components of the scheme equate to 82 habitable rooms each.

The London Assembly transport committee has written to Transport for London in the wake of the cancellation of the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge to urge them to review and improve their business planning process, so that under-funded and undeliverable projects are not progressed as a result of unrealistic engineering proposals and low cost estimates.

The committee has also sought further detail and clarification on the proposed ferry service.

Budget projections for the bridge project soared from £120-£180 million in November 2017, to £463 million in March 2019 and now latest estimates stand at exceeding £600 million.

Navin Shah AM, chair of the Transport Committee, said:“How did TfL get its sums so wrong? This major infrastructure project is key to unlocking this part of east London in terms of active transport links, jobs and homes. 

“A ferry service between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf is a much cheaper alternative, but we have questions over its cost, frequency, commencement of the service and whether it will be free to use.”

“TfL must improve how it costs major infrastructure projects and ensure that projects of this kind have realistic costings and plans, so that Londoners are not continually disappointed time and again.” 

More than 8000 sugar cubes eliminated in convenience store healthy food pilot  

Two Bermondsey shops are among five independent convenience stores in Southwark which have increased the healthy options available to consumers as part of a pilot scheme.

The Good Food Retail Plan is a pilot funded by the Greater London Authority, Sustain and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity to ensure that more Londoners have access to healthy, affordable food.

As part of the project the shop owners were supported to identify opportunities for increasing the healthy options available in their store. This could range from repositioning items, using different recipes to carrying new healthy lines of food and drinks.  

The scheme recognises that convenience stores play a vital role in their local communities as many customers use them on a daily basis to top up their food shopping.

The pilot stores all represent different types of store from the smaller neighbourhood store to the larger independent supermarket. Across all stores, regardless of square-footage, all store managers demonstrated that healthy changes could be made. 

The shops involved in the pilot are:

  • Nisa Local, Southwark Park Road 
  • St James Supermarket, Southwark Park Road 
  • Church News, New Church Road
  • Turkish Food Stores, Lordship Lane 
  • Nisa Day One, Camberwell Church Street

Across the fives stores over 50 new healthy lines have been introduced as well as selling more single fruits as healthy snacks. Nisa Local in Bermondsey switched to a no sugar slush puppie recipe resulting in a saving of approximately 80,000 calories from sales between July and September, equivalent to over 8,000 sugar cubes. Following the introduction of three new lines, wholemeal bread now makes up 20 per cent of bakery sales at the same store.

These stores are run by independent retailers who purchase their stock from their local cash and carry. They choose their range based on what they think their customers demand is rather than necessarily on whether the products are healthy. 

Cllr Evelyn Akoto, cabinet member for community safety and public health, said: “It is really fantastic to see the commitment from these five shop owners to make a difference in the health of our residents. These shops exemplify how small changes can have a big impact on the choices people make.

“The role that local shops play in the lives of our residents cannot be underestimated and it’s so important that as much as possible there are healthy options available. These shop owners have proven that our residents do want healthy options and I hope other store owners will follow their lead.”

Ali, owner of Nisa Local Southwark Park Road said: “I eat quite healthily myself and I’m quite passionate about [healthy eating]. I wanted to get involved; it’s something I believe in as well. A lot of kids come here after schools so we wanted to offer them healthier things to eat so we put single pieces of fruit at the front that people can just take and go, non- salted nuts, sugar free drinks things like that. According to our sales data all these things that we’ve introduced into the store are selling, there’s a market for people that are more health conscious and want to eat healthy.”

Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown has given an update on plans for an upgraded ferry service between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf to replace the abandoned proposed for a walking and cycling bridge.

Mr Brown was questioned by Conservative London Assembly member Keith Prince at a meeting of the City Hall transport committee.

Asked about the cost of the ferry link, Mr Brown said: “Well, I don’t have the exact figure at the moment.

“And the reason for that is that this is in the early stages, we’re looking at what land purchases may be required and where those land purchases will be – particularly on the south side of the river.

“We’re also exploring what sort of technology might be applied and what the market could deliver in terms of the greenest possible ferry.

“It’s quite challenging because these there aren’t – when you look around the world – easily deliverable green ferries at the moment, so we might have to consider whether we at least explore the the options for some hybrid ferries in this regard.

“So there is a sort of headline number allocated to the ferry in the business plan, but it’s very much at a working level and just for some of the early stages of exploration of this.

“My imperative is to get on with this as quickly as I can, notwithstanding some of the challenges with the land purchase, and with some of the other commercial issues.

“It’s pleasing to see that we have got, good support, for example, from Canary Wharf on the north side. It I’m sure we’ll get on and deliver this and it will be a great boost for access across the river at that location.”

Pressed by Mr Prince as to when passengers might be able to use the ferry, Mr Brown said: “Well, again, that’s depends on the technology. And I’m not trying to be evasive here.

“It genuinely is a discussion that we’re having ourselves with the supply chain, with potential manufacturers – with potential operators as well actually – is how quickly we can do it.

“So I’ve pushed my team … very hard on on pinning them down to a date.

“But what I don’t want to do is give an artificially optimistic date here that can’t be delivered because we haven’t done all the groundwork yet.

“There is more work to do before I can categorically tell you that.”

The Canada Estate has been chosen as one of the testbeds for Southwark’s new ‘Great Estates’ programme.

Seven estates have been chosen to pilot ‘estate improvement plans’ by Cllr Leo Pollak, cabinet member for social regeneration, great estates and new council homes.

The council’s Great Estates programme stems from a pledge in Southwark Labour’s 2018 manifesto to “launch a Great Estates Guarantee so that every estate is clean, safe and cared for and residents have the tools to garden and improve their estate”.

The Canada Estate will share £970,000 funding with six other estates across the borough.

“Residents have raised concerns regarding crime and anti-social behaviour, in particular robberies and mobile phone theft nearby the train station,” according to the report prepared for Cllr Pollak by service development manager Sharon Miller.

There is an ASB hotspot in the middle of the estate, where there is a low level concrete structure. This area would benefit from some re-designing/redevelopment.

“Through the consultation process residents have suggested the following improvement areas should be considered: improved estate signage; re-painting and redecoration works to blocks and communal areas; improved estate cleaning; to create a space to use as a garden to grow vegetables; and new fencing around Edmonton Court.

“The estate has also been approved to receive £6,710 TRSIG funding for an estate music project.”

The bridge across Albion Channel near Brass Talley Alley was replaced a few weeks ago as part of works to upgrade the cycle route for Cycleway / Quietway 14.

But the new bridge – installed at a cost of £115,000 – isn’t to everyone’s taste, with the ‘offensive’ blue handrail drawing particular disapproval.

So far 11 people have signed a petition to Southwark Council calling for the handrail to be repainted:

The consensus among the residents in the area is that the new bridge does not suit the style of the canal and the surrounding buildings at all. The most offensive feature — and easiest to remedy — is the blue railing. The blue is at odds with the colours of all surrounding buildings and should be changed.

British Land’s scheme to redevelop 53 acres of the Canada Water area – including the existing Surrey Quays Shopping Centre – was given unanimous backing by Southwark Council’s planning committee this week after two nights of presentations from planners, objectors and supporters.

The masterplan will see between 2,000 and 3,995 new homes developed, along with new shops, offices and other uses. The first phase includes a new 34-storey tower.

The masterplan area includes Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, Surrey Quays Leisure Park, the Printworks, the former Rotherhithe Police Station, and the historic Dock Offices courtyard; and will be managed by British Land in the long-term.

Of the new homes, 35 per cent will be ‘affordable’ with 70 per cent of these for social rent.

It has taken 16 months from submission of the planning application to final committee decision.

“Delivering this masterplan in an area with as rich a history and heritage as Canada Water, Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks is an immense responsibility and one we have taken very seriously and carefully,” said Emma Cariaga, joint head of Canada Water at British Land.

“This is only the first step in the approval process and 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.”

Cllr Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, said:“ We are delighted that this major step towards our vision for Canada Water has been approved.

“The masterplan provides the blueprint for an exciting new town centre that will provide thousands of new homes, particularly hundreds of new social rent homes, new jobs and opportunities, new open spaces and a brand new leisure centre for Rotherhithe in the first phase of the work.

“We look forward to working with British Land over the next few years to bring forward the plans and making sure our local residents are the beneficiaries of the opportunities the regeneration will provide, as laid out in the Canada Water Social Regeneration Charter.”

Much of the discussion at the planning committee meetings focussed on transport, with concerns that local road and rail links will struggle to meet the demand generated by extra residents and workers.

Councillors heard from a Transport for London representative who claimed that under their modelling the crowding situation in 2031 “gets no worse” when freqency boosts for the Jubilee line and East London line already planned and funded are taken into account.

British Land will pay £10 million towards a new entrance for Surrey Quays Station – topping up the already pledged Government funding of £80 million – and £12 million towards bus service improvements.

At Canada Water Station, the developer is making a £2 million contribution to extra staffing and minor layout changes.

The committee also heard from Howard Dawber of Canary Wharf Group who claimed that “there simply is not enough public transport” to meet the extra needs and that the council wasn’t seeking a large enough contribution from British Land towards infrastructure upgrades.

Canary Wharf’s claims were described as “pure commercial self-interest” by British Land’s Emma Cariaga.

The two sessions of the planning committee can be viewed in full on YouTube.