Peabody still intent of filling in former Royal Arsenal canal in Thamesmead

Plans to fill in a historic canal in Thamesmead that once served the Royal Arsenal still appear to be the aim of Housing Association Peabody and are include din a key Greenwich Council strategy document.

Peabody own a large amount of land beside much of the canal – or Broadwater Dock as it’s sometimes called. Back in 2016 a Greenwich Council report first stated plans to infill the dock (eg the canal) as this screenshot shows:

2016 Greenwich Council report

Peabody being Peabody have done little for five years – but the latest Site Allocations Strategy from Greenwich Council unveiled last month (see page 111) still includes plans to fill it in:

Peabody’s ownership boundary can be seen below:

The final 2021 draft was again outdated as it stated: “Development on this site must preserve or enhance the heritage significance of the adjacent Grade II Listed Broadwater Lock and Swing Bridge, currently identified on the Historic England ‘at risk’ register.” The lock and bridge have already been renovated, but that still leaves the rest of the canal – at about 3/4 of a mile in length – at risk of permanent removal through infill.

Courtesy @running_past

Peabody themselves appear to still want to fill it in, and tweeted earlier this year in response to a question about the future of the canal:

Note they didn’t care moment on the canal. It’s also disappointing for Peabody to state that yet another site under their control will not be progressing for “some time”. Again, the danger of handing so much land to one company is evident as a slow build-out rates continues. Break up large plots to various groups. A monopoly is not helping to build much needed homes.

Green link

The idea of a green link sounds good in theory until looking at a map. Does it make much sense? For those in new homes heading to Crossrail or Woolwich town centre there are already quiet routes among existing homes. For those heading to Plumstead it’d dump you at the gyratory near Plumstead bus garage, and planning approval late in 2020 for the West Thamesmead gateway development of 1,750 homes almost entirely abandoned earlier plans to remove much of the gyratory and improve links to Plumstead station.

So a green link to nowhere as a sop for removing what should be a major asset to the area for many years to come?

History

A Thames TV video clip from 1981 shows the first homes being built beside the canal. The video starts with a view of the canal then pans away before returning. At 9 mins 24 seconds it returns with a good panoramic shot of the dock/canal.

The canal was built between 1812-14 before a further extension followed shortly afterwards in 1816. It was truncated in the 1930s as the site shrank over the decades, with usage believed to have ended in the 1960s. With the closure of this part of the Arsenal, housing was built along the eastern edge. Much of the western side has lay overgrown, empty, fenced off to the public and now forms part of the Thamesmead Housing Zone in the control of Peabody.

There are numerous examples of canals lost and infilled cross London which are now regretted by many. We see it in Deptford and Rotherhithe, where developers have even gone so far as to propose green waterways to replicate former canals – yet in Thamesmead it appears they want to fill them in as so many were in the 1960s. Are Peabody about to repeat the same mistakes back then and remove what is – and could continue to be – a major local asset?

Thanks to Runner500 for the photos which highlight the characteristics of the canal when water is at high level. You can read their excellent site here.

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John Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

14 thoughts on “Peabody still intent of filling in former Royal Arsenal canal in Thamesmead

  • March 21, 2021 at 1:41 am
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    It might be of interest to know that Broadwater Dock was built by prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars, when it was deemed that there was a need for a fully functional waterway. It’s recently been allowed to fill with water again after being completely dry for many years, in which condition it found a new lease of life as a repository for domestic waste, including a touching display of beer cans, styrofoam cups and food trays, items of furniture, etc, which presumably reflected the attitude of its present-day neighbours towards historically significant places. Evidently, it was just too much trouble for some of them to place their rubbish in bins. Indeed, once when I was there, one of the items consigned to the dock was, ironically, a Greenwich Council bin. At the dock’s landward end, access could be gained by the simple expedient of climbing through a gap between horizontal poles. Still, why would you even bother to do that, when it’s so much easier to simply chuck your smelly old duvet and pieces of knackered sofa over the side.

    Perhaps more appropriate than an infill to create a green link that goes nowhere would be to place a series of info boards that explained and illustrated the dock’s history, though omitting its recent function as an all-purpose dump.

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  • March 21, 2021 at 12:46 pm
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    Hasn’t the dock already been drained?

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    • March 21, 2021 at 6:16 pm
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      The picture shows water does fill it. The plan is completely remove that.

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  • March 21, 2021 at 10:47 pm
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    “Are Peabody about to repeat the same mistakes back then and remove what is – and could continue to be – a major local asset?”

    I agree with a lot of the narrative on this site but have to disagree here. It’s an empty concrete canal that’s often filled with flytipping. It’s an eyesore. We’re not short of water assets around here, both the Thames and a large bond are metres away. Fill it in, turn it int a park.

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  • March 27, 2021 at 5:04 pm
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    Greenwich Council and Peabody need to look at a recent report that states it could be possible that great deal of the southeast is likely to flood and a map has been prepared to show the areas that will be affected, this is another reason that Bexley council needs to look at the proposed areas that they want to use for development because the area that they are looking at will be under water by 2050 so it is not a long time before this is going to happen.

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  • April 3, 2021 at 11:39 am
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    Hi Philip, I agree about the flood risk. This residential area is downriver from the Thames Barrier. And one of the purposes of the nearby Gallions lake (the duck pond in the park across the road from the dock) is to take excess water for example when the Thames has a high tide. Wasn’t this entire area a marsh in the past? The water has to go somewhere. If they fill in the dock, it might increase the flood risk.

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  • April 3, 2021 at 11:46 am
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    Hi Murky, thought you would be interested in the ne development proposed on the site of the former Gallions View care home, off pier way next to this canal. Fairview New Homes are proposing 340 homes and apartments on the site. They have a website with further details and are arranging webinars this month about their proposals – http://www.fairviewgallionsview.co.uk

    Reply
  • May 18, 2021 at 9:15 am
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    Hello, I live in the Royal Artillery Quays next to Broadwater canal/Royal Arsenal canal and it is used every year by many birds to bring up their young as it is inaccessible to foxes. Or at least it was until they did the ‘renovation’ work on the listed lock and gates. I have been here since it was built in 2004 but living around here since 1985.
    I dislike Peabody greatly as they seem to have no regard for wildlife and just want to make money. It would be a travesty if they fill this in and build on the land next door. The home to many foxes and rare birds.

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  • May 18, 2021 at 9:23 am
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    A bit of an overstatement on the rubbish. It is no messier than the rest of Thamesmead… which is pretty messy.

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  • May 18, 2021 at 9:29 am
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    I must disagree. It is no messier than the rest of Thamesmead and is used yearly by birds to rear young.
    Filling this in will give Peabody reason to build on the land behind my block in Royal Artillery Quays and make loads of other wildlife homeless or get killed. Foxes and many bird species.
    I wonder sometimes if some people just think that humans live on this planet and if they actually notice other animals.

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  • May 18, 2021 at 9:34 am
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    Hello Kat, the use of the lake and canals behind wouldn’t be possible. You would only get a couple of inches in there before it floods itself. And it is used by fishermen and there are nesting birds on the banks so they would get washed away as well.
    They have actually just installed a new pump to pump water ‘into’ the Thames keep it from being flooded. It is very small in comparison and wouldn’t have any effect on the water level on the Thames.

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  • May 18, 2021 at 9:39 am
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    Hello Uy, I recognise you, neighbour, and the maker of the video.
    It would be a shame if this is filled in and the lovely wildlife refuge behind our block was built on.
    Hardly any wildlife left in London and the world.

    Reply

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