Calls for sites in Southwark that have been empty for years to be brought back into service

The future of the boathouse and former cafe in Southwark Park, as well as the adventure playground in Surrey Docks, is uncertain

Residents of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe have called for three public sites in the area to be brought back into service, as the buildings have been empty for years.

The Boat House and former cafe in Southwark Park, and the Surrey Docks adventure playground in Rotherhithe are among more than twenty sites in Southwark identified by London Green Party politician Sian Berry as ‘dead spaces’ following an Access to Information (FOI) request.

The Lakeside Boat House in Southwark Park has been out of use since 2017, according to JTF. The building was used for the storage of boats before the end of this service. For a long time it was covered in bird droppings and the roof was vandalized, before the council cleaned it up and repaired the roof. But it still remains unused.

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“Indeed it has become a gathering place for the birds,” said Patrick Kingwell of the Southwark Park Association 1869, a community group that aims to protect and promote the park.

“We suggested the fence could be realigned closer to the edge of the lake and the boathouse itself converted into an outdoor shelter from which people could sit and view the lake and The Oval. [the park’s cricket pitch, also in need of a makeover].

The old cafe building, which closed in January 2020, was replaced by the new cafe but stood empty for two and a half years. Mr Kingwell said his group had suggested the building could be used as a base for school and community groups when exploring the park.

But it’s worth pointing out that the park now has a large cafe with stunning lake views and a new gallery space nearby.

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According to FOI, the future of the building is under review. Mr Kingwell said the council was considering dropping him for security reasons.

Southwark held a consultation in 2020 on the future of Southwark Park, where the group made their suggestions for the buildings to be put into “positive community use”. Mr Kingwell said they had not heard from council about their suggestions.

Meanwhile, adventure playground Surrey Docks, which closed in August 2021, has yet to set a reopening date, ten months later. The board says on its website that the Trident Street facility “will remain closed for the time being as this site requires significant investment to improve the gaming offering we are working on.”

The playground is one of five adventure playgrounds in Southwark, two of which are closed. The other non-operating site is Frederick’s Adventure Playground in Walworth, which is closed until 2023 after the discovery of asbestos.

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Asked about the plans for the Surrey Docks playground and the two buildings in Southwark Park, Southwark Council had no comment.