Parks, paddle boarding and a concert pavilion for London’s financial district, in a green revamp to lure bankers back to their Canary Wharf offices
Canary Wharf is teaming up with The Eden Project to create a ‘green spine’ running through London’s towering financial district with plants, floating pontoons and leisure activities on the water.
The dramatic plan includes parks, access for swimming and paddle boarding and even a waterside pavilion for concerts.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Canary Wharf Group chief executive Shobi Khan has been in secret talks with The Eden Project in Cornwall for the past year and intends to submit a planning application next month.
Changing: London’s Canary Wharf is to have a Cornwall-inspired facelift
He expects the first phase of the plan to be complete by Christmas.
Khan said he wants people to walk out from the Underground station and ‘see greenery, scenery and water rather than just glass steel and concrete’.
The project’s remit is to improve biodiversity in the area. But it is also intended to make the return to the office after the pandemic more appealing as well as encouraging visitors to visit at weekends.
The plan comes amid indications that passenger numbers on London’s transport system over recent weekends have risen to nearly 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Numbers during the week, however, have stuck at around two thirds of those before March 2020, when Covid struck.
Khan said: ‘The pandemic has made people realise the importance of outside space. That environment exists already in pockets here – the Crossrail roof garden, Jubilee Park – but we want to permeate that experience throughout the estate.
‘The reason we’re so excited about teaming up with The Eden Project is that they’re the experts in biodiversity and can advise us how we take this to the next level in an urban environment.
‘It’s about changing the look and feel of this place to say, ‘This is somewhere I want to spend time whether I live here, whether I work here or whether I want to play here … this is a unique environment that I feel comfortable in.’
The Canary Wharf Estate, a once derelict part of London’s Docklands, covers 120 acres and has a working population of 120,000 at its peak. The area already has a host of shops, cinemas, art installations and dozens of restaurants. Next month an electric go-kart race track will open.
But Khan said the ‘green spine’ is the latest stage of the evolution of the area after three decades of office development.
More recently, the first residents moved onto the part of Canary Wharf owned by the Group itself at Wood Wharf and schools and a GP surgery are planned there. The first phase of the project will stretch from the Newfoundland skyscraper, through Jubilee Station, then to Wood Wharf and is ‘probably a mile and a half’ long, says Khan.
The next phases will focus on the South Dock, then Montgomery Square.
David Harland, chief executive at Eden Project International, said: ‘We’ve spent a long time getting to know Canary Wharf – this is the first project we’ve done in this type of location.’ ‘We all know there is a climate issue.
We all know that biodiversity is under threat. Now there is a recognition that individuals, corporates and the public sector really have to come forward to drive those things together.’
‘What you’ve got at Canary Wharf is the water and the space to create this green spine. What we’re excited about is having the opportunity to not just focus on biodiversity and the environment, but on how it actually feels like to be in these places.
‘People get that when it comes to residential areas. But the business environment has been a little bit forgotten.
‘I think what the pandemic has taught us is that we all want things to be good where we work, live and play – and that’s what we’re trying to create.’ Khan said that Canary Wharf, thanks to its four grocery stores which remained open to nearby residents, was not as deserted when Covid struck as some other London districts.
Despite initial concerns that workers would never return to parts of London, he added: ‘We’re at our all-time high in terms of traffic since March 2020, which is great. Restaurants are doing well and commercial is doing well.’