Southwark Council has hit back at claims that plans to develop a town centre in Canada Water could damage local wildlife.

The Canada Water Masterplan is a joint project by property investor British Land and Southwark Council to help create a new town centre.

Canada Water West Residents Action Group leader Catherine Whittaker said that while the upgrade was needed, the current incarnation went too far, as she believed it might harm wildlife next to Surrey Quays Shopping Centre.

The group claims updated versions of the plans include a replacement for Seven Islands Leisure Centre being built on land near Hithe Grove and China Hall Mews.

The council is still consulting on the plan with local residents, and a decision on whether to back it has yet to be made.

“We did not think that a leisure centre would be built here,” she said. “The trees were to be preserved in the previous masterplan for Canada Water and the residents do not understand why they have to be destroyed now.

“The move would have a terrible effect on wildlife. The building, up to five storeys high, would also be just metres from the back doors of many homes, blocking light, eroding privacy and creating noise problems from ventilation shafts.”

But Southwark Council has argued the area in question is not a nature reserve and that a leisure centre had always been in the masterplan.

Cllr Mark Williams, cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, said: “As we have previously announced during the creation of the Canada Water area action plan, we are working with British Land to bring forward the redevelopment of Surrey Quays shopping centre and the Harmsworth Quay printworks.

“This will deliver new homes, a new town centre and a new public leisure centre for residents in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.

“We are in the process of consulting with local residents on our preferred location and this will continue into the autumn.

“Seven Islands has been a good centre for local people but it is old, difficult and expensive to maintain and can’t offer the top quality facilities we want for local people as part of our free swim and gym promise.

“We will continue to have these discussions with local people and I will be meeting with residents soon to personally hear their views.”

Catherine said the group was not against the redevelopment of the area, but stressed the council should also look at the effect it would have on infrastructure.

She said: “Anyone who lives in the area would be delighted to see a half empty car park turn into a proper town centre with shops and restaurants.

“We are not against the wider plans to make Canada Water a more vibrant area, but other areas, such as school places and the environmental impact are an issue.”

British Land is the leaseholder and operator of Surrey Quays Shopping Centre and owns the freehold of Surrey Quays Leisure Park, on which the redevelopment would take place.

A statement from British Land said: “As part of the Canada Water Masterplan, British Land is working with Southwark Council to deliver a leisure centre as part of the proposals. This will replace the ageing Seven Islands Leisure Centre.

“Later this year, British Land will be holding further consultation on the wider Canada Water Masterplan proposals, including the new leisure facilities.”