The longest drawbridge in the world, London’s largest freshwater lake and biggest marina feature in the remodelling of Canada Water — 46 acres of Zone 2 that now form the hottest of hotspots.

This is a project so ambitious many thought it would never happen, but fresh from his triumph with the Shard, developer Irvine Sellar has turned his attention to this lifeless swathe of former Rotherhithe docks.

Roger Madelin, the driving force behind the stunning transformation of previously blighted railway land around King’s Cross station, is also casting his spell over the area, spearheading a £2 billion project for British Land to create a sparkling waterfront town centre for Southwark, with 3,500 new homes, offices, shops, restaurants, high-quality public spaces including a three-acre park, a cultural and leisure centre and a new campus for King’s College London.

outhwark council’s Canada Water masterplan comprises more than a dozen different property developments, some already under way, and includes a sleek 41-storey skyscraper by renowned London architect and Stirling Prize winner David Chipperfield.

Homes are for sale now at Quebec Quarter, a new micro neighbourhood with 220 flats priced from £560,000 — while Notting Hill Housing, which is partnering Sellar Property Group, is poised to launch 234 apartments on the site of an old Decathlon retail shed overlooking a dock basin.

Connections are key

“The area is being discovered by young professionals priced out of Shad Thames and Borough,” says James Hyman of estate agent Cluttons.

Transport connectivity is one of the positives. The Zone 2 district is on the Jubilee line and a convenient midway point between Canary Wharf and the West End. It is also a key interchange on the Overground network.

A River Bus service links Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf and on the horizon is a pedestrian and cycle bridge, a boon for bike-riding and walk-to-work commuters. It will be the longest drawbridge-style “bascule” bridge in the world, an elegant wishbone-like structure that opens to allow tall ships to pass through.

Madelin believes the new district “needs to have a strong identity, be memorable, real, with a sense of cohesion and community” — which the first regeneration attempt 30 years ago, following the closure of the old docks, failed to deliver. In its heyday as Surrey Docks, the area was laced with waterways and docks, among them Greenland, Finland, Russia and Canada, denoting the origin of the cargo unloaded there. During the Eighties, city planners tried to revive the area with a giant shopping and leisure precinct but it was a disaster, lacking any sense of place. New estates of humdrum low-rise housing were isolated, far from essential services, while print works and factories were built instead of neighbourhood facilities.

Now planned is a high street and pedestrianised boulevard between Canada Water and Surrey Quays train station, with landscaped “greenways” between refurbished Southwark Park and Russia Dock Woodland, while Southwark council hopes to lure John Lewis and its Waitrose supermarket.

An eye-catching new library, its architecture inspired by Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, has opened and overlooks the largest freshwater lake in London, a legacy from the docks era. A Canary Wharf-type cluster of tall buildings is ruled out because of protected views between Greenwich and St Paul’s Cathedral, but there will be some towers and the new housing is much higher density.

The Chipperfield tower is one of a trio of buildings bringing architectural freshness to the area, says Simon Neary, director of Notting Hill Housing. “It’s his trademark style —sleek, clean and understated — and will have a double-height top-floor observation deck and sky garden.”

Of 1,030 flats in this phase of development, 453 will be for private sale, 346 for private rent and the rest for shared ownership. There will be waterside cafés, tennis courts and an art house cinema.

Reborn and reinvigorated Canada Water will forge a new axis with the Shard, a short hop on the Tube, believes Irvine Sellar. Many more buyers and renters are searching for homes in south-east London areas with quick commuter links to the new business district around London Bridge station, while Rotherhithe, only about a mile away, is relatively affordable and family friendly. Buyers can get 25 to 40 per cent more space for their money here than in Canary Wharf, Bermondsey or Wapping.

Developer Barratt has made over old council estates in this area and is now building smart new residential blocks. Greenland Place is the latest project, offering 562 apartments priced from £398,000.

St Marychurch Street, in the cobbled conservation area where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America in 1620, is arguably Rotherhithe’s best address, with converted warehouse loft flats. Much of the eastern side of the Rotherhithe peninsula, bordering Deptford, was demolished and infilled when the docks closed in 1971 but now builders are snapping up industrial estates and car breakers’ yards. A hidden gem here is South Dock Marina, London’s largest, with 200 berths and a watersports centre.

The Timberyard is a new scheme of 1,132 new flats and houses that will have a new public square and a linear park along the route of the former Grand Surrey Canal.

Formerly fragmented parts of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe are joining up, with development spreading from Tower Bridge to gentrify Jamaica Road — which now has cafés and bars — while an overspill of Borough Market gourmet food outlets has sprung up in revamped railway arches.