Launching this summer: flats at Royal Wharf, the biggest new Docklands neighbourhood since Canary Wharf was built 20 years ago
Docklands as we know it today only really emerged in the Eighties. Closure of the old commercial docks brought the chance to create the Canary Wharf business district and smart new residential addresses such as Wapping, Limehouse, Shad Thames and Rotherhithe.
Until the arrival of the Jubilee line extension in 2000, there was no genuinely integrated transport network linking these places to the rest of London, only the modest, automated Docklands Light Railway launched in 1987 and serving just 15 stations along eight miles of track.
But as Docklands grew so did the DLR, with extensions south of the river to Lewisham and Woolwich, and east to Beckton and London City airport.
From £638,000: apartments in stylish, glass-clad blocks at Royal Mint Gardens near buzzing St Katharine Docks
Today there are 45 stations along 25 miles of track on six branches, with interchanges to eight Tube lines, five mainline railways, 100 bus routes and river taxi services. Annual passenger numbers have leapt from 17 million to 86 million.
Further DLR extensions are planned, from Gallions Reach to Dagenham Dock; from Woolwich to Rainham in Kent, providing a link to the historic Medway towns, and from Lewisham to Beckenham and Bromley. An extension is even proposed from Bank to Charing Cross.
Crossrail stations at Canary Wharf, Custom House, Stratford and Woolwich will dramatically boost the DLR’s connectivity, providing a direct link to west London and Heathrow. Another plus for passengers is that the DLR is highly reliable, partly due to automation, one reason why Mayor Boris Johnson wants to introduce driverless Tube trains.
Away from prized waterfront neighbourhoods, Docklands property values are quite low by London standards, with average prices often less than the £250,000 stamp duty threshold. This reflects the raw state of places such as Gallions Reach, in Zone 3 yet still something of a frontierland — but with huge upside should the ambitious regeneration under way succeed.
A trip on the DLR, high above the busy roads, is the best way to see Docklands, and to spot the awesome changes and property opportunities.
Average house prices: along the DLR line from Bank to Beckton and beyond, along the DLR Spur to Woolwich Arsenal
BANK TO BECKTON
The DLR links the ancient Square Mile financial district to the shiny new one at Canary Wharf. Bank, with 60,000 passengers every weekday, is the busiest DLR station.
Tower Gateway station butts up against a City-fringe area in transition, once a nine-to-five office destination but now becoming more residential. Royal Mint Gardens, on a busy junction close to St Katharine Docks, is a step up in design terms — glass-clad apartment blocks with big terraces plus 24-hour concierge, gym, yoga room, whirlpool spa, residents’ lounge and private cinema. Prices from £638,000. Call Knight Frank on 020 7718 5202.
From here the DLR heads east on an elevated viaduct along historic Cable Street to Shadwell and Limehouse before reaching Westferry, one of several stations near the Canary Wharf towers.
All the DLR branch lines pass through Poplar, which features prominently in this month’s London Festival of Architecture. A programme of events centres on Balfron Tower, a Sixties council block designed by brutalist architect Erno Goldfinger and soon to be refurbished into private flats by developer Londonewcastle.
Sixties icon: Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower in Poplar is to be refurbished
For many years edgy Canning Town languished outside the property market, despite the spectacular rise of its neighbour, Canary Wharf. The game changer was the 2012 Olympics going to Stratford, cementing a £3.7 billion regeneration programme spearheaded by Newham council. The area is now firmly up and coming and could be virtually unrecognisable in a decade.
Step out of the station and you will see the Vermilion development, with 271 new homes and shops and cafés. This is the first phase of the 675-home Rathbone Market renewal, to include a new library, two public squares and purpose-built facilities for market traders. Aurelia is the latest residential phase. From £275,000. Call 020 7476 6032.
From £275,000: flats in the latest phase of the Vermilion scheme, Canning Town
Royal Docks, reinvented as The Royals, is a giant tract of land with 12 miles of waterfront. Attempts to revive the area as a fashionable place to live and work are finally succeeding, with a new global trading “port” and redevelopment of mothballed industrial sites.
Royal Wharf will be Docklands’ biggest new neighbourhood since Canary Wharf was built. This 3,385-home “modern urban village” based on old-fashioned design principles will have a high street, a school, parks and squares, riverside restaurants and its own DLR station. Flats are launching soon. Call Ballymore on 0808 118 1987.
Beckton was so bleak in the Eighties that director Stanley Kubrick used it to film scenes for Vietnam war epic Full Metal Jacket. Now you can find affordable purpose-built flats and traditional houses with gardens and parking.
A DLR spur under the Thames emerges at Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, a former armaments factory with a fine collection of listed Georgian and Victorian buildings. This new riverside estate will eventually have 5,000-plus homes.
Gun Carriage Mews, part of the Heritage Quarter, is the latest phase, with 12 loft-style flats featuring exposed brickwork and beams. Prices from £550,000. Call 020 3538 9544.
From £550,000: loft-style flats at Gun Carriage Mews, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich