Canals and waterways all over the city are being revitalised and given back to the people.
- © Treasury Holdings
- © Treasury Holdings
One of our most historic rivers, the nine-mile Wandle that flows through Wandsworth and hidden for years in an industrial wasteland, is about to be unveiled and enjoyed by residents and new home owners, who will benefit from an enriched life as the traffic-clogged town centre is redesigned with millions of pounds worth of investment.
Wandsworth, a famously Conservative, central, low council tax borough and a favourite with the City and “Nappy Valley” yummy-mummies, is going for another accolade - as an urban regeneration specialist.
If the have-it-all Noughties in Wandsworth were symbolised by bread-winning bankers buying Victorian
villas around the area’s leafy commons, the next decade is all about transforming grimy industrial sites into attractive new districts.
‘Waterfront flats, cafés and designer-led new homes are luring the Mayfair set in’
In the past, as children grew up, families moved out in search of good schools and accepted a commuter life as their lot. But now the lure of waterfront apartments, cafés, bars and brasseries and designer-led new homes might encourage them to stay, especially as the Mayfair set is moving in.
The US Embassy makes its radical move out of Grosvenor Square and on to the 450 acre Nine Elms opportunity zone within five years.
The iconic listed, part-Georgian Ram Brewery in the town centre of Wandsworth will be transformed as the company relocates to Suffolk, and the dominant, long fought-over and unresolved derelict Battersea Power Station is about to have new plans approved for its future as a mixed-use complex with a big emphasis on leisure, with cinema complex, restaurants and cafés, as well as offices.
© Miller Hare Limited
The master plan
The £4 billion master plan covers 38 acres, and will feature a new riverbank community with hundreds of homes, shopping malls, hotels, bars and cafés. There will also be an eco office quarter.
This “second-wave” regeneration has a different character to the gentrification that took hold in the Nineties. The emphasis now is on high-quality urban architecture, much-improved public realm space and “community” benefits for local businesses and residents.
The immediate focus is on the town centre, where a car-clogged one-way system has prevented any real sense of neighbourhood.
Redevelopment of the six-acre brewery site alongside the Wandle, for generations enclosed by high walls, involves £41 million of transport-related improvements.
Minerva, the developer, is building up to 1,000 new homes and 200,000 sq ft of commercial space, mainly waterside bars and shops. Two skyscrapers will loom over listed heritage buildings, while a new pedestrian route will be cut through the site and continue along the Wandle to the Thames path. Traffic will be re-routed from the high street. For more information visit www.therambrewery.com.
“The development comes with the biggest transport ‘dowry’ we have ever secured,” says Wandsworth’s planning chairman Leslie McDonnell. “It is the only way we can get the money to tackle the area’s chronic traffic problems. People will be able to walk or cycle through the development on their way to the riverside or the high street or to stop off for an evening out with friends.”
This site will link in with other several town centre schemes totalling more than £1 billion already under way. These include Hardwicks Square, a business village providing low-cost studio space, mainly for start-up firms, and Ipsus, a residential scheme of 138 flats. Prices from £249,995. Call Hamptons on 020 7758 8493.
An up-and-coming area
“Wandsworth’s economy is driven by the small business sector,” says a council spokesman. “The new flexible work spaces will appeal to accountants, internet companies, lawyers, architects and designers who can also live close by and walk or cycle to work.”
Grants and interest-free loans are available to traders in the town centre “improvement area”. Wandsworth’s council tax is the lowest in England - £681 for the average Band D property.
Parkside is a development of 159 flats centred on a 23-storey glass tower, located between the high street and King George’s Park. Prices from £309,995. Call Barratt on 020 8326 7171.
Wandsworth’s demography has changed in recent years. Since 2000, the 25-44 age group has risen from 36 per cent to more than 40 per cent, while the proportion of under-fives has grown by 33 per cent. Two-thirds of the population is now in the ABC1 socio-economic group.
Tellingly, Waitrose has opened at the new Southside shopping mall in the town centre. Chef Gordon Ramsay came to prominence at Harvey’s restaurant, now the Michelin-starred Chez Bruce, on Bellevue, a pretty parade overlooking the common. Ramsay stayed loyal to the area and now lives in a Victorian mansion nearby. Actress Keira Knightley, comedian Jack Dee and cricketer Kevin Pietersen all live here.
“What people always forget about Wandsworth is how vast it is,” says George Franks of estate agent Douglas & Gordon. “Traffic has killed the town centre, so regeneration will help enormously. But lessons have to be learned from Wandsworth’s riverside developments, which are seen as desolate and soulless because they have no shops or restaurants and are somewhat isolated.”
Franks says Wandsworth borough has up-and-coming areas - such as Earlsfield - which still offer good value for young families (four-bedroom Victorian houses for less than £500,000). Terraces close to the town centre, currently affected by the heavy traffic, are likely to get a price boost.
“Everyone is desperately waiting for the power station and the rest of Nine Elms to be redeveloped,” says Franks. “At the moment, it’s rundown and relatively few people live in the Nine Elms corridor so there’s a chance to create a completely new riverbank district.”
As part of the mayor’s lost rivers initiative, an ecological zone is being created at the Wandle Delta, where the River Wandle meets the Thames. Right alongside is Riverside Quarter, a 411-home development with gardens, pontoon jetties and moorings plus a river-taxi pier.
Arguably, it is the most attractive of all Wandsworth’s residential estates. A new phase of apartments is coming soon. Call Frasers Property on 020 8877 2000.