Tavy Bridge: regeneration of the Thamesmead estate
Of all the residential developments in London that deserve a second chance to shine, the Tavy Bridge area of the Thamesmead estate takes some beating.
Conceived in 1963, after the green belt new towns failed to solve the capital's postwar housing shortage, Thamesmead in south-east London was a dream set in concrete. Built on 1,600 acres of marshland, it was a Brave New World of brutalist-style tower blocks with high-rise walkways intended to create a neighbourly place, substituting for the Victorian terraces from which residents had moved.
Being a high-water area susceptible to flooding, drainage was supplied by lakes and canals, which the well-meaning GLC architects believed would help to have a calming effect.
But in 1971, the Tavy Bridge area became famous as the setting for Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange, which depicted an alienated gang of violent, bowler-hatted, baseball bat-wielding thugs — the planners' vision was clearly already unravelling. A significant design failure was the district's lack of shops and banks, and the absence of integrated public transport, necessary because of Thamesmead's cut-off location.
A second chance
Now Gallions housing association, which took over responsibility for the estate in 2000, is leading a regeneration, bulldozing old Tavy Bridge blocks and building a range of new homes.
This coincides with major transport upgrades that will connect Thamesmead to the London network. Crossrail stations are coming to Woolwich and Abbey Wood, and the Mayor has announced a new road tunnel between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks as well as a new ferry service between Beckton and Thamesmead. Southmere Village, named after one of the original Thamesmead lakes, will bring four new buildings with 296 homes, plus a library, shops and a community square. The new design by architect PRP aims to reintegrate neglected Southmere Lake, now a protected wildlife habitat, with the estate via new public paths and a boardwalk.
Gallions manages more than 5,000 homes in Greenwich and Bexley boroughs. The new ones at Thamesmead are for rent, shared ownership and private sale. To register call 0300 1231141.
The long-term gains
Though still a raw address, Thamesmead seems bound to benefit from regeneration spreading along the river bank from Docklands and Greenwich. A stigma remains but perceptions of Thamesmead are likely to change. This is one of the cheapest areas to live in the capital — good reason enough for priced-out young Londoners to investigate its possibilities — and bold buyers could reap rewards later. The overall vision for the area is to close the economic and physical gap between Thamesmead and Woolwich and their better-off neighbour, Greenwich.
On February 27, Berkeley Homes will hold a public open day to mark the formal handover of a new Crossrail "station box" at Royal Arsenal Riverside. This will contain tunnelling machines and is the size of 32 Olympic swimming pools, evidence of the scale and significance of the Crossrail terminus — "a gamechanger for the area," according to Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail chief executive. When the station opens in 2018, up to 12 trains an hour will link south-east London with Canary Wharf, the West End and Heathrow.
Berkeley has unveiled a new phase at 76-acre Royal Arsenal, the former munitions factory where 5,000 homes and a new commercial centre are planned over the next 10 years. The development already has a river taxi service to the City and a DLR station.
The Warehouse, No 1 Street is a new block alongside the many listed buildings at the new estate. Prices start at £299,950. Call 020 8331 7130.