London’s extensive canal network is still being discovered by developers hungry for new waterside locations. As in Docklands during the Eighties, there are miles of neglected waterfront ripe for change.
Many of these locations are former industrial sites and create an opportunity to build affordable homes before the gentrifiers arrive and prices are hiked.
Young Londoners have the chance to buy into these up-and-coming areas and become part of an often congenial canalside community — usually car-free, with less pollution and noise.
If you are up for a brisk new year walk, the best way to discover these forgotten waterways and spot the new housing is to put on your hiking boots. Sometimes the access is difficult but it is surprising how far you can go. Several new canalside developments are being launched over the coming weeks.
Regeneration rippling out of the Olympic Park in Stratford has helped bring many of east London's canals back to life, now with new towpaths and more recreational activities.
A four-mile network of derelict waterways largely unused since the Second World War now forms part of the Olympic Park. The first stage of restoration is complete with a new lock and water-control structure, which has returned the rivers to navigation, reviving water transport in the area for the first time in 50 years. It now has Caspian Wharf, a scheme of 552 apartments fronting Limehouse Cut (London's oldest canal), which runs close to Stratford before heading north-east to Hackney Marshes and Walthamstow. Apartments are priced from £249,950. Call 0844 800 1152.
The Grand Union Canal
This is the main inland waterway in the capital. It comes in from the west, through Brentford, and on to Paddington and Little Venice before joining with Regent's Canal and running into the Thames at Docklands. Islington and Hackney sections of the Regent's Canal are the focus of much activity.
City Road runs down from Old Street roundabout to Angel and has become a development corridor. Behind the busy thoroughfare is a nine-acre canal basin, second only in size to Paddington Basin, which is being opened up and turned into a mixed-use estate of homes, businesses, recreational outlets and a boat club. The location is more City fringe than either east or north London, and is popular with walk-to work commuters.
Affinity Sutton housing association is partnering developer Mount Anvil and offering 307 new homes, 69 for shared ownership, at The Lexicon, a group of three canalside buildings, including a 36-storey tower. To register, call 020 7776 1800.
Packington Square, near Angel, is a redevelopment of a former council estate bordering the canal and gentrified Georgian terraces. Hyde Housing Association is creating a complete new neighbourhood, with a mix of private and shared-ownership flats — the latter available this spring. Visit packingtonsquare.com.
Lime Wharf, Hackney, is a modern-design block of 28 apartments, all with outside space, plus there are communal roof terraces. Prices from £350,000. Call Currell on 020 7226 6611. Shared-ownership flats at the scheme will be released for sale soon. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7089 1315.
Kingsland Basin, part of Regent's Canal in Shoreditch, is a hidden gem being turned into a smart waterside community with 207 new homes, a health centre, cafés, shops and loft-style offices, already attracting creatives priced out of nearby Clerkenwell.
The £65 million redevelopment includes the restoration of two listed stable buildings (once providing horse-drawn carriages for hire — the origins of Hackney carriages), which are being turned into studios and workshops for small businesses.
The canal is being opened up for recreational use, with eco-zones on the edges of the basin planted with native species to attract birds and other wildlife.
De Beauvoir Wharf is one of three new apartment blocks, a modern architectural take on traditional wharves and warehouses, where homes have been released for sale. Prices from £295,000. Visit kingslandwharves.co.uk or call 0844 406 9299.
North-east London's giant reservoirs, which are linked to canals, are also being opened up for housing and recreation. West Reservoir has 42 acres of open water and lies just north of Clissold Park, Stoke Newington.
The reservoir's former filter house is now a visitor centre with old hydraulic machinery on display, while the Victorian pumping station, a distinctive castellated design, has been converted into a popular climbing centre.
Here a new waterside neighbourhood is emerging, one of the largest residential projects in the UK. Called Woodberry Park, it will eventually have 4,600 new homes — a mix of open-market and affordable properties.
Berkeley Homes is building the first phase of 306 apartments in a new 27-storey tower called The Residence (prices from £275,000, call 020 8985 9918), while shared-ownership flats have been launched by Genesis housing association. Prices start at £60,000 for a 25 per cent share (full price £240,000), and the total monthly outgoings — mortgage, rent and service charge — are £812. Three-bedroom apartments cost from £315,000. Call 0808 118 2211.
Crisply designed apartment blocks will be linked by a series of "linear parks" converging on a new town square. The 26-hectare development is also bordered by the New River, a waterway running from Canonbury. The river's towpath can be walked through Haringey borough to its source in Hertfordshire.