London’s extensive canal network is ripe for regeneration. Now millions of pounds is to be spend on creating new waterside homes, especially in east London where the 2012 Olympics is providing an additional boost.
© British Waterways
Many of these locations are industrial legacies, so the homes being built will be affordable. Young Londoners have the chance to buy in up-and-coming areas that have the potential to become congenial canalside communities - car-free, with less pollution and noise.
Next month, London & Quadrant Housing Trust starts work on an £65 million scheme at Hackney’s Kingsland Basin, where there will be 207 new homes, a health centre, café, shops and offices.
'Walking or cycling along a towpath you get a completely different perspective on the capital'
Grand Union Canal is the main inland waterway in the capital. It comes in from the west, through Brentford and Paddington, before joining up with Regent’s Canal, passing through Camden, King’s Cross and Shoreditch and running into the Thames at Limehouse.
Here the Limehouse Cut spins off in a different direction, heading north-east through Bow and Stratford, and on to the Hackney Marshes.
THE BIRDS AND THE BEES
Canals are often havens for wildlife. "Living alongside one gives you the feeling of being near or in the countryside. When you cycle or walk along the towpath you get a completely different perspective on the capital," says Andrew Palmer of estate agent DTZ.
British Waterways hopes to regenerate up to 2,200 miles of canalside land. Its masterplan aims to exploit the amenity value of canals.
Islington and Hackney boroughs are the focus of much activity. Regeneration began piecemeal about five years ago when loft developers started converting redundant warehouses. Live-work accommodation followed. At City Road Basin and Wenlock Basin there are even Little Venice style enclaves with houseboat marinas and business barges.
Shared-ownership prices start at £53,750 (25 per cent) at Horizons, a 12-storey tower flats in Hoxton. Call Family Mosaic (020 7089 6350).
Somerston House overlooks the canal in Camden, moments from the vibrant market area. Prices start at £73,750 for a 25 per cent share of a one-bedroom apartment. Bike storage is included in the 45-home scheme. Call Genesis on 0800 883 8963.
WHAT’S ON OFFER
Oak Wharf, in Stoke Newington, has 27 canalside apartments. Prices start at £43,125 for a 25 per cent share of a one-bedroom flat with a full market value of £172,500. Call 020 7089 1315.
Caspian Wharf is a scheme of 82 apartments overlooking the Limehouse Cut in Bow. One penthouses has an enormous 1,426sq ft terrace. Prices from £205,000. Call Berkeley Homes on 0844 800 1152.
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.
The Lea Navigation runs from Docklands to Hertford via the giant reservoirs and nature reserves of Tottenham Hale. Along the route, factories and mills are being redeveloped.
Industrial eyesores remain but this is a remarkably green swathe of the capital, with parks and unexpected conservation areas.
Paradise Park is a scheme of 132 flats beside the Lea Navigation in Upper Clapton. It takes its name from a Victorian dock built at the height of Empire to serve a glass works, Indian rubber factory and carbolic acid plant.
New apartments overlook a "mock" dock and have decked terraces projecting out over the water. The architecture is contemporary-style and fits the leafy setting. Many of the apartments have balconies with views through the trees to the canal, and the smart interiors would not be out of place in, say, trendy Islington. Prices start at £185,000 and rise to £360,000. Call Vision Homes on 0845 838 2088.
New signposts (part of the Olympics-triggered Lea Valley regeneration) on the towpath reveal this is part of the Capital Ring Walk. Stratford is two miles away.
New homes are also available alongside suburban and rural stretches of the Grand Union Canal. At Wolverton, a famous railway town just north of Milton Keynes, developer People for Places has built 300 new homes on a 10.5 acre site that includes a velodrome.
Prices start at £140,000 (£70,000 for a 50 per cent share). Call 01908 319748. Two-bedroom town houses created from listed former train sheds cost £295,000.