Royal Docks, only four miles from the City, is benefiting from huge investment, with major regeneration projects bringing thousands of new homes and transport upgrades.
At the height of Empire a century ago, The Royals — Royal Albert Dock, Royal Victoria Dock and King George V Dock — were the world’s greatest docks.
When shipping ceased in the late 1970s, the area fell into quiet isolation, but attempts to revive the district as a global trading hub are succeeding, with science and business parks and a huge commerce and technology “port” aimed initially at Asia-Pacific companies.
THE NEW DEVELOPMENTS TO WATCH
1. ROYAL ALBERT WHARF
A new “quarter” of 1,500 homes, lies alongside the airport’s island runway, a marina and boatyard, plus the elevated tracks of the Docklands Light Railway, a raw and awesome setting, yet beautiful in its own way.
Apartment blocks are grouped around the dock and a handsome Edwardian pumphouse. Two-bedroom flats start at £175,000 for a 40 per cent share. Call 020 3553 7441.
2. ROYAL DOCK GARDENS
Another new housing scheme, located next to Custom House DLR station, being upgraded for Crossrail. One-bedroom flats cost from £115,500 for a 35 per cent share. Call 0300 303 7333.
A town centre of sorts has formed around ExCel exhibition centre, where smart apartment blocks and a cluster of hotels have been built.
Here too is Sunborn, a superyacht luxury hotel and restaurant moored permanently in the dock.
This is certainly a part of the capital to live in if you like big skies and dramatic riverscapes. It may have the feel of a frontierland, but you can buy early into a cheaper district with upside.
The same applied to nearby Canary Wharf 20 years ago, and look what that place has become.
3. ROYAL WHARF
Formerly a lubricants plant owned by Shell, is one of the neighbourhoods being built, 3,385 homes, including London’s biggest batch of new townhouses.
Though the architecture is contemporary, the development is rooted in old-fashioned design principles, being inspired by the success of London’s traditional landed estates, with their uncomplicated pattern of streets and squares.
So rather than a cluster of shiny glass-and-steel skyscrapers, the architecture is varied and more human scale, and the layout family friendly, with a high street, parks, crescents, squares and riverside restaurants, even its own school and DLR station. Almost half of this mainly low-rise neighbourhood is open green space, with outdoor areas designed for health and fitness.
More than 20,000 people will live and work at Royal Wharf alone. Corsair House, the latest phase of homes, has shared-ownership flats. The launch is in autumn. Call 020 3553 7441.
4. MILLENNIUM MILLS
A giant derelict Art Deco structure similar in scale to Battersea Power Station, is set to become the centrepiece of another high-profile scheme, The Silvertown, with up to 3,000 homes, a central piazza the size of Covent Garden, and “brand” pavilions for the world’s leading design and technology companies to showcase their wares.
In 2018, Crossrail will stitch the Royals firmly into London’s transport network (14-minute trains to central London), while London City Airport, far from being an environmental negative, is seen as a plus. Already the airport serves more than 40 UK and European destinations — New York too — making it convenient for Canary Wharf business travellers.