Four new bridges for London: closing the north-south property price divide

Four new Thames crossings and the dramatic expansion of the south bank will help to shift London's historic house price divide in the next five years.
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Designer Thomas Heatherwick's pedestrian-only Garden Bridge will be a "floating amenity space" linking Waterloo to the south bank

For many Londoners, the Thames seems almost like a border between two countries, with remarkably few home buyers willing to cross the river to settle in a new neighbourhood. However, new bridges across the Thames due to be completed within five years are changing the dynamics of the capital’s north-south property divide by opening up the cheaper waterfront districts that quickly evolve into fashionable neighbourhoods.

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A new look for London's riverside. Key: figures in blue = units planned or under construction; figures in purple = annual completions (last 10 years) private units. Image: Winkworth
Four more Bridges
Four new river crossings are planned for London. Wandsworth council approved a scheme to build a Diamond Jubilee pedestrian crossing beween Chelsea and Battersea, while another crossing for both pedestrians and cyclists is planned between Pimlico and Nine Elms. Meanwhile, the Garden Bridge is set to be part of a leafy link between Covent Garden and the South Bank, and Mayor Boris Johnson is backing a campaign for a road link between Beckton and Thamesmead in east London. Some 17,000 new homes are in the pipeline across these areas.

Traditionally, north bank homes have been more desirable than those on the south bank and up to twice as expensive, according to research by estate agent Winkworth. However, the value gap is narrowing and some homes on the south side now cost considerably more than those they face across the water. 

The Millennium Bridge, which opened in 2000 and provides a direct link between Tate Modern and St Paul’s Cathedral, kick-started this trend. Not only is the Norman Foster-designed structure a thing of beauty, it has helped catapult Bankside to what Winkworth calls a “Premier League address”.

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From £457,000: flats at Berkeley Homes' Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich
The bridge has brought new public space along with cafés, restaurants and galleries, spawned smart new developments either side of the river and even inspired a new train station, Blackfriars South, with a solar-roof concourse that floats above the Thames.

“Bridges have a huge regenerative impact,” says Winkworth chief executive Dominic Agace. “The message is that this is positive investment for buyers who spot these areas early on.” Take, for example, Southwark waterfront — the strip between Blackfriars Bridge and Tower Bridge. A decade ago, property values trailed those on the City side of the river, whereas today they are significantly higher, typically £1,331,450 compared with £736,741.

Glamorous new architecture is one reason for the price hike. Another is that views looking north tend to be much better.
Glass is smashing price records, as ever more apartments with floor-to-ceiling glazing are built in the booming SE1 postcode. One Blackfriars, a 50-storey skyscraper at the foot of the bridge due for completion in 2016, is already raising the bar for South Bank homes, with apartments costing from £960,000. 

Live near Tower Bridge
This development of 356 flats, being built right next to one of London’s most iconic landmarks, is made up of nine distinctive modern buildings. They include a 20-storey “campanile”, or tower, with a single apartment on each floor — the one at the top being a spectacular triplex with roof garden and glazed enclosure. 

However, One Tower Bridge is about the urban realm as much as river views. It is not gated and will integrate seamlessly with the riverside promenade and a public park alongside City Hall. A listed Victorian school is being converted into a boutique hotel, a performance space will be created, and high-quality landscaping will include an interactive “fountain clock”.
Sandringham House is the latest phase, with 44 flats in a sleek-design block clad in glass and stone. Residents will have use of a private spa and will be able to play virtual golf. Prices from £1.1 million. Call 020 7871 0011.

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£2.94 million: 206 apartments in six buildings at 190 Strand, ready in 2016
Waterloo’s star is rising 
Properties in Waterloo are half the price of those in Aldwych and Covent Garden across the river, but the Garden Bridge will enliven the relatively quiet zone near Temple and provide a direct pedestrian-only link, or floating amenity space, to the Southbank arts centre. “The idea is simple, to connect north and south London with a garden,” says bridge designer Thomas Heatherwick.
South Bank Tower on Stamford Street is a major Waterloo project, with 191 flats, one of London’s largest private roof gardens, a residents’ lounge and sky bar. Prices from £625,000. 

On a strip running down to Victoria Embankment, 190 Strand, right by the Garden Bridge, offers 206 apartments in six buildings, ready in 2016. Prices from £2.94 million. 

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The Cornish has 168 flats on the Albert Embankment with a concierge service run by Harrods
A new Lambeth quarter  
A little further west, average values on the south side also trail those on the north side, in Westminster, by a significant margin — £519,740 against £839,376. For many years, Albert Embankment in the SE11 postcode has been less enticing than its central riverside location near Lambeth Palace might suggest, partly due to gritty council estates set back from the Thames. However, redevelopment of a slab of office blocks is creating a new quarter where values are set to spiral, topping £2,000 per square foot.

Coming soon is Merano Residences, 48 apartments in a three-bay building rising to 28 storeys, while The Corniche has 168 apartments in three curvy skyscrapers. Harrods will run the concierge services and both schemes include office and retail space. 
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Further west still are the planned new pedestrian and cycle bridges between Nine Elms and Pimlico, and between Battersea and Chelsea Harbour. “In Battersea we are creating new homes and jobs on an epic scale and we need new river crossings to support this growth,” says Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth council. “Nine Elms is the epicentre of the building boom but the benefits are fanning out beyond this zone.”

Nine Elms excitement
The exact location of the Nine Elms to Pimlico bridge has yet to be finalised but it is likely to emerge on the northern side close to St George’s Square and Dolphin Square. This has triggered opposition from some local residents, who fear the bridge will bring chaos to a quiet neighbourhood  — in the shape of an estimated 18,000 cyclists and pedestrians a day. Cyclists, in their turn, complain about a bridge that will have many stairs to climb to get on to it. However, it is sure to boost the surrounding area, while opening up a route to posh Sloane Square.
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From £1.8 million: for a two-bedroom flat at Riverwalk in Millbank
Riverwalk, at Millbank, is the notable development on this side of the Thames. A Sixties office building has been bulldozed to make way for two new undulating blocks with 116 flats. The site includes a Henry Moore bronze sculpture, Locking Piece. Two-bedroom flats cost from £1.8 million.
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Diamonds are forever
Wandsworth council has given planning consent for the car-free Diamond Jubilee bridge between Battersea and Chelsea. It will run alongside the listed railway bridge carrying trains from Clapham Junction to Imperial Wharf in Fulham, where a new station has been built. The new bridge will further boost the Sands End district, once blighted by gas works, but now a sought-after address.
Currently there are no bridges, only tunnels, in east London. Thames Gateway Bridge — between Beckton and Thamesmead — is back on the mayoral agenda, spurred by Royal Docks regeneration. The bridge will connect Greenwich and Newham boroughs, where the lion’s share of the capital’s new homes are earmarked over the next decade.

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