A new riverside development will bring back to life a forgotten part of London next door to Tower Bridge. Together with neighbouring Shad Thames, the fashionable Docklands quarter, Chambers Wharf is set to become the riverside’s largest and greenest new location when it is completed in five years’ time.
It will include 600 new homes, offices and shops and a landmark feature: 13 wind turbines rising above a new riverside walkway. Many of the new homes will have spectacular views of Tower Bridge.
'After the Eighties, developers and planners squabbled for two decades - until one firm won through'
Chambers Wharf used to be “London’s larder”, a vast warehouse cold store that held imported meats and foodstuffs. Built in the Thirties, it is far less pretty than the mellow-brick Victorian warehouses nearby and is to be demolished. The present concrete bulk of the building stretches back several hundred yards from the riverbank and occupies a four-acre site that has been derelict for nearly 20 years.
Gold bullion was stored in the unprepossessing building during the Eighties, when the surrounding wasteland doubled as the set for car chases for TV series such as The Professionals. In the years since, developers and planners have squabbled over the site’s future. Southwark council finally gave approval to a radical makeover scheme by developer St Martins, a £3 billion property company that normally builds City offices.
At the moment, the Thames Path comes to an abrupt stop at the wharf. But redevelopment will create a continuous riverside promenade linking the terraced restaurants and cafés of Shad Thames with Rotherhithe’s historic waterfront. A houseboat community just west of Chambers Wharf will remain and the Environment Agency is insisting that this stretch of the Thames foreshore becomes a nature reserve.
Housing will be spread across six modern buildings ranging up to 14 storeys high. Such is the size of the existing wharf that demolition will take at least a year. James Hyman of estate agent Cluttons says now is a good time to buy into the area, which is up to a third cheaper than next-door Shad Thames.
“The Chambers Wharf redevelopment will extend the radius of fashionable Shad Thames by a mile or so, giving a boost to properties on the eastern side near Bermondsey Jubilee line Tube station.”
This is where the SE1 and SE16 postcodes meet, and some of the old council estates where dockers once lived have seen little regeneration, giving them an “unfriendly and hostile air”, says Hyman. “Chambers Wharf will provide an architectural lift and also improve local amenities because there will be commercial and retail space at street level.”
Ugly tenements bulldozed
Private housing is sprouting up in nearby. Regeneration at 50-acre Bermondsey Spa, which is cut off from Shad Thames by busy Jamaica Road, is another project making an impact. Southwark council is spearheading redevelopment of 21 separate sites: ugly tenements are being bulldozed and 2,000 new mixed-tenure homes are to be built as well as shops, GP surgeries, an upgraded park and gardens and loft-style offices.
One of the planning objectives is to improve the areas between Bermondsey Spa and Shad Thames and to encourage a pedestrian flow. A railway viaduct running into London Bridge station is to be cleaned up and arches punched through to improve visibility and attract new businesses.
'The villagey hub is home to punk sculptor Andrew Logan and the Zandra Rhodes fashion factory'
More London, a new 3 million sq ft business estate alongside City Hall at Tower Bridge, has brought corporate affluence to the area for the first time — with up to 40,000 white-collar jobs and demand for local housing. Accountant Ernst & Young and international law firm Norton Rose have relocated there, while PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the world’s largest consultancy firm, is moving into a global headquarters building.
“Various bits of Bermondsey are starting to join up and there’s more of a sense of place,” says Paul Travers of estate agent New London. “The area by the Tube station used to be quite grim but pavement cafés have opened and it’s attracting people who can’t afford to live in Shad Thames or Borough.”
Bermondsey Street is a villagey hub to watch, home to a long-standing community of live/workers and artists, including “punk sculptor” Andrew Logan. The colourful Zandra Rhodes fashion factory and Delphina art gallery are also there. They have recently been joined by three boutiques and three bar/restaurants. Five estate agencies vie for business.
A mix of Georgian, Victorian and 20th century buildings line the street, behind which are deceptively big courtyards where light-industrial premises have existed for decades. These are now being turned into apartments. “The area has not achieved its full potential yet,” says James Ball of estate agent Daniel Cobb.
New stars of the Spa
A cluster of attractive new apartment schemes is rising around St James Church, Bermondsey Spa. The Hyde Group is offering private and shared-ownership flats at three developments: St James Square, Eyot Heights and Bolanchi Buildings. Prices begin at £249,950. Call Savills (020 7231 1200) or Hyde Group (0208 297 1500).
# Dragonfly is a dashing new development, the winner of an architectural competition for the sensitive site overlooking the churchyard of listed St James. The copper- and larch-clad building has 49 apartments priced from £275,000. Call developer Blueprint Homes on 0845 643 1500.
# Luna: from £400,000 to £1.25 million, these new flats, recently completed, are at the river’s edge. Call Cluttons (020 7407 3669).
# Chambers Wharf is due for completion in 2013, with off-plan sales envisaged from next year. The emphasis will be on eco-friendly construction. Visit www.chambers-wharf.co.uk.