London's new homes: building communities and cultural quarters in Nine Elms, Hackney and Greenwich

By selling community life and creating cultural hotspots, house builders are now returning to the domestic market. By Ginetta Vedrickas
The fashionable way to launch new homes is to sell the community — an instant neighbourhood lifestyle made possible by generous landscaping with river walks, fountains and sculptures enhancing the surroundings.

All this is held together with “community glue” in the form of new music venues, schools, crèches, food  markets, allotments, social and craft clubs, arts centres and gyms, and a calendar bursting with community-building events.

Between Battersea and Vauxhall on the south bank of the Thames, developers are attempting to create a 20,000-home community at Nine Elms — one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe.

IMAGE GALLERY: LONDON'S NEW HOMES WITH THRIVING LOCAL COMMUNITIES



A recently appointed design and place-making advisory group is working hard to embed new apartments in the area through a partnership with Battersea Arts Centre, which is based in the old town hall. 

A consortium of developers is promoting Nine Elms as a new cultural quarter that will benefit existing residents, after coming under fire for selling so many of the first wave of glossy £1 million flats to overseas investors. Flats targeted at Londoners include one-bedroom apartments at Riverlight, priced at £550,000 through Garton Jones (020 3733 5923).
 
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Woodberry Down offers a series of community events, such as Farmer’s markets and open-air film screenings throughout the summer

Harmony in Hackney
Social activity and an injection of new blood is part of the recipe for turning around many of London’s troublesome Fifties and Sixties housing estates.
 
At Woodberry Down in Hackney, 5,000 new flats are being built on the site of a former council estate, which now overlooks a sailing club and reservoir. Along with building new schools and a wetlands centre, the developer is running a series of community events. When complete, 41 per cent of the new homes will be classed as affordable.



“Creating harmony among former tenants and newcomers is challenging,” says Dan Massie, development manager at Berkeley Homes. 

“Everything was planned with the community, so people met up and got to know each other. Our research shows that even its new renters want to stay long term.”

Woodberry Down is particularly committed to its task. Farmers’ markets and open-air film screenings are taking place throughout the summer. Sonelle Goddard and her husband, Dale, say that before buying their two-bedroom apartment, they had concerns about all this “chumminess” on offer.

“We spent a lot of time investigating this vision for a thriving community,” says Sonelle, an artist, who has since moved in and made friends with existing residents and new home owners thanks to a project she organised for local children to design hoardings. 

The couple swim at the West Reservoir Centre and attend classes in the community centre. “The more activities you get involved in, the more  people you meet and the more supportive and engaged the wider community becomes,” she adds.

Studios are for sale at the latest phase of The Park Collection, starting at £365,000. Call 020 8985 9918.
 
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From £350,000: Greenwich Millennium Village offers excellent transport links, a school, health centre, shops and leisure facilities, all within walking distance

Greenwich's time to shine
Some new developments take longer than others to gel as a community.

When Greenwich Millennium Village launched in 1999, the area was a neglected backwater, but in the past two years Millennium Primary School has gone from an Ofsted  rating of “requires improvement” to “outstanding”, and the community is thriving. 

A village square hosts regular events and developers Countryside and Taylor Wimpey are installing an eco-play area next to an ecology centre. The latest phase of apartments starts at £350,000. Call 020 8305 2712.

Head concierge Bill Clarke, who grew up locally, says the development has transformed the area into a friendly neighbourhood where his staff and residents know each other by name.  “We are proud of the happy and diverse community,” says Clarke. 

At the nearby Greenwich Peninsula scheme, a host of summer events are under way. In May, residents turned out for Urban Village Fête when more than 10,000 visitors enjoyed a free event. There are also film screenings and theatrical performances at The Jetty, an events space with a pop-up riverside bar, street food and music.



Set back from the waterfront, The Fulmar is a 10-storey development at Greenwich Peninsula with one-bedroom flats priced from £300,000. There are 64 homes available for first-time buyers in The Moore, starting at £295,000. Call 020 3713 6153. 


 
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Take the plunge: the London River Rat Race is held at the end of July at the ExCel centre, close to the Royal Wharf developments

The game is on
The Thames is always a good focal point for community events. On July 18 residents can enjoy the Great Newham London Swim at Royal Victoria Dock, while the London River Rat Race, an obstacle course where competitors take to the water in inflatables, is on July 25 at the ExCeL. 

Nearby at Royal Wharf, developers Oxley Holdings and Ballymore are creating two new parks, garden squares and a riverfront promenade alongside 3,385 homes. Prices start at £385,000 for one-bedroom homes. Phase three launches in the autumn and 45 per cent of the development is devoted to  public space to encourage a community spirit.

Commuter Haven
In Tunbridge Wells in Kent, a popular commuter town an hour from Charing Cross (an annual season ticket costs £3,300), developer Dandara is building 550 flats and townhouses at Knights Wood.



Set in an established woodland environment, prices start at £450,000 for a three-bedroom house in latest phase The Lanes. Call Knight Frank on 020 7861 5468.

PHOTOGRAPHS: DANIEL LYNCH

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