Transforming the Thames: eco-friendly homes in floating villages

As Boris Johnson pledges to double river traffic by 2020, David Spittles unveils the plans for the Thames superhighway, including floating villages of eco flats and houses and a complete residential revamp of the Royal Docks
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* Floating villages will provide Londoners with modern eco-friendly homes close to transport links and pedestrian bridges

* Planned 10 metre-wide boardwalk between Millennium Bridge and Tower Bridge with entertainment pavilions, piers and promenades

* The Royal Docks - Albert, Victoria and George V - will have a new Crossrail station at Custom House by 2017, will become a major business and shopping hub and has 1,500 new homes in the pipeline

John Robertson Architects and Arup's vision of London in 2050
Waterworld: John Robertson Architects and Arup's vision of London in 2050, with floating river eco-parks creating bridges from the City to transport links across the Thames

Royal Dock's - Britain's biggest enterprise zone
When built more than 100 years ago, the three Royal Docks — Albert, Victoria and George V) — formed the world’s largest enclosed dockland, from Hyde Park to Tower Bridge.

Emirates AirWays cable car
© Alamy
The new Emirate AirWays cable car linking Greenwich Peninsula and exhibition centre ExCel is already a big draw
Shipping stopped in the Seventies and regeneration has been slow, but the area has received a series of boosts which are likely to propel it as a serious rival to Canary Wharf.

Recently Royal Docks became the UK’s largest Enterprise Zone, which provides tax breaks to companies relocating there. London Development Agency, part of the Mayor’s office, is establishing a green technology campus, while Siemens has opened The Crystal, a £30 million research centre.

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By 2017 Royal Docks will have a new Crossrail station at Custom House, plugging the area into the Tube network with a direct link to Heathrow airport. Long-awaited redevelopment of 50-acre Silvertown Quays, which includes Millennium Mills, a handsome flourmill built in the Edwardian era, is another fillip. This will bring 1,500 new homes plus a new business and shopping hub.

Property company Chelsfield has won the race to regenerate the site with a masterplan that includes “iconic-design” pavilions for top retailers and technology companies to showcase their products.

The docks are used for water sports, while quayside restaurants and bars have opened near the ExCeL exhibition centre. Emirates Air Line, a new cable car linking the area with Greenwich, is another draw. What was a rough, inward-looking district is now a popular address for City professionals.

Planners are promoting higher-quality urban design that relates to Docklands’ mercantile past. Current developments include Barratt’s Waterside Park, right by the Thames Barrier. Prices from £206,000. Call 0845 871 9994.

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