Wealth and opportunity continue to spread across east London. The area has been experiencing a gold rush since 2005, when Stratford was selected to host the 2012 Olympics.
During the past decade, property prices have jumped by more than 300 per cent, and they are still rising — up 22 per cent in Newham borough last year, more than in any other part of the UK.
The change is remarkable — and ongoing. More Londoners now live east of Tower Bridge than to the west of the city, and east London’s population is projected to grow by a further 600,000 in the next 15 years.
So an area once synonymous with slums and villains, dockers and Cockney rhyming slang has morphed into the capital’s most compelling corner — not one district but a sprawling mass, big and diverse, with raw and refined neighbourhoods appealing to a swelling number of home buyers and renters, who can still find pockets of good value despite the price hikes.
Hectic and eclectic, east London claims the Canary Wharf banking zone, and the new economy — the digital/design/creative community — and is a place for fashionistas, finance-sector workers and families alike.
This is an evolving new mini city, while neighbouring Royal Docks is reinventing itself as a global trading hub and centre for green technology.
Unusually for London, the business world and the artistic world flourish side by side here. “Cycling along the canal in the morning, you’re guaranteed to pass a banker or trader going to their job in the City and another heading off to their workshop in Shoreditch,” says Andrew Bridges, managing director of estate agent Stirling Ackroyd.
English National Ballet’s relocation from posh Kensington to a glittering new headquarters at Canning Town is an example of east London’s burgeoning cultural scene.
Some 7,000 artists live and work in east London, according to leading contemporary art venue Whitechapel Gallery. As well as galleries, museums and pop-ups, there are new noted restaurants, homeware boutiques, farmers’ markets and designer hotels.
Who would have predicted 10 years ago that famed restaurant chain Nobu would plump for Hoxton, or that a Burberry outlet store would open in the Hackney heartland?
City in the east
More than £13 billion of Olympics-related investment was bound to make a difference, and new infrastructure projects such as Crossrail are adding to east London’s allure.
Boris Johnson has unveiled a “City in the East” master plan, showing how 203,500 homes and 283,300 jobs can be created over the next 20 years, sustained by transport improvements such as an Overground extension to Barking Riverside, new river crossings and train stations.
The area stretches from London Bridge through Docklands to Rainham Marshes in Essex and Dartford in Kent. The Mayor’s document contains a series of maps that brings to life how the city is moving eastwards.
To see the individual growth areas, visit www.london.gov.uk.
Migration east is continuing to change the area’s demographics and a building boom is bringing better new homes.
A fresh wave of glamorous high-rise housing at Canary Wharf is attracting big-budget buyers from Fulham, Putney and Chelsea. Yet away from the gleaming towers of Docklands, the arty lofts of Spitalfields and gentrified pockets around Victoria Park, homes are still affordable enough to keep the property dreams of young Londoners alive, especially with shared-ownership options lowering the entry price.
Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Mile End and Bow — the heart of the old East End — remain rough-and-tumble, but also colourful and cool, while inner-city “quarters” are being created through the release of disused public land — such as a former postal depot in Stephenson Street, Hackney, where Berkeley Homes is building 3,500 homes, a new school and shops.
Prospect East, in up-and-coming Leyton Road, has 173 flats. Prices start at £364,950. Call 0300 303 7333.
Shadwell is a place to watch, especially Cable Street, famously the scene of anti-fascist demonstrations in 1936. The street takes its name from the manufacture of ships’ cables and ropes. That industry is long dead, but running below the street today is a fibre-optic superhighway stretching from the City to global investment banks on the Isle of Dogs.
For decades, this neglected neighbourhood was seen as a rough place to live. But run-down warehouses and scrapyards have suddenly been discovered by developers — and hipsters are moving in. The popularity of Wilton’s Music Hall, a once-derelict Victorian concert venue that had come close to demolition, is a telltale sign of the area’s rise. Fifty-acre Fish Island in Stratford — a former industrial area, now an artists’ colony — was a virtual no-go zone for home buyers, but is now a promising new frontier, with eager developers swooping to snap up sites and estate agents plotting the future.
Peabody’s Neptune Wharf will provide 578 homes. L&Q housing association is poised to unveil a scheme of canalside homes in Stour Road, while developer H Group is progressing four schemes with up to 250 homes aimed at young professionals working in Shoreditch and the City who would never choose to live in the new-build villages on the Olympic Park itself.
Hackney estate agent Currell has opened a Discover East resource centre, showing the regeneration plans and projects in and around Fish Island. Call 020 3826 4888.
London Legacy Development Corporation, which owns a lot of the land, has taken control as the planning authority and is fast-tracking change.