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Mayor Boris Johnson overrules planners to create fabulous new homes districts overlooking the Thames

Mayor Boris Johnson overrules planners to create fabulous new homes districts overlooking the Thames

The under-used riverbank could be London's saviour for meeting the target of building the 70,000 new homes a year the capital needs.

Masterplan: the Mayor is determined to drive through a scheme for 3,500 new homes at Convoys Wharf, the Deptford site where Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake

Mayor Boris Johnson has intervened to end squabbles over plans for new homes along the Thames. He is to use special powers to bypass local councils when he thinks they are taking too long to approve complex schemes - giving bland architecture an advantage over more innovative projects.

Many planning experts believe that developing long stretches of under-used riverbank could go a long way towards meeting the target of building the 70,000 new homes a year the capital needs.

The Mayor has been frustrated by delays in approving plans for 40-acre Convoys Wharf in Deptford, one of the largest London development opportunities. It could provide 3,500 new homes but has been left derelict for 14 years by planning delays. The land occupies a dramatic, deep-water bend of the river - one reason why Henry VIII decided to site his first, and most important, royal dockyard there in 1513. It is where his flagship Mary Rose and the Golden Hind were built, and where Francis Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. It is also where Peter the Great of Russia spent three months learning the art of shipbuilding in 1698. Stand on the riverfront and the domes of Greenwich Naval Hospital and the glittering skyscrapers of Canary Wharf are in full view. In recent decades, the land was blighted by ugly industrial sheds blocking off access to the river, while the listed Olympia Building at the heart of the site fell into disrepair. Hong Kong-based developer Hutchison Whampoa faced stiff opposition from local campaigners and archaeologists over its failure to include a plan to preserve the remains of the former dockyard, described by MP Joan Ruddock as “London’s best-kept secret”.

However, when Lewisham council failed to consider the developer’s planning application within the statutory time period, the Mayor stepped in to give the £1 billion scheme approval.

Building work is expected to start later this year after the heritage aspects and community benefits have been agreed. About 500 of the properties will be affordable homes. The rest, including apartments in high-rise blocks, will be for sale on the open market. The masterplan by architect Sir Terry Farrell promotes Convoys Wharf as a destination as well as a place to live, with shops, restaurants, a waterside park and new pier for the river taxi service. It will also link up with and enhance Deptford High Street, itself getting a facelift with a showpiece new train station project. To register, call 0845 460 6011.

Key to the future: a £1.1 billion flats and jobs project is under way at the old Lots Road Power Station site, Chelsea


A Lifestyle choice
Despite the waterfront boom of the last 20 years, there are still dozens of ready-and-waiting sites along the stretch of Thames from Richmond to Barking.

Several key projects are close to launching, while those for the future include Stag Brewery in Mortlake, Lots Road Power Station in Chelsea, 767-home Chambers Wharf near Tower Bridge, and Sugar Quay, a Candy & Candy project next to the Tower of London. While the London-wide housing shortage is driving development activity, a rekindled fashion for riverside living is giving the trend extra impetus. Demand for “Property-upon-Thames” has never been so strong, according to Matthew Smith, who has even coined a new term - riversiders - for those who crave a home on the Thames.

“People have always gravitated towards the river but what might be called the riverside lifestyle only really took off about five years ago when developers started to provide amenities such as restaurants, spas and shops, and upgrade river paths and promenades, all of which have made the waterfront a far more convivial place.”


From £1.1 million: for apartments at One Tower Bridge's nine riverside blocks. Call 020 7871 0011
Schemes such as One Tower Bridge are about the urban realm as much as river views and head-turning architecture. Rather than being a gated compound, the nine riverside blocks integrate seamlessly with the Thames Path and a park alongside City Hall. A performance space is also being created amid the high-quality landscaping. With extras including underground parking, gym, concierge and security, the 356-home scheme is enticing people from Chelsea and Kensington. Prices from £1.1 million Call 020 7871 0011.

Improved transportation and the prospect of Crossrail is boosting the allure of less central riverside districts such as Canary Wharf, where the giant Wood Wharf complex, designed by Tate Modern architects Herzog & de Meuron, is due to start at the end of the year. This will bring 3,100 homes including parkside townhouses, affordable homes and luxury flats, plus 100 shops and new offices within a network of streets and squares, public spaces and water’s edge boardwalks - “the glue that holds the neighbourhood together,“ says project director Robert Maguire.

Waterfront homes always carry a premium - up to 35.4 per cent, according to analysis by Savills. As a rule of thumb, homes east of Tower Bridge are cheaper than those to the west. Prices decline beyond Putney before rising again at Richmond. River-view flats start at about £450,000 in Limehouse and Rotherhithe, while values generally range between £600 and £3,000 a square foot. Woolwich and Brentford are among the lower-priced riverside addresses. The South Bank and Cheyne Walk in Chelsea are most expensive. London Dock, launching in early summer, is a redevelopment of the former News International printworks in Wapping. The 15-acre, high-fenced compound is being transformed into a “quarter” with 1,800 homes, new pedestrian routes to the river, a civic square, cafés, restaurants and a new secondary school. Contact St George on 020 8917 4040. Fulham’s waterfront is another new homes hotspot, with industrial estates and retail parks changing into smart new apartment schemes. A 2.5-acre patch between Hurlingham Park and the Harbour Club is getting 242 river-hugging homes. Call Londonewcastle on 020 7534 1888. Vista, at the foot of Chelsea Bridge, is a redevelopment of the former QVC shopping channel offices bringing 350 homes priced from £826,000. Call 020 3053 6900.
From £475,000:
apartments at Riverside Quarter have access to the Thames Clipper river bus service
Increasing the berth rate: more piers and river taxis
Transport for London estimates that 100,000 homes will be built in riverside districts during the next decade, justifying an improved river taxi service. Plans have been unveiled for more piers and extended routes to double the number of passengers by 2020. Annual passenger numbers have increased from 5.3 million to 6.6 million over the last five years.

After piers open at Imperial Wharf in Fulham and St George’s Wharf in Vauxhall, more are planned at Enderby Wharf in Greenwich, Plantation Wharf in Wandsworth and at Battersea Power Station, making it easier for residents to get to and from work. Currently, river services operate along three sections of the Thames: Wandsworth to Westminster via Chelsea Harbour; Embankment to Tower Bridge via Blackfriars, and Docklands to Woolwich via Greenwich.

Oyster card travel has been extended to the Thames Clipper river bus service, whose recently lengthened route from Riverside Quarter in Wandsworth to Blackfriars, a 30-minute commute, has introduced a whole new group of City buyers to the area. 

Five Riverside, a tower with 99 apartments, is the latest local addition. Prices start from £475,000 for a one-bedroom home. Call Savills on 020 8877 2000.

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