Riverside revival: London's new waterfront neighbourhoods

Riverside revival: London's new waterfront neighbourhoods

The Thames Path has been voted one of the world's best big-city walks. Spectacular new riverside neighbourhoods are a vital part of the picture
* Two thirds of riverside buyers live in London — rather than being second-home overseas buyers — and work largely in the finance, law and entertainment industries

* Imaginative architecture, cultural spaces and improved transport links are bringing new neighbourhood developments to riverside areas such as Putney, Bankside, Tower Bridge, Woolwich and Kew

* The 29-mile Thames Path from Kingston to Canary Wharf has been declared one of the world’s best big-city walks by Lonely Planet's 1,000 Ultimate Adventures

Paynes and Borthwick
From £250,000: the Paynes & Borthwick development, West Greenwich, offers flats, live/work units and affordable homes (020 8858 9986)

The 29-mile Thames Path from Kingston to Canary Wharf has been declared one of the world’s best big-city walks — coming ahead of the Great Coastal Walk in Sydney and the Berlin Wall Trail. The Thames Pathway is full of surprises and contrasts, from the quiet, leafy riverbank through Richmond to the hubbub of the South Bank, “where the entire world seems to meet”, says the Lonely Planet’s 1,000 Ultimate Adventures travel guide, which conducted the poll.

Never before has London’s waterfront been such an attractive place to live. Imaginative architecture and building projects are embellishing new neighbourhoods, incorporating art, cultural and leisure space. Improved transport links are opening formerly closed-off zones at regenerated Nine Elms, where a kilometre-long park from Vauxhall Bridge to Battersea Power Station will open next year.

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Planners are keen to avoid the kind of sterile neighbourhood with no shops or leisure facilities that typified the first wave of Docklands regeneration 30 years ago. A string of new shoreline towers and apartment complexes will result in up to 18,000 new homes over the next decade, according to research by property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle. This rising tide of construction is transforming former industrial areas in central and outer London.

Wapping Riverside
New loft-style apartments at Wapping Riverside in east London are set within a Thameside warehouse conversion and have panoramic views across the Thames. Visit galliardhomes.com

Riverside living is not restricted to rich buyers — those on lower budgets can enjoy it, too. As a rule of thumb, east of Tower Bridge is cheaper than west, while prices decline beyond Putney before rising again at Richmond. Homes start at less than £450,000 in the more raw locations such as Woolwich but values rise to £10 million-plus for spectacular penthouses along the prized stretch between Tower and Chelsea Bridges.

A study by estate agent Knight Frank shows that two thirds of riverside buyers live in London — rather than being second-home overseas buyers — and work largely in the finance, law and entertainment industries.

“Once you catch the riverside bug you never want to live anywhere else,” says the firm’s Matthew Smith, who lives in a development of 158 new homes between Richmond and Royal Docks. Developers are keen to create destinations with cachet, rather than just filling in the gaps. Berkeley’s One Tower Bridge has 353 homes plus an upgraded Thames Path promenade featuring a spectacular water clock with vertical jets that visitors can control by interactive floor pads. The cluster of eight buildings includes a 20-storey tower with just one apartment on each floor. Prices from £850,000 Call 020 7871 0011.

Unless you have a boat, the best way to discover London’s changing waterfront is to walk. It is an enchanting way to find out where you might like to live. For route details, visit walk london.org.uk.

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Kew Bridge
From £654,000: apartments at Kew Bridge on the Brentford side of the river (020 8995 6669)

Rediscovered riverbank

Fulham’s waterfront is being opened up as redundant factories and storage depots are redeveloped. At Fulham Reach, a 744-home scheme between Putney Bridge and Hammersmith Bridge, apartments with floor-to-ceiling glass and big balconies face the splendid Harrods Furniture Depository, a Grade II-listed former warehouse on the south side of the river, converted into luxurious flats and townhouses in the Nineties.

It is a tranquil setting. Fulham Reach Developer St George has upgraded the Hammersmith Embankment riverside walkway, and a new park and community boat club and jetty are part of the scheme. Prices from £999,950. Call 020 7870 9500. Head out of central London by car along busy Great West Road and it is almost impossible to imagine that a hidden riverside strip exists beyond a high-walled brewery complex. But explore a little and you will find Chiswick Mall and a listed Victorian pumping station that has been transformed into 43 homes, with direct access to the riverbank via a private gated entrance.

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From here, the river narrows and the city turns more pastoral. Brentford, still in transition after industrial decline, faces the inviolate acres of Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens on the opposite bank of the Thames and is one of the cheaper west London riverside locations. A scheme called Kew Bridge on the Brentford side of the river has apartments priced from £654,000. Call St George on 020 8995 6669.

Wandsworth’s waterfront, especially around the heliport, is of varying quality in design, bulk and relationship to the river, while the Tube links, shops and restaurants lag behind other locations. But developments with on-site amenities are helping to provide a sense of neighbourhood.

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Battersea Reach
From £825,000: apartments at Battersea Reach have riverside views and an onsite nursery (020 7978 4141)

Battersea Reach comprises a series of apartment blocks that dramatically cascade towards the river, and the on-site nursery has an “Outstanding” Ofsted rating. Prices from £825,000. Call 020 7978 4141. Riverside Quarter sits on a bend of the Thames known as the Wandle Delta, a noted wildlife habitat, and looks across the water to leafy Hurlingham Park. It has moorings plus a cluster of convenience shops and restaurants and a river taxi pier. Prices from £650,000. Call 020 8877 2000.

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St James's Riverlight development in Nine Elms
The Riverlight development in Nine Elms, Battersea with flats, penthouses and a residents' spa, a riverside walkway, gardens and park (0207 870 9620)

Commute on water

River taxis are another bonus of waterside living, and Mayor Boris Johnson is keen to extend river transport and integrate piers with new housing developments. A new pier has opened at St George’s Wharf in Vauxhall, and another is to be built at Plantation Wharf, Wandsworth, where there will be nine residential moorings and a block of 44 flats. Currently, river services operate between Putney and Westminster via Chelsea Harbour; Embankment to Tower Bridge via Blackfriars, and Docklands to Woolwich via Greenwich.

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A price gap is opening up between older riverside schemes and ultra-fancy new ones, but location still drives price. Benbow House, a 15-year-old scheme next to Tate Modern at Bankside, has a waiting list of buyers. About £1.1 million is the entry price for a two-bedroom apartment.

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