Royal Wharf: new waterfront homes in London's newest Docklands neighbourhood

Royal Wharf: new waterfront homes in London's newest Docklands neighbourhood

With the launch of Docklands' biggest new neighbourhood since Canary Wharf, the area will be home to 20,000 Londoners in five years - part of the giant Royal Docks vision.

Landmark project: Royal Wharf is part of a wider vision for the Royal Docks in east London, recently named the UK's biggest Enterprise Zone

The awesome Royal Docks have for decades represented one of London’s great regeneration opportunities, a giant tract of land equal in size to the stretch from Hyde Park to Tower Bridge, with 12 miles of waterfront, all waiting to be transformed into a new district.


From £235,000: apartments at the Royal Wharf (royalwharf.com)
Now has its time come?
Royal Wharf (royalwharf.com; 0800 160 1200), newly launched and covering 38 acres, will be the biggest new Docklands neighbourhood since Canary Wharf was built 20 years ago. New homes number 3,385, including townhouses for families, and the architecture is varied and human scale. This “21st-century urban village” is  based on old-fashioned design principles, with a high street, a school, parks, squares and riverside restaurants. It has its own Docklands Light Railway station and will be plugged into Crossrail, due to be operating from 2018. 

The scheme was on the drawing board long before the 2008 credit crunch dashed the hopes of developer Ballymore. Now collaboration with Singaporean developer Oxley has made the east London vision a reality.

The first 811 homes on what was a Shell oil plant will be ready in 2016 and eventually more than 20,000 people will live and work at Royal Wharf. “We want to deliver it quickly, within five years, unlike some other large-scale London projects that drag on interminably,” says Ballymore director Richard Oakes. “It’s a chance to buy early into an area with considerable upside.” Apartments are priced from £235,000 and townhouses from £695,000. 
 


Opening up the riverfront: the boardwalk at Royal Wharf. The aim has been to turn the area into a "21st-century urban village"

The Royal Docks masterplan: £1 billion boost
The project forms part of a wider plan for the “Royals” — Royal Albert Dock, Royal Victoria Dock and King George V Dock. At the height of the empire a century ago, these were the world’s greatest docks. Attempts to revive the area as a modern global trading hub are finally succeeding.

Piecemeal regeneration around the ExCeL exhibition centre has been cemented by a £1 billion investment boost for a new business park, a huge commerce and technology “port” aimed initially at Asia-Pacific companies, of which more than 60 have already signed up.

Floating Villages: homes linked by pedestrian and cycle bridges to parks and islands
The Royals are also at the heart of fresh and imaginative thinking to solve London’s housing shortage and help combat climate change. Floating  villages of modern, eco-friendly permanent houses, where residents have security of tenure and own the property and the water below them on 50-year leases, are one of the compelling ideas. Houses would look “normal” rather than futuristic and be linked by pedestrian and cycle bridges to parks and islands, transport interchanges, leisure and cultural attractions.

An ambitious marina project won a design competition just last week for turning a former dock for shipbuilding and repairs into an oasis for leisure, sport and wildlife preservation.


Community in mind:
Royal Wharf planners adhered to traditional design principles, with a town square, pictured, a school, parks and church

The UK's largest Enterprise Zone
Royal Docks recently became the UK’s largest Enterprise Zone, providing tax breaks to firms relocating there. One of these is German manufacturing giant Siemens, which opened The Crystal, a £30 million research centre dedicated to the future of cities. Long-awaited redevelopment of 50-acre Silvertown Quays, which includes listed Millennium Mills, a magnificent Edwardian flour mill, is another area fillip. This £1.5 billion joint venture between UK developers Chelsfield and First Base will launch 1,500 new homes plus design pavilions for top retailers and innovation companies to showcase brands and products.

Crucially, the wider Royal Docks initiative will create tens of thousands of jobs, which will underpin housing demand. Mayor Boris Johnson calls it a “stunning waterside cityscape” and is using his planning powers to encourage high-quality urban design that relates to Docklands’ mercantile past.

The high life:
the Emirates Air Line cable car service links the Royal Docks with Greenwich and is proving a big attraction for the area
See it for yourself
After shipping ceased in 1981, the Royal Docks remained a rough, inward-looking, working-class district, but the demographics have changed and it is now a popular address for white-collar workers priced out of Canary Wharf, where homes are about 25 per cent more expensive. A trip on the DLR is the best way to see the Royal Docks. Take a look at the dramatic urban landscape, still raw in parts, and decide if you want to live there.

Handsome warehouses are in short supply because the waterfront used to be dominated by factories and freight depots, but this has created a blank canvas for developers, according to Royal Wharf architects Glenn Howells, whose design was “inspired by the success of London’s landed estates, with their uncomplicated pattern of streets and squares”: a Fitzrovia-style neighbourhood on the river.

The pick of the older residential schemes includes Western Beach, Capital East, Eastern Quay, Barrier Point and Tradewinds. Resales start at £250,000, rising to about £1.5 million for the best penthouses. New homes are for sale at Waterside Park, right by the Thames Barrier. Prices from £388,500. 

Nearby London City airport, far from being an environmental negative, is seen as a big plus for the area. Serving 30 UK and European destinations, it also has a London-New York link, convenient for Canary Wharf business travellers, while the use of smaller aircraft and a ban on night flights reduces noise nuisance for local residents. About a million passengers a year pass through the airport, which is plugged into the DLR network. Emirates Air Line, a cable car linking the area with Greenwich, is another draw.

Amy Perkins, 40, a novice buy-to-let investor from Kent, visited the area out of curiosity earlier this year and bought a one-bedroom apartment overlooking Royal Victoria Dock.

“At heart I’m a country girl but the 2012 Olympics opened my eyes to the area,” she says. “It’s not cramped or claustrophobic and there’s a certain beauty about the place. I don’t mind the fact that it’s at an early stage. There’s definitely rental demand. I had a tenant ready to move in before I completed on the flat and am getting £300 a week. He works for a bank at Canary Wharf. ”

She hopes to build a portfolio of flats, having downsized to a new home in Kent in order to release cash for pension investment in property.

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