Spotlight on Royal Docks
New-homes districts for frontier families are emerging along the Thames as billions of pounds start the transformation of E16, reports Anthea Masey
TAKE a walk around the Royal Docks in east London and you’ll find long, waterside stretches where you will see more planes taking off and landing at London City airport, and more seagulls, than people. In a city desperate for new homes it begs the question why development took so long to arrive beneath these big skies on these open, remote, abandoned acres of watery landscape.
The Royal Docks, often referred to simply as The Royals, formed the world’s largest enclosed dock. Built between 1880 and 1921, the three separate docks that comprise the whole are the Royal Victoria, Royal Albert, and the King George V, and they cover 250 acres in total.
The pioneering residents who moved into the first new homes in The Royals, including at Wimpey’s Britannia Village — redeveloped as an “urban villlage” in 1994 — Barratt’s Barrier Point built in 1999 and Fairview’s Gallions Point built in 2003, have waited a long time to see the dots joined up and the promise of The Royals finally realised.
Today, their time has come. The diggers and cranes are moving in and almost all of The Royals’ derelict land, in London’s only Enterprise Zone, is being planned out with major business, mixed-use and landscaped housing developments, including at Royal Wharf, Royal Albert Wharf, Millennium Mills and the Asian Business Port.
The first residents are already moving into Royal Wharf, between North Woolwich Road and the Thames next to Barrier Point. On one of London’s largest single building sites, Ballymore and its Singaporean partner, Oxley, are building 3,385 new homes. This 40acre site runs along a third of a mile of the Thames.
There will be 1,500 new homes at Royal Albert Wharf next to Gallions Reach Docklands Light Railway station at the far eastern end of The Royals, including affordable properties from Notting Hill Housing association.
In a major ground- cleansing programme some 500 tons of asbestos has been removed from Millennium Mills, the derelict former Spillers flour mill opposite the ExCeL exhibition centre and next to Britannia Village. The old mill, one of the district’s most historic buildings, is at the centre of regeneration by the Silvertown Partnership, a joint venture between developers Chelsfield, First Base and Macquarie Capital, who describe their vision as “the next Shoreditch”.
The old mill building will revive the concept of the atelier in The Royals, with up to 150 pioneering businesses able to showcase what they do. The £3.5 billion scheme will also include 3,000 new homes.
Ground has also been broken at the Asian Business Port at Royal Albert Dock, the £6 billion Chinese-financed new business district being built to rival Canary Wharf and the City on 35 acres opposite London City airport, between Newham council offices and the University of East London campus.
The signing of the building agreement was witnessed by then-prime minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping amid much fanfare at Mansion House during the Chinese leader’s state visit in October 2015.
There are also exciting, innovative architectural plans for a floating village of homes, shops, a café, a restaurant and possibly even a floating ice rink, beside the Emirates Air Line cable car terminal at Royal Victoria Dock.
For the community: Amanda Foister, chief executive of Royal Docks Adventure, a charitable group offering watersports and gym facilities at Royal Albert Dock
Lebanese cuisine: Ali Laanizi, supervisor at the specialist Al Masar restaurant, Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock