It’s Silvertown’s time to shine
A neglected slice of industrial east London is on the brink of transformation into the capital’s first factory-built town. reports on an ambitious £3.5 billion masterplan
ONCE a forlorn little east London corner, Silvertown is poised for stardom thanks to a regeneration programme that will create the capital’s first factory-built town.
A factory will be built on-site to construct the components for 850 new homes as part of a £3.5 billion masterplan. Residents should be moving in by 2020. Their new homes will be part of an architectural and retail scheme that is promised strictly to be free of skyscrapers and chain stores.
Right now there are few clues that Silvertown, stranded on a sliver of land between the Thames Barrier, London City airport and Pontoon Dock, is being put on the map. A few small developments were thrown up on disused industrial sites in the Eighties and Nineties but work fizzled out, leaving the new locals stranded.
Buying a pint of milk is still a challenge in Silvertown, and if you plan on going out locally to eat or drink, you can forget it: there is nothing here but old, abandoned mills.
Olaide Oboh is spokeswoman for the Silvertown Partnership, a consortium of three developers — Chelsfield Properties, First Base and Macquarie Capital — leading the regeneration. “We see it as a vibrant, 24-hour area,” she says. “And we are obsessed with design. We won’t build homes that are just boxes with no character or identity. They will work well and be beautiful to look at.”
The regeneration of Silvertown has been considered for years. There has been a lengthy preparation period, part of which was taken up with obtaining planning permission for the project from Newham council.
Stripping out a ton of dangerous asbestos from the Millennium Mills, a hulking Art Deco former flour mill which will sport and leisure will be in the mix at the docks’ new town, with bars, shops, eateries and workspace at Millennium Mills complex, right eventually become the centrepiece of the 62-acre site, was a mammoth task. But over the next few months the pace will pick up. Later this year a “container city” of up to 250 shipping containers will be installed, providing affordable temporary workspace for small businesses. By the new year the ambitious first phase of this giant project will get under way.
THE POTENTIAL TO BE SPECTACULAR
The restoration of the potentially spectacular Millennium Mills, which will feature shops, bars, and restaurants plus workspace for start-up firms, will be completed by about 2019, and simultaneously a new bridge will be installed over Royal Victoria Dock, giving pedestrian access to the new super-fast Crossrail links to the City and West End when they begin next year from nearby Custom House station.
Transport for London, meanwhile, is pursuing plans to dig a new road tunnel beneath the Thames from Silvertown to the Greenwich Peninsula. A government decision on whether to allow the £1 billion project is expected within days. An opening date of 2022 or 2023 has been pencilled in.
Eventually there will be about 3,000, new homes, ranging from one to five bedrooms — a mixture of private, affordable, shared ownership and built to rent. Whatever their tenure, all of Silvertown’s new homes will be prefabricated, their components created on-site in the purpose-built new factory. This process will be faster than regular housebuilding, and roughly 20 per cent cheaper.
This saving will not be passed on to buyers, as pricing will be based on local values. However, Olaide Oboh promises other benefits. “We want to deliver 100 per cent snag-free homes. Don’t think about the old idea of a prefabricated home, built like cross between a shed and a bungalow. Prefabricated homes are now a sophisticated and universally used way of providing beautiful and well-designed, long-lasting homes. We
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