Singaporean investor Oxley is pressing on with partner Ballymore, to finally develop out riverside areas of the Royal Docks.
Already delivering the substantial Royal Wharf site, the pair have turned their attention to the adjacent upstream site, which has the potential to accommodate a further 2,000 new homes at Deanston Wharf.
Last summer, Oxley agreed a £35 million deal to buy the 999 year lease on Deanston Wharf from its current owner, document management company Iron Mountain. The site has an area of 22,830 sq m and a news bulletin from Oxley in Singapore suggested the site had been bought subject to planning, with a valuation mutually agreed rather than carefully evaluated. The company said only it would “redevelop….a residential development comprising private units and affordable units”.
To date, the company has only submitted a request for an EIA scoping opinion to planners at the borough of Newham for “the construction of a residential led mixed-use development to be accommodated over a number of new buildings”. But the suggestion is clearly that there could be a continuation west of the Royal Wharf project, in due course.
At Royal Wharf, the pair are pushing ahead with development of a consented scheme that will deliver 3,385 homes. An initial phase of 811 units was released for sale in 2014, and immediately found buyers. More were released last autumn, with a further 700 units to come to the market in February 2016. The first buyers are likely to be able to move in at the end of 2016, according to the latest reports from visitors to the construction site.
Working with architects Glenn Howells, who has masterplanned Royal Wharf, and Fielden Clegg Bradley, the Royal Wharf aims to be more than just another residential project. Ballymore says it aims for the riverside development to be “more than skin deep” with its own high street, side streets and mews blocks. “Our ambition is that Royal Wharf will come to be seen as a model development for future urban regeneration,” it adds.
The Royal Docks is identified as an Opportunity Area in the London Plan, and Newham and the mayor of London are jointly pushing forward the Royal Docks Opportunity Area Planning Framework, which should appear in substantive form in 2016. This interfaces with Newham’s Local Plan, which aims to go out to consultation in January 2016. The delivery of a Crossrail station at Custom House in 2018 is helping to refocus minds on the potential of the area.
Oxley has its sights set on other parts of the capital, and the UK too. In mid 2015 the company paid £50m for a 20% stake in housebuilder Galliard, which is shifting its focus away from high end markets in London and looking to mid market housing and regional cities. There is an aspiration to develop up to 10,000 homes over the next five years.
LPA Perspective: The Royal Docks are a massive area, and have promised much for a very long time. But it was in 1987 that the city airport was built, one of very few brave projects for the area that actually saw the light of day (and nearly did for construction giant Mowlem, whose chairman pushed it into being). The Excel exhibition centre, and a number of other pioneers followed, but the area remains notable more for what has stalled, than what has gone ahead.
Back in 2010, the mayor and the borough of Newham launched their vision for the Royal Docks, which suggested making it “somewhere at the edge of the city but as a place with its own centre of gravity and a clear identity of its own”. It identified West Silvertown, where Oxley is now taking control, as an area with potential for development.
These are big areas, and most local developers could only see barriers from the obvious problems, such as lousy road infrastructure. Public transport has improved as, latterly, the DLR has been extended; but cross-river links to the south remain mired in political dithering.
Oxley’s commitment to develop at scale promises to finally transform a large slice of riverside in the Royals. It is to be hoped that others take on the same challenge, in other parts of the docklands.