Awesome regeneration during the two decades before Covid brought huge physical change to London, transforming its skyline and dragging neglected areas in from the cold – from Stratford in the east to White City in the west; from King’s Cross in the north to Greenwich in the south.
Don’t expect the pace to slow. Despite the pandemic, London is brimming with housing projects, transport upgrades and cultural and business initiatives that are revitalising old districts and creating entire new neighbourhoods.
Brentford, Cricklewood, Thamesmead, Old Oak and Royal Docks are among the new hotspots.
Inevitably, “de-urbanisation” has been a discussion point during the coronavirus crisis, with some people predicting a gradual exodus as Londoners seek green space and a healthy lifestyle outside the capital.
While some developers are weighing up whether to switch their focus from inner-city “brownfield” sites to the suburbs and countryside, many more believe the city is always the future and are showing that inspired design can promote health and wellbeing even in urban settings.
Private developers have a key part to play in shaping London’s post-pandemic landscape. Regeneration is about much more than providing new housing, it is about creating spaces and places that improve people’s quality of life.
This is why turning a derelict site or an industrial zone into a vibrant new quarter or neighbourhood looms large in our New Homes Awards. There are no “undiscovered” areas of London but our city has an uncanny ability to reinvent itself. That is the essence of regeneration.
Bold buyers who put down roots early at pioneering regeneration schemes can certainly reap financial rewards.
Such homes rise by an average of 4.7 per cent per year more than properties in the wider area, have lower crime rates and better facilities for families, according to research by property group CBRE.
In reality, regeneration can take a long time – five years at least, possibly 10 or even 20 years before the full impact is felt. So buyers have to be patient to get the full benefits.
THE BRENTFORD PROJECT, TW8: Buy into a desirable ‘destination’ with a cultural and foodie hub
Early-bird buyers who gamble on new frontiers often get rewarded for their sense of adventure, yet it’s worth remembering that developers are astute at making the most of a gritty urban scene and may set values higher than expected.
By coming up with new design ideas and lifestyle extras, housebuilders can dramatically boost an area’s image and propel it as a coveted address with a distinctive vibe.
Right now, few places have more of a vibe than Brentford, where the local football club is revelling in its new Premier League status. A much-anticipated waterfront scheme is deepening the feel-good factor. The Brentford Project spans 12 acres, brings 876 homes, revitalises the run-down high street and reinstates lost pedestrian links between the town centre and the Thames.
With 50 new shops and retail spaces, new restaurants and moorings plus a cultural and foodie hub in a renovated listed church, it is set to become a top “destination” as well as a desirable place to live.
Fast road links to Heathrow airport and a splendid Georgian quarter called The Butts are already a draw for buyers, but Brentford’s main allure is its position at the confluence of the Thames, the River Brent and Grand Union Canal.
Much industrial architecture was bulldozed from the Seventies onwards, but this new development focuses on restoration and convivial waterside living. Ballymore, the developer, has engaged three award-winning architectural firms to create this new neighbourhood.
Taking inspiration from the original Brentford Dock designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the new apartment blocks have industrial-style cantilevered balconies while interiors make use of timber, concrete and iron.
Restored heritage buildings will become workshops and offices for small businesses. The Thames Path is being extended and the grounds of listed St Lawrence Church transformed into a new public space, or “modern cloister”, with covered walkways and secluded gardens, an open-air swimming pool and spa. Prices start at £450,000. Call 020 8569 7775.
KING’S ROAD PARK, SW6: From dirty secret to fashionable address, Sands End in Fulham is regeneration at its best
The now-fashionable Fulham neighbourhood of Sands End is a parable of our times – a triumph of regeneration in a formerly cut-off corner of London that was a dirty secret.
Despite the negatives of a tract of industrial land blighted by a gas works and train tracks, the area has been transformed into an enclave of desirable flats and houses, waterfront bars and restaurants, shops and leisure amenities. Now one of west London’s best addresses, there’s a riverside path to Chelsea Harbour via rejuvenated Chelsea Creek – once a muddy inlet – plus the new Imperial Wharf train station and river bus services to Docklands and the City. A 10-acre park is a popular picnic spot and events space in summer.
Sands End is a commercial hub, too, with hotels and design businesses, while the hinterland stretches to King’s Road, filled with galleries, trendy homeware stores and boutiques.
King’s Road Park, the latest addition, covers 16 acres and has 1,843 flats, some with vast roof terraces, in three distinct “character areas” overlooking six acres of gardens and open space. The first block of 345 homes incorporates a glazed-roof subterranean complex of extensive residents’ amenities including spa with swimming pool, gym, fitness studios and treatment rooms, plus two private cinemas, private dining rooms, a club lounge and virtual golf. Prices from £725,000. Call 020 3432 5831.
This package of smart flats, luxury amenities and fine landscaping chimed with the lifestyle Jehan Mawjee was looking for after four years of renting in nearby Parsons Green. She bought a two-bedroom, dual-aspect apartment and relishes living in an area with so much on the doorstep. “It’s easy to spend the day getting lost among the area’s fantastic range of shops, cafés and restaurants,” she says. “And the on-site amenities are fantastic. It’s all so effortless.” At the centre of this new micro district is the world’s oldest surviving listed gasholder. Decommissioned, its future use will be decided by a design competition.
Developer St William has also opened the doors to Poplar Riverside, another waterfront neighbourhood that’s moments from Canary Wharf. The former industrial land will have 2,800 homes and a new school. Prices start from £350,000.
HENDON WATERSIDE, NW9: ‘Our leafy new neighbourhood has evolved perfectly for families’
Savvy thirtysomethings Russell and Helen Maddison got in on the ground at Hendon Waterside, where Barratt is building more than 2,000 new homes on 30 acres bordering the giant Welsh Harp reservoir, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and nature reserve that is also home to a canoe club.
This leafy new neighbourhood has a mix of high-rise and low-rise buildings with shops and cafés at street level, plus woodland trails and a central linear park, all just five miles from Marble Arch.
The couple snapped up a one-bedroom apartment when the first phase was launched in 2013.
“We wanted to move to an up-and-coming regeneration area as we knew it would pay dividends later,” says Russell, a teacher who grew up in St Albans, Hertfordshire.
“We did our research, studied the developer’s plans and the potential of the whole area, and tried to visualise the end product, not just what we could see at the time.”
It paid off. Three years later the flat they bought for £202,000 was worth £320,000, Reassured that this new address was evolving along the lines they had hoped, they decided to trade up to a bigger home.
Their new two-bedroom apartment cost £465,000. “We were planning to start a family and wanted more space,” adds Russell. “A genuine sense of community had developed and we had made plenty of friends, so life was getting better and better. When you move in at the very beginning of a project you have to be prepared for a bit of inconvenience before the landscaping matures and the amenities arrive.” The couple feel Hendon Waterside is now a perfect place for families. William, their two-year-old son, attends a nursery five minutes away. Currently prices start at £383,000. Call 0300 057666.