London's shipping wharves were once at the centre of making the city the world's most important port. Today they're in obvious decline. With the Chancellor shortly expected to hand the Mayor more power over development of brownfield sites, one property consultancy has been eyeing up the wharves in terms of how many new homes they could support.
The figure arrived at by Daniel Watney LLP is 25,000, though that assumes every one of London's wharves be decommissioned and built over. Ford's Dagenham Terminal, for instance, is earmarked for nearly 12,000 potential homes, but it's still operational with Ford currently making advanced technology diesel engines at the nearby plant.
Old wharf sites around the capital are already providing sites for new houses — most notoriously at Convoy's Wharf in Deptford. And a redevelopment of Albert Wharf, Swedish Wharf and Comley's Wharf in Hammersmith and Fulham is expected to create 237 homes, plus a further 60 lower cost homes elsewhere in the borough.
Since we're talking about affordable housing, it's worth taking a moment to consider the types of homes likely to be built in these prime, riverfront locations. At Convoy's Wharf, just 525 of the proposed 3,500 are deemed 'affordable' (though City Hall is currently going through a review to see if more affordable housing can be delivered). The rest, we can presume, would be largely shimmering glass towers lining the Thames, out of the reach of average wage earners.
And yet, and yet... as Dave Hill at the Guardian points out, a third of 'affordable' homes built recently have been funded out of the pockets of private developers. With government reducing the amount of money available to housing associations — and some housing associations stopping building for low rent altogether because of Right to Buy fears — other sources of low cost homes aren't providing what we need. London's sector is still heavily market driven; if we want 'affordable' homes, is it better to give up the wharves to glass and steel mini villages?
Read more: London’s Last Major Maritime Import Dock