South Quay bomb site set to become Chinese centre

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Plans to build a 360,000 sq ft Chinese trade centre in the bombed South Quay area of London's Docklands have emerged as one of the first attempts to rebuild after the devastation of last month's IRA attack that killed two people and caused millions of pounds' worth of damage.

Capital & Provident, the vehicle of wealthy tax exile Cyril Dennis and one of the leading Docklands property investors, is working on two deals that could transform almost a million square feet of offices at South Quay.

The idea for a Chinese trade centre has been a feature of proposals for the redevelopment of London's former docks ever since the London Docklands Development Corporation took responsibility for the area in the early 1980s. An early plan to build a centre in the Royal Docks to the east of the current developments was shelved about 10 years ago.

Now it appears that early negotiations are under way again. Simon Mann, managing director of Capital & Provident, said the scheme was still in its very early stages but he confirmed that preliminary discussions had been held with the relevant Chinese authorities in London and the Department of Trade and Industry.

"This is one of the projects we are moving along with since the bomb and we have had fairly high level meetings with both the Chinese and British sides," he said.

Mandy Robinson, deputy director of the China-Britain Trade group, said she had spoken with the LDDC and was due to meet with Mr Mann to discuss the trade centre: "As far as I understand, the centre will provide offices for Chinese and Hong Kong businesses who need a representation in Europe."

If the centre goes ahead it will mark a return to the area of a Chinese community which was once a thriving feature of London's docks.

Mr Dennis, who made pounds 50m profit from selling his private property portfolio to Legal & General in March 1994, has also begun preliminary discussions with a consortium made up of the owners of buildings directly affected by the IRA bomb to transform almost 500,000 square feet of space in the area around South Quay station from offices to residential, retail and leisure use.

The plans are likely to involve the demolition of many of the bomb-affected offices.