Down by the riverside

London's Docklands is finally a success. Felicity Cannell looks to the future
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The Independent Online
Forget the proposed Millennium Dome; London's Docklands is a strong contender for the nation's greatest development triumph this century. It has certainly run the gamut of emotions: starting in optimism, faltering into gloom in the Eighties, and now emerging as a regeneration success story - with the Canary Wharf tower as an icon of the capital. Now Docklands is set to be disbanded.

The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was created in 1981 as a partnership between public and private sectors, with the aim of regenerating the riverside areas of Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Newham. In the ensuing years, pounds 1.8bn of public funds attracted pounds 6.5bn from private investment. And the LDDC duly provided jobs, homes (21,615 since 1982), leisure areas, hotels and schools. But time is up and by next spring the corporation will complete the handover of the area back to the original three London boroughs.

Once Docklands is no longer under the banner of the LDDC, will its appeal diminish? Not if the experiences south of the Thames are anything to go by. A southern section of Docklands has already been handed back to Southwark and development is still going strong. Barratts has five developments in Rotherhithe, two of which have sold out before construction. Not long ago Rotherhithe was dominated by hard-to-let council flats. Now the area is a quiet oasis with walkways and cycleways. Barratts' Prince's Riverside project benefits by being on the concave bend of the river as it sweeps down around the Isle of Dogs, with views both ways, to the City and Canary Wharf. Two-bedroom apartments here start at pounds 164,995.

Wapping has reverted to Tower Hamlets, a borough which is benefiting from wharfside buildings as far north as Mile End. There are still a few developments available close to Tower Bridge - Chimney Court is a conversion of the old University of Greenwich. Its grand apartments, with high ceilings and polished wood floors, start at pounds 160,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, available through Savills.

Ballimore's development at Millennium Harbour, close to Canary Wharf, is worth a visit, if only for the virtual reality views from the two mock- ups of the 267 apartments which are being sold off-plan. Two-bedroom apartments start at pounds 143,000.

Beckton, the poorer cousin in the Docklands family, has gone to Newham Borough Council, which will also take back Royal Docks when the LDDC bows out on 31 March. Wimpey Homes is selling newly built flats and houses at Royal Victoria Docks from pounds 91,500.

Most developers are taking the lower-risk route of selling off-plan, insisting that this can benefit the buyer - who gets a property at the current market value without having to pay for it until later, when prices have risen. But yes, as we all know, prices go down as well as up. At the moment, though, sales have never been so high and prices are generally expected to rise further.

But it's not all glitz and gloss. The LDDC has contributed funding to Newham and Tower Hamlets for 11 new primary schools, two secondary schools and three colleges of higher education colleges. So the area is set to develop from being a luxurious business park surrounded by bachelor pads into a long-term, mixed community.

Savills 0171-488 9586; Ballimore 0171-729 6309; Barratts 0181-522 5500; Wimpey 0171-474 2200