The big smoke on the water

London's rivers, canals and docks offer fine developments
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The Independent Online

Although London has been somewhat slower than other European cities such as Paris, Strasbourg and Amsterdam at developing precious land next to water, finally we are catching on.

Although London has been somewhat slower than other European cities such as Paris, Strasbourg and Amsterdam at developing precious land next to water, finally we are catching on.

Nicholas Waldemar Brown, author of an excellent new book on London's waterfront, says that the Thames has been the hub of 400 years of trade and the centre of the British Empire. "London's diverse waterfront architecture bears witness on the one hand to its past and on the other to the new influences of the global order," he says.

One of the most current influences - and it is one you cannot miss - is the conversion of old warehouses and wharfs into residential housing, alongside new buildings cropping up on former industrial ground. Waldemar Brown says one of the hardest tasks he encountered when chronicling his unique record of the Thames from Battersea to the Barrier was keeping up with change. One day a development simply wasn't there; the next day it was pushing up from the riverbank.

The Docklands in the East End has any number of new and converted schemes for those hankering after a waterside existence. The Canary Wharf Estate estimates that by 2006 an additional 35,000-40,000 workers will be based there and already there is a significant influx of young professional residents moving east.

Higgins Homes Modernist-inspired canalside Denmark Wharf (020-7001 0801) in Limehouse comprises one-, two- and three-bed apartments and duplexes from £257,950. Jeremy Marcus from Higgins Homes says: "Astute buyers who have bought in these parts are reaping the benefits of the predicted population shift. Prices continue to grow at a steady rate and as the shift starts, they will accelerate."

At Ballymore Properties' New Providence Wharf in the Docklands (07000 701 701), a Thameside mini-city of more than 700 apartments, commercial, leisure, and hotel facilities has been designed to make the most of its location on a curve of the Thames. Water features with dramatic waterfalls on the riverside of the building add to the obviously very watery aspects of the scheme. Prices for a two-bed apartment start at £440,000 through FPDSavills and Alan Selby and Partners. FPDSavills (020-7093 4000) also has launched the second phase of the Capital and Provident Group's Discovery Dock in Docklands, with prices from £315,000.

Pioneer Barratt Homes ventured out to Thamesmead, south-east London a decade ago, where families and first-time buyers can find housing within their budget. Barratt East London's Richard Reynolds says "Thamesmead's popularity has grown on the fact that it offers the best-value new homes in London, and that's still true." Prices for one-bed apartments at Thames Walk (020-8316 5876) are from £171,995, while two-bed, two-bath apartments start from under £260,000.

Copthorn Homes' Urban Island in Bromley-by-Bow (020-8215 3377), just a short train ride from the City and the West End, is described by Copthorn's Neil Armstrong as "an urban oasis". Set on a curve of the River Lea and accessed only by a bridge, it is a good combination of city living with rural calm. Prices for one- and two-bed apartments range from £225,000 to £450,000.

South-west London is not just dull City banker land. Two riverside developments are changing how some live in suburbia. Riverside Quarter, a joint development between LCR Developments and FairBriar PLC, draws on LCR's Dr Stanley Quek's experience of working in Australia and the Far East. The apartments are tiered so virtually everyone benefits from views of the river and across to the greenery of the Hurlingham Club. Prices, which include one car-parking space, are from £370,000 through FPDSavills (020-8877 2000).

Over in Merton, Copthorn Homes (020-8543 6377) is marketing one-, two- and three-bed apartments in Abbey Mills, a new scheme of 288 new homes on the site of the 12th-century Merton Priory where Thomas à Becket and Adrian IV were educated before it was demolished by Henry VIII. Prices start at £185,000.

Butlers Wharf, thanks to pioneer Sir Terence Conran, has to be one of the finest neighbourhoods on the Thames. Galliard Homes (020-7407 6534) has sold virtually all of its one- and two-bed apartments and three-bed duplex penthouses at Tea Trade Wharf, but a few units still remain. Prices are from £625,000 and include Philippe Starck-inspired bathrooms, maple flooring and doors and Smeg kitchen appliances.

Paddington Basin has been transformed from a rather scuzzy mud pool to a canal basin almost up to the standards of neighbour Little Venice. Paddington Walk, a joint venture between Chelsfield PLC and European Land, is a mixed use scheme with 153 private apartments, 79 shared ownership and social rented apartments, a small retail unit, restaurant and a much requested crèche unit. Apartments for sale through Hamptons International (020-7723 5125) start at £345,000 for one-bedroom to £645,000 for a three-bed eighth-floor pad.

'London's Waterfront, The Thames from Battersea to the Barrier', by Nicholas Waldemar Brown, illustrations by Graham Reed, is published by Burke's Peerage & Gentry