Residents hail one-off opportunity to transform east London
Thursday 07 July 2005
A group of British-Bengali girls, who were huddled in prayer seconds before the Olympic decision was announced on a giant TV screen at Meridian Square in Stratford, east London, added their voices to the thunderous cheers as the announcement was made.
"The party's come to Stratford. Bring it on," Hasna Begum, 18, a student from Whitechapel, said.
While there was much jubilation last night, the real party had not even started for east London. The changes to Newham, which is the third most deprived borough in the country, will be felt for years to come as theseries of multi-billion pound regeneration projects gain momentum as 2012 approaches.
Regeneration had already begun in Newham, with an international Eurostar rail link due to open in 2007 and the Stratford City development that will see the building of shops, offices and 5,000 new homes. This is expected to double now that London has won the 2012 Olympic Games.
The transport budget for the region stands at £17bn alone, while Stratford City will provide a new metropolitan centre for east London, which will be built on a 180-acre site on the former Stratford rail lands.
While the entire development is not scheduled to be complete until 2020, much of it will be finished in time for the Games.
It will transform 13.5 million sq ft of land, creating a shopping centre the size of Bluewater, in Kent, with three department stores, a secondary school and thousands of homes, 4,500 of which will be "affordable" under shared ownership schemes.
The Games should accelerate the rate of redevelopment as well as bring in investment by boosting property prices, creating jobs and placing a formerly neglected part of London on the international map.
The diverse borough, whose ethnic communities comprise over half the total population, has one of the highest numbers of young people in the country, with more than 68 per cent aged 39 or under. It is in need of the investment that the Olympic Games will attract.
More than 100,000 adults are on benefits in Newham and almost two-thirds of children grow up in poverty. But economic forecasters predict the creation of at least 34,000 permanent jobs and a minimum of 10,000 apartments for the coming seven years.
Conor McAuley, the mayoral adviser for regeneration at Newham Council, said the Olympic decision could only "speed up the rate of regeneration" and create a tourist industry for the area.
He said: "Since the building of the Excel Exhibition Centre at Custom House, there has been an explosion of hotels in the borough, including two Holiday Inn Expresses. Ten years ago, we didn't have any hotels."
He said the greatest impact would come from the increased transport links to the East End.
He said: "We have been cut off. There are canals and rivers that run across the borough but now we will have bridges so you can get from one east London borough to the next."
It is hoped the Games will benefit not just the East End but all of London. Olympic javelin gold medallist Tessa Sanderson, who was celebrating at her east London home, said the Games would boost the country's passion for sport and nurture future athletes.
She said: "The sporting legacy will be fantastic. We can see the change in Stratford already but the buzz word here will now be 'sport'. It will be cool to do it, because the Olympics are coming. There is a lot of talent in the East End as well as the rest of the country but the need for facilities to be able to train is important. Having the coaches and making sure to look after them so they will stay and raise champions is also important now."
Richard Everitt, director of Winkworth's estate agents in Stratford, said the bid success would raise house prices by up to 15 per cent by the end of the year and draw in property investors to build homes.
He said: "We have got a lot of regeneration in the pipeline but this will cement it 100 per cent. In Stratford, there is not a great amount of terraced housing and there is a lot of wasteland. People will now start cashing in on this if they have already bought the land. It will have a snowball effect as others will look to invest.
"A lot of investors have seen a rise in property prices over the past five years but I think we'll see a further 10 to 15 per cent rise by the end of the year. East London has been starved of local amenities but all that is about to change and that will affect property prices not only in Stratford but Bow and Hackney."
But some were concerned over how much regeneration needed to take place before Stratford would be ready to cater for an international crowd of hundreds of thousands. And many wondered if local residents would end up footing the bill for it all. Graffiti daubed behind Stratford station says: "2012 - Killing local businesses."
One local resident, who asked not to be named, said: "Canada is still paying for the Olympics. No one is looking at whose is going to pick up the pieces. Newham is one of the most deprived boroughs in the country - why should I have to pay for it through my tax, or possibly raised council tax? We have to ask ourselves, is the majority going to benefit or will it be big businesses and politicians that make their names in history?"
But Aman Dalvi, chief executive of Thames Gateway, a government regeneration project for the area, said he was determined that Stratford's redevelopment plan would be completed in time for the Games.
He said: "People said we would not win the bid and we did. People say we will not deliver in time but we will. It will be a major boost not only for east London but for the UK. And the investment will benefit the area long after the Olympics have come and gone. The industries will remain and the buildings will remain. We will meet the challenge."
Regeneration of a deprived area
The average house price is predicted to rise 10-15 per cent within the year, according to some estate agents, and a flurry of property investors are expected to create a 'snowball' effect by building residential developments on wasteland.
Up to 5,000 apartments had been scheduled to be built under the Stratford City project, but this will now double.
About 34,000 permanent jobs for the Stratford City project have been earmarked, as have 15,000 in construction and 6,000 in retail; 3,000 are predicted in leisure and entertainment.
Work has begun on preparing the site for an aquatics centre. Planning permission for an 80,000-seat stadium and 17,320-bed athletes' village has been granted. The aquatics centre, a velodrome and a hockey centre are guaranteed for the area.
There will be 10 train and Tube lines within walking distance of the Olympic Park. The Olympic Javelin shuttle will take passengers from St Pancras to Stratford in less than seven minutes.
As a borough with one of the highest numbers of young people in the UK and the fastest birth rate in Britain, the Games should encourage youngsters to take up sport.
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