If you were wondering why Quintain had held onto its West Silvertown site in Docklands, having otherwise pretty much decamped to Wembley, wonder no more.
It is undertaking with co-owner the GLA a viability study of both the former Carlsberg Tetley and Thames Wharf sites at West Silvertown with a view to developing a scheme that could create between 2,000 and 3,000 homes.
Chief executive Maxwell James is keen to stress plans are at an early stage, but given the site is now back in play having lain dormant since Quintain shelved its pre-crash plans for a mixed-use development, the decision not to get rid when it sold its stake in the Greenwich Peninsula last year is now looking pretty canny. Regeneration of the Royal Docks, just to the north, is now well under way and the proposed £750m Silvertown Tunnel is currently out for consultation.
Could the area’s moment finally have come, elevating it above a location that, as James colourfully puts it in an exclusive interview with Property Week (p32), is currently little more than “a nice yielding asset with people smashing up cars on it”?
The pieces of the puzzle certainly seem to be coming together. With the general election no doubt in mind, government is noticeably stepping up its efforts to address the chronic housing shortage. (Well, it is putting its mouth where its - and other people’s - money is, anyway.) Take this week’s Autumn Statement, in which chancellor George Osborne announced the government’s intention to effectively turn housebuilder. And it is not just housing that is on the government’s agenda. As part of the National Infrastructure Plan, Osborne also backed plans to create ‘Olympicopolis’, an education and culture hub on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in a move set to create 3,000 jobs and bring a cool £2.8bn into Stratford and the surrounding area.
It looks as though we are on the crest of a new wave of regeneration in east London and for once, the vital infrastructure is either already in place or being considered at the same time as a major development project - rather than an afterthought.
Could it also be evidence of a more seismic change taking place in the capital as confidence in big ticket development projects is renewed? Regeneration is only one part of the equation. The potential acquisition of the Beeb’s Media Village campus by little-known Bugsby Property suggests there’s also plenty of interest in juicy redevelopment opportunities. The question is: will any of this be enough to close the growing gulf between supply and demand - and more importantly, will it come to fruition before the next inevitable downturn?
That the government is supporting major projects is encouraging (even if it is primarily a vote-winning ploy). Another measure in the Autumn Statement sure to appeal to voters is the move to cut stamp duty for nearly all homebuyers, which should provide a vital stimulus to the market just as it shows signs of lagging.
But, let’s be honest, the statement was a bit of a damp squib for property overall. Those expecting more on the devolution of powers to the regions will be particularly disappointed. For all the promises of further powers for Leeds and Sheffield in the wake of the Greater Manchester devolution deal, there was little further detail on offer. With the election less than six months away, surely an opportunity missed.