Regeneration of Royal Docks in Newham is a balancing act for all involved
- Credit: Archant
With its urban beach, trendy barge bar and cable car trail across the skyline, Royal Victoria Dock seems a shimmering success of east London’s regeneration.
Touted as “a new hub for business and an enviable place to live with floating homes and river views”, the opportunities within the docks present a difficult balancing act for authorities.
Residents of Royal Victoria Dock, along with their neighbours living southside on Pontoon Dock, are concerned about the surge in development.
They claim new initiatives have resulted in unacceptable noise and anti-social behaviour.
A decision to agree the arrival of a former prison-turned-floating-hotel is just one of several recent schemes announced.
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The 148-bed “premium” Good Hotel, currently docked in an Amsterdam canal, was granted planning permission to open on the water off Western Gateway by Newham councillors last week.
Some residents are concerned the hotel, which will include an open-deck space, restaurant and bar, will look “completely out of character” and could increase noise levels.
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David Partridge said the area’s unrivalled clear views were a “real attraction” for everyone.
He said: “If you have got a massive vessel it will block out most of that.
“It will change the whole feel of the area. That is a massive price for pay for some jobs.”
Employment, of course, is an important driver for the Royal Docks, a 250-acre expanse too long blemished by mass unemployment and bleak dereliction following the port’s official closure in 1981.
The regeneration of the designated “enterprize zone” encompasses five areas: Royal Victoria Dock; Pontoon Dock; King George V Dock and Royal Albert Basin. More than 600,000 people live there.
The current regeneration, led by the Greater London Authority (GLA), has brought thousands of visitors to exhibitions, attractions, bars and restaurants, with Royal Victoria Dock as its “bustling hub”.
Employment opportunities have been huge, which has helped to boost The Good Hotel’s application.
Founder Marten Dresen says he wants to create 60 jobs plus provide long-term training opportunities.
The social enterprise was destined for the Rio Olympics “to train underprivileged youth” but the “unstable macro-economic situation” meant a decision was taken in March to relocate it to Newham, agreed with RoDMA (Royal Docks Management Authority).
Mr Marten said: “In its operational period in Amsterdam of just over a year, we have been able to train over 100 people out of long-term unemployment and get 70 per cent of them into permanent jobs.”
A Newham Council spokesperson said the Royal Docks’ regeneration was a “key strategic objective” being worked on for over a decade.
She said: “As part of this regeneration we want to create a vibrant area for residents, visitors and businesses to enjoy in harmony together.
“We are only part way through the regeneration and there are many sites in the area where we expect that developers will come forward with proposals.
“We expect these to include mixtures of housing, retail and office space, as well as an enhanced environment.
“We are committed to securing the best possible deal for all our residents by ensuring that a mixed tenure of housing is provided, which includes genuinely affordable accommodation.
“We also expect that developers will provide suitable commercial space that invigorates the area, boosts the local and regional economy and provides a diverse offer for the residents living in this iconic location.
“The council works closely with the police to tackle and reduce crime, and works in partnership with officers and landowners to address complaints of anti-social behaviour, including providing additional resources to target hotspots and provide reassurance to residents.”
Claims by Pontoon Dock residents that car park will reduce natural light
More than 200 objections have delayed proposals to convert a car park into a 236-home development at Pontoon Dock until September.
Residents in Kingfisher Heights, the building adjacent to the proposed three 15-storey blocks, are worried about losing between 33 per cent and 66 pc of natural daylight under current plans.
Resident Alan McCormack said: “The huge loss of light from a 13-storey building just yards from our front room will turn our flat into a ‘prison’, particularly for my wife, who is housebound with ME.
“Her lovely view of sky and trees will be replaced by a wall. We’ll have to move out.”
Dr Paul Littlefair of advisory body BRE (Building Research Establishment) said 99 windows would have a loss of daylight outside the BRE guidelines.
“Councils don’t have to follow our guidance but it is something they usually take into account,” he said.
Newham Council said it was still “scrutinising” the planning application and representations from residents will be considered.
Outline of the relevant bodies and the vast reponsibilities they hold
The Mayor of London owns 170 hectares of Greater London Authority (GLA) land, plus a further 96 hectares of water and dock-edge infrastructure.
The Royal Docks, including the water and some of the land across the 13km of dock edge, is managed and maintained by RoDMA under a 225-year lease.
RoDMA was set up by a former government quango in 1981 to regenerate the area.
The current team is responsible for “managing the water areas and marine infrastructure” according to its website.
RoDMA’s managing director, Mike Luddy, said he “understood that there had been a number of concerns” from people.
He said: “We have done a lot to make sure this part of the dock fits into the area.”
He added: “There was massive unemployment in the area and all the businesses that have come into the dock since then are trying to create employment opportunities.
“We have a joint vision in creating a place for local residents and that is great for visitors.”
Mr Luddy said the Good Hotel had “put a lot of effort into its consultation” with residents.
Commenting on the anti-social activities at Western Beach Apartments, he said: “Most of the anti-social behaviour has been happening on the dock’s edge. It is completely in the police’s power to arrest the people concerned.”
A spokesman for the Mayor of London’s office declined to comment.