EXPANSION: London is seeing greater development


by ANDY MARINO BREXIT DRAWS INTEREST FROM EAST FOR PROJECTS ASIANS cherish gold and property, traditionally two of the very best investments. Britain’s Asian community is active not only as property owners but investors, too – as landlords and businessmen – and this will only grow as their overall prosperi­ty and prominence in the life of the UK continues to increase. But also, now, with the imminent arrival of Brexit and the opportunity for this country to turn towards the rising economies of India, South Asia and the Far East, we can look forward to many new capital in­flows to the UK. Just as entrepreneurs and businesses here will be forging alliances and breaking ground on new pro­jects in Asian countries and with Asian partners, there will also be fabulous new interest here from Asia and the Far East now that European Union rules no longer prescribe whom the UK must trade with or keep at arm’s length. Brexit may be either a good or a bad thing, but it is at any rate a real thing, and a whole eastern hemi­sphere of fresh opportunities is opening up just as some others might be closing. The future is Asia, and now Asia is welcome here more than ever before, just as Britain is now free to go to Asia. What is happening across Britain’s capital? A lot. London really is a skyline of cranes at the moment. Sometimes it seems endless, as if the city is one enormous building site. Quite apart from the myriad commercial projects, major infrastructure upgrades are ongoing: Crossrail, or “The Elizabeth Line” – at almost £15 billion, Eu­rope’s largest infrastructure construction project – will connect the countryside on the west and east of London and extend commutation and participation in the life of the city in fantastic ways; the Thames Tideway “super-sewer”, a £4.2 billion, 15-mile-long tunnel beneath the Thames, will collect and drain the overflow from the old system and further revital­ise the river; and soon the second phase of National Grid’s London Power Tunnels mega-project will commence (a 30km-long hole for cables, from Wim­bledon to Crayford) hot on the heels of Phase One, from Hackney to Willesden and Kensal Green to Wimbledon, which completed in February. The traffic disruption might be annoying, but a city busy building is a city humming with life and vitality – and prosperity. Google’s new “landscraper” headquarters in Cam­den behind King’s Cross station, which broke ground in November last year, will continue the amazing re­vitalisation of the area – a major point of arrival in the capital and a typically rough, transient zone until very recently. The restoration of the Charing Cross Hotel has already lifted the area; and the residential property market locally has been transformed. Meanwhile Smithfield, the district around and abutting the 800-year-old meat and poultry market, is set to be the next hip London neighbourhood, to be developed as a mix of commercial and residen­tial projects. The Museum of London is set to move there, and Crossrail will stop at Farringdon. There is a plan to build a “culture mile”, centred around The Barbican, that should further entice capital and consumers. Further west, Victoria Station, which some say has been a bit of an eyesore for decades, is about to have its roof removed and an ultra-modern tower placed atop, if rumours of secret negotiations between Vic­toria’s Business Improvement module, Grosvenor Estates and Landsec are to be believed. (Landsec posted a £251 million pre-tax loss to March 2018, blaming Brexit, but have just completed the new big digital screen in Piccadilly Circus, and taken on Cressida Hogg as chair.) Pimlico-Victoria is another entrance and transit point to the capital, overdue a wash and brush-up. This could be the start of it. South of the river, Battersea Power Station (as was) continues hopefully on its rehabilitation, hav­ing welcomed Apple as a prospective tenant. The Battersea Power Station Development Company is now working with contractor Mace and work is stok­ing up right now. Hillside Manor And to the north, Laing O’Rourke has the £720 million contract to redevelop the much-loved, or at least much-visited, Brent Cross Shopping Centre, left smarting in recent years by Westfield London’s success. Staying north, north-west, the excitement in resi­dential development is starting to bubble with a slate of renovations of rather grand architecture and new luxury developments. Three such prestige projects, all by Heronslea Group, are enticing Londoners a little further out, capitalising on surroundings and great transport into the capital. The Residence, on the edge of Hadley Common, sits in an enviable position adjacent to 10 acres of ancient woodland and won awards for both Best Development and Best Apartment in Hertfordshire. It is a purpose-built mansion containing ten three-bedroom apartments with concierge service and swimming pools. The Ridings is a family-based community devel­opment of 50 dwellings built on the site of a former equestrian centre. As well as its beautiful location, there are grassed areas and a pond, lending a village feel. The landscaping includes existing mature trees and new trees and masses of planting. The mood is serene and rural, but again, still close to the city. Hillside Manor was built in 1868 as the home of the Blackwell family of Crosse & Blackwell fame. Again, convenient for town, it was rebuilt by Heron­slea after being fire-gutted and neglected for years. Restored in all its glory, Hillside features seven apartments on the grounds of the re-built former manor, and two distinguished, renovated listed dwellings which were previously stables and out-houses. Beautiful. Royal Connaught Park For Harry Potter fans, out in leafy Bushey, just 15 minutes from Euston, Comer Homes is developing luxury residential apartments at Royal Connaught Park, a gothic-style former public school that has starred in many movies, including Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the St Trinians series. But its real claim to fame is being Hogwarts in the first three Harry Potter films, and it has the actual school dining hall, preserved in all its wizardy glory, which will be a key feature of the new development. Exciting times. But above all, the question on eve­rybody’s lips is this: will Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium be ready in time for the kick-off to the 2018-19 football season?