Safeguarded wharves could provide 25,000 new homes

More than 25,000 homes could be built on London’s wharves, according to new research, as powers restricting their use could be relaxed.

A number of wharves are safeguarded by planning laws preventing them being converted for other uses. But under Chancellor George Osborne’s productivity plan, the mayor of London could be given power over land totalling 209 hectares to be used for homes.

Original analysis by Daniel Watney LLP, a property services company, estimates that thousands of homes could be created, generating more than £15 billion in income for landowners.

Wharf safeguarding was introduced as part of the Thames Strategy in 1995 to protect remaining commercial wharves in London from changes of use.

They were safeguarded under the assumption there would be continued growing demand for wharf trade – but between 2001 and 2010 demand fell by 29 per cent. Currently 50 wharf sites enjoy protected status.

Following proposals set out in July by Mr Osborne, the autumn statement is expected to see new powers given to the Mayor’s office

As a result, wharf sites could be opened up for development, unlocking thousands of homes and nearly £15 billion in investment, potentially leading to the creation of thousands of new homes for Londoners, often in prime riverside locations.

Daniel Watney LLP’s head of planning, Charles Mills argues that with demand for wharf trade declining, sites should be unlocked for new homes.

The capital needs to build nearly 50,000 homes a year to meet housing demand, but last year less than half that number was built. Business leaders are warning London’s global position is at stake if not enough homes are built, with key workers being pushed out of the city by high housing costs.

Charles Mills, head of planning at Daniel Watney, said:

“Shielding London’s wharves from changes to non-port use made sense when demand for wharf trade was growing, but the last decade and a half have seen demand plummet, with cheaper and more efficient ways of transporting goods having taken over.

“London has a severe housing shortage, one that is starting to impact on the city’s competitiveness and productivity. But what we have here is a golden opportunity to build thousands of new homes along the riverside, delivering much-needed supply and spurring wider regeneration. The Chancellor and Mayor should seize it.”