City-fringe properties 'could fuel next phase of London's growth'

An artist's impression of the Silvertown development in London's Royal Docks area. The 25ha site, with its first phase expected to be completed by 2018, will be a mixed-use project that includes offices, leisure and retail facilities and about 3,000
An artist's impression of the Silvertown development in London's Royal Docks area. The 25ha site, with its first phase expected to be completed by 2018, will be a mixed-use project that includes offices, leisure and retail facilities and about 3,000 residential units.PHOTO: CBRE

The huge Silvertown development under construction in London could be one for buyers to look out for, said a senior property consultant.

Silvertown, which is in the Royal Docks area of east London, is undergoing a £3.5 billion (S$7.5 billion) development plan by a three-way partnership comprising Chelsfield Properties, First Base and Macquarie Capital.

The 25ha site will be a mixed-use project that includes offices, leisure and retail facilities and about 3,000 residential units.

The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by 2018.

"We used to talk about the West End, the City of London and Canary Wharf as some of the major centres (for real estate)," noted Mr Jonathan Dick, senior director of central London developments at CBRE, in an interview with The Straits Times last month.

"But because of the booming demand throughout London, we're recently also talking about the city-fringe areas as the 'next generation' of growth.

"They're now competing with the traditional centres with very strong growth and we expect Silvertown to be a game changer as well."

Mr Dick, who was in Singapore to meet potential investors for the project, said the rocketing prices of homes and offices in central London have made it increasingly difficult for people to live there.

Average prices for a residential unit in the West End, for instance, can amount to £3,000 per sq ft (psf), while a similar unit in the City of London can fetch about £1,500 psf. Mr Dick said the homes in Silvertown will likely be "much more affordable" for domestic and foreign buyers alike, although he declined to reveal specific figures.

The project will also feed the growing demand for London property among Asian investors - already the largest group of overseas investors in the central city. They have spent about £5.98 billion there over the last 18 months, according to CBRE data.

Mr Christopher Pilgrim, director of Central London International Capital Markets at CBRE, noted that the capital's robust growth is a key factor for investors from Asia, including Singapore.

"London is very much stabilised compared with the euro zone, for example, which is why it continues to draw people, given the amount of volatility going on in other parts of the world," he noted.

Singapore companies, such as state investment firm Temasek Holdings, have also entered the fast-growing market.

Temasek joined Hotel Properties and three other partners in March to buy two prime central London properties for £308 million for a residential and office tower development.

Many view London as "a major opportunity for safe returns", said Mr Dick. "There is liquidity in this market," he said. "There aren't many real estate markets in the world where you have that liquidity, where you're able to know that when you buy (a property), you can also sell it when you need to."

Also crucial to the Royal Docks area's transformation is the refurbishment of the historic Millennium Mills, an old mill building that will become office space for businesses, and the highly anticipated £15 billion London Crossrail rapid train project.

Slated to commence operations in 2019, the Crossrail will allow commuters to get from East London to the West End in just 15 minutes and to Heathrow in 45 minutes.

"Silvertown will have excellent transport links - a key attribute that you'd expect from a really successful London development," said Mr Dick.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'City-fringe properties 'could fuel next phase of London's growth''. Print Edition | Subscribe