It’s now two years since Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s announcement that Chinese developer Advanced Business Park had agreed a deal to develop a new complex of offices, apartments and shops along the northern side of Newham’s Royal Albert Dock.
Across the dock from London City Airport, the Asian Business Port (ABP) will be designed by Terry Farrell and Partners, and the staggering GBP1 billion arrangement that has brought it about now stands as the largest Chinese investment ever made in the UK.
While the project’s entire 3.2 million square feet of new construction is expected to take some ten years to come to fruition, the first phase – 600,000 square feet of offices and homes – is expected to complete in 2017, coinciding with the arrival of Crossrail in 2018.
The scheme will aim to transform the Royal Docks, building a third business and finance centre for London to rival the City and Canary Wharf.
As can be guessed from the name, the project will have a distinctly Asian flavour, with a key aim of the project being to give growing Asian companies a solid foothold from which they can reach new markets in Europe. The Chinese business sector is reportedly already showing strong interest in joining the party, including some of the county’s largest banks.
A key part of this project coming together has been the massive level of support given to it by the UK government, particularly out of the Mayor’s office. Mayor Johnson sees the ABP and the surrounding regeneration works as one of the primary legacies of his term at London’s helm, and as such has backed the project from the start, even going as far as blocking an expansion of London City Airport in favour of it.
The Royal Docks was made London’s first and only Enterprise Zone in April 2012 based on the area’s strategic importance. This has played a key role in getting new development in the area underway, with concessions such as business rates relief, simplified planning processes and enhanced capital allowances attracting investors.
It’s been predicted that when all this comes together, some 20,000 new jobs will have been created, boosting local employment by a massive 30%. And all those new employees will be hard at work adding an expected GBP6 billion to the London economy.
There’s no doubt that the ABP will play a major role in the transformation of the Royal Docks. The new jobs and economic value it delivers will be a measurable record of this. But beyond that are the less tangible, but nonetheless important, effects a project like this can deliver.
This is a project that will create a newly modernised version of an old and much neglected part of working East London. If it’s done right, it will deliver a thiving new neighbourhood, reflecting and defining the vibrant and metropolitan nature of this truly twenty-first century city.