A toast to Lutfur Rahman and the year of construction

Photo: Tower Hamlets Council

Latest figures from the European statistics agency Eurostat show that the UK was one of only three member states to see monthly growth in the construction industry in 2012. In fact, in October the UK saw an 11.7 per cent rise, compared to 2.2 per cent in Bulgaria, 1.9 per cent in Italy and losses in all other nations with available data.

Tower Hamlets Council has announced that a quarter of all construction happening in London over forthcoming years will take place within the borough. With Canary Wharf, Spitalfields and Whitechapel all at the centre of development in 2013, there will be no shortage of building rubble in the year ahead, and around 8,000 jobs in the industry are expected to be created in Tower Hamlets in 2013 and beyond.

Housing is growing rapidly as well, and with Brick Lane and Spitalfields becoming two of the dominant neighbourhoods in Europe’s art and fashion scenes, the rental market has skyrocketed in the north of the borough. The cost of renting property rose by up to 18.5 per cent across the borough as a whole last year, spurred on by the summer’s Olympics.

According to figures published last month, annual house prices rose by 4.2 per cent in Tower Hamlets. The borough also saw the third highest number of house sales in inner London last year, after Wandsworth and Lambeth. The boom in buying and renting in the borough has led to an increase in planning applications to build, upgrade and extend sites all over Tower Hamlets.

Last month it was also revealed that the highest allocation of funding from the Government’s ‘New Homes Bonus’ scheme will be pumped into the borough over the next two years. They have been granted almost £6m of New Homes Bonus funding in addition to over £10m in ongoing payments from central Government.

But the Council are keen to address what they identify as an employment "anomaly” in the borough. In a letter to community organisations, they wrote: “[There are] very low employment rates for local people and high levels of unemployment particularly amongst young people. There is however… new investment, with several large businesses moving into the borough over the last couple of years.”

According to the Bromley by Bow Centre, unemployment in Tower Hamlets is 13% - that’s twice the London average, with the majority of claimants being long-term unemployed.

To bridge this gap between job opportunities and those looking for work in the borough, Tower Hamlets are taking steps to encourage local residents in attaining skills to match the vacancies that will arise.

Many already are, with over 50 local residents attending a recruitment and training event for the industry last month. More of these are planned throughout 2013.

Following a rise in construction opportunities, the council has dedicated almost £69k of funds from planning contributions towards setting up a specialised construction desk within the Skillsmatch group, a staffing organisation run by the council in association with the Canary Wharf Group.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: "Development is big business across the capital so there's never been a better time for people to think about a career in construction.”

Here are just some of the big building projects underway in Tower Hamlets this year

Crossrail: Canary Wharf

Where: Canary Wharf and Whitechapel

Who: Crossrail Ltd and Canary Wharf Group PLC

When: Development has been underway for three years, but  tunnel boring machines will be ready for use in 2013.

What: A mammoth project to introduce new train lines connecting 37 stops across South East England, including Whitechapel and Canary Wharf.

So far the scheme at Canary Wharf has involved pumping nearly 40 Olympic swimming pools worth of dock water and pouring almost 375,000 tonnes of concrete.

Crossrail claim the development will bring an additional 1.5m people within a 45 minute commute of the key commercial districts of London.

£100m of the £150m planning contribution from the Wood Wharf development (see below) will go towards the Crossrail project as well as all £2m from the Fruit and Wool Exchange. Crossrail say that over 60 per cent of the costs for the scheme will be covered by Londoners or London businesses.

Pic: Annie Mole


Fruit and Wool Exchange

Where: Spitalfields

Who: Bennetts Associates

When: Boris Johnson approved the development in October 2012.

What: 2,500 sq metres of office and retail dominated development. Buildings will be demolished retaining only the façade of the Fruit and Wool Exchange itself.

This controversial development was confirmed last year, despite high profile public protest. The project will involve the demolition of the historic Gun pub, as well as the remainder of Dorset Street – the site of Jack the Ripper’s final known murder. The application was rejected by Tower Hamlets Council twice before the London Mayor intervened and overturned the decision. Building is set to begin in 2013.

The development will create nearly 2,300 jobs and contribute £2m to the Crossrail project. Further ELL coverage of TfL's upcoming plans can be found here.

Pic: Tomylees

Shaping Wood Wharf

Where: Canary Wharf

Who: Canary Wharf PLC

When: A planning application is due to be submitted in the spring, to be decided around the autumn. Tower Hamlets planning authority have already approved master plans for the development.

What: 460,000 sq metres of office space, 1,500 homes, extension of the business district in Tower Hamlets and a high street containing shops, bars and restaurants.

The first plan was approved by the council in 2003 and has since been redrafted to include higher density and taller structures. The developers intend to have ‘iconic’ residential and commercial towers as part of the build.

The planning contribution to Cross Rail amounts to £150m and is one of the largest ever made in the capital.


Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 

Where: across Olympic host boroughs, with access from Tower Hamlets

Who: London Legacy Development Corporation

When: the northern part of the park will open on July 27 2013 – exactly a year after the Olympic opening ceremony, with the Southern part opening by spring 2014.

What: 560 acres of park, containing green space, a ‘nature themed community hub’, playgrounds, waterways, residential, recreational and commercial units.

Billed as one of the biggest construction projects in Europe, 2013 will see massive development on the old Olympic sites. Much of the park will be demolished to make way for community-based development. Temporary Olympic structures will be removed, along with stadium seating, and other sites will be completed to accommodate public use now the Games are over.

Pic: Diamond Geezer

Barts and The London Charity

Where: Whitechapel

Who: Barts and The London Charity and Gryphon Property Partners

What: the area with boundaries at Ashfield Street, Cavell Street, Varden Street and Turner Street is set to be redeveloped.

The current built area is a total of 27,100 sq metres; developers propose to increase this to 70,200 sq metres. All buildings will be demolished apart from the Georgian terraced houses which will be retained as residential space. 11 new buildings will be created, primarily providing housing, but with retail on the ground floor in certain parts, and the possibility of hotels as well. 550 new homes will be created in total.

Pic: Reading Tom


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