Berkeley wins approval for London Dock homes project in Wapping

Development will include up to 1,800 homes on former News International site in Wapping

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 5:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 5:33am

Berkeley Group has won preliminary approval to build as many as 1,800 homes at the former UK base of News Corp's News International unit in London's Wapping neighbourhood.

The project, known as London Dock, was approved after a 4-to-3 vote by the Tower Hamlets borough council. Berkeley, the largest developer of mixed-use buildings in London, will also construct shops, office buildings and leisure facilities at the six-hectare site.

Home prices in Tower Hamlets rose 7.9 per cent to an average of £390,682 (HK$4.9 million) in the year through November, compared with a 10.6 per cent increase across London, according to the Land Registry.

Developers plan to complete about £7 billion of additional homes in the borough through 2022, broker Knight Frank said in June.

News International previously used a complex on the Wapping site to produce newspapers including the The Times and The Sun. They moved there from the traditional media hub on Fleet Street in 1986 and Rupert Murdoch used the transition to break the power of print unions, which resisted new technology. Police fought strikers outside the new plant at the time as the newspapers were printed, which led to it being nicknamed "Fortress Wapping". Berkeley bought the site in 2012 for £150 million.

Its shares rose 4.4 per cent to 2,727 pence, the highest since 1989, on news of the approval. The stock has gained 20 per cent in the last six months, giving the company a market value of £3.58 billion.

"The aspiration is to deliver an exciting new destination for London with world-class architecture," according to a submission to the borough on behalf of Berkeley. About 50 per cent of the site will be open space.

Tech City UK, a British government-backed effort to create a Silicon Valley-style cluster of start-ups in east London, plans to work with Berkeley to create "incubator" space at the site, Tech City's head of property, Juliette Morgan, said.

Berkeley has already held talks with Tech City about the project, Ross Faragher, managing director of the builder's St George unit, said at the Tower Hamlets council vote.

News Corp plans to move all of its London businesses into offices next to the Shard skyscraper on the south bank of the River Thames this year.