The West End, the Southbank, Shoreditch and now... Woolwich? Could this south east London suburb be the new place you head to on a Saturday night to soak up some culture? If it’s astronomical house price rises over the past five years are anything to go by, it could well be.
In March, planning permission was approved by the Royal Borough of Greenwich, in which this part of the city resides, to build a £32m Cultural Quarter that will bring a 450-seat theatre to the area, 10 rehearsal studios and a ‘performance courtyard’. The aim is to build on Woolwich’s military heritage in the same way that Greenwich has built on its naval heritage to attract residents and visitors.
The promise of such arty riches is drawing a new generation, priced out of neighbouring Greenwich and even Deptford, to explore this underloved patch of riverside. “There has been an influx of cool, independent shops, bars and restaurant pop-ups, which give the area that east London vibe,” says Dennis Opara, lettings director at the Canary Wharf branch of estate agent Dexters.
Sure enough, the stats from Hamptons International’s research analyst David Fell bear this out. A pub or a bar has closed every year for the last four years, while two cafes or restaurants have opened in their stead.
Meanwhile, a microbrewery, Hop Stuff, a gourmet restaurant and a new pub, The Dial Arch, have all opened at Royal Arsenal Riverside, a Berkeley Homes development that dominates this part of town. Built on 88 acres of derelict brownfield land, it’s now had over £1bn worth of investment and it’s already home to 5,000 new residents.
“This is a long-term project for us, it’s one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe,” says Lyndon Nunn, sales director at Berkeley Homes East Thames. “We’ll be here for over 30 years so it’s really important that we make sure that the community that’s created is sustainable.” That means new leisure and recreation like the Cultural Quarter, but also a new medical clinic, nursery, and that golden goose, the Crossrail station.
The new transport link has made other developers sit up and take notice, leading to a quarter of all sales in Woolwich coming from the new build sector last year, the largest proportion of sales than anywhere else in the capital.
“The forthcoming Crossrail launch in 2018 is already having an impact on house prices in the area, increasing them by 22 per cent in the last two years alone.”
“Woolwich is one of London’s property ‘hotspots’ for aspiring homebuyers for good reason,” says Simone Dhanjal, regional sales director at Lovell Homes, which has just opened a show flat to sell homes at its Trinity Walk project, a £400m regeneration effort to transform three ageing estates. “The forthcoming Crossrail launch in 2018 is already having an impact on house prices in the area, increasing them by 22 per cent in the last two years alone.”
Hamptons data puts the year-on-year house price increase at 5.2 per cent, recording the area’s highest ever sale in 2016 – a £1.25m apartment at the Royal Arsenal Riverside development.
Even estate agents are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to Woolwich. “In 2012, I bought a beautiful one bedroom apartment in the Royal Arsenal development for £220,000, which would now sell for at least £425,000,” says Sarah Olaleye, a sales valuer at Foxtons’ Blackheath office.
But there are some bargains to be had, she adds, particularly in ex-council one and two bedroom properties which sell for £215,000 and £275,000 respectively. Victorian family houses edging towards Plumstead also tend to go for around £500,000.
There’s nothing quite so pleasantly up-and-coming as a regular farmers market. The one at Royal Arsenal Riverside is on the second and last Saturday of every month, with a range of local bakers, cheesemongers, florists and grocers housed inside the Grade II listed Building 10 on Draper Street. The Dial Arch is also a popular Young’s pub set in an old munitions factory, while Hop Stuff brewery, based in Gunnery House, is one of London’s fastest growing microbreweries. Sup some of its wares at The Taproom, a sourdough pizzeria nearby that also serves great chicken wings. For more traditional delights, there’s nothing like a trip on the Woolwich Ferry, a free service carrying passengers, cars and bicycles over to North Woolwich in Newham. The £500m Thames Barrier at Woolwich Reach is also an underappreciated local charm, defending us all from the rising tides.
House prices Source: Zoopla
Transport Source: TfL
Time to Canary Wharf: 21 mins
Time to Bank: 26 mins
Nearest train station: Woolwich Arsenal
Best roads Source: Hamptons International
Most Expensive: Ashridge Crescent: £500,833
Best Value: Portway Garden: £197,227
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