Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Royal Albert Dock, Royal Docks, Advanced Business Park, Stanhope: Lost Empire to Host the New Empire

Docks of a Fallen Empire to 
Host a Rising Empire?

The British Empire reached its Victorian zenith when the Royal Albert Dock opened for trade in 1880.
Steamships lugged tea, ceramics and other Chinese imports along the Thames to east London’s Royal Albert - Britain’s biggest dock.
  The Empire is long gone and the last ships left the Royal Docks (above) long ago. But now plans are being drawn up to turn the Royal Albert into an outpost of China's 21st Century commercial empire, writes Paul Coleman.

A £1 billion plan by Chinese developer Advanced Business Park – and its UK project partner Stanhope – aims to build a 24-hour ‘mini-city’ of offices, shops and homes on the Royal Albert.
  Negotiations involving ABP, Stanhope, the Greater London Authority and UK Trade and Investment are reportedly close to an agreed deal for the 35-acres of publicly owned land currently controlled by the GLA.
   But property specialists question the viability of a scheme where the nearby City Airport means buildings can reach only 45 metres tall. Rents would need to be at unprecedented levels for this part of London.

Doubts also centre on the credibility of ABP’s project track record. Chairman Xu Weiping is well connected with the ruling Chinese Communist Party but ABP seems to have completed only one other such large development.
  Some 500 low-rise offices on Beijing’s outskirts are only partly occupied. Derelict malls, giant stopped clocks in Financial Harbour and a rundown hotel also feature.
 The UK Coalition government is desperate for Chinese investment to boost Britain’s recession-laden economy. London Mayor Boris Johnson designated the Royal Docks (below) as an Enterprise Zone in 2011 to attract investment.

Royal Docks
The Royal Albert forms part of the 125-acre Royal Docks. The Docks were rebuilt after Hitler's Luftwaffe heavily bombed them during the Blitz of World War II.
  But new container ships proved too large for the Royals and the Docks declined commercially and became derelict in the 1960s.
Thousands of dockers became unemployed and many families - who had returned after the War - found themselves compelled by market forces to leave an area that had been home for generations.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2013

© Words & Photo, Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013

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