This Guardian article by Oliver Wainwright (20th July 2022) gives some background to Boris Johnson’s decision when Mayor of London to grant planning permission to a Chinese company for this now failed project. Is there something to learn for Convoys Wharf?
The former mayor touted the £1.7bn London development as a vibrant beacon for Asian companies. Now there isn’t a single tenant – though the dystopian setting is attracting film crews
It was billed by Boris Johnson as a dazzling “beacon for Asian investors”: a £1.7bn complex of waterside offices that would become “London’s third great business area” after the City and Canary Wharf. As mayor of London in 2013, he promised it would be a dynamic “city within a city”, humming 24 hours a day, with Asian companies lured here by tax breaks working on Beijing time and breathing new life into a long-derelict stretch of east London’s Royal Docks.
Almost a decade since Johnson signed the deal with the Chinese developer ABP (Advanced Business Parks) to build his dockside fantasy, the area is a ghost town. About a tenth of the project has been realised: a row of pristine office blocks marooned in a sea of tarmac and overgrown scrubland, with no tenants in sight. Last week, after years of uncertainty and missed deadlines, the Greater London Authority finally kicked the developer off the project, citing lack of progress on the scheme, leaving the future of the 14 hectare (35 acre) site up in the air.
Visiting the place today feels like walking through a computer generated image of a correctional facility. It has the air of a bleak open-air prison for white collar criminals sentenced to purgatory in a haunted business park. An endless grid of identical windows extends down either side of Mandarin Street, the district’s central thoroughfare, punctuating the relentless 200 metre long facades of grey brickwork. A row of spindly trees punctuates the desolate scene while a lone security guard glides to and fro in an electric golf buggy, occasionally stopping to sweep up an errant leaf, keeping the pavement spotless for his community of imaginary occupants.
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