venicedocksThe Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has come forward with a characteristically imaginative scheme for a floating village in Docklands.

The consortium Carillion Igloo Genesis has been selected to transform the 15 acres of water at the Royal Victoria Dock site, sitting directly to the east of the Emirates cable car. As well as floating homes there will be office space, restaurants, cafes and bars. The walkways and buildings will be anchored in place using a series of piles located within the dock and connected to the dock by bridges.

On the continent there are already floating communities at ljburg near Amsterdam and Hafen City in Hamburg as well as many others examples of floating homes throughout Scandinavia.

The winning scheme includes “a custom build approach for each of the 50 residential homes, enabling prospective occupiers to be part of the design-process of their homes, and a blue water square, framed by a market square and a floating corniche. There will also be a large multi-purpose events space and a mix of non-residential uses including restaurants, cafes, shops and leisure and office space. Plans for additional facilities, such as a floating Lido and an ice rink, were also proposed as part of the bid.”

Boris says:

“This site has the potential to become one of the most sought after addresses in the capital while breathing new life back into London’s waterways. Carillion Igloo Genesis’ scheme will create a unique mixed use development providing a range of commercial activities within a high quality water environment for Londoners and visitors, creating jobs and raising the profile of London’s Royal Docks.”

It sounds fantastic. The custom build approach means it will be hard to guess what it will look like as there will doubtless be different shapes and colours. But I suspect that the designs will generally be more attractive than if they were imposed by planners.

It is disappointing that the Labour directly elected Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales is opposing the idea. He says there won’t be enough affordable housing. That is an odd position to take at this stage as we don’t know how much there will be and there will clearly be some as a housing association is part of the consortium.

John Carleton, Executive Director of Markets and Portfolio at Genesis Housing Association, says:

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Carillion-Igloo in this exciting and innovative regeneration project. Through Genesis’ involvement in the bid, we’ve been able to secure a higher allocation of affordable housing within this scheme, which chimes closely with our mission to deliver diverse, mixed tenure developments in London and the South East.  Drawing on our expertise in running other high profile London regeneration projects we aim to create a sustainable and thriving community.”

It may well be that the floating element makes the scheme rather more expensive than elsewhere and thus the viable amount of “affordable housing” is thus lower than on other schemes. If so, would Sir Robin rather that nothing happens and we leave the site unused for another 30 years?

This is a reminder of how the inflexible requirement for “affordable housing” just restricts the supply of the new housing that is needed.

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