The new Wood Wharf development

On the 17th January Canary Wharf’s new Wood Wharf development received its first residents and there is also a new pedestrian route through the area which opened in early January. Its not plainly obvious there’s a walking route through Wood Wharf (there was previously but it wasn’t available for many years.) At the time of my visit there was nothing to indicate any walking route was available – and there were many barriers in place at the Canary Wharf end, which meant the walking route was attained initially by way of walking along the road.

Restrictions in terms of access to the Wood Wharf area began in November 2014 before being was closed completely in early 2016. Since 6th January 2020 it has been open to an extent however there’s little to inform people of this. I took a look at the new development as an aside from the Canary Wharf Winter Lights after spotting people negotiating the barriers in Montgomery Street!

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Map detailing the new pedestrian route. Source: Twitter

Wood Wharf is a new development that has been ongoing for a number of years now. It will ultimately consist of 3,200 new homes. It was originally going to be overseen by Terry Farrell however Allies and Morrison soon became the main designers with individual companies such as Hertzog & de Meuron being responsible for the unusual and iconic structure known as One Park Place. I had previously intended to write about this structure’s unusual design along with stuff on the new towers at South Quay Plaza and Newfoundland – and may still do on another date.

The background

Wood Wharf has a long history of development. Something was envisaged at this location for a long time undoubtedly in view of the success of the Canary Wharf development right next door. There used to be a school and some other buildings but little else and the site was seen as prime for development. The area belonged to British Waterways (BW) who were given the site after the London Docklands Development Corporation began dispensing of various sites in the area. In 2001 BW set up a separate company to manage Wood Wharf.

In Tower Hamlets in 2003 came up with various designs, one which included a series of waterways that would exploit the water based aspect of the Canary Wharf site. British Waterways itself sought to encourage development of the site and clearly in 2004 it had secured the interest of various parties, including Canary Wharf Group.

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Part of British Waterways’ 27th April 2004 press release announcing the various bidders.

At the time British Waterways expressed the desire to ‘have an active and ongoing role in its development,’ and to retain a substantial share in the site. To keep things short, things happened in such a way that eventually Canary Wharf Group sought to fully purchase the site and secure the full rights to develop it – with British Waterways (and subsequently Canal & River Trust) remaining merely the freeholders rather than having any active interest in its development. See here. The Canary Wharf Group set up a new company CWG (Wood Wharf Two) Limited to manage the Wood Wharf side of things.

Wood Wharf was sold for £52.5 million whilst the lease was extended to a period of 250 years. At the same time as the sale was made British Waterways’ property director, Stuart Mills resigned, and the company address was changed from BW’s in Watford to One Canada Square. Whilst BW received monies from the sale, it has clearly benefited its successor Canal & River Trust who say its ‘a very significant sum of money.’ This £6 million per annum with re-investment has now become £10 million per annum for Canal & River Trust. Stuart Mills remains the trust’s highest paid director.

One of the problems with the site was it apparently didn’t offer the remit that was sought to bring it onto a par with Canary Wharf itself. One of the advantages of having full control over the development meant the site could be made much bigger, taking much unused water space from South Dock enabling the wharf line to match that existing from the Impounding Dock to Blackwall Lock. This was achieved by way of building a piled dam (which would form the new quayside wall) and then the area within this pumped out. It was also dug deeper to remove the softer topsoils. The plans were submitted to Tower Hamlets and approved in 2014, along with the proposal to extend the site across part of South Dock. The 166 page planning application for Wood Wharf can be seen here.

The following two images show how the expansion of the site was made.

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The site in 2013 just after the sale from BW. The recessed waterline can clearly be seen. Source: Architects Journal

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The new waterline evident in 2018, just two structures so far built. The vacant space is to be known as Timber Quay. Source: Building

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View looking towards Wood Wharf in 2008 from South Quay. The vista once afforded of the O2 centre is now obscured by the new development.

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The site June 2015 with some piling having been driven in the dock for the new quayside. Source: Google Streets

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Wood Wharf earlier in 2019 with One Park Drive still under construction. At right is 10 George Street, the new GRID building.

A quick look round Wood Wharf

These pictures were taken whilst in the area for the Canary Wharf Winter Lights 2020.

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The new access route over the Bellmouth crossing towards Wood Wharf.

The bridge leading from Montgomery Street/Square to Wood Wharf is known as the Montgomery bridge. Its actually a bascule bridge and is designed to allow barge traffic to pass along the Bellmouth channel to the north side of the Canary Wharf area or those heading for Blackwall and Poplar docks. The bridge was constructed in Belgium then delivered by barge across the North Sea to Canary Wharf. Pictures of this progress can be seen here.

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Looking west along Water Street towards the Montgomery bridge with the almost completed Newfoundland Tower in the distance.

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The walking route through Wood Wharf is fairly well signed.

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View looking south down Park Drive towards South Quay with the Madison Tower (left) and the round Baltimore Tower visible. The turning on the left is George Street. At left is 20 Water Street for which a brochure is available.

One of the main points concerning each of these thoroughfares is they will all be tree lined. So far its just a small section of Park Drive and most of George Street that has has any trees!

In terms of dramatic views the best so far has to be that looking down George Street as the next picture shows….

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Dramatic view looking down George Street towards 10 Park Drive – with One Park Drive just visible. On the left is 10 George Street and on the right is 20 Water Street.

10 Park Drive is a 345 apartment building. It was designed by Stanton Williams. It has ‘ 74 studios, 115 one-bedroom apartments, 141 two-bedroom apartments and 15 three-bedroom apartments, within a 42-storey tower and extending 13-storey structure. All the apartments and connecting areas are designed to maximise natural daylight, with balconies or terraces, and access to a secluded ‘oasis in the city’ – a terraced roof garden on the 13th floor.’ Judging from the plans there will be a new public park between One Park Drive and Ten Park Drive known as Compton Gardens.

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The bottom end of Park Drive looking north. One Park Drive is to the left but its evidently not yet completed.

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View from One Park Drive towards the South Quays tower. There will be substantial parkland along here called Harbour Quay Gardens. At the time of writing it was still under development.

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This quite large and interesting bronze sculpture (if it is that) stands at the foot of One and Ten Park Drive. There’s no description or label currently, so I cant tell you what it represents or who the artist is.

In the eastward direction leading off Park Drive is George Street. Its the only one of three thoroughfares so far completed. The other two are the continuation of Water Street and Berner’s Place.

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One Park Drive from George Street. The unusual design of the building is clearly seen. It was achieved by rotating each floor plan, ensuring that not one bit of floor area matched that below or above it.

At the far end of George Street is what will be known as Timber Quay. This is the so far considerably undeveloped area between Wood Wharf and Preston’s Road. As the picture below shows just one building has so far gone up here. There will be two new squares here, one is Union Square and the other Harbord Square. Its said Union Square will be ‘Wood Wharf’s bustling square hosts a number of events and markets, bringing people together.’

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Timber Quay, which leads off Charter Street. Union Square will be to the immediate right. The new tower is that on the north side of Brannan Street overlooking Blackwall Basin. The unbuilt ones clustered around Rivington Courtyard and The Lanes will be to the right (south side) of this one.

Within this new area will be the cultural/meeting/eating/market areas known as Rivington Courtyard and The Lanes. The two images shown below are depictions of these new places which with Union Square, will evidently be an important focal area within the whole Wood Wharf site.

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The Lanes illustration.

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Rivington Courtyard illustration.

The pedestrian route leads along Harbour Quay Gardens towards Preston’s Road. I didn’t walk this other bit in view of the fact it was getting dark as I was really here for the Winter Lights. As my original photographs show it was indeed almost dark! I’ve merely processed them to brighten the scenes. I’ll do that other part of the pedestrian route soon. I however continued northwards along Charter Street which leads back towards the main Canary Wharf area by way of Cartier Circle and Churchill Place.

I don’t think this is an official route yet. There wasnt signage for it although there were a handful of people using it. One has to walk on the roads at the other end and the security at Cartier Circle will be quite anxious to ensure nobody gets in the way of the very busy traffic that comes through here into the main part of Canary Wharf. This northern part of Wood Wharf has not seen any full construction begin, which means there’s just the shell of 10 Water Street north of the almost fully developed line along Water Street. Here are some views near to Cartier Circus showing the various prospects looking north west, south and south east.

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View towards Cartier Circus and the older part of Canary Wharf including State Street, Barclays & HSBC towers.

I am not sure what will be on the other side of the fence as the strip of land is quite narrow because Blackwall Basin is just down there. It’ll probably be a small stretch of parkland or waterside walk alongside the basin that will lead directly from Cartier Circus to the Timber Quay area and judging from the plans there will also be new moorings which will complement those existing on the north side of Blackwall basin. Part of the site by its conjunction with Cartier Circus is however for a building known as One Charter Street.

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View from Cartier Circle towards Wood Wharf. One Park Drive is quite evident. The large building in front will be 10 and 20 Water Street. The empty space in the foreground will be 4 Charter Street.

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View looking from Cartier Circle south east towards Timber Quay. As has been mentioned the site behind the fencing will probably be a waterside walk or parkland leading towards Timber Quay complemented by new moorings for barges.

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The most recent Wood Wharf map – this is from the 20 Water Street brochure.

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