While Olympians were exerting themselves in Tokyo 2020, further pieces of the London 2012 legacy mosaic were slotted into place, as planning permission was given for more housing and shops on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. East Wick and Sweetwater are two of the new Park neighbourhoods announced in 2011 and some of its homes are already on the market. The latest consent, granted by the London Legacy Development Corporation, is for the next 785 dwellings – 231 of them “affordable”, including some for social rent – plus retail and workspace. There will eventually be over 1,800 places to live in the two development sites, which are near to each other on the west side of the Park, close to the Lee Navigation Canal.
They are separated by the Copper Box Arena, where handball, goalball, fencing and modern pentathlon events took place in 2012 and which is now used for a variety of sports, concerts and other events. East Wick forms an “L” shape round the southern end of what was the Games time International Broadcast Centre, now the home of BT Sport and part of the wider Here East innovation campus within buildings that were originally for the London 2012 media.
Sweetwater stretches far enough south to look across the River Lea at the one time Olympic Stadium, now the London Stadium and the home of West Ham United. There is already a primary school next to East Wick, which reaches down to the canal towpath, and a children’s play area.
The developments are products of a joint venture between Balfour Beatty and Places for People – a long-established housing association and “placemaker” – within the framework of the LLDC’s Local Plan. The developers stress that the new homes “will be constructed to Code for Sustainable Homes level 4+” while the non-residential buildings will be built to BREEAM “Excellent” standards. There will be green roofs and more green spaces.
The LLDC decision opens the way for the completion of East Wick, whose architects, Studio Egret West, characterise them as “mending the gap in the urban fabric between Hackney Wick and the Olympic legacy communities” and see the job’s challenge as being “to enhance this place into an authentic London neighbourhood that celebrates its unique location”.
Such aspirations recall some of the earliest regeneration thinking about the Lower Lea Valley and the wider (and much longer) Thames Gateway as it was dubbed, going right back to the 1990s, when the capital’s economy and population began growing again after four decades of post-war shrinkage – the sense of a part of London that had become somehow marooned between Hackney and Stratford and whose land could be put to much better use.
Arguments will continue far into the future about the nature of the change that is taking place and who its beneficiaries have been and will be. There is no question, however, that slowly, gradually, bit by bit, the scene of all that sporting spectacle in 2012 is evolving, as promised, into a new London district.
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