The Silvertown Partnership
Granted outline planning permission on 21st April 2015, the creative masterplan for Silvertown Quays promises to be a major new piece of city for the 21st century, forging a vibrant future for the former dockyards that once welcomed the world through their gates.
Occupying a 62-acre site around the historic Pontoon Dock, the approved Silvertown Partnership scheme was evolved over 12 months, with CivicArts acting as Concept Masterplanner and Fletcher Priest Architects as Masterplanner/Lead Consultant.
Reviving the Victorian legacy of innovation and enterprise that once defined this part of London, Silvertown Quays will be a dynamic and attractive new waterside destination, combining homes, restaurants, and local retail services with a collection of commercial spaces designed to attract the foremost creative global brands. An incubator of new ideas and industries to fuel the future prosperity of East London, this collection of companies will help provide up to 5,000 jobs in its first phase alone, and a projected 20,700 jobs in total.
Creating nearly 7 million sq ft of new commercial and residential space, with a gross development value of £3.5 billion, Silvertown is forecast to attract £33 million of spending per annum to the local Newham economy, and contribute upwards of £260 million gross value to the London economy as a whole.
CivicArts’ extensive research into evolution of the Silvertown site has fed directly into the development of the masterplan approved in April 2015.
The industrial transformation of the marshy Plaistow Level ranks as one of the great visionary schemes of the Victorian era. When it opened in 1855, the Victoria Dock was the largest manmade expanse of water in the world. Almost a mile long, and covering some 90 acres, it was purposely designed to handle the new iron steamships that were changing the pace of international commerce. The subsequent expansion of the docks system to including the Albert and King George V docks, helped to consolidate London’s position as one of the world’s great ports. ‘The Royals’ as they became known, facilitated the phenomenal flow of goods and raw materials that made Britain one of the richest nations on Earth.
The Silvertown masterplan centres on the historic Pontoon Dock, originally opened in 1858 as the ‘Victoria Graving Dock’ to serve as an innovative ship repair facility for its larger, cargo-handling neighbour. The Pontoon Dock derives its name from a technical marvel that typifies the ingenuity of the Victorian engineers. Designed by Edwin Clark, the ‘Hydraulic Lift Graving Dock’ was capable of handling ships up to 350 feet in length and could raise or re-float a vessel in as little as 25 minutes. The speed of operation led to the dock’s unique ‘spider plan’ of a turning basin with 8 narrow, radiating berths lined with workshops meaning that up to eight vessels could be serviced at a time. Clark’s novel solution provided at least eight times the capacity of a conventional dry dock, at less than half the cost.
Though it was successfully upgraded within its working lifetime, the Clark’s lift was eventually made obsolete by the rapid growth in the size of the ocean-going steamships between 1860 and 1900. A combination of factors led to the Victoria Graving Dock Company going into liquidation in 1889 but the Pontoon Dock quickly found a new purpose as a centre for handling grain. A number of granaries and grain elevators were already in operation when Joseph Rank opened his Empire Mill in 1904, followed shortly after by William Vernon & Sons in 1905, and their famous Millennium Mills complex.
The great flourmills that grew and flourished on the strip of land between the Pontoon and Victoria Docks became the breadbasket of London, producing the majority of the flour consumed within the capital. Grain from Canada, Australia and USA arrived by ship to be sorted, stored and milled, before being delivered via road, rail or barge. This nexus of flour production, shipping and transport was of national importance and was twice devastated by war: once by the Silvertown Explosion of 1917, and then again by the Luftwaffe in the 1940s. The Pontoon Dock itself remained unchanged till 1938, when the channel that once housed the hydraulic lift was widened to take larger vessels. Over the next thirty years, five of the original eight pontoon berths were filled in to provide greater storage areas and marshalling yards until the dock assumed its present day outline.
Like Clark’s hydraulic lift, the Royal Docks were to be the victim of progress. The advent of the containerisation system and the vast cargo ships it required made the old docks obsolete. In the 1982 they closed to commercial traffic and all shipping operations were transferred down stream to Tilbury Docks that had been converted into a container port. In 1992 the Spillers Mill closed, ending almost 100 years of flour production.
The Pontoon Dock now lies dormant, waiting for new industries to make it their home. It is to this great legacy of international trade, technology and innovation that Silvertown Quays masterplan responds.
The Silvertown Partnership
Chelsfield Partners LLP
PLANNING PHASE TEAM
Fletcher Priest Architects
Donald Insall Associates
Concept Landscape Designers:
Transport Design Consultants:
Brand Asset Management:
Retail Property Advisors: