Call the Midwife location Poplar is set for drastic change:billions of pounds are pouring into E14 bringing thousands of new homes

January 31, 2018 11:30 am

E14 is well-connected but house prices are half as much as those in neighbouring Canary Wharf.

Ruth Bloomfield,Tuesday 23 January 2018 21:25 GMT,

New homes in Poplar

Hit BBC drama Call the Midwife, based on the Fifties memoirs of nurse Jennifer Worth, is back on our screens, and the former Poplar convent for midwifery she called Nonnatus House still stands, tucked away amid the urban decay near the Blackwall Tunnel.

Head around the river a bit and you’ll find Canary Wharf’s gleaming towers, lit up 24 hours a day as the global money markets feed this huge commercial enterprise. These two faces of East London couldn’t be more different.

However, the bulldozers are busy tearing down Poplar’s recent past as billions of pounds are poured into the “ugly duckling of East London”.

Its building pipeline includes 3,000 flats, both in new buildings and revived brutalist landmarks, plus shops, offices and new parks. Homes are on offer for renters, buyers and first-timers needing subsidised homes.

Next month will see a planning decision on one of the most crucial elements of Poplar’s rebirth — the redevelopment of Chrisp Street Market, built as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Poplar Harca housing association has joined forces with housebuilder Telford Homes to revamp the market with 650 flats, shops and a cinema.

About one in five of the homes will be affordable, for first-time buyers and local priced-out renters.

The proposals before Tower Hamlets council planners also include a market square with space for stalls and also one-off events such as live music, ice rinks, vintage fairs and open-air cinema.

Poplar: the lowdown

It could provide a focal point for Poplar, which is well placed to cash in on the launch of Crossrail at Canary Wharf this year.


One of Poplar’s new projects is the Robin Hood Gardens redevelopment. This brutalist Seventies estate of 252 flats suffered from design flaws and a lack of maintenance, and most of its residents supported its demolition, first announced almost 10 years ago.

However, architects including Lord Rogers were horrified at the thought of losing such a significant example of post-war London architecture.

Demolition finally began last year, after the V&A salvaged a three-storey section of walkways and maisonette flats.

Poplar-based: Call the Midwife returned to BBC1 this week (BBC/Neal Street Productions)

Robin Hood Gardens will be replaced by 1,500 new homes in a £300 million development, Blackwall Reach. Swan Housing Association is leading the scheme and about half of the homes will be affordable.

There will be new shops, a park and a community centre, and building is set to take 10 years. Private homes start at £425,000 for one-bedroom flats, due to complete next year, and £690,000 for two-bedroom flats. See CBRE for more.

Not all of Poplar’s post-war housing will be bulldozed. Sixties landmarks Balfron Tower and neighbouring Carradale House, designed by Ernö Goldfinger, are safe.

His better-known Trellick Tower has become a west London hotspot, with flats selling for seven-figure sums.

Brutalist appeal: Ernö Goldfinger’s Sixties Carradale House and adjacent Balfron Tower have been bypassed by the bulldozers. The latter is being renovated with 137 flats, new gardens and a new public square at its foot (Daniel Lynch)

Londonewcastle, Telford Homes and Poplar Harca are renovating Grade II*-listed Balfron Tower with 137 private flats, new gardens and a public square at its foot.

The one- to four-bedroom homes are expected to go on sale this spring, with residents moving in during autumn next year.

A £350 million scheme beside the River Lea, led by Galliard Homes and Lindhill, got the go-ahead recently.

Ailsa Wharf will include 785 new homes, with a third affordable, plus office space and shops, in 13 new buildings with a central park and a new riverside waterway. The first homes will be finished in 2021 and are likely to go on sale off-plan before that.

Jason Taylor, sales director of Dexters in Canary Wharf, says: “Poplar is now the overflow of Canary Wharf where prices are pushing people out.” Average price per square foot in Canary Wharf is £800-£900. In Poplar, still E14, it’s £400-£600.

Renovated: now a top-notch pool and gym, Poplar Baths hosted David Beckham’s new sports footwear launch (Daniel Lynch)

There are a few hidden roads of Victorian houses in Poplar, including Woodstock Terrace and Saltwell Street, where a three-bedroom terrace would cost £700,000 to £750,000, but they rarely come up for sale.

There are also many ex-council flats, mainly brick-built split-level maisonettes with three bedrooms, selling at about £400,000.

What you won’t find in Poplar are trendy bistros and bars. On the plus side, Poplar High Street has a range of useful shops, and there is green space in the form of Bartlett Park, which is getting a £3.6 million upgrade this summer, and Poplar Recreation Ground.

Poplar Baths have recently been revamped, and the towpath of Limehouse Cut is popular with walkers and joggers. But if you want a fully formed London village, Poplar is not it.

Projects such as Aberfeldy Village should help change that perception. This 12-year, £250 million regeneration of the seven-acre Aberfeldy Estate is well under way with 557 homes built for sale, rent, and shared ownership near East India DLR station.

Another 334 homes are now being built, with one-bedroom flats from £399,950 and two-bedroom homes from £459,950. By 2025 there will be more than 1,000 homes, plus shops, a gym, a health centre and a linear park through the site.

Makeover: the transformation of Chrisp Street Market is part of the multibillion-pound Poplar regeneration

Bellway’s Lansbury Square scheme in Chrisp Street offers 248 homes, including 19 for shared ownership, set around communal gardens, with residents’ gym and concierge.

From Langdon Park DLR, the nearest station, journeys to Canary Wharf take about five minutes. The first homes will be move-in ready early next year.

From £564,995 for a two-bedroom flat and £599,995 for a three-bedroom home. Help to Buy is also available on selected plots and some homes are being sold furnished.


Dirk Murlebach’s first impressions of Poplar were alarmingly bad — and that was before he had even set foot there.

Happily, he was willing to see for himself what E14 is all about, and discovered that the truth about this affordable and super-connected location is very different from the headlines.

He and his girlfriend Megan Sobozak were living in the Kent seaside town of Margate, but began house hunting in London when she got a new job.

Dirk is a freelance graphic designer, which meant he could move with Megan, and they began to look online for a place to rent. The couple spotted a nice-looking modern house they could afford, and set about researching its location.

Convenient: Dirk Murlebach says it’s quick and easy to get to the bright lights of central London from his rental home in Poplar (Juliet Murphy)

“When I put ‘Poplar’ into Google, my God, the first few pages were all about people joining Isis and the English Defence League — it seemed terrible,” says Dirk. “But the reality has been totally different. It is really very nice.”

That was three years ago and Dirk, 51, and Megan, 48, are now settled in their contemporary two-bedroom house. “It is a really, really nice house,” adds Dirk. “It is very modern, very comfortable with low running costs, and it only costs £1,500 a month which is very reasonable for the size.”

Right now Dirk says the best thing about the area is its connectivity. As well as using the Tube and DLR services he is a keen cyclist: “It only takes me 20 minutes to get to the City.”

The only downside is the lack of a local social life. The couple tend to go to Hackney in the evenings. “And you can be in the centre so quickly, it is so easy,” adds Dirk.

Evening Standard, 23 January 2018

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