The £4bn redevelopment of Stratford City was always going to be big, but when London won the Games last year it ballooned. By 2012 the two projects, which are now inextricably linked, will have created an urban centre with transport links to rival Waterloo. Mark Leftly reports on the transformation of east London

Ralph Luck, the head of property at the ODA, probably sums it up best when he says: “If 2012 hadn’t happened, Stratford City could have been a nice development surrounded by contaminated and degraded land.”

The five-phase, £4bn project aims to create an urban centre in east London, but the 2012 win has made it a much more desirable location. Without the Games, for example, it would be surrounded by marshland. Land reclamation on Stratford City will mean it is raised 8-14m above this marsh: “It would stick out like a sore thumb,” explains Luck. Instead, the London Development Agency is spending about £200m to remediate the surrounding land in time for 2012.

Indeed, the two schemes are now so complementary, it is difficult to imagine one without the other.

Benefits to Stratford City

Luck argues that the Games are knotting the whole area together. He says that it has ensured that the Eurostar will stop in Stratford. “The park and sports facilities turns Stratford into a location, it gives people a reason for going there,” he says.

Certainly, London & Continental Railways, which has development rights on the 13.5 million ft2 of Stratford City land, is grateful for the Games. Obviously, LCR believes the project would always have been a success, and – bar an ugly tussle between developers Westfield, the Reuben Brothers and Stanhope over ownership of development rights (Westfield eventually bought the other two out for £140m) – the proposals have been widely praised, particularly by residents and the council.

But it does acknowledge that 2012 is greatly benefiting the local infrastructure, which will make Stratford City a more desirable place to shop and live when construction gets going next year. David Joy, LCR’s planning director, says: “It’s raised the profile and the certainty of delivery.”

One example is development at Stratford station. As part of its section 106 agreement it made when permission was granted in February last year, LCR was going to have to build a ticket hall on the northern part of the station to help carry the additional footfall. Transport for London was considering revamping the ageing ticket hall on the southern side, but the Games necessitated that this programme be accelerated ahead of 2012.

The ODA’s Luck claims that Stratford, which already had good transport links, will soon be better than those at the hitherto busier, more fashionable London hub at Waterloo.

Joy also admits that the power lines issue has been resolved as a result of 2012. LCR had proposed a “minimalist undergrounding” of these power lines, which are ugly blights on the local landscape. Keen to get on with at least some of the work before the ODA appointed a delivery partner to programme manage the construction of the Games, the LDA took over responsibility for the power lines. These stretch into the 2012 site, and the LDA awarded the £200m scheme to bury 50 power lines last September to contractors Murphys.

So, the environmental and image benefits have been huge to the Stratford City scheme.

The park and sports facilities turns Stratford into a location, it gives people a reason for going there

Ralph Luck

How Stratford City benefits the Games

The scale of Stratford City should not be underestimated. It will provide 5 million ft2 of offices, 1.6 million ft2 of retail space and thousands of homes. Construction will not finish until 2012.

Much of this development will be ready for 2012 and so provides natural attractions to Games’ ticket-holders when they are not in the main arenas. More importantly, though, Stratford City will house the majority of the Olympic Village, with a small portion spilling out on to ODA land. Seventeen thousand five hundred athletes and support staff will descend upon this for the weeks of the Games. After the Games, 3,500 housing units, many affordable, will go on to the market for a new residential quarter in the development. A further 300-500 will go up for sale on the ODA side.

As part of its outline planning consent, LCR’s team had to agree to place further applications to approve so-called “zonal masterplans”. This shows the scheme in much more detail, with roads, facilities and buildings all drawn up. For the Olympic Village part, Joy has seconded part of his team to the ODA. “Stratford City designers and consultants have been working as part of an integrated team with them for the past nine-to-12 months,” he says.

At the time of writing, there are two teams that have been shortlisted to build the four zones of the Stratford City scheme, which includes the bulk of the Olympic Village work. French giant Bouygues is up against Australian developer Lend Lease, with a winner to be selected later this autumn.

There is some sacrifice from LCR here, though. The houses will all come on to the market pretty much at the same time after 2012. Normally, some of these would be pre-sold, but they will all have been converted into residential units from village accommodation on a speculative basis. Joy believes that this will depress the value of Stratford City as a whole, as “it will all be out there in one whack”, when speculative housing development would ordinarily be phased.

Joy does concede that much of this depression on the value should be balanced out by the economic boost resulting from the environmental improvements associated with the Games, such as the land reclamation.

The Games afoot

The village and the Games are not self-contained entities. Similarly, Stratford City is not just an urban quarter in itself, but hoped to result in the development of more major schemes leading into the Thames Gateway, where regeneration has been planned for more than a quarter of a century.

Luck says: “As well as the [circa] 4,000 homes being provided in the village itself, another 26-30,000 are being planned on the back of the Games.” But he finishes by pointing out the benefits to the local residents, who are arguably occasionally overlooked by observers of these two great developments: “Low income earners will have the opportunity to live on or near the park unlike London’s other great green spaces, like Hyde Park.”

It’s all shaping up to be pretty special.