At Paddington, spurred on by the Heathrow Express rail link, a £2bn, 800 000 m2 quarter is set to be built around the station over the next 15 years. At its heart is the ongoing £61m redevelopment of the station and the £300m, 150 000 m sq mixed-use scheme now on site at Paddington Basin. Surrounding schemes include Bishopsbridge the 170 000 m2 redevelopment of the former Paddington Goods Yard, the £150m West End Quay residential development and the £100m extension of the Hilton Metropole Hotel.
Further west at White City, work on a £500m, 16 ha shopping district is now on site. Its massive covered piazza designed in the style of a Milanese galeria is intended to rival Covent Garden. It will include a new West London Line train station on Holland Park roundabout and a bus station at Wood Lane.
If Southwark's £600m-plus regeneration plan for Elephant & Castle comes off, the oppressive traffic hub with its shabby shopping centre will be unrecognisable, by appearance or by name. Reincarnated as London South Central, it will integrate high-spec commercial and residential buildings with new public spaces and spruced-up estates. Southwark also boasts the biggest commercial scheme in London on a 5.25 ha stretch of the riverbank between London and Tower bridges. The £1.4bn, 270 000 m2 scheme called More London Bridge is guaranteed prestige and success by its anchor tenant, the Greater London Authority.
When such levels of drawing-board activity are mentioned, thoughts automatically turn to the unsustainable 1980s boom. Nigel Hughill of developer Chelsfield denies that the capital is heading for a repeat of this. "This time, the boom will be more balanced. We will see strong levels of building continue regardless of the investment market as firms move out of old offices, creating a market for refurbishments," he says.
Richard Steer, managing director of Gleeds, says: "These mega schemes take a long time to come through, because of all the infrastructure and groundworks. You might expect problems a few years down the line when the superstructures go up. But these projects are such big orders they take on a life of their own; they generate their own buying power." That these huge projects are accompanied by infrastructure and rail links also points to something sustainable. Two new bridges linking the City and West End with the south bank of the Thames – the £15.9m Millennium Bridge and the £26m Hungerford Bridge – are under way. The £3.5bn of Jubilee Line stations from Green Park to Stratford are set to blaze a trail of development in the boroughs they serve, as is the £566m Thameslink 2000 project. Intended to improve links to the north and south of London, it will include an £87m overhaul of Blackfriars Station by Alsop & Störmer and a viaduct at London Bridge by Terry Farrell & Partners.
By 2007, the arrival of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will see £2.5bn, 20 ha of new development at one terminus in King's Cross and 60 ha at the other in Stratford, east London, where Chelsfield is dusting off plans by Arup Associates for a £300m "Metroport" and town centre of up to 800 000 m2 .
City versus Docklands
In the past two years, Docklands has been winning its race with the City to attract financial institutions.
One bank that opted for a Docklands site was HSBC, and its decision was a major blow to the Corporation of London. Speculation that HSBC was put off applying to build a tower in the City by the corporation's rejection of Foster and Partners' 385 m high Millennium Tower in 1998 prompted a volte-face on its tall buildings policy.
Anxious to correct any impression that keeping its historic sight lines makes it hostile to towers per se, the City said last April that it would allow up to 10 skyscrapers as high as the 180 m NatWest Tower to be built in the next decade.
In line with this policy, last October the corporation approved a 185 m headquarters designed by Foster and Partners for Swiss Reinsurance. This will go on the Baltic Exchange site previously proposed for the Millennium Tower. Corporation planning committee chairman Stuart Fraser said last week that it was considering five other applications for towers.
He added that the corporation hoped to capitalise on the trend for European firms to consolidate their operations into one building. With this in mind, the corporation is offering to help developers assemble sites of between 90 000 and 140 000 m2 for the "groundscrapers", favoured by single occupiers. It will even close streets and exercise compulsory purchase orders.
Meanwhile, the City is developing 650 000 m2 of office space, including the £350m, 90 000 m2 redevelopment of the 1960s Paternoster Square. CityPoint, the 120 m high, £300m redevelopment of the former BP headquarters in Moorgate is due to finish this year. Merrill Lynch's £100m, 50 000 m sq office in King Edward Street is set to finish next year.
In Docklands, Canary Wharf is to treble the size of its eponymous development by 2007, with a million square metres of new space planned, including the £600m, 110 000 m2 HSBC headquarters. In a bid to seduce more global players, Canary Wharf has commissioned concept designs from Skidmore Owings Merrill, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Pei Cobb Freed and Jean Nouvel.
Elsewhere in Docklands, developer ExCeL's £210m international exhibition centre is taking shape at Royal Docks. Tower Hamlets and Newham have unveiled their vision to transform the area around Millharbour and South Quay into a new mixed-use "Millennium Quarter".
Transport drives boom
The spate of developments around transport hubs is a result of Railtrack's £1.5bn strategy to capitalise on the government's urban policy of encouraging brownfield and infill schemes. Railtrack is developing "operational lands" – former sidings and depots – as well as exercising "air rights" above stations and tracks.
At Liverpool Street Station, another phase of Broadgate is being built over the tracks, adding 70 000 m2 to the north of the existing complex.
Last month, Railtrack unveiled a £400m redevelopment of London Bridge Station designed by TP Bennett to be built between 2002 and 2006. It includes 46 500 m2 of offices and 18 600 m2 of shops.
Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners is drawing up plans for a mixed-use, 55-storey tower above Waterloo Station. Also in the pipeline is a £100m mixed-use scheme by Michael Aukett Architects for a Railtrack/Bass Developments joint venture over the tracks and station at Clapham Junction.
A similar strategy adopted by London Transport has produced a host of schemes for sites above underground stations. A £120m, 27 400 m2 Terry Farrell & Partners-designed project for Stanhope above South Kensington Station, including a £15m new station, goes before a planning committee next week. Other schemes include Koski, Solomon and Ruthven's £100m twin residential towers next to Edgware Road Station and a mixed-use scheme above Hammersmith's Metropolitan and Circle Line station for THI and Lend Lease.
Fulham Broadway is to be revamped as part of a £75m, 37 000 m2 retail and leisure scheme above the station designed by Allies and Morrison and Hamilton Associates for Pillar Properties. And at Tottenham Court Road Station, a spacious £30m ticket hall designed by Hawkins/Brown will lie beneath a proposed public piazza at the junction of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road.