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Royal Docks: How East River Wharf is offering an alternative for local tenants

Shared ownership properties from Legal And General Affordable Homes present a competitive proposition for residents renting in east London

The show home living space at East River Wharf

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The rental market is on Jen Cobley’s mind.

Right now, for the head of sales at Legal And General Affordable Homes, it’s proving a fertile source of shared ownership buyers.

The company is currently delivering East River Wharf, part of Ballymore’s Riverscape scheme in Royal Docks and is finding its offering is attracting tenants under pressure from rising rents. 

“We launched the development in July and the sales rate has been really good – there’s a fantastic appetite for the scheme,” said Jen.

“The key reason for that is because the area is very popular with renters.

“What we’re seeing is that landlords have pushed prices up and that’s prompted people to look at alternatives.

“At East River Wharf some people will be moving into one-beds, having moved out of rented studios at Royal Wharf, for substantially less of a monthly outlay.

“That also means, of course, that they have got a foot on the ladder.

“It’s been a really positive start in a turbulent market.

“Shared ownership has been less affected by this as higher interest rates don’t have as great an effect because the portion of the property under mortgage is typically much smaller.

Legal And General Affordable Homes head of sales Jen Cobley

“The other thing about shared ownership is that people can think long-term.

“While interest rates may be shocking right now, if you’ve bought a 25% share, you will be in a better position financially than someone with a mortgage on 90% of a property.

“This means when interest rates stabilise, it will then be easier for people to staircase and buy a larger share of the property, right up to 100%.

“It’s also the deposit levels. While buying outright might be on some people’s agendas, when you think about what 5% or 10% of the full value of a property actually looks like, it is out of reach for most people.

“Shared ownership requires a much lower initial outlay. At East River Wharf, you are looking at a deposit of just under £5,000.

“Our one-bedroom homes start at £387,500, meaning a 5% deposit on a 25% share at £96,875 would be £4,843.

“That feels do-able for people. The mortgage market is currently very stable and there are lots of lenders offering 95% mortgages right now.

“On that one-bedroom apartment, you’d be looking at monthly outgoings of just over £1,500.

“I’ve spoken to a considerable number of people renting studio flats in the surrounding area for £1,800-£1,850 per month.”

All properties come with outdoor space

Legal And General has taken on four buildings at Riverscape, with apartments in two of them for sale on a shared ownership basis.

The others will be let to tenants on an affordable rent basis. 

One, two and three-bedroom apartments are available to buy at the scheme, which is essentially an extension of the Royal Wharf development on the Thames between West Silvertown and Pontoon Dock DLR stations.

The neighbourhood has its own pier served by the Uber Boat By Thames Clippers river bus and is within walking distance of the Elizabeth Line.

It will benefit significantly from a planned new bridge across Royal Victoria Dock, part of the ongoing regeneration of Silvertown, which will make this journey even easier, putting it within about 20 minutes of Canary Wharf.

Legal And General is set to host an open day at East River Wharf, from 10am-4pm on December 2, 2023, for anyone interested in buying a shared ownership property or who would like to know more about the scheme.

Jen said: “At our event we have a fantastic sales office and apartment to show people. We’re in the very fortunate position to be taking control of a lot of the units we’re selling quite soon.

“We have one, two and three-bedroom apartments that people can see, unfurnished too and a team of sales consultants who would be delighted to meet with potential purchasers or anyone who just wants to know a little bit more about shared ownership. 

One, two and three-beds are available

“We’ll also have an independent financial advisor on hand, for anyone who would like to discuss accessing a mortgage.

“We really are ambassadors for the tenure rather than just our brand – we’re more than happy to have wider conversations about affordability and ways people can buy properties. 

“Shared ownership is not just for first-time buyers.

“If you have a property that’s sold, subject to contract we can take an application from you. 

“If you’ve previously owned a property and have left the market then we’re also an option for you.

“We see people coming to us in a wide variety of situations, whether they are looking to buy their first home, relocating after a divorce or dealing with a change in circumstances.

“It’s really open to all as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.”

Buyers at East River Wharf will get access to a wide range of facilities with the vast majority already up and running.

“In terms of the apartments at East River themselves, the quality is on a par with Ballymore. That’s a real key selling point for us. 

“Everything has outdoor space – either a balcony or a terrace and they are, of course, in a fantastic location.

“Buyers also get access to all the Royal Wharf facilities.

“There’s a real sense of community with the clubhouse.

“Something I’m really excited about is the Sky Lounge, which will be on the 16th floor of one of Riverscape’s buildings.

“It’s due to open next year and will be a business lounge with far-reaching views across to Greenwich and Canary Wharf – a place to meet neighbours and collaborate with guests.

“There’s also a concierge service that oversees the seamless running of the estate too.”

Find out more about East River Wharf here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Royal Docks: How Royal Wharf Clinic offers a medical approach to aesthetic procedures

Founder Dr Shaan Mahmood on how a holistic approach to clients can yield desired results

Royal Wharf Clinic founder Dr Shaan Mahmood

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“I‘m aware that there aesthetic clinics where people are in it to make money, but I’m involved in this field because I want to improve people’s mental and medical health,” said Dr Shaan Mahmood.

The founder of Royal Wharf Clinic created the business  – based in Cunningham Avenue near Pontoon Dock DLR station – with two clear aims in mind.

“I’d noticed that, because of things like social media, people are much more concerned about their image than they used to be,” he said.

“I wanted to offer individuals a holistic approach to aesthetic issues but also with their wider health.

“The idea was born out of frustration at not being able to provide the care for people that I wanted through my role as an NHS doctor working in a hospital.”

Initially Dr Shaan spent time pursuing medical research, gaining a masters from the University Of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School before realising he preferred interacting with patients on a more personal level.

“I remain very interested in the science of medicine, but I like to have human contact as well,” he said.

“I prefer speaking to people to get information from them.

“There’s a lot of data inside our heads that can’t be measured, so you have to talk to people to access it. 

“That’s why I moved on to doing hospital work, graduated and then, eight months later, the Covid pandemic arrived which was very tough to start with.

“Normally, as a junior doctor, you are assured that your senior colleagues are there for you and that your job is to absorb the experience and the protocols rather than to make serious decisions.

“In the pandemic, many of the older doctors were shielding and so the juniors had to step up.

“That experience accelerated my development as a doctor because it taught me to quickly clarify my thought processes, made me better as a worker and a member of a team and showed me that regardless of how you feel, the work needs to be done – so you crack on and do it.

“It was a really tough period and the burn-out rate among colleagues was high – but it resulted in me becoming a far better doctor than I might otherwise have become in that time.

“However, it also highlighted a lot of problems in the system. I love the NHS – having healthcare that is free at the point of delivery is very important and that’s why I continue to work for it.

“But what I didn’t enjoy was saying to patients that they would get an outpatients’ appointment in two weeks and then getting a call from them two months later when that hadn’t even been scheduled.

“I found I couldn’t guarantee what I was saying to people.

“That’s what Royal Wharf Clinic is about. When I say to people who come here that we can do something, then we can.

“If someone has an issue that we can’t address ourselves, then we will know someone who can help.”

Royal Wharf Clinic is located on Cunningham Avenue

On the face of it, Royal Wharf Clinic is divided into two areas of service – medical and aesthetic.

But as we talk, it becomes obvious Dr Shaan sees them as feeding into a single mission – how to help someone feel better, both physically and mentally. 

To that end the clinic is fully equipped with a variety of consultation and treatment rooms and is currently constructing an on-site lab to bring wait times for test results down to a minimum. 

“On the medical side, we do a lot of investigations that are primarily preventative,” said Dr Shaan.

“We offer blood tests, scans and consultations about nutrition and lifestyle – such as sleep, work and stress levels – and we try to pinpoint what a person’s goals are in life for their health and wellbeing.

“It’s not up to me to decide what will make someone better. It’s for me to ask what that is and then create a strategy to help people get there.

“A client might want to feel more energetic, for example, to reduce their stress levels, lose weight or gain some muscle. 

“Of course, we can treat people if there is a medical problem or refer them to a specialist if necessary, but I’m a big proponent of preventative blood work to identify any deficiencies in the body.

“We have created a number of bespoke tests to address common complaints – tiredness for example.

“Our test will screen for certain conditions and 95% of time it’s likely to be one of those that is responsible. 

“Another is iron deficiency – a person’s levels will be low three or four months before they develop anaemia but they may feel fine.

“If we identify that early then we can improve a person’s levels to head off any problems.

“My job is really to keep people out of hospital – to be their guardian angel. People can tell me what they want and we’ll give them advice on how to get there.”

Dr Shaan’s approach when it comes to aesthetic treatments is similar, following Royal Wharf Clinic’s tagline of “beauty carefully considered”.

The clinic’s Styku scanning room plus Emsculpt Neo

“The background knowledge I have from doing complex surgery contributes to the level of service we are able to offer clients,” he said.

“Overall there’s an emphasis on a more natural look in the field of aesthetics now.

“For example, many people prefer skin boosters rather than changing the shape of the body.

“People’s reasons for seeking aesthetic treatments are deeply personal but they always stem from a perception that there’s a problem to be fixed.

“There are two types of aesthetic treatment – preventative, such as washing and moisturising, and reactive where we’re trying to correct something.

“We will never look at a client and tell them what we think they should have done. It’s always up to the client to tell us what they think the problem is.

“For example, they might think they dislike the size of their nose or certain skin blemishes.

“Then I will make an assessment because some people suffer from dysmorphia and see a completely different person when they look in the mirror.

“As a doctor, it is my responsibility to look after their health so I’m not obliged to agree with a client’s assessment if treatment is unnecessary or might be detrimental to their health. 

“This is something we take very seriously – because of social media we’re constantly exposed to images of others and can easily make unfavourable comparisons, which is more to do with a person’s mental health than their physical appearance.

“However, there are, of course, genuine deficiencies such as scarring, dry skin or areas damaged by acne that are causing misery and that we can get sorted.

“Then there are anti-ageing treatments. You can’t stop Father Time, but you can definitely slow him down.”

In addition to the medical services it offers, Royal Wharf Clinic boasts an extensive range of options to improve the appearance of or remove the likes of warts and verrucas, body hair, visible blood vessels and scars.

It also offers Emsculpt Neo treatments to help eliminate stubborn fat deposits.

You can find out more about Royal Wharf Clinic via this link

A treatment room at the clinic complete with 3Juve Laser

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Royal Docks: How Little Hudson cafe at Royal Wharf was inspired by New York

Owner Nicola Micah talks banking, motherhood and serving up all sorts of dishes to east Londoners

Nicola Micah outside her cafe - Little Hudson
Nicola Micah outside her cafe – Little Hudson – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

The concrete jungle is “where dreams are made of” according to Alicia Keys’ song New York.

But for Nicola Micah the Big Apple simply provided the inspiration for her Royal Docks reality.

The Londoner was living it up in Manhattan with her husband – banking by day and soaking up all the city had to offer by night

“We moved to New York in our late 20s and loved it,” she said.

“For me, the whole point of being there was to be in the centre of everything. 

“But we knew we wanted to start a family and I didn’t want to do it there. We knew we wanted to move back home.”

By 2019 she was back – running fledgling café Little Hudson around the corner from Thames Barrier Park and raising her newborn son.

It was a huge transition, but one Nicola makes seem as natural as breathing.

“In New York, brunch is such a big part of the lifestyle and I’ve always loved food – working in a bank wasn’t really me,” she said. 

“So I decided I was going to have a look into it and see if there were any units around.

“When I did, I quickly realised we needed to go for it because there were some available. 

“I knew if we waited we might miss out or other places might move in and then there would already be competition.

“Then I got pregnant, unexpectedly, and that really pushed us to do it. I could have moved back to the UK and got a job in banking, but I wanted to do something I really loved.”

Little Hudson is located in Starboard Way, Royal Wharf
Little Hudson is located in Starboard Way, Royal Wharf – image Matt Grayson

Nicola named Little Hudson to “bring a little slice of New York to Royal Docks” and juggles running it with raising her three-year-old son Rafi.

The café, in Starboard Way, is open seven days a week until 4pm with a staff of 10 and the menu is very much inspired by the brunch scene in Manhattan while also including some English classics.

Dishes include banana and caramel pancakes (£11), a brekkie bagel (£8) with scrambled egg, cheese, chives, turkey bacon or smoked salmon, and the popular ​​Hudson brekky plate (£12) with turkey bacon, two eggs, hash brown, Hudson beans, sautéed mushrooms and sourdough toast. 

Nicola said: “When we were planning I was thinking about what kind of place people would go to regularly, not just once every two weeks.

“I wanted to choose the best thing to do in terms of being able to survive.

“Our food is the kind people want to eat every day, because it’s not really greasy. I like to keep the menu fresh and change it every few months for people who come quite regularly.”

Royal Docks is no Manhattan – the population is still small – but Nicola said that was the draw for her.

“Before we went to New York we were living in the area, so we knew it really well but there was literally nothing there,” said the 32-year-old.

“Then they started developing it and all the flats were put up and I thought it was a great opportunity to open something related to food, because there’s nothing else around there.”

Nicola's food is inspired by her life in New York
Nicola’s food is inspired by her life in New York – image Matt Grayson

She and her husband left the area to move Stateside after he landed a role with financial services company Moody’s.

Data analyst Nicola had previously worked for Santander and HSBC and then found work with Citibank.

When they decided to return, Nicola used her financial skills to create a business plan, carried out market research to build her brand and organised the lease, all from across the pond.

She said of husband Salem: “I’m pretty sure he was freaking out inside, but he was really supportive of it and he always has been.

“When we opened, he was in between two jobs, so was able to help out a bit, which was great because our son had just been born.”

Nicola launched the café in September 2019 with her six-month-old strapped to her chest.

“My son has grown up in the café,” said the Beckton resident. “When everything was being put together, we set up a play area for him in the back and, when we first opened, I had just started weaning him, so he had avocado and bits from the menu, which was fun.”

Nicola is now pregnant again but setting up the business is not an experience she is keen to repeat.

“It was probably good that I was quite naive about the café beforehand,” she said. “I can’t even imagine being able to do it now while raising two children. 

“The beginning was so intense, getting everything right, getting the processes right.

“When you’re new, you really want to make sure that every customer is happy so that they come back.

“I didn’t realise how intensive it would be, but in hospitality if your main driver is to make lots of lots of money, then it’s not the best sort of industry for you.

Little Hudson serves up a range of dishes at Royal Wharf
Little Hudson serves up a range of dishes at Royal Wharf – image Matt Grayson

“Even though it’s stressful with ups and downs and a pandemic and everything, I actually genuinely do love it, especially now we’ve got a really supportive team and people who actually care about the business.

“That makes such a difference and we have a lot less stress now.”

Six months after opening, the UK went into lockdown and the café was forced to shut. It was a strange time for Nicola.

“Looking back it was actually quite nice, because I had my son so we were able to kind of spend that quality time together,” she said.

“But it was really upsetting shutting the café. 

“We kept the community involved by doing supply boxes with fruit and veg, milk, eggs, flour, yeast, bread and coffee.

“We delivered them to people’s doors using a little trolley.

“No-one in our area could get anything because we only have a small Sainsbury’s, so the queue would literally wrap around the whole development. 

“When we reopened, we actually had a lot of support then from people who bought from us. All those same customers came in, which was really nice.”

Nicola said lockdown also forced Little Hudson to launch on Deliveroo, which has prompted her to consider opening a dark kitchen.

“Delivery has just blown up since the pandemic, it is about 15% of the business.

“Sometimes, on weekends, we have to switch it off because it’s so busy already in the café.

“I didn’t think people would order brunch for delivery, but they do, especially at weekends.

“I’ve been thinking about doing some sort of delivery kitchen and maybe expanding other parts of the business as well to do more cakes for events and celebrations and expand the catering side.”

The café is open seven days a week until 4pm and has just launched a burger night on Fridays from 6pm-9pm. Nicola is also looking into holding live music events in the future.

So does she want to expand to another location now she is expanding her family?

“Maybe,” she said. “But I’ll wait a little bit until my next child is a bit older.”

Little Hudson’s interior – image Matt Grayson

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- Laura Enfield is a regular contributor to Wharf Life, writing about a wide range of subjects across Docklands and east London 
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