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Property: How Barratt London’s Bermondsey Heights offers Zone 2 value

Developer’s South Bermondsey scheme is on the edge of major local regeneration projects

An artist’s impression of Barratt London’s Bermondsey Heights scheme

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“People are smart nowadays, they’re not just buying somewhere because it’s a great place to live – they’re looking at lots of different elements and whether they’re going to see capital growth on their purchase,” said Yolanda Jacob, sales and marketing director at Barratt East London

“Even if they stay for five years, they want to see a property will be a good investment for them. 

“Buying at the beginning of regeneration is nearly always the best time to purchase, because you’re going to see capital growth because of everything that’s going on in the area.”

We’re discussing Bermondsey Heights, the developer’s latest south-east London scheme. 

When complete, the Ilderton Road complex will house 163 one, two and three-bedroom homes as well as 32 shared ownership apartments, rising to 26 storeys at its highest point.

This includes the Skyline Collection, a clutch of properties spread over the top four floors with an enhanced specification and, presumably, the best views the scheme has to offer.

Barratt has a bit of a track record in building developments in areas that then go on to see vast swathes of regeneration unfolding, with buyers enjoying the upswing in property values and boost in amenities that result. 

Maple Quays at Canada Water and Enderby Wharf on Greenwich Peninsula would be two examples. 

This could well be true for Bermondsey Heights as well.

The development features views across London from its communal roof terrace

Over the road to the north, Renewal has plans for some 3,500 homes, office spaces and, potentially, a new Windrush Line station on land surrounding Millwall FC’s ground. 

For context, New Bermondsey is a scheme comparable in size to Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich or Kidbrooke Village.

“House prices locally are forecast to rise by 25%, which is huge compared with other areas,” said Yolanda.

“People who bought at the start of similar schemes in Brixton, Shoreditch or King’s Cross will be very happy with their investment after five or 10 years. 

“These are destinations people now go to for socialising, entertainment and shopping.”

Alongside New Bermondsey, British Land’s 12-year redevelopment of Canada Water – complete with a new town centre – is also within walking distance of Barratt’s scheme and will benefit buyers.

But what will those future residents actually be purchasing? 

“Each apartment will have outside space – either a winter garden or a balcony,” said Yolanda.

“They have open-plan living areas and kitchens with all your appliances, finished to a high specification. 

“Buyers can have the option to choose a colour scheme – they can bespoke the apartment and pick flooring, tiles, carpets and bathroom decor.

“The designs are very fresh, clean and bright. 

Apartments feature open-plan design

“We also offer furniture packages, with designers who can come in and help buyers personalise their home.

“Then there’s a concierge service at the development as well as a podium garden and a roof terrace for residents.”

While some developments come stuffed with facilities, Barratt’s approach in South Bermondsey is to pare back its offering to keep service charges down in a move it believes will be attractive to buyers.

“These days new-builds offer so many options,” said Yolanda. “There are developments offering cinemas and golf simulators, but you’re going to pay a lot for those facilities.

“What we want to do is make sure we’re building homes that are affordable, and where they don’t have the worry of having to pay thousands of pounds a year on service charges, for facilities they may not use that much.

“In the middle of London such amenities can easily be found and we don’t want to tie people into spending lots of money on things they don’t want to use. 

“Our aim is to cover the basics and then leave it up to personal choice.

“That way we can keep the service charge to around £3 per square foot, which is attractive to buyers.”

Bermondsey Heights is located within 10 minutes’ walk of South Bermondsey station for services into London Bridge. 

Residents can also walk 15 minutes to Surrey Quays station for Overground services on the Windrush Line and connections to Canary Wharf within two stops.

One, two and three-bedroom homes are available

“It’s a largely unregenerated area at the moment with industrial units, workshops and warehouses – but there’s a major injection of funding coming and it has brilliant backup with its neighbouring places,” said Yolanda.

“You’ve got Deptford down the road, which has seen quite a bit of a resurgence in popularity as well as Surrey Quays and Elephant And Castle, which have already seen extensive regeneration.

“Then there’s New Bermondsey in the pipeline.

“Bermondsey Heights for people looking for affordability and somewhere they can put down some roots.

“It’s an interesting proposition in terms of pricing – statistics from JLL show we’re about 19% lower compared with other Zone 2 developments across the capital.

“That’s been a huge draw for people whether they’re buying for investment or to live in because they can see lots coming here and that the infrastructure is going to improve.”

An explanation, perhaps, for the fact Barratt’s scheme is already more than 50% sold.

Be quick.

need to know

Properties are now on sale at Bermondsey Heights through Barratt East London.

Prices start at £490,000. 

A new show home is set to launch at the development in May, 2024, with further details available online.

Find out more about Bermondsey Heights 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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South Bermondsey: How The Pen Theatre provides a low-risk stage for performers

The Penarth Centre venue boasts 40 seats and is ideal for developing work or testing material

The Pen Theatre boasts a 40-seat auditorium and is available for hire

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There’s probably a half-baked line about The Pen being mightier than the Royal Court, where the latter is just about phonetically similar to “sword”.

But this isn’t the place.

This article should have gone through an editing process to knock it into shape and that sort of thing would almost certainly be left on the cutting room floor. 

But that’s also the point – I mention it here, because that kind of editing and development is one of the activities The Pen Theatre facilitates. 

“My background is in performance,” said MJ Ashton, the venue’s founder and director.

“I went to Rose Bruford College a few years ago, then started my own company – The Völvas – which was a feminist performance ensemble. 

“I toured that project for four or five years on the fringe circuits and played at various festivals and London theatres, so I experienced a lot of what was available for an emerging company.

“I’ve always felt strongly about theatres being accessible to artists and thought I’d love to run my own theatre so I could draw on my experiences and offer really cheap hire rates to performers.”

With her project having naturally reached its end and the pandemic closing the industry, that thought became more than an idea one day over a coffee with her partner, Jack Carvosso. 

The artist and photographer was looking at expanding his picture framing business, taking on a larger space at the Penarth Centre in South Bermondsey’s Penarth Street. 

A large unit had recently been vacated by a church and he was sure a third of it would do for his activities.

A similar space could be used by his friends’ business – artist-led publisher and bookbinder Folium – but what to do with the spare footage? 

“That was when MJ thought about creating a theatre,” said Jack, who has become the venue’s associate director.

“In that one meeting, we drew everything out on a napkin, then proposed it to the landlord and he loved the idea.

“The unit hadn’t been well maintained by the previous tenants, so we patched everything up, put in brand new wiring and started the journey to where we are now.

 “For me, it’s picture framing during the day and then, in the evenings, I help MJ with the theatre.”

Launched in January 2022, The Pen has hosted hundreds of shows over its first two years – offering performers a vital space to stage their first productions, hone works-in-progress, give fully realised pieces an outing or just experiment with an audience.

Jack Carvosso and MJ Ashton of The Pen Theatre

The venue has a maximum of 40 seats and provides box office facilities, technical equipment, a dressing room and green room, marketing support and front-of-house and bar staff.

Artists who want to put on shows apply to the venue, then go ahead if their proposal is accepted.

“We’re very inclusive,” said MJ. “We accept a lot of people’s applications – we invite them to come in.

“Some theatres ask for hundreds of pounds per night, but we run at cost and charge £56.50 per show.

“Then we offer a 70%-30% split on ticket sales in favour of the artist.

“This makes it affordable for artists to come in with new writing.

“It’s a low-risk space that allows them to perform – a platform that’s between a rehearsal space and a bigger theatre, where they can test their work.

“This can be good for getting reviewers in – it’s an opportunity for people to build a bit of a reputation before they start applying for larger venues. 

“We also offer free tech and dress rehearsals to keep costs really low because we know a lot of people don’t have much money.”

With the Edinburgh Fringe dominating the calendar, The Pen has carved out a role as an ideal test bed for shows before artists take them north to the proving ground of Scotland.

“We had about 65 shows over two months,” said MJ.

“The stress level was very high, but putting on shows at The Pen allowed them to try out their material before going up.

“The festival has really become the epicentre of our year – in August we quieten down, but then in September and October, we run a Fresh Off The Fringe season for acts that want to perform at a London venue after it has finished.”

With rehearsal space at the London Performance Studios in the same building, there’s a sense that The Pen is very much an integral cog in a larger machine of creativity and performance.

It’s a role both MJ and Jack clearly relish.

The Pen Theatre is located at the Penarth Centre in South Bermondsey’s Penarth Street

“When I was a performer, I thought I’d like my own space to put on anything I wanted,” said MJ.

“But now I have that, I’ve realised what I really enjoy is helping other people to develop their own stuff. 

“I’d feel a bit silly putting on my own shows – it would have been a bit egotistical to build this whole thing for myself.

“Perhaps I am surprised just how much I enjoy watching other artists develop, but I am rooting for everyone. It’s opened my eyes a bit to see what people can do. 

“We really want to create a warm comfortable environment for them and the audience so everyone can enjoy it.”

Jack added: “We watch every single show and I love it. The variety we see is just incredible. 

“Some are better than others, but it’s a great atmosphere here. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the performers and the audience having a good time.”

The Pen’s stage offers a growing pipeline of productions, with works for stage rubbing up alongside comics performing stand-up and even cabaret and scratch nights.

For MJ and Jack, having established the venue with no backing as a going concern, the next step will be to explore ways to grow and develop The Pen.

“At the moment we’re in a comfortable place,” said MJ. “We’ve made a profit and people are getting to know us.

“The next stage is for us to try and find some funding so we can hire people to work as programmers and manage the space. 

“We’d like to have a bigger team and to become a theatre that supports writers, directors and the production of shows.”

Jack added: “But to do this, we need funding. We want to pay people appropriately – we don’t want them working for free.”

The Pen Theatre is located about 20 minutes’ walk from Surrey Quays DLR, or 10 minutes from South Bermondsey station.

Find out more about what’s on at The Pen Theatre 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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Old Kent Road: How The BeCa at Ruby Triangle aims to attract first-time buyers

Developer Avanton intends to maximise value for a domestic audience at its south-east London block

An artist’s impression of The BeCa in South Bermondsey

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“Value” is the topic on the lips of David Ronson, sales and marketing director at Avanton.

We’re talking about The BeCa, the first phase of the developer’s Ruby Triangle scheme, located in South Bermondsey just off the Old Kent Road.

This £150million red brick-clad structure takes its name and inspiration from the former industrial buildings of New York’s Tribeca neighbourhood – also the reason why it’s pronounced “becca” rather than “beaker”.

The 170 apartments available for private sale within, form part of the 1,400 homes that Avanton is set to build on the five-acre site.

It’s located around 22 minutes from Canary Wharf via bus and the Jubilee line from Canada Water, but could also be on the Tube if the mooted Bakerloo line extension to Lewisham is approved. 

It’s a tough time for buyers and those selling property at the moment.

The cost of living crisis and high mortgage rates present a challenging landscape to those keen to get on the ladder and those servicing that market.

The BeCa is inspired by converted industrial buildings in New York

As a counterweight, Avanton has come up with London @Last, a three-part package of incentives aimed at first-time buyers to encourage them to purchase a home at The BeCa. 

“We’re concerned with the domestic market because you want to build a place that has a community in it – somewhere that has a soul,” said David.

“If you sell everything to overseas investors, it has only transient tenants living there. 

“Our Coda scheme in Battersea is rated as one of the best places to live in south-west London and that’s because it has a community of owner-occupiers.

“That’s what we want to do with all our developments.

“Typically first-time buyers are at a disadvantage when it comes to buying off-plan.

“The least expensive units typically offer the best rental yield for investors to pick up.

“But prospective owner-occupiers, especially those feeling the pressure of the cost of living crisis are not in a position to tie up money for long periods of time without the ability to access it.

“With some developers, that could be as much as 25% of the purchase price and that’s one of the reasons we’ve created London @ Last.”

One and two-bedroom apartments are available at the scheme

The incentives on offer are threefold, amounting to a possible £40,000 saving on a property.

Firstly, first-time buyers can exchange on a property with a 5% deposit under the scheme.

Secondly, Avanton will put in a further 5% and cover legal fees for buyers using its recommended solicitor.

This allows purchasers to take out 90% mortgages on the property rather than 95%.

Thirdly, the developer says it will guarantee a 4.99% interest-only mortgage for a year.

With rates coming down in any case, it will also likely reassess this to ensure it remains competitive.

Avanton will also pay 10% interest per year on deposit money it is holding, payable on completion.

“If your circumstances change prior to completion, we’ll give you back your money,” said David.

“If not, we’ll pay you better than a bank to hold the money for you and we’re only taking 5% as a deposit.

“It gives you the flex that, if something does happen, you have the ability to step out of the contract.” 

An artist’s impression of a kitchen at The BeCa

With starting prices for one-beds at £450,000 and two-beds at £585,000, the package presents the possibility of significant savings on the initial cost of buying a home.  

Avanton, however, isn’t only about deals in the short-term.

David said the design of The BeCa had taken into consideration what residents actually wanted from a home rather than stuffing it full of facilities they may not want to use or pay for through their service charge.

“We’ve been very conscious on this scheme regarding people’s affordability,” he said. “Some developers put in too many residential amenities within a block.

“We’re a little bit different. We look at what the key essentials are for people.

“At Coda, for example, we have some flexible workspace, meeting rooms, a small gym and a 24-hour concierge service as well as two podium gardens.

“We completed these and the service charge has now come in at about £6 per sq ft.

“If you look at the south-west market, that’s quite affordable in contrast to some developments with all the amenities under the sun, and the charge is around £13.

“If, before you’re even looking at the mortgage, you’re being hit with £10,000 of service charge a year, your average domestic buyer can’t afford it.

Many apartments will feature views over the London skyline

“That’s why some developments are primarily bought by investors from overseas who rent out these properties to transient tenants.

“It’s one of the reasons 80% of our Coda scheme was sold to owner-occupiers who want to live there and not feel like they are being charged for amenities they are not actually going to be using.

“This can be a deterrent for people considering buying into a scheme.

“With The BeCa, we’ve ensured the service charge is as low as it possibly can be. 

“We’re looking at £4.27 per sq ft and that will have a day porter, about 2,000sq ft of flexible workspace and residents’ access to three roof terraces.

“In the current market, you have to look at specific locations where buyers can see real capital appreciation. Old Kent Road is the cheapest place you can buy in Zone 2.

“Ultimately Ruby Triangle will become an extension of London Bridge and Bermondsey, where you have some of the best lifestyle amenities in London. 

“As the whole wider South Bermondsey regeneration takes place, you’ll see 20,000 new homes, 10,000 jobs, it’s going to change the place massively.”

Even with all that change, Avanton is also addressing any concerns about connectivity with a further incentive.

It’s offering buyers a free electric bike on completion, or the cash equivalent off the purchase.

Find out more about The BeCa here

Communal facilities at The BeCa

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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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