Different perspectives and a shared goal

Thamesmead Waterfront Strategic Masterplan
London, UK

Client Thamesmead Waterfront Joint Venture
Year 2021-ongoing
Size 100 hectares
Expertise Visions and Place Narratives, Masterplanning, Community and Stakeholder Engagement

Thamesmead is undergoing a significant transformation which could see East London become a new catalyst for economic and cultural prosperity. Following its post-war creation on London’s low-lying, southern bank of the Thames, the site is now part of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor, where investment in regeneration, infrastructure, greening, and creative and cultural production are rapidly changing the area’s character and role. Within this context, Thamesmead Waterfront has the potential to support a community up to three times its current size, and bring new social, cultural and environmental improvements.

Thamesmead today
Thamesmead today

In 2021, Prior + Partners, in partnership with Arup, won an international competition to lead a multi-disciplinary team comprising small and micro businesses, strategists and designers, London-based and international firms, all with different perspectives and a shared goal – to develop a Vision and Strategic Masterplan Framework that would realise the potential for transformation at Thamesmead Waterfront.

The site sits along the River Thames
The site sits along the River Thames

To deliver this opportunity, a joint venture has been formed between trusted housing association Peabody – who are also the site landowners – and development partners Lendlease. The design team has also worked closely alongside Royal Borough of Greenwich, Homes England and the Greater London Authority at the most senior level, to address the government’s Levelling Up mandate which sets out to ensure that pay, employment and productivity rises in every area of the UK.

Building trust with local people

Our guiding vision was developed through an extensive process of active engagement. From the outset, we collaborated with residents and businesses, community organisations and forums, as well as key stakeholders to describe an ambition for change. The importance of connectivity, nature, gradual transformation, amenity, and accessible neighbourhoods were key themes that emerged from these conversations and underpin our strategic response to the site. The first step to creating this relies on small-scale interventions rather than large-scale site clearance; we call this micro-planning.

This collaboration, alongside research and a future-focussed outlook, opened new ways to think about community-building, lifestyles, the role of open space, movement and delivery. A core tenet of the scheme is the creation of a diverse community of people and businesses that is inclusive and affordable, building on Peabody’s long-term stewardship of Thamesmead.

A framework for sustainable growth

Our Strategic Masterplan proposes a new urban neighbourhood on what is today largely publicly inaccessible land, creating up to 12,500–15,000 new homes supported by a town centre transformed into a vibrant nexus for all of Thamesmead. An estimated 6,500+ new jobs will support a population of up to 30,000 people.

A major priority of the masterplan is to introduce new walking, cycling and public transport links that connect Thamesmead’s existing neighbourhoods to the River Thames, new parks and open spaces, the town centre, and the city. With a DLR connection to London, new bus connections to Abbey Wood, and a Thames Clipper station, Thamesmead is becoming ever-more connected to the city and its opportunities.

Elevating the existing natural assets

The site’s existing 100 hectares of lakes, canals and hills have shaped our designs. Working closely with our landscape partners West 8 and Schulze+Grassov, we’ve taken a nature, landscape and placemaking-led approach to the Vision and Strategic Masterplan, rooting the masterplan in its existing natural assets to create a blue and green town centre. A new riverside park, the size of Battersea Park, alongside lakes, canals, parks, and a riverfront promenade are all connected by a network of verdant streets and links.

Unlocking the potential

Another key aspiration of the project is to support the development of a business case for the DLR extension that would unlock the potential of Thamesmead Waterfront. Prior + Partners worked alongside the client team and infrastructure partners Arup to define the capacity of the site, in particular the number of new homes that could be unlocked by a new DLR station, in order to support the business case to HM Government.

At the heart of Prior + Partners’ philosophy is the need to understand, build on, and grow the social capital that already exists in Thamesmead. The Waterfront development will provide a new kind of economy in its place – not only for locals living and working here, but for those who wish to consider this their next home.

Photographer Noel Moka
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