Bermondsey Heights: Join the property gold rush

TODAY’s offering is a local column for local people. So, if you really don’t want to learn about southeast London’s latest “exciting new landmark development”, look away now.

On the other hand, as Bermondsey Heights is currently being punted to would-be investors as far afield as Dubai and Signapore, some of our international subscribers might be tempted to read on before deciding whether to reach for their cheque books.

Despite the current economic travails of the Disunited Kingdom, the developers reckon properties in this “dynamic regeneration area”, selling off-plan since October, will jump in value by 25 per cent in the next five years.

According to their top salesman: “Bermondsey offers great opportunities for investors, particularly those from the Middle East, able to capitalise on the favourable exchange rates.”

So what will they get for their 2.4 million Emirati Dirham starter pack? That translates into a mere £570,000 in dwindling sterling for a one-bedroom flat.

It also buys you an entry into “one of South East London’s hidden gems,” according to the PR blurb, with easy access to everything from cultural attractions to Michelin starred restaurants.

They missed a trick by failing to mention the jewel in the neighbourhood’s crown. For the site is just 300 yards from the gates of the Millwall football ground, where the matchday antics of the boisterous home fans is certain to add to the vibrant local atmosphere the developers are promising.

Frankly, I don’t envy the marketers tasked with flogging this particular sow’s ear. The 24-storey tower block and surrounding buildings are on Ilderton Road, the determinedly ungemlike end of Bermondsey.

Stretching south from Southwark Council’s Gypsies and Travellers site to a railway bridge that crosses the Old Kent Road, it is one of those orphan London thoroughfares that’s a route between A and B rather than having a life of its own.

It’s a road that has never quite decided whether it belongs to Bermondsey or New Cross, and this schizophrenia is compounded by its having a Peckham postcode.

Until around 1970 it was part of the old working class light industrial Bermondsey, built on leather tanning, biscuit baking, vinegar brewing and toolmaking yards. Large municipal housing estates were built to supplement the old one-up one-down divided houses that had accommodated many of the local workers.

Ilderton Road escaped gentrification because there wasn’t anything worth gentrifying. As local industries shut down, it instead got storage yards and warehouses, not like the sought-after ones on the river that even then were being remodelled as luxury flats, but rather utilitarian sheds for bricks and scrap and timber.

Now the shadow of “regeneration” has fallen across Ilderton Road. That’s been the buzzword of the local Labour-run council for the last decade or so, despite the protests of housing campaigners that it has sparked a gold rush by property speculators at the expense of the locals.

The tentacles of regeneration have spread south from the Thames as the council granted permission for new upmarket housing, some of it built on the bones of old low-rent housing estates.

Overseeing this revolution was Peter John, leader of the local council until he stepped down in 2020. It was the end of what campaigners described as a dismal decade in which regeneration handed swathes of the borough to the developers.

John moved on to advise the Terrapin Group, a self-styled market leader working in the arena of politics, property and development.

Funnily enough, its clients include some of the local property panhandlers who’ve been cashing in on regeneration. Happily, John has since publicly reassured locals he is not in the pocket of the developers.

I think he was ahead of his time. With UK Plc doing so badly, you might as well sell it off. And Ilderton Road would hardly be our biggest loss.