The end of an era and new beginnings [updated/amended]

A chance discovery

A few weeks ago, I noted a planning application for retrospective permission for a change in use at the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, better known as the Wapping Project.

I had assumed that the application was just with the intention of normalising their ability to trade given that there hadn’t been an application for planning permission to use the site as a restaurant.

However, I missed something crucial: the name of the applicant.

The name of the applicant, UK Real Estate Limited is innocuous – I had no knowledge of who actually owned the building, it seemed reasonable that the Wapping Project didn’t own the site and might just operate on a lease. However, subsequent research about the history of the site (mainly focussed on its days as a hydraulic power station) and the early days of the Wapping Project made me think again.

Understanding the past, allows us to understand the present

A little googling revealed that the Wapping Project is owned by the Women’s Playhouse Trust (WPT), which was confirmed by reading their financial statements on the Charity Commission website.

WPT is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee, as many charities are. In its most recent accounts it has tangible fixed assets of £1.7 million. The assets are held primarily in a trading subsidiary called Wapping Ltd. Reading further, £1.6 million of these assets is the hydraulic power station owned on a freehold basis.

Womens Playhouse Trust balance sheet
Fixed assets of WPT in 2012

The shareholder of Wapping Ltd
Confirmation of parent entity of Wapping Ltd

Confirmed sale?

So, why then should UK Real Estate Limited be listed as the applicant? Quite simple really: they have bought the power station. And when did they buy it? Back in July, for £3.3m plus VAT. All the evidence was out there in the public domain for a couple of quid.

The sale price

The buyer

Next question: who/what is UK Real Estate? Well, its owned by Nick Capstick-Dale and  also owns Metropolitan Wharf. I think they’ve done a great job on reviving Metropolitan Wharf, so I’m looking forward to hearing their plans for the Wapping Project site. I’ve phoned and written to UK Real Estate, but haven’t received any response. [Update I’ve now heard back and plans are in the early stages]. I have included a view excerpts from architecture and real estate articles about the sort of talk about their approach to Metropolitan Wharf at the end of this post.

The future?

There are covenants on the property, listed on the title deed – I don’t know how difficult these might be to revoke, but it looks as though there isn’t an immediate threat to a significant change of use, other than potentially an expansion of the restaurant activities at the expense of gallery space.

Covenants on the property

Closure of the project

As a result of this, the Wapping Project will be closing in December and more background is available here and here.
As an aside, I hadn’t intended to publish this article until the official announcement, but as I’ve seen on twitter that the cat is out of the bag, it would be sensible to let me people know the situation.

Green shoots

However, on a more positive note, I also spoke to Toby, who manages the Brockley Saturday market this week and he hopes the new Wapping market at Shadwell Basin will be starting in the spring ‘after the clocks go forward’ and I’ll be keeping in touch with him.

Metropolitan Wharf Little Planet


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