Three huge Chinese companies have teamed up with an Australian investor and a London council in a proposed scheme to bury a kilometre-long section of the busy A13 highway in east London in order to create space for 15,000 new homes.
By digging a 1.3km-long tunnel for the lorry-clogged highway that bisects the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (LBBD), the council wants to free up unattractive industrial land for a new neighbourhood called Castle Green, which would have its own train station, higher-value commercial space, and thousands of homes.
It is an expensive proposition, but this week the Sydney-listed investor ASF Group announced it would join LBBD to promote and develop the 3.7 million-square-foot scheme, which it said had a gross development value of A$9 billion (US$6.9bn, £5.5bn).
Given the potential scale of the regeneration, we see this as an immensely exciting opportunity, not just for ASF, but for Barking, London and the UK– Min Yang, ASF Chairman
And, in a note to the Australian Stock Exchange on 29 March, ASF said it would be bringing along three heavyweight, state-owned Chinese companies as strategic partners.
They are: China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), through its subsidiary China Construction Overseas Development Co. Ltd.; China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC); and China International Marine Containers Group, a vast conglomerate now supplying pre-manufactured residential modules in the UK.
CSCEC, ranked by Engineering News-Record (ENR) as the biggest contractor in the world last year by revenue, reported turnover of more than $127bn in 2015. ENR currently ranks CCCC as fourth biggest in the world.
A launch ceremony for the partnership between LBBD and ASF was held on 24 March at Barking Town Hall, during which the three Chinese companies were handed "strategic partnership certificates" by LBBD council leader Darren Rodwell, a representative from the Chinese Embassy in London, and Ms Min Yang, chairman of ASF Group.
"Given the potential scale of the regeneration, we see this as an immensely exciting opportunity, not just for ASF, but for Barking, London and the UK," ASF Chairman Min Yang said, according to the ASF note.
LBBD has yet to win final approval for the scheme.
ASF Group, which calls itself a Sino-Australian investment and trading house, has also been shortlisted in partnership with CSCEC as the developer for another major east London regeneration scheme at Albert Island, in London’s Royal Docks area.
ASF want to turn this 10-hectare area into a Sino-UK business hub. Contract award was expected in December 2016, but progress has been stalled by a legal battle between city authorities and a small family-run marina, which rents waterfront in the area, and is fighting eviction.
Image: Artist’s render of the proposed Castle Green neighbourhood (LBBD)