Graham Stark outside Millennium Mills

Regeneration news

Graham Stark on ‘a new destination for London’ at Silvertown Quays

Project director Graham Stark is standing on the roof of the Millennium Mills, an iconic but derelict building on the south side of Royal Victoria Dock. Bright winter sunshine dances on the water below us, planes from London City Airport glide overhead.

The mill is the heart of Silvertown Quays, and we’re at the very top of it. This site, which has been fenced off for over thirty years, is now on the cusp of something special.

Silvertown Quays spans 65 acres, one of the largest sites being redeveloped in the Royal Docks, to become homes, offices, brand spaces, restaurants, and a new public space. The work is being spearheaded by The Silvertown Partnership, a joint venture between Lendlease and Starwood Capital.

Silo D Millennium Mills Silo D Millennium Mills

Silo D

This Grade II-listed building was once used to store grain.

Millennium Mills

Millennium Mills

The former flour mill is the iconic building at the heart of SIlvertown Quays.

Where do you start with a project of this scale? Graham Stark from Lendlease explains that they began with the local community. “All big schemes are different, but at the end of the day it’s all about the people who use those spaces, occupy them, and live on them, and create that new neighbourhood,” he says.

The approach is proving successful. Over 90% of the feedback from the consultations was positive, and phase one of the project has now got the green light. “It’s absolutely critical that we get the engagement of the community that already exists, but also you are creating a place for a new community to be formed. It’s about people using the space and getting the mix of that community right, so that it is sustainable over the longer term.”

Graham is keenly conscious that The Silvertown Quays project is part of a wider picture, “There’s a real spirit of collaboration around the Royal Docks with the GLA, the local authority of Newham, and the other major site owners. Everyone’s rallying around one big master development effort around the Royal Docks. It’s really exciting.”

It’s all about the people who use those spaces and create that new neighbourhood.

Graham Stark, Silvertown Quays project director

Graham Stark outside Silo D

Back to that incredible rooftop view: originally built in 1905 (although rebuilt after wartime damage) Millennium Mills was once a flour mill. In recent years, the building has been more famous for its use as a film and music video location — Paddington Bear and the Arctic Monkeys are just a couple of the household names to have filmed here. It was also the backdrop for our own Join the Docks festival finale last year.

The building is locally listed, and its striking concrete structure will remain the same. Nearby Silo D is also due to get a makeover and The Silvertown Partnership plan to use design elements from the historical buildings throughout.

Interior of Millennium Mills Inside Millennium Mills

Interiors of the Millennium Mills

It's easy to see why the film industry has congregated on this setting in recent years.

Interior photo of Millennium Mills

The Silvertown Quays timescale has a definite catalyst driving it forward; the new Elizabeth Line is due to open in Custom House in 2021, and that means more connections throughout the Royal Docks. Graham explains, “We [will be] building a new pedestrian and cycle bridge, which will go across the body of water from the Custom House Elizabeth Line station right to the front of Millennium Mills.”

He is all too conscious of the history of stalled plans in the area and this is something that he’s keen to avoid in the development of Silvertown Quays; talking and listening will only get the developers so far. The community needs to see those plans put into action, and there’s still work to be done so that the changes will directly benefit locals, especially when it comes to ensuring there are affordable facilities and suitable units for small businesses.

We see the Silvertown site as an opportunity to create a new heart for the Royal Docks.

Graham Stark, Silvertown Quays project director

Graham Stark outside Millennium Mills

“We see the Silvertown site as an opportunity to create a new heart for the Royal Docks,” says Graham. “Something that’s in our DNA is to make sure that those affordable units are available, both on the residential side and also on the employment side. It’s something we see as good community, good development.”

On the residential side, phase one of the development offers 20% affordable housing and the overall scheme will deliver 35%, with ambitions to further increase this percentage. “We’re in listening mode at the moment, so we are talking to the local community. We are having dialogue with the London Borough of Newham as the planning authority... We’re in constant conversations with the GLA [about] their policies and the London Plan. Our task is to bring all of that together in a unified way.”

“As a developer, it’s about creating a community that’s authentic and real, and that starts from engaging the local community to live, work and play in their own area.”

The environment we want to create is one which is together with that water, connecting with it.

Graham Stark, Silvertown Quays project director

The Royal Docks from Millennium Mills

Uniquely, there’s a 15-acre body of water right in the middle of Silvertown Quays. “It almost feels like its own lake and we think that’s really special. There’s a massive amount of potential to allow people to engage with that water. That could be anything from lidos for the hot days in the summer to open-water swimming. There could be paddle-boarding, canoeing, sailing. The environment we want to create is one which is together with that water, connecting with it.”

It’s clear that Silvertown Quays has huge potential, but Graham has a larger goal for the development, one that extends much further even than the Royal Docks. “If we do our job correctly, we’ll have not only created a new destination for the Royal Docks, a new destination and community for Newham, but a new destination for London.”

Keep an eye on the plans for Silvertown Quays and have your say on the site’s future here.

The City of London from Millennium Mills

Rooftop views

The building provides stunning vistas across the docks.