Battersea is part of a huge building project – but not for Londoners

Upmarket estate agent Henry Wiltshire has just opened a glitzy new office in Vauxhall, south-west London. It’s by the bus station, next to a homeless shelter, on the site of a corner shop. The company’s other offices are in rather more glamorous surroundings: Canary Wharf, Hong Kong, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

But this opening is evidence of the dramatic transformation under way in the Nine Elms area in Battersea, on the south bank of the Thames. In a triangle bordered by the river, Battersea Park and the main railway line into Waterloo, 20,000 homes are being built – most of them luxury apartments in a cluster of high-rise towers that has been dubbed mini-Manhattan or Dubai-on-Thames.

“We will handle the odd instruction between £500,000 and £1m, but we are pitching this office at properties worth £1m-plus,” says Henry Wiltshire sales director Kyle Spence. “We are a very high-end brand.” They chose the area “because so many of our clients in Canary Wharf are now buying in Nine Elms as well”.

Central London could soon have a glut of expensive new homes. Using figures from researchers Lonres and Dataloft, consultancy Property Vision reckons more than 54,000 homes are planned or being built in prime areas of the capital, most of them costing more than £1m. This is despite the fact that last year, just 3,900 homes worth £1m or more were sold in central London. Across London, more than 200 tall towershave been proposed, approved or are already under construction.

Property Vision founder Charlie Ellingworth says: “Londoners are beginning to discern a skyline that is quite out of scale with anything they are used to.” And while local buyers are “squeezed further out and into ever smaller spaces with mortgages they are not quite sure how they will ever repay”, the property business is booming. “For developers and their dependent ecosystem of estate agents, architects, lawyers and builders, it has been a one-way super-bet.”

About £15bn of investment is pouring into the Nine Elms area, which is directly across the river from super-swanky Chelsea but was until recently wasteland, sheds and warehouses. This is the biggest building site in London, and one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe, easily eclipsing the £9bn cost of the 2012 Olympics site in Stratford.

Ravi Govindia, the Conservative leader of Wandsworth council, is very upbeat: “Yes, some of the buildings will be tall, but there will be a distinctly London flavour. It’s going to be a place that people [will] enjoy living in.”

But it is unclear how many of the buyers who get to enjoy that distinctly London flavour will be local people.

Artists' impression of 'Manhattan' at Vauxhall. Chelsea Bridge Wharf can be seen in the distance

Artists’ impression of ‘ Dubai on Thames’ aka  ‘Manhattan’ at Vauxhall. Chelsea Bridge Wharf can be seen in the distance