Nine Elms Development Described as 'Dubai-on-Thames'

Councillor claims flats are being built for overseas investors rather than local people

The Sky Pool

November 24, 2021

A development near the Sky Pool has been slammed as “Dubai-on-Thames” as just a fraction of new homes have been sold.

But Chinese developers R&F say its £100m sales in 2021 is “a strong performance by anyone’s standards”.

Since 2017 R&F has acquired three adjacent sites in Nine Elms, namely, Vauxhall Square, One Nine Elms and Nine Elms Square (now re-named Thames City). The Thames City development in Nine Elms is not due to finish until the late 2020s.

Nine Elms includes multiple buildings and skyscrapers, as well as the US Embassy, cafés, restaurants and an outdoor swimming pool bridged between two towers 35 metres high – the Sky Pool – which opened in May.

The Sky Pool has become a controversial luxury symbol as only exclusive Embassy Gardens members are able to use the pool as full property owners get access to luxurious entrances.

While those in shared ownership homes within the building must use so-called “poor doors”.

The new Nine Elms station on London Underground
The new Nine Elms station on London Underground

In a Wandsworth Council meeting on 11 November, Labour councillor Simon Hogg voted against the council’s local plan due to the lack of “genuinely affordable homes”.

He branded the Nine Elms development on Twitter as “Dubai-on-Thames”.

He said in the meeting: “Over development has gone too far in this borough, there’s sort of towers sprouting that people don’t know about, developments that are there for overseas investors rather than for local people.”

A Digger Parked Next To Flats In Nine Elms
A Digger Parked Next To Flats In Nine Elms

In response, Conservative councillor Guy Senior, said, “Without that overseas investment, those developments would not have taken place in the first place.

“So it is important that we get in a modicum of this investment because obviously we wouldn’t be building otherwise.”

A spokesperson for R&F Properties UK said: “We have exchanged contracts to sell almost £100 million of property in the United Kingdom in 2021, which is a strong performance by anyone’s standards.

“Sales continue to be strong, with a good pipeline of transactions due to also complete before the end of the year – buoyed by the recent opening of the Northern line extension – and we look forward to welcoming our first residents to Thames City next summer.

“As of November 2021, it is categorically untrue to state that more than half of our UK sales are related party transactions.”

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said, “Nine Elms is home to a thriving and growing local community of people living together in all types of housing who have chosen to make this part of London their home.

“The regeneration of this former industrial area is delivering 20,000 new homes, including 4,000 affordable homes, 6.5 million square feet of employment space plus a tube link to Battersea for the very first time.

“The construction phase has created 20,000 jobs and there will be 25,000 permanent ones available to local people when the project is complete.”

This record on affordable homes delivery has been singled out by Mayor Sadiq Khan who has described Wandsworth as a “fantastic example” of a London borough that’s building the homes that Londoners need.


James Mayer - Local Democracy reporter