With centuries of mixed industrial heritage, the site has housed numerous different industries. These have included: tar works, boiler makers, a sugar refinery, printing, paint pigment works, and a cooperage for the nearby tidal mill, which served one of London’s primary gin distilleries for generations.
A four-year programme was required to clear the existing buildings of rubbish, demolish old structures and warehouses, remove out dated infrastructure, remediate the soil, and replace 1.2km of river wall; all whilst reclaiming important elements of the site’s heritage.
In 2010 the site was still made up of multiple ownerships and dominated by industrial warehouses. During the following four years Vastint assembled all 8 land parcels to create the ‘island’ and in doing so started to clear many of the disused buildings of the tonnes of waste that had illegally been dumped here.
Demolition began in 2012. Where possible, elements of the old buildings were retained, including 90,000 London stock bricks; light fittings from some of the warehouses; granite setts from across the site as well as old iron weighbridges. These will be re-used where possible. The demolition was also halted by our natural friends. A single pipistrelle bat was seen entering an old toilet block near the centre of the site during one of the bat activity surveys.
We obtained a licence from English Nature to provide alternative homes for these unique creatures and installed two bat boxes on 1 Dane's Yard which are now happily in use.
By 2016 the majority of the site had been cleared and remediation was underway. This involved a carefully-managed programme of selective excavation, complex sorting and cleaning. This was implemented to maximise the re-use of material and included a variety of proven methodologies including bioremediation using white rock fungi (mushrooms) with special degrading properties. These fungi were cultivated in our on-site laboratory to reduce treatment times by almost 50%. As the clean-up of each plot was completed we secured sign off from the Environment Agency that the land was ready for re-use.
Another important task to prepare the site for the forthcoming homes and offices, and to future-proof it for over 100 years, was to replace the river wall. There were over 1km of different types of river wall structures around the site, of different ages and efficacies, and in some places none at all. Whilst many of the structures would have remained structurally sound for a the foreseeable future we took the decision to replace all the river walls to minimise disruption to the community in future.