Berkeley Wins Consent for Homes at ‘Fortress Wapping’

Berkeley Group Holdings Plc won preliminary approval to build as many as 1,800 homes at the former U.K. base of News Corp.’s News International unit in London’s Wapping neighborhood.

The project, known as London Dock, was approved late yesterday after a 4-to-3 vote by the Tower Hamlets borough council. Berkeley, the largest developer of mixed-use buildings in London, will also construct shops, office buildings and leisure facilities at the 15-acre (6-hectare) site.

Home prices in Tower Hamlets rose 7.9 percent to an average of 390,682 pounds ($643,336) in the year through November, compared with a 10.6 percent increase across London, according to the Land Registry. Developers plan to complete about 7 billion pounds of additional homes in the borough through 2022, broker Knight Frank LLP said in June.

News International previously used a complex on the Wapping site to produce newspapers including the London-based Times and the News of the World. They moved there from the traditional media hub on Fleet Street in 1986 and Rupert Murdoch used the transition to break the power of labor unions, which resisted new printing technology. Police fought strikers outside the new plant at the time as the newspapers were printed, which led to it being nicknamed “Fortress Wapping.”

Shares Rise

Berkeley bought the site in 2012 for 150 million pounds. The shares rose 4.4 percent to 2,727 pence the highest since 1989. The stock has gained 20 percent in the last six months, giving the company a market value of 3.58 billion pounds.

“The aspiration is to deliver an exciting new destination for London with world-class architecture,” according to a filing to the borough on behalf of Cobham, U.K.-based Berkeley. About 50 percent of the site will be open space.

Tech City U.K., a government-backed effort to create a Silicon Valley-style cluster of startups in east London, plans to work with Berkeley to create “incubator” space at the site, Tech City’s head of property, Juliette Morgan, said by e-mail. Berkeley has already held talks with Tech City about the project, Ross Faragher, managing director of the builder’s St. George unit, said at the council vote last night.

News Corp. plans to move all of its London businesses into offices next to the Shard skyscraper on the south bank of the River Thames this year.

News Corp. competes with units of Bloomberg LP, owner of Bloomberg News, in selling financial news and information.

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