Having a chat with... Matthew
Who best to tell you what East Wick + Sweetwater is all about than some of the people who helped create it?
Involved from very early days through his role at Quod, the planning consultants for East Wick + Sweetwater, Matthew Sharpe holds the area close to his heart. He started his career by working on the original bid for London to host the Olympic Games.
That was back in 2003, when the area in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was very different to the one you can find now.
We caught up with him to find out what’s changed in that time and what he hopes to see in the future as the area continues to evolve.
How did you come to be involved in the project?
When I started my career I worked on the bid for the Olympics, so I’ve worked on and off on this site and the wider area for nearly 17 years. It’s been an interesting personal journey we started by working with a site that, at the time, had a range of odd uses and an industrial feel, including a mountain of disused fridges that were stacked almost six storeys high!
I then worked on the Olympic legacy proposals, and that’s when I came to work with East Wick and Sweetwater. I’ve worked on the town planning element of the project for nearly six years, so it’s been a very personal experience for me.
How have you seen the area develop since then?
I remember writing reports for the legacy planning applications saying “we will provide a great park and all this space” to walk around 15 years later, and to see that’s actually what’s happened, is incredibly rewarding.
Talking to local people in the area in 2007, no one would have believed you that we would have delivered this sort of future. It’s fantastic that we have.
When you walk around the park, it’s amazing to see the big ambition that was there right at the start of the project has materialised and we now have this unique place.
What’s unique about the area?
As a planner, we talk about “mixed and balanced communities”, but what does this actually mean? East Wick and Sweetwater offers an even split between affordable, open market and rented homes this creates a genuinely mixed community that will generate opportunities for people from all walks of life.
We’re designing homes to some of the highest sustainability standards in the UK with a range of housing choices. We’re providing jobs too at Hackney Bridge, and creating the type of workspace where new businesses can test their ideas and grow.
Hackney Wick has gone through a radical change in the last 10 years, catalysed by the Olympics. East Wick and Sweetwater has a role to play mediating between the significant development that’s been seen at Stratford, and the creative communities in Hackney Wick and Fish Island. It has the potential to bridge between these different communities which is really exciting.
For me, the test of success will be feeling like we’ve created a community that merges with its neighbours, forgetting which bit is East Wick, Sweetwater or Hackney Wick, knitted together as a genuine place.
What are some of the things people love about living here?
This particular area of the park means you can walk from Hackney Wick, where you’re having a beer on the canal and there is a real sense of energy, along the canal for a few minutes and feel like you’re in the country.
You have all of the ingredients for what you’d want for a place to live and thrive – fantastic open space, wonderful canals, bars and social life to enjoy. I’m jealous of those who get to live here.