May 31 - A derelict site in East London which was once the industrial hub of the capital is set to be returned to its former glory, but in its latest incarnation it will become a 21st century ''Asian business port.'' A Chinese property developer has sealed a £1 billion deal to turn the site into a 24 hour mini city for Asian businesses to operate on Beijing time. Ivor Bennett reports.
It doesn't look like much now, but this patch of wasteland will be London's next financial centre. One billion pounds will be pumped into the site to create a business park aimed at Chinese firms. ABP Holdings is the company behind it, its first project outside China. Chairman Xu Weiping. SOUNDBITE (Mandarin) ABP HOLDINGS CHAIRMAN, XU WEIPING, SAYING: "In China one billion pounds is not a big number right now. In China it's a small kick, a project like this can happen everyday." But in London, this is big business. It's hoped it'll create 20 thousand new jobs, and bring up to 6 billion pounds of investment - a much needed boost for Britain's economy. The development's mostly aimed at Asian firms wanting to set up European headquarters. No one's signed up yet, but London Mayor Boris Johnson says the city won't have trouble attracting investors. SOUNDBITE (English) BORIS JOHNSON, MAYOR OF LONDON, SAYING: "I think it's the timezone, it's the language, it's the rule of law. We lock up our MPs if they try to pass their speeding points to their wives. We've got fantastic weather, er generally speaking. People love London so we just have to build on that." While the new site is well connected - London City airport is deafeningly close. But it's still over 10 kilometres from the city's centre. And London already has two other financial districts much closer. Can the new site really compete? Communities Secretary Eric Picles thinks it can. SOUNDBITE (English) ERIC PICKLES, SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, SAYING "Well that's probably what people were saying 100 years ago about developments taking place on the west of London. But I think the future, given what's happening right across each side of the Thames, this is going to be the very centre of Britain." SOUNDBITE (English) IVOR BENNETT, REUTERS REPORTER, SAYING: "The site may be far from the centre but the attraction here is space, and lots of it. There's over 3 million square feet of land here, ready to be built on." The regeneration will return the area to its former glory. Royal Albert Dock was once Britain's largest - and the industrial hub of the capital. It's been derelict now since the 1960s. But with the first offices opening in 2017, this won't be wasteland for much longer.