London Docklands

Simon Abbott

"Evaluate the success of the economic, social and physical regeneration of The London Docklands."



In Medieval times development occurred on the Thames, where Romans had once settled. Growth of shipbuilding industry led to the development of this area. The London Docks were built between 1700 and 1921. The reason was to ease congestion on the Thames between ships, and the lock gates helped to control the water level in the river. Security was also improved within the docks because of the high walls around the dock basins. The Eastend of London developed around the Docks. At the docks hay day London was at the centre of world trade.

However in 1967 the docks started to decline, a number of reasons were to cause the downfall to one of the worlds greatest trading ports. The docks were not designed for the size of the more modern ships, not been wide enough or deep enough to allow the ships in. The newer container ships could not be catered for in the docks. This meant that competition was starting to arise form other ports around the British Isles, mainly Tilbury and Antwerp. These newer ports offered a facility to handle containers, with the efficiency of a roll on/roll off system. With the competition a problem, the London Docks now had to battle through the decline of traditional trade that was associated with Europe and the docks. Adding to the problems, traditional industries in Britain were declining all the time. The docks in effect were been suffocated from of trade. After years of decline, the docks became too expensive to run, with the lack of trade and inefficiency of loading and unloading. By 1981, all the docks along the Thames were closed, with the exception of the new Tilbury dock. As the area gradually started to run down, the local authorities and government realised that some kind of redevelopment had to take place.

Regeneration of the area had begun in places since the end of the war in 1946, due to the extensive bomb damage the area had suffered. Other projects also went ahead before the docks totally closed. The ?Greater London Development Plan? and ?Inner Urban Area Act? were carried out in the 60?s and 70?s. However, these projects were never deemed a success, as the majority of the docks were still run down. In addition, those that were regenerated were not popular because of the misuse of materials and ideas. None of them seemed to cure the problems that the Docklands had. Derelict land in the docks was about 40%, around 6 square km. In the last 15 years before 1981, 150,000 jobs had been lost. The local population was living on council estates that were crumbling, and had no basic amenities. Counter urbanisation was happening to the area, over 20% had moved out. The communication network was poor, no rail links existed, roads were few and narrow, and public transport was little. Local residents were deprived of both leisure facilities and basics like schools and hospitals, they were not even given the chance to make a go of the area they lived in.

However, a new scheme was to be set up, which was thought to be the answer to all the problems that the Docklands contained. In 1979, a new Government came into power with different attitudes and views. They set up a non-elected corporation, which had total control over the area. They could use government grants to prepare land and release it to mainly private developers. Using public funds, they were to attract private funds. Enter the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC). The LDDC had four aims that they wanted to achieve in the Docklands, they were basically to improve the economic, social and physical aspects of the area.

To improve the economic aspect of the area they had to create jobs for the unemployed who were living in the Docklands, to do this they had to bring in major companies. The LDDC decided to provide a good infrastructure to the area, they provided the gas, electric, and roads. Transport was a main problem, so ?600 million was spent on transport, and another ?300 million on just the Docklands Railway. The most expensive road in Europe was built at a cost of ?220, it is only one mile long and stretches from The Isle of Dogs to the City of London. However,