The London Docklands is the semi-official name for an area in the east of London, England, attached to several broughs (Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Greenwich) in Greater London.
The docks use to be, part of the Port of London, once the world’s largest port. Though, have been redeveloped for commercial and residential use.
London Docklands was the name given to this new redevelopment in 1971, used for the first time in a government report, but has since become universally adopted.
In 1981 the London's Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was mainly set up to improve the economic, social and environmental problems that had developed in the area that was once one of the world's busiest ports.
The area had been in decline since the 1950's, because larger ships could no longer access the port. Unemployment increased, the back to back terraced housing fell into disrepair and their was a lack of transport and leisure facilities.
The area became one of the first Enterprise Zones in 1981, and the land was made rate free for ten years.
Between 1981-1998 many changes occurred within the Docklands. For example:
Low rents attracted a number of hi-tech and financial firms, including The Limehouse ITV studios and The Guardian and Daily Telegraph newspapers.
Many of the former warehouses have been transformed into luxury flats. This is an example of gentrification. Low cost housing has also been built along with the renovation of older council owned properties.
A large shopping area was constructed close to Canary Warf. A number of parks have been created where buildings once stood. More recently the Millennium Dome was built in this area.
Wet docks = ships laid up at anchor, loaded or unloaded.
Dry docks= smaller, and took individual ships for repairing.
Ships were built at shipyards along the riverside. The river was lined with numerous warehouses, pieres, jetties and mooring points.
Various docks specialised in different forms of produce, e.g. Surrey Docks concentrated on timber; Millwall took grain, and St Katharine took wool, sugar and rubber.
The docks required many workers. Chiefly lightermen (carried loads between ships and quays aboard small barges) and quayside workers (dealed with goods once ashore).
Some workers were highly skilled, lightermen had their own guild, while the deal porters (workers who carried timber) were famous for their acrobatic skills.
However, unskilled workers, worked as casual labourers, made to assemble at certain points, like pubs, each morning selected at random by foremen. For these workers, it was a gamble to receive, work, pay, and food, on any particular day.
This arrangement continued until late 1965, although it was regularised after the creation of the National Dock Labour Scheme in 1947.
Main dockland areas were, low-lying marshes, unsuitable for agriculture and lightly populated. Workers also formed a numerous local communities, with their own distinctive cultures.
Suffering from poor communications, they were remote from other parts of London, so developed in some isolation, e.g. the Isle of Dogs, had two roads in and out, and with local sentiment so strong, residents in 1920 blocked the roads and declared independence.
An urban development corporation, established by Secretary of State for Environment (then Michael Heseltine), under the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980.
Its object was to secure regeneration of the London Docklands Urban Development Area (UDA) with, 8½ square miles of East London, in Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark.
As a response to huge decline in economy of the area, it brought about progressive closure in the 1960s onwards.
Attempts by local authorities dealt with this, though efforts were perceived by the Government slowly, needing resources on a scale, only available through a focussed agency of its own.
LDDC was financed by grant from the Government and income generated by the disposal of land for housing, industrial and commercial development.
Although the corporations influence in the area was strong, LDDC's powers were limited as:
It had powers to acquire land by agreement or compulsory purchase, and in case of large amounts of land in the public sector, had powers for it to be vested in the Corporation by the Secretary of State, ensuring a supply of land for development.
It took over from the London Boroughs, planning (but not plan making) powers. A response to Government's perception that the Boroughs had been too restrictive exercising their development control and other powers because their plans for the area were outmoded, with powers, and resources to provide new infrastructure.
Apart from planning other public services (housing, education, health etc) the Corporation provided funds for their development.
The 1980 Act, required urban development corporation, to secure regeneration of its area, bringing land and buildings into effect, encouraging development of existing and new industry, creating an attractive environment, ensuring housing and social facilities were available to encourage people to live and work in the area.
A Regeneration Research Report published in 1997 by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) analysed the problems of the Docklands:
The area experienced drastic job losses in short period of time, as Docks closed. Between 1978 and 1983, actually over 12,000 jobs were lost, while skills of the local population, were inappropriate for many growth areas of the London economy.
Much land was held by public bodies, unable to make it available for redevelopment, and while little land was in private holdings, supply of land was constrained by a pattern of ownership.
Extent of dereliction in parts of Docklands were severe, that costs of development would be high but uncertain, lowering the attractiveness of the area to investors.
External intervention was needed to meet extra-ordinary land reclaim costs, as to improve developer confidence more generally.
Many development sites were poorly served by local infrastructure with provision which would be essential for sites to be developed.
Poor links between Docklands and the rest of London, the country and internationally, would have made additional costs for employers and depressing any returns on investment.
The market was unlikely to provide environmental improvements (including landscaping, refurbishment of the dock estate or restoration of landmarks) or provision of infrastructure, essential if Docklands was to become an attractive place to live and conduct business.
Certain gaps on information that pressured the operation of markets, almost completed absence of private house-building in the area for years, meaning that housing developers had no idea on potential return for new-build, leaving the risk to developers, deterring investment.
These factors made it difficult for the market, without external intervention, to reverse the decline experienced by Docklands before the establishment of LDDC.
The LDDC successfully tackled the widespread market failure which prevailed in the London Docklands in 1981.
Failures in land, housing and commercial property markets, were addressed and labour market failures alleviated by a combination of training projects, improvements in accessibility in and out of Docklands and creation of new local jobs.
When all projects were completed the total public sector cost of regenerating Docklands was in order of £3,900 million, 48% incurred by the LDDC, 25% by London Transport and 27% by the Isle of Dogs Enterprise Zone.
Almost half the public sector cost of regenerating Docklands was devoted to transport infrastructure.
Private sector investment in Docklands, at £8,700 million by March 1998, was substantial and continues to increase into centuries.
The LDDC has generated a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits. Prominent amongst these are over 24,000 housing units and over 80,000 gross jobs within the Urban Development Area (UDA).
Housing tenures substantially varied, employment got three times higher, the number of firms increased and the new stock of housing accommodated an additional 45,000 population.
Respect to value-for-money, the evaluation concluded that every £1M of public sector cost generated net additional benefits in the UDA of 23 jobs, 8500 sq m of office floor space, 7.8 housing units plus many other diverse and intermediate benefits.
The wider local economy, the net impact of LDDC activities was lower, but still, the LDDC generated an additional 23,000 jobs in Central London by increasing the supply of high grade office accommodation which led to a more competitive financial centre.
The Corporation, established on 2nd July 1981, was expected to need 10-15 years to accomplish its task. In October 1994 it began by stages to withdraw. Bermondsey Riverside in Southwark was the first area to be dedesignated and the withdrawal process ended with the Royal Docks on 31st March 1998 although its task there was not fully complete. The Corporation was formally wound up on 30th June 1998.
However, the Docklands' redevelopment has, had some less beneficial aspects.
Property demands and rise in house prices has led to friction between new arrivals and old Docklands communities, who have complained of being pushed aside.
It has also made for some of the most striking disparities to be seen anywhere in Britain: luxury executive flats constructed alongside run-down public housing estates.
The Docklands' status as symbol of Thatcher's Britain has made it a target for terrorists. After a failed attempt to bomb Canary Wharf, on February 09, 1996, a huge IRA bomb exploded at South Quay.
Two people died in this explosion, forty people were injured and an estimated £150m of damage was caused .
In a 1998 trial James McArdle was imprisoned for 25 years after a trial at Woolwich Crown Court that ended on June 24. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, McArdle was released on June 28, 2000.
The LDDC withdrew from its area by stages starting with Bermondsey Riverside on 30th October 1994, ending with the Royal Docks 31st March 1998. As each area was de-designated the Corporation published a booklet with a brief history of the area and of the LDDC's work there. These,too, are reproduced on this site:
Efforts to redevelop the docks began as soon as they closed, although it took a while for most plans to move forward, and another period of time for redevelopment to take effect.
The situation was complicated by large numbers of landowners involved: the PLA, the Greater London Council (GLC), the British Gas Corporation, five borough councils, British Rail and the Central Electricity Generating Board.
This is why in 1981, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine, addressed the problrm by forming the London Docklands Development Corporeation (LDDC) to redevelop the area.
This was appointed and funded by the central government, with wide powers to acquire and dispose of land in the Docklands.
It also served as development planning authority for the area.
Another important government intervention was the designation in 1982 of an enterprise zone, in which businesses were exempt from property taxes and had other incentives, like simplified planning and capital allowances.
This made investing in the Docklands a more attractive proposition and was indeal to start a property in the area.
LDDC was controversial - it was accused of favouring luxury developments rather than affordable housing, and was unpopular with local communities, who felt that their needs were not being addressed.
Nonetheless, the LDDC was central to remarkable transformation in the area, although how control it was in control of events was unpedictable.
The development programme managed by LDDC during the 1980s and 1990s saw a huge area of the Docklands converted into a mixture of residential, commercial and light industrial space.
A successful effort was the Canary Wharf project that constructed Britain's tallest building and established a second major financial centre in London.
However, theres no evidence that LDDC saw this scale of development as nearby, Heron Quays had already been developed as low density offices when Canary Wharf was proposed, with similar development underway on Canary Wharf, Limehouse Studios being the most famous occupant.
Canary Wharf still suffered though, and property slump of the early 1990s halted all development in Docklands for several years.
Developers similarly found themselves saddled with property which they were unable to sell or let.
The Docklands historically had poor transport connections.
This was addressed by the LDDC with construction of Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which connected the Docklands with the City.
It was a inexpensive development, costing £77m in its first phase, as it relied on reusing disused railway infrastructure and derelict land for much of its length.
LDDC also built Limehouse Link tunnel, a cut and cover road tunnel linking the Isle of Dogs to The Highway (the A13 road) at a cost of over £150 million per kilometre, one of the most expensive stretches of road ever built.
The LDDC contributed to the development of London City Airport, opened in October 1987 on the spine of the Royal Docks.
Over the past 20 years, the population of the Docklands has doubled and the area become both a major business centre and an acceptable area to live.
Transport links have improved too, with the Isle of Dogs gaining a tube connection via the Jubilee Line Extension (opened 1999) and the DLR being extended to Beckton, Lewisham, London City Airport, North Woolwich and Stratford.
Canary Wharf has become one of Europe's biggest areas of skyscrapers and a direct challenge to the financial dominance of the City. Further east, the Royal Docks are being regenerated symbolised the ExCeL Exhibition Centre.
Transport in the Docklands today
Though most of old Dockland wharves and warehouses have been demolished, some have been restored and converted into flats.
Most the docks have survived and are now used as marinas or watersports centres (the major exception being the Surrey Commercial Docks, now largely filled in). Large ships occasionally visit the old docks still, with all of the commercial traffic moving down-river to Tilbury.
The revival of Docklands has had major effects in run-down surrounding areas.
Greenwich and Deptford are undergoing large-scale redevelopment, chiefly as a result of improved transport links making them more attractive to commuters.