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The district that was named after a gas man
What Beckton was like in 1981
Beckton leads in private housing
Many new facilities
Many LDDC grants
The Leisure Scene
Ecological improvements
Transport now excellent
The future of the area

Other Completion Booklets
LDDC Monographs
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Annual Reports and Accounts

Map showing location of Beckton

Note: This Booklet is reproduced by kind permission of the Commission for the New Towns now known as English Partnerships. It is published for general interest and research purposes only and may not be reproduced for other purposes except with the permission of English Partnerships who now hold the copyright of LDDC publications.)

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by Eric Sorensen, Chief Executive, London Docklands Development Corporation

On 31st December 1995 the London Docklands Development Corporation completed its remit in Beckton. The event marked the culmination of over 14 years of co-operation with the London Borough of Newham and with the fast growing local community. North Beckton District ParkIf Beckton is associated with one single achievement in the life of the Corporation, it has to be new homes for sale. It was in Cyprus that the first Corporation sponsored housing development - indeed the first new private housing in Docklands for many years - started in November 1981. The new homes built by Barratt, Wimpey, Broseley and Comben were a huge success. This housing provided an important foundation for the balanced community which Beckton is today. It also encouraged the Corporation to release further land for housing throughout the Urban Development Area and attracted developers to build homes in London Docklands.

The starting point for the LDDC's work in Beckton was the 1980 Beckton District Plan, the only up-to-date statutory plan in London Docklands at the time the Corporation was set up. Well before a Memorandum of Agreement was signed with the London Borough of Newham in 1987, there was close co-operation on numerous projects, for example, the house building programme and the creation of the Beckton Alps, now a dry ski slope. The Corporation implemented a number of community projects in the 1980 Beckton District Plan such as the West Beckton Children's Centre, shops, flats and a community centre at Cyprus and many landscaping and public amenity schemes. The Memorandum of Agreement made provision for local people to benefit from new developments in the Royal Docks. The Council for its part agreed to co- operate with the Corporation in the highway schemes to serve the Royal Docks and to give support for the large developments planned for the area.

The area has been enhanced by the opening of the Docklands Light Railway Extension to Beckton in March 1994 and significant numbers of jobs have been created in the London Industrial Park, the District Centre, the Whitbread Travel Inn and the new retail park with its Savacentre, B&Q and other stores. The growing and well established community and leisure facilities include the Corporation funded Equestrian Centre and the East Beckton District Centre, currently under construction. The future of the area's thriving voluntary sector has also been secured with the setting up of the Royal Docks Trust by the LDDC and the Council.Eisnhower Drive

Regeneration in Beckton has reached the point of being self sustaining. Beckton is a well established, self confident community with all the advantages of good facilities, excellent transport links and a pleasant environment. The Corporation will continue to work with the London Borough of Newham to secure further projects which benefit both Beckton and the Royal Docks, such as the provision of secondary schooling south of the A13, the undergrounding of electricity pylons, improvements to the A13 and a new river crossing at Gallions Reach. Beckton is now well placed to build on 14 years of investment by the LDDC and to take advantage of the employment and business opportunities that will be created in the Royal Docks in the coming years.

Eric Sorensen
Chief Executive
London Docklands Development Corporation


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Beckton Gas WorksThe district that was named after a gas man

Throughout most of its history, much of Beckton was flat, low lying marshland. In the 19th Century, when the east of London was used to serve the needs of the west, the Gas Light and Coke Company bought 540 acres in the area and in 1870 opened Europe's largest gas works, serving the whole of London. In honour of the event, the whole district was named after Simon Adams Beck, the Governor of the Company. What became today's GMB Trade Union was founded at these works, which stopped making gas in 1969 after the introduction of natural gas.

Beckton's other historic service to London was in drainage. n 1875, Joseph Bazalgette's monumental drainage system for the metropolitan area was completed. It ended cholera in London. and led to the development of the modern flush toilet. It also gave Beckton the distinction of being the destination for all of the sewage of London north of the Thames, and of having the largest sewage treatment works n Europe.

Cyprus Estate, c.1920The areas in the south and west of Beckton were not involved in either of these activities. Instead, in the first half of the 20th Century they were earmarked for a fourth great dock, should the three massive Royal Docks prove inadequate. However, in the mid 1960s the Port of London Authority faced facts and abandoned its plans to build the dock - a precursor of the decline of business which was to lead to the closure of the Royals in 1981.

Meanwhile, the fact that the PLA owned much of the land stood in the way of would be developers. The main exception was Cyprus, an estate built in 1881 after the opening of the Royal Albert Dock, and so named because of the raising of the Union Jack over the Mediterranean island three years earlier in 1878.

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What Beckton was like in 1981

Five years before the creation of the LDDC, the London Docklands Strategic Plan published by the Docklands Joint Committee in 1976 had started the ball rolling in proposing Beckton as a residential area. A population increase to 28,000 was envisaged, mostly housed in local authority housing.

Aerial view, 1968By 1981, in practical pursuit of this vision, the London Borough of Newham had drained the rnarshes and put in a foul drainage system. It had laid out distributor roads, provided a large part of the eventual district park and started a council house building programme. One new school had been built and another was about to start. Two private residential schemes had also been put forward and progress was being made on Phase 1 of East Beckton District Centre, including the Asda Superstore. The development of the London Industrial Park had started on former gas works land, providing a range of industrial and warehousing units as well as sites for larger users such as R. Whites, the drinks manufacturer. Some unpleasant "bad neighbour" industries on Tollgate Road and in Cyprus were in the process of being relocated.

Despite these foundations for the future, it was the dereliction of the past which dominated much of Beckton. The closed gas works, only part of which were to come within the LDDC's Urban Development Area, were decaying and in parts dangerous. Employment was thin. Even before the Port of London Authority formally closed the Royal Docks in November 1981, employment in them had mostly been reduced to non-dock temporary work which only survived because of the low rents.

Aerial view, 1982Leisure, social and community amenities were few. Those that existed were mostly of poor quality and poorly housed. Shopping was confined to small local parades in Custom House and corner shops, Both commercial and public sector facilities were badly affected by a declining residential and working population. The new open spaces in West Beckton and Cyprus, whilst attractive, were difficult to get to. Most of the rest of the environment was poor.

As for transport, it was conspicuous by its absence. A few bus services lightly touched the edge of the area. Roads were few: there was not even a direct link between the eastern and western ends of the area. The exception to this was the North Circular Road, which brought heavy goods vehicles trundling to and from the Woolwich Ferry into existing and proposed residential areas.

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Beckton leads in private housing

In 1981, when the London Docklands Development Corporation came into being, the population of Beckton was 5,106. By December 1995, it had more than tripled to 17,864, largely due to the area's now established reputation for attractive, affordable owner occupied housing.

Cyprus housingBeckton's place in the history of the LDDC lies to a large extent in being the area which led the way in private house building. In 1981 the LDDC scaled down the 1976 London Docklands Strategic Plan's population target for Beckton of 28,000 to 20,000, as it wished to give new impetus to lower density private housing schemes to achieve a more balanced population mix.

It is important to put the 1981 LDDC emphasis on private housing into context. The April 1981 census showed that the future Urban Development Area had precisely 784 owner-occupiers within its eight and a half square miles: 73 in Southwark, 262 in Tower Hamlets and 449 in Newham, out of a total of 14,881 homes in the area.

LDDC approached leading house builders with the result that, somewhat against their better judgment, Barratt, Wimpey, Broseley and Comben began the first phase of private house building in Beckton in November 1981. Much to their surprise, all 601 houses and flats were quickly sold, and in March 1982 - a landmark event in the Corporation's life - the then Environment Secretary, Michael Heseltine returned to London Docklands for the first time since he had designated the LDDC in July 1981 to hand over the keys to the first owner-occupiers in Cyprus.

Tollgate RoadThis early success set the tone, not just for Beckton but for the whole of London Docklands. The LDDC started releasing more land. Areas closer to the centre of London such as Wapping and Surrey Docks, also hitherto treated with suspicion by builders and developers, benefited from the lead taken by Beckton. The 1982/83 LDDC Annual Report noted that work had started on six sites containing some 936 homes, about two thirds in Newham and the remainder in Southwark . and that it was about to start on the building of 954 further homes in west and mid-Beckton, the Isle of Dogs, Southwark and Wapping. And so it continued, with the result that during the first ten years of the LDDC, owner occupation in Beckton increased from 20% of all housing to 55% - the largest figure in the entire UDA. During the same period, rented social housing decreased from 64% to 37%, although of course it rose in numerical terms.

In the 1987 Memorandum the Corporation committed itself to help provide a substantial number of social housing units in Newham Docklands. In partnership with local housing associations the LDDC provided over 800 homes in the Beckton area towards this target.

Emphasis on balanced development

It is fair to say that the LDDC gave greatly added impetus - indeed, transformed - the efforts already under way in 1981 to encourage residential development in the area. As elsewhere in the Royal Docks area, the Corporation began with a meticulous emphasis on infrastructure. Services, drainage, roads, footpaths and cycleways took priority, As well as the Beckton Alps already mentioned, 22 hectares were reclaimed at Winsor Park for housing and associated facilities.

Greenwich CrescentSince 1981 developers have been encouraged to create 4,000 new homes on LDDC owned sites of all tenures - owner occupied, shared equity, self build and private, housing association and local authority rented. With the tenure mix adjusted to a more balanced level, social housing received a new impetus, resulting in over 500 units at Winsor Park. Schemes have been for low rise housing of a range of types and sizes (including sheltered housing, care in the community accommodation, large family houses and starter homes) within a high quality environment.

This housing development has been supported by the provision of a range of facilities substantially assisted by LDDC funding. As a result, there are now five primary schools, two health centres, three community centres and a community house, a children's centre and a church centre, and many more facilities are being built.

Sainsbury's Savacentre

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Many new facilities

The Asda Superstore opened in 1983. The range of shopping facilities began to be enhanced through the development of the Beckton Retail Park adjoining the London Industrial Park. This comprised a DIY store and eight other units. These changes, already revolutionary when compared to what the area had known before, moved to even greater importance with the arrival of the Sainsbury's Savacentre on a site next to the A13 in 1993. This not only secured the regeneration of the last major site owned by the LDDC in the area of north-east Beckton, but more important created 700 local jobs. The arrival of B&Q and others such as McDonald's on adjoining land has further enhanced this process. The London Industrial Park, now almost fully developed, provides local jobs in manufacturing, warehousing and distribution in modern, purpose built premises.

Since 1981 the Corporation has contributed 2.3 million to three new primary schools in Beckton and is committed to contributions to a further primary school and a new secondary school. Further funding has gone to the new Newham Sixth Form College and the Royal Docks campus of the Newham College of Further Education.

New health centres in Tollgate Road and West Beckton have also received support.North Beckton Primary School

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Many LDDC grants

As the end of its remit approached, the Corporation took care to provide additional support for the growing population in new residential areas. For instance, in 1995 the LDDC gave 700,000 for the Royal Docks Medical Centre in Cyprus, due to open in Autumn 1996.

Beckton District Park occupies the centre of the area. It includes a lake for boating and fishing, a sports centre, exercise trail, and many sports pitches in a landscaped setting. Nearby is the recently extended Newham City Farm, which like the park owes its existence to an LDDC grant - most recently 980,000 to improve visitor facilities. The LDDC has also assisted in the provision of livery stables at Stansfeld Road and funded the international competition standard Docklands Equestrian Centre next to Savacentre with 1.05 million. This is the home of Newham Riding School and Association, a registered charity which provides riding for local disabled and disadvantaged adults and children. The Corporation has funded a programme for the provision of children's play areas throughout Beckton, provided 434,000 for the West Beckton Children's Centre and 1.14 million for St Marks Community Centre. Winsor Park Community Centre has been funded to the tune of 446,000, as well as a children and young people's resource centre with 777,000. An Agoraspace - an all weather pitch - has been laid out next to the two buildings with LDDC funding of 172,000.

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The Leisure Scene

There can be no more appropriate symbol of how Beckton has changed for the better than the Beckton Alps. These protuberances on the otherwise fiat landscape resulted from the tipping of waste by the Beckton gas works. Whilst thought had been given before to the reclamation of this huge tip, it was the LDDC in the early 1980s Beckton Alpswhich had the vision to have it compacted and re-profiled, and a combined encapsulation and drainage scheme was carried out to contain and control the waste. A dry ski slope and associated facilities were funded by the private sector and Government grant.

There are now a number of commercial leisure activities in Beckton. In addition to the Beckton Alps, these include a golf driving range and ten pin bowling centre. Two public houses have been built, one of them Whitbread's Winsor House Travel Inn, with hotel accommodation and a restaurant. A programme to enhance existing facilities has been steadily implemented.

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Ecological improvements

The Corporation has improved the environment and the physical appearance of the area by reclamation schemes, assisting in the improvement of existing housing estates and parks and open spaces and relocating bad neighbour uses. The 8 km of the Docklands Light Railway Beckton extension today enjoys the results of the LDDC's landscaping works and planting, including indigenous trees and wildflower meadows. At nearby Bow Creek, disused railway sidings have been transformed into London's first interactive water ecology park, a hands on experience for children to learn ail about water and its ecology.

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Royal Albert DLR Station

Transport now excellent....

The Docklands Light Railway's Beckton extension opened in March 1994 to Poplar, with a full direct service to Tower Gateway and connecting service to Bank opening in Autumn 1995. This marked a milestone in the development of Beckton and the regeneration of the Royal Docks.

The LDDC's highways programme has transformed road access. The main new highways, Royal Albert Way and Royal Docks Road, serve Beckton in three important ways. They provide a by-pass to Beckton's residential and commercial areas, they have greatly improved access between Beckton and the Royals, and they mean that Beckton is now connected on four or six lane highways to the Isle of Dogs business district, the City and West End, as well as to the M11 and M25 via the A13 and A406.

... and integrated

The LDDC has been anxious throughout to ensure that new roads have minimal impact on the area, and in particular that they do not create barriers to pedestrian movement between Beckton and the Royals. The results of the Corporation's emphasis on pedestrian and cycle facilities can be seen to great benefit in Beckton, which today enjoys a comprehensive pedestrian and cycle network, Cycle Waysbuilt beside Royal Docks Road and through parks and open spaces.

The construction of Royal Albert Way allowed the closure of Strait Road to all but buses, creating a quiet and safe route. Beckton residents can now walk to DLR stations and to shops and other community facilities using these routes. The LDDC has also upgraded the bridle-way which crosses Beckton.

In 1994 the bus network in Beckton was reorganised to reflect the opening of the DLR extension and a new bus interchange station was built by the LDDC at Prince Regent DLR Station. Further improvements are planned with the opening of the Jubilee Line Bus Station at Canning Town in 1998.

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Presentation, Dec 1995

The future of the area

Many developments have improved the quality of life in Beckton. The Docklands Light Railway Beckton extension enables people to connect easily with London Underground at Tower Gateway, Stratford and Bank. This has transformed public transport accessibility, and will be greatly reinforced by the arrival of the Jubilee Line extension in 1998. The whole area has been opened up with new roads and bridges. In housing, Beckton now boasts the highest ratio of owner occupation in the UDA. Sainsbury's Savacentre and the B&Q led retail scheme has greatly improved shopping facilities and increased local employment. There are three new parks and five new primary schools. Just to the north of the area NewVIC (Newham Sixth Form College) serves the needs of a wide area where post-16 staying on rates have dramatically improved. Thames House, Newham College of Further Education's third campus, has benefited from LDDC funding of 1.46 million.

More still remains to be done. In 1993 the LDDC paid for a study aimed at establishing the views of residents and identifying facilities that were needed.

One of the key issues, the improvement of East Beckton District Centre, is on the way to being met with a multi-purpose building under construction by the London Borough of Newham. The LDDC is contributing 2.8 million to this 4 million programme, as part of the withdrawal package agreed with Newham Council. Another part of the package includes a 1.2 million LDDC endowment to the new Royal Docks Trust to allow the continued operation of the community grants programme into the future. These and other practical points relating to the transition to the future were settled by a formal agreement between the Council and the Corporation known as the Statement of Agreed Intentions.

Aerial view, 1996The London Borough of Newham is determined to take Beckton forward, and plans to use the report's findings to progress the momentum of regeneration further, including the provision of improved arts, leisure, cultural and religious facilities in the area.

The LDDC has worked with Newham to secure a secondary school south of the A13 and has promised a contribution of at least 3 million towards its construction. Work will start in summer 1997 with completion scheduled for September 1999.

The Corporation's continuing work in the adjoining area of the Royal Docks will impact positively on the concerns of Beckton residents. For instance, ExCeL, the planned new international exhibition centre for London, has been calculated by Touche Ross to create more than 14,000 new jobs both in itself and in service industries, whilst the Royals University College, due to receive its first students in 1999, is being created to bring higher education to local people and attract high technology employers to the area.

The Corporation took the view that by the end of 1995, no major investment projects would remain for it in Beckton, and that its role would largely be confined to a planning function. The London Borough of Newham wished to resume that function.

With a positive planning framework in place, and by mutual agreement, the LDDC handed on the area to Newham Council on 31st December 1995. Beckton today is an excellent example of regeneration, and the LDDC's work will serve as a model for other inner city areas world-wide. The residents and businesses of Beckton are fortunate in being handed on to a local authority which is so enthusiastic to build on the sound base which has been established.

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Completion Booklets

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LDDC Monographs published in 1997/98

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Annual Reports and Accounts

As with most organisations the Annual Reports and Accounts of the LDDDC are a good source of chronological information about the work of the Corporation and how it spent its money. Altogether these reports contain more than 1000 pages of information. These have been scanned and reproduced as zip files on our Annual Reports and Accounts page

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