LDDC Monograph
  Housing in the Renewed London Docklands
- text (March 1998)
 
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Contents

Foreword
Introduction
Setting the Scene
The Immediate Challenge
Architectural Quality
Boom, Bubble and Bust
Housing Policy Review
Deals with Newham and Tower Hamlets
New Housing Strategies
The Final Years

 

Continued...

The Final Years
Appendix - Tables (on a continuation page)
Bibliography
Acknowledgements

Other Monographs in this series
Completion Booklets
Popular Press Releases
Annual Reports and Accounts

 
 

(Note: This Monograph has been 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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Foreword

One of the Corporation's most durable and visible achievements has been, without doubt, the creation of a housing market leading to the provision of a wide range of housing through the involvement of a variety of house builders, throughout London Docklands.Isle of Dogs in 1980s

The omens when the Corporation started its work in July 1981 were not good. The population of London Docklands had been declining, for some considerable time, the housing stock was of generally poor quality and in short supply. Some 9% of the stock was classified as overcrowded and 20% as poor or uninhabitable. Private house building in the area had been practically non-existent with owner occupation levels standing at 5%, and with only a handful of private sector dwellings having been built in the area in the five years preceding July 1981.

This monograph, one in a series produced by the LDDC, describes how the Corporation with its housing partners, including the major volume house builders, transformed Docklands from a housing no-go area to London's largest house building site. At one point in the mid-1980s, some 2,000 homes were being built each year. The docks and their enclosed waters, together with the River Thames, provided a unique setting for new residential developments. Apart from the UK house builders, companies from Holland and Denmark were attracted by the waterscape environment and helped to contribute to the building of a total of over 24,000 new homes in the 17 years between 1981-98.

Docklands today has a thriving housing market. It is one of London's most attractive and desirable residential areas. For the first time, London Docklands offers the home buyer choice from apartments in converted riverside warehouses to family homes in new developments that have been created by the Corporation.

LDDC
March 1998

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IntroductionAcorn Walk - before and after

The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was set up in July 1981 to secure the regeneration of eight and a half square miles of London's East End. While the word "regeneration" was not defined in the legislation, the stated means included the creation of an attractive environment and ensuring the availability of housing and social facilities to encourage people to live and work in the area.

With dereliction and decay all too obvious, the existence of isolated, physically and psychologically rundown local communities and a hostile local political climate, the task was daunting. Nevertheless, in 17 years, the LDDC created the confidence and transport infrastructure which were essential to attract investment and people to transform the wasting lands and economic decline into a normal but unique part of the modern capital.

A new housing market was discovered in the inner city, which encouraged similar developments in other cities. Nearly 17,800 houses and flats will have been built for sale by March 1998, together with some 6,250 for rent or shared ownership by housing associations and the three local authorities. 4,800 council homes in older properties have undergone major refurbishment inside and out, with an environmental facelift, such as landscaping, new play areas and lighting, carried out to a further 3,100 properties. In all, nearly 80 per cent of local authority homes have received attention. During the 17 years, the number of houses and flats in the Docklands' eight and a half square miles has more than doubled. So has the population, which by 1998 was estimated at 83,000. And whereas in 1981, Docklands housing was overwhelmingly council (83%), the balance of tenure is now much nearer the norm, with 45% of homes in owner occupation and the rest rented or under shared ownership. The process will continue - more homes, more people, more jobs - as schemes are completed and the potential of the area, including the Royal Docks, is even more fully realised.

Such change has, however, not been without problems. The original inhabitants have had to live alongside the dirt, noise and tension of constant construction and change. The LDDC, apart from the challenge of renewal of such a vast stretch of existing city, had to cope with continuing criticism, two recessions, a property boom and subsequent crash, and the pressures of increasing polarisation between new and old.

In the early years, the LDDC concentrated on creating a new market and a supply of affordable homes, designed to provide a housing improvement ladder for local people as well as encourage new residents to move into an area which had, for decades, seen too many young, bright and able people move out. Its very success proved its undoing. As prices rose, the so-called affordable houses and flats, despite substantial subsidies, became unaffordable to many of the target groups at which they were aimed. The incomes of too many of the original East Enders, even those who had jobs, were simply too low. The LDDC had to adopt a different approach if there was to be any real improvement in their quality of life. Even when the docks flourished, life was hard and living conditions on many council estates were grim.

The LDDC was not a housing authority and had no legal powers to build, sell or manage developments on its own account. And during the whole period government finance for new social housing was increasingly restricted. Although the LDDC primarily focused its attention on the private market, house builders were from the start encouraged to sell groups of homes on to housing associations. Deals were also negotiated which led to the refurbishment of council blocks. As public awareness and criticism mounted, the provision of new social housing became a quid pro quo for support from two of the local authorities, Newham and Tower Hamlets, for essential new transport infrastructure and other developments. The LDDC also launched a social housing strategy. At first, resources were concentrated on the construction of new homes. However, increased pressure on public resources resulted in a switch of priorities into a major programme of estate improvements.

Development and redevelopment is never easy. New Towns, too, had their teething problems and the rebuilding of the inner city on the scale of London's Docklands, across and around existing communities and within a major capital city, was bound to create conflicts of interest, political and social as well as land use.

Today although the number of new homes under construction remains high, the period of hothouse growth is over. However building and rebuilding will continue, as happens in any healthy city.

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Setting the Scene

Urban Development Corporations

The LDDC was the creature of the new Conservative Government, which was elected in 1979 under the leadership of the country's first woman Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher, MP. It was only four years since Anthony Crosland, as Secretary of State for the Environment under the previous Labour Government, had so memorably declared that the public spending party was over. The new Government had every intention of tightening budgets still further and increasingly switching the emphasis from the public to the private sector. Enterprise was the buzz word for individuals and companies, and Docklands was to benefit from one of the first Enterprise Zones, a concept launched by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. Sir Geoffrey Howe. Its purpose was to attract economic regeneration and jobs to declining derelict areas through a mix of planning and tax incentives.

Robin Hood GardensSo far as housing was concerned, funds for new council house building were already constrained. The Conservatives believed in home ownership, the right to buy for council tenants, the encouragement of the private rented sector and the development of housing associations as a counter-balance to the local monopoly of council provision for people who could not afford alternatives.

The inner city, with its concentration of multiple deprivation, was already high on the political agenda in both parties. But slow progress in the redevelopment and regeneration of London's dockland made Michael Heseltine, the new Secretary of State for the Environment, doubly keen to put the idea of Urban Development Corporations (UDCs) into practice. The development of new and expanded towns was highly regarded both in this country and abroad but had attracted the most vital elements of society away from the older conurbations.

Manufacturing industry and services prospered on the more accessible, less cramped green field sites. Younger, more skilled people leapt at the chance of jobs and new homes in modern surroundings. However, the problems of the areas they left became increasingly deep-rooted - declining industries, loss of jobs, vacant decaying property, isolated communities, too many of the reduced population out of or unable to work, old, sick or simply poor. The East London dockland, with vast tracts of derelict land, was the major candidate for a new approach to what was seen as a real threat to society.

The 1980 Local Government, Planning and Land Act provided the legal framework for the creation of Government financed UDCs and a shadow corporation was set up inside the Department of the Environment. Nigel Broackes, since knighted and at that time chairman of Trafalgar House, a company with shipping and development interests, was acting Chairman. Bob Mellish, MP, a former Labour Minister of Housing and Chief Whip, was his deputy. In due course, they were joined by a Chief Executive designate, Reg Ward. Sir Nigel was a respected businessman, Lord Mellish came from one of the local dockland communities and Reg Ward had previously been a local government chief executive with a London borough and most recently Hereford and Worcester.

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Legal and Financial FrameworkPrivate housing at Dundee Wharf

The legal object of a UDC was "to secure the regeneration of its area". The means, as laid down by Parliament, included "bringing land and buildings into effective use, encouraging the development of existing and new industry and commerce, creating an attractive environment and ensuring that housing and social facilities are available to encourage people to live and work in the area".

The brevity of both ends and means and the lack of more precise definition increasingly became a rod with which to beat the Government, as critics specifically focused on the needs of the original Docklands inhabitants.

Legally the LDDC could acquire, hold, manage, reclaim and sell land and other properties. It could ensure the provision of services such as gas, electricity, water and sewerage. However a UDC was a different animal from its New Town predecessors and had a different remit, powers and funding.

Although dependent on private investors for the creation of jobs, the original New Towns had planning, development and housing powers and were responsible for not simply the creation of basic infrastructure, but the design, construction and renting of homes and business parks and facilities such as parks and community centres. In the later years, as the popularity of home ownership increased and public spending was cut, private developers were encouraged to build housing for sale as well as invest in the development of shopping centres. Local authorities and other public bodies remained responsible for the construction and management of schools, libraries, health centres and fire stations. Public funds were raised through 60-year Treasury loans at going rates of interest but, during the 1970s, the accumulation of capital debt and interest had, in large part, to be written off because high interest rates had made repayment increasingly improbable.

After that experience, the Government decided basically to finance the new UDCs with grants. As with the New Towns, annual budgets were agreed in broad terms and then individual projects of any size were subject to Whitehall scrutiny and approval. However, whereas New Towns were constantly aware of the long term effect of projects on outstanding debt, the introduction of a grant system removed this psychological and real constraint on spending. UDCs were also expected to lever the maximum amount of private investment for the minimum amount of public money. Pump-priming was the objective. The grant could be supplemented by profits on land sales, which, if a corporation was successful in its regeneration remit, might give it greater flexibility. The LDDC also had to work alongside, not usurp local and other public authorities. As designated, Docklands formed only a small part of each of the three London boroughs and, on planning, there was a potentially uncomfortable split. Subject to the Secretary of State for the Environment, the LDDC assumed development control powers and could approve or turn down planning applications but had, with the exception of the Enterprise Zone, to work within the framework of the three borough local plans, which were at various stages in the planning process when the Corporation began operations.

The LDDC could only assume housing powers by a special Parliamentary order, which was never made. As a result, although many people believed it to be an all powerful instrument for change within the eight and a half square miles, it was, unlike new towns, not a housing authority and could not build, improve, sell or manage new or existing housing. It was similar to New Towns in that it had to work with the education and health authorities to achieve new facilities or improvements and could do nothing without their active co-operation.

Since all three local authorities and the Greater London Council (GLC) were, in the early years, Labour-controlled and bitterly opposed the designation order for Docklands in the House of Lords in 1980, co-operation could not be taken for granted. The new Corporation, despite the appointment of Bob Mellish as Deputy Chairman, was seen in some quarters as a Tory manoeuvre to unseat deeply entrenched Labour housing and economic policies and even perhaps, if owner occupation swamped the area, long-term Labour control.

A further difference with New Towns related to land ownership. Basically the LDDC acquired, mainly by vesting and agreement, land in public ownership, particularly areas belonging to the local authorities, the Port of London Authority, British Gas, British Rail, the Central Electricity Generating Board and Thames Water.

In all, its land and water holdings amounted to some 2,173 acres (879 ha.) out of a total 5,500 acres (2,200 ha.) or less than half of the total eight and a half square miles. The rest remained with private and public owners, who might be encouraged to sell, improve or redevelop buildings or land, if and when the Corporation succeeded in halting the widespread decay.

A New Town corporation, faced mainly with green fields, would have assembled virtually all the land it believed necessary for its purpose and gradually benefited from rising land values on any sales. For the LDDC operating in the middle of a city, such a move was politically, financially and socially impossible. So the benefit of rising land values accumulated to theCorporation only on the areas of previously publicly owned land which passed through its hands. Private owners made their profits (or losses, as occurred following the dramatic property crash of the early 1990s) and paid taxes, where relevant, into Treasury coffers.

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Recent Docklands History

The inevitable progressive but tragic closure of the docks from 1967 resulting from the growth of massive container ships and the switch of Port of London activities to Tilbury is well known. So also is Government concern about the subsequent loss of jobs, emigration of people from the area and widespread dereliction.

In 1973, the consultants Travers Morgan & Partners produced alternative redevelopment proposals for an area which included much of the area which in 1981 was designated as London Docklands. None of the five options proved acceptable but, at the time of the report, it was estimated that some 13,000 households were moving each year out of the five boroughs, which included Greenwich and Lewisham, to other parts of London or elsewhere. The report suggested subsidies to bring owner occupation within the means of a wider range of people.

Although this plan was shelved, the following year the then Conservative Government set up the Docklands Joint Committee (DJC), which eventually consisted of the five boroughs (eight members), the GLC (eight members) and eight co-opted members including four appointed by the Environment Secretary and two by the Docklands Forum, a body which at different times more or less spoke for the local community.Stave Hill

In its 20-year London Docklands Strategic Plan, published in 1976, the DJC foresaw a population increase from the then 50,000 to between 100,000 and 120,000 by 1997 and the construction of some 23,000 homes. Of these, 20% would be built for owner occupation, between 30 and 40% shared equity and the balance rented through councils or housing associations, which would also act as partners in shared ownership properties.

By 1980, the executive arm of the DJC, known as the Docklands Development Organisation, downscaled the population forecast to some 95,000 and suggested that the proposed housing tenure mix was no longer feasible or desirable and should be reassessed. The Docklands Forum opposed the results of this review and the original plan remained unchanged.

By 1981, when the House of Lords Select Committee considered the area and constitution order for the LDDC in only the three boroughs of Newham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets, about 1,300 new homes had been built since 1976 (only a handful of which were for private owners). Nearly 900 more were under construction (60 private). This figure of 2,200 compared with a target for 1982 of 6,000. All three local authorities were looking to land in the proposed Docklands area to help rehouse tenants from other parts of their boroughs in new houses with gardens for rent. If homes were built for sale, they believed they would be occupied by people on higher incomes and form an alien community. But because of cuts in the housing investment programme, they effectively had no money for new building and could only afford to tackle the very substantial problems involved in the rehabilitation of existing estates.

On the other hand, the boroughs, to quote the Select Committee's summary of the Government's case, tended "to look too much to the past and too exclusively to the aspirations of the existing population and too little to the possibility of regenerating docklands by the introduction of new types of industry and new types of housing".

The proportion of public, as compared with private housing in the area remained extremely high, with 83% of households then living in council accommodation, compared to 31 % across Greater London and, since there was no money for new social housing, the land, unless used for building homes for sale or shared ownership, would remain empty.

As expected, but after the long bitterly fought hearing, the Select Committee backed the Government on the grounds of the need to arrest the decline of the area and the need for a change of approach and priorities. "Private investors will not put money into docklands on any large scale unless they are encouraged by the presence of an environment attractive to them including the availability of some private housing," the House of Lords report stated. In addition, evidence suggested that low-priced private housing might not be beyond the reach of some young people in docklands and that its absence might be one cause of their leaving the area.

The report confirmed that the Corporation's shadow chairman had said he would return to the boroughs any housing land vested in the new corporation for which a council had a scheme it was in a position to implement. In addition to that promise, the Select Committee however thought the proposed corporation ought also to plan for the probable future needs of the boroughs for public housing in the area.

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The Immediate Challenge

The Task Ahead

The LDDC was faced with the hugely difficult task of attracting private investment to an area which few Londoners knew and which, if they visited, presented grimness an a scale to make inner city architectural or social visionaries stop in their tracks. Tin sheds had been cleared from the middle of the Isle of Dogs to leave vast acres barren and windswept. Empty warehouses presented gaunt facades. Glass was smashed. The great docks were deserted. Corrugated iron, often scrawled with graffiti, theoretical y warded off intruders. Weeds, scrub, litter and rats prospered. The silence of the waste lands was eerie,

Elsewhere, in and around the restricted dock areas, life continued for the population of nearly 40,000 men, women and children. Housing was mainly council owned in cottage estates, terraces, tower blocks and tenements, and frequently rundown. The very separate communities had withstood pro war unemployment, then the blitz and most recently the closure of the docks and associated industries with its immediate impact on family incomes, vitality and confidence. People were fed up with political promises of a better future and lived as best they could in the present. Pubs were plentiful but, while other parts of London were already well endowed with supermarkets, shopping was confined to a few shabby parades. The lack of under or overground trains and skimpiness of bus services effective y isolated local people from most of London and the job markets of the City and West End. There was a shortage of open space and the river, lined by dead or dying industrial premises, was largely inaccessible.

Docklands was not an obviously profitable paradise for property developers or indeed even a sensible option for Londoners looking for somewhere reasonable to live. At its western end, the area flanked north and south of the Thames the prosperous Square Mile of the City but there the advantages stopped.

The mixed, privately financed development of St Katharine by the Tower, initiated long before the advent of the LDDC, took more than a decade to establish confidence, particularly in the face of continuing Labour opposition to the creation of offices and white colIar jobs. When the Conservatives came to power in 1979, developers still required office development permits and there was a Location of Offices Bureau which helped companies move away from the capital city.

In 1981, the LDDC was given 10 to 15 years to effect a physical and psychological transformation of the eight and a half square miles for the benefit of London as well as the local people, who showed courage, obduracy and nostalgia for an obsolete way of life and antipathy towards change. Somehow the seeds of confidence had to be planted and grow so that Docklands was seen, not as the back of beyond, but somewhere investors could make money in creating a place in which Londoners as a whole might choose to live and work. The situation was not auspicious. Within the Docklands area, owner occupation was only 5%, ranging from 2% in Southwark to 3% n Tower Hamlets and 13% in Newham. This compared with 27% in inner London and approaching 49% in Greater London as a whole. In Southwark and Tower Hamlets, more than 85% of homes were rented from the local council and nearly 75% in Newham. The balance of little more than 10% was owned by housing associations or private landlords.

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Development Bow-Wave

A draft business plan prepared by Coopers & Lybrand Associates in October 1980 emphasised the need to improve communications and suggested a bow wave of development an a wide front. The Development Corporation must start, it said, at a "very high level of programme activity if it is to establish public credibility, Savage Gdns and Marriners Reachgain the support of the local authorities and convince the private investment sector of London Docklands' potential".

The housing programme would contain three main thrusts: owner occupation with a broad range of values, although most sites immediately available carried negative land values; shared equity schemes with housing associations to cater for first-time and low-income buyers; and key worker and management housing.

The LDDC would concentrate on activities to ease constraints which inhibited private housing development in the past. These included environmental improvements, speedier planning procedures and upgrading shopping, educational and other facilities. Activity in the public sector would be selective. The Corporation would not build or manage housing for rent except by funding deferred council schemes to release sites for private housing development or by providing subsidised sites for housing associations.

The main thrust was however aimed at the private sector and the creation of a totally new market of ordinary housing for sale within reach of many Londoners and hopefully a proportion of existing residents in council property.

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Unique Lifestyle

The retention of the remaining docks was a crucial early decision. The London and Surrey Docks were a ready partially filled in but St Katharine by the Tower showed the potential for attractive mixed waterside development. Derelict and depressing they might be for the time being, but one day the West India and Millwall Docks, Greenland Dock, the Royals, and Limehouse and Shadwell Basins could also hopefully provide a framework for a new lifestyle and architecture. The decision was courageous and imaginative, the sort of change in approach which might encourage regeneration including a new economic base. However,it also had a downside. Whereas the filling in of the docks in Wapping and Southwark buried all hopes for a resurgence of the traditional industry, their retention on the Isle of Dogs and the Royals prolonged hopes in some quarters that history could be rolled back and ships, cargo and the old trades could return.

Secondly, although the DJC failed to fulfil its housing targets, individual local authorities had begun to reclaim land and create the necessary framework for subsequent development - such as sewerage, gas, electricity and access - in Wapping on the site of the former London Docks, in the Surrey Docks in Southwark and most important in the Beckton marshlands of Newham.

As the LDDC began work on decontamination, reclamation and the essential infrastructure, this earlier investment provided a potential kickstart, if one or more private house builders could be persuaded to take the risk.

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Testing the Market

Content with an assured market in suburbia and the commuter belt, the volume house builders, as major companies which provide the mass of new private housing development are known, looked on the inner city at that time with extreme suspicion. While the occasional house had been built in Docklands, particularly overlooking the river, theirs was a mass market and there existed no proof of demand. Local people who could afford to buy tended to move into London's eastern suburbs or further afield. Just before the LDDC officially came into existence, Reg Ward, the Chief Executive designate challenged the volume house builders to look at opportunities in east as well as west London. The response was chilly. However the seeds were sewn and, with informal but influential pressure about their duty to the inner city, four major companies Barratts, Broseley, Comben and Wimpey decided to share the risk and test the water if the Corporation could make available a suitable site. Port of London Authority land was prised out of ongoing negotiations and a deal struck for the development of more than 600 homes in Beckton over a period of two years.

Style and price were all important: style to set the new Docklands image; price to ensure the new homes sold to as many local people as possible. The plans, particularly the layout, were improved, the prices fixed between £20,000 and £28,000 for two and three bedroom houses with gardens.

Before contracts were signed, the developers had to submit detailed estimates for their costs of site preparation, construction and legal transactions together with profit and price levels. The value of the land was then established by subtracting overall costs from the selling price, which was fixed but linked to the building cost index. Completion dates were inserted to prevent developers from amassing land banks and then waiting for inflation to create a higher profit. In addition, the land was retained in LDDC ownership until the house sale went through.

Western Dock, WappingPriority was given to local people living in council accommodation, on the waiting list or in clearance areas and they had a month's start in terms of reserving a property before the sales office opened to the general public. When the houses came on the market in February 1982, little more than seven months after the Corporation came into being, they sold like the proverbial hot cakes and the building programme was advanced. More than 100 of the first 245 sales or reservations went to Newham nominations. For the builders, this phenomenal success was both a revelation and a spur, However uncertain they might have been before, they had, in doing the right thing politically, discovered a new profitable market. Surrey Docks in Southwark was the next major development area with 480 homes on five sites. The former London Docks in Wapping followed soon after.

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Affordable and Social Housing

Although the LDDC concentrated on the provision of affordable homes for sale, even with the initial Beckton scheme it tried to ensure a proportion of social housing and the builders were asked to sell on 120 units to two housing associations. Negotiations could not however keep up with the pace of development and the public sector jibbed at the idea of buying readymade houses off the private production line. In the event, a smaller number were allocated for rent and shared ownership (a system under which the housing association owns the lion's share of the property while the owner-tenant takes out a mortgage or pays cash for a percentage of the rest and renAcorn Walk, before and aftert on the balance).

Throughout this period, the LDDC was always ready to sell land back to local authorities if they had schemes they could immediately build. But the local authorities did not have the resources. Nor frequently did housing associations, which had to compete for finance from the Housing Corporation and found it difficult to complete negotiations and build in anything like the time span taken by private builders to get schemes for sale off the ground.

Since the LDDC could not itself build, it encouraged house builders negotiating for its land to sell a proportion of homes to housing associations. It also helped one housing association to buy one of the first private developments in Southwark to enable a rolling programme of improvements and redevelopment of down-at-heel, partly boarded up blocks in the Downtown area. Creating an attracting environment was part of the remit and the LDDC, from an early stage, was prepared to fund external improvements to council estates provided the local authority simultaneously modernised the interior. Such changes - for example, new children's playgrounds, planting, car parking - not only made life better for tenants but also enhanced the overall appearance and investment opportunity of the area as a whole.

However the main effort and public interest focused on reclamation, parcelling and sale of and for the construction of affordable homes to buy. The terms were stringent. Apart from negotiating the land value on the basis of costs, profit and price to the house buyer (very low, indeed negative, in the early stages), the LDDC received an overage, in other words, most of any extra profit if market prices went up during construction. After the first two schemes in Beckton and the first round of sites in Surrey Docks, the system moved to a competitive tendering process in which a number of builders were invited to submit proposals for a specific number of homes, together with suggested design, layout, selling price and financial bid for the site.

Land and final selling prices were rising, particularly in Wapping, and in some cases, for example, at Shadwell Basin and the Western Dock in Wapping and Greenland Dock in Southwark, the LDDC still asked for a certain proportion of the properties, usually 40 per cent, to be sold at an affordable price. In the early years, £20,000 was considered affordable by general London income standards. This figure increased to approximately £40,000 as property values rose. Obviously this condition reduced the amount developers could afford to pay for the land and was in effect a subsidy. An analysis of housing built on LDDC owned land between 1981 and 1988 is set out in Table 7 on the Tables Page.

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Architectural Quality

Urban v. SuburbanClippers Quay

The presence of good modern architecture can demonstrate a new mood in a city and confidence in the future. The injection of architectural and environmental quality on sufficient scale was imperative if Docklands was to change its image and attract investment and, above all, new residents. People who buy their own homes have choice. They can always find an alternative property somewhere else, in another part of London or further afield. Excepting historic warehouses and churches, most buildings and virtually the whole of the physical environment within the eight and a half square miles were depressing. The LDDC had somehow to raise the sights of developers beyond their normal building types and likely assessment of what would do in East London.

One problem in the early days was that developers had little knowledge of building in the centre of older cities, of urban as opposed to suburban design. They also had no concept of the scale required in developing beside the great tidal river of the Thames or alongside the remaining docks.

In preparing for bids for sites around the Greenland Dock, Corporation staff managed to begin to demonstrate its size by surrounding the vast expanse of water with a number of famous buildings drawn to scale. This one dock alone, it was shown, could provide a setting for the Greenwich Royal Naval College, St. Paul s Cathedral, Bedford Square, Carlton House Terrace, Park Crescent and Park Square, East and West. Traditional two storey housing would quite simply have been overwhelmed.

Amos EstateIt was difficult to involve better known architects, partly because of their initial distaste and distrust of what were then called speculative house builders. Equally the house builders had little experience, if any, of working with good architects and were concerned that their participation would result, not simply in more expensive house designs, but also designs which would not easily sell. Few architects had much experience of private housing. It was one thing to design in the 1970s and earlier for the captive market of council tenants, which had resulted in so many unpopular tower blocks. It was quite another to please the builder and the paying punter.

Even the Department of the Environment had to be convinced of the case for quality. Because individual landscaping projects at that time needed specific grant approval, civil servants could and did question as unnecessarily expensive the need for stone paving and granite or even the width of a waterside path. In making its case for quality, the LDDC pointed out that homes would not sell in a concrete jungle and emphasised that an attractive environmental framework would help attract better development and eventually increase and values, that quality would pay off in hard cash.

The LDDC commissioned architects with growing reputations to undertake feasibility studies, which became the basis of site planning briefs. Bids for sites were considered on the basis of designs as well as price. Corporation staff held briefing meetings for interested developers to show standards of development in other parts of the world. And they quickly learnt that there really was a trade off between quality and price.

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An architect/developer competition was held in 1983 for a site on the Southwark riverside known as Elephant Lane, which attracted new names and resulted in a successful scheme. However a second competition nearby at Cherry Gardens ran into a political impasse as community fury erupted with threats of arson if the houses on what they saw as their riverside went to the wealthy. The eventual compromise resulted in the site being split by a new park with council homes on one side and homes built for sale on the other.New Concordia Wharf

The campaign for architectural quality in housing (and other building) was helped by the fact that the LDDC usually had an architect or architect planner on the board and, particularly important, in its early years, a committed chief executive backed by an equally committed architect planner, Edward (Ted) Hollamby. In later years the Corporation set up a design advisory panel (The Urban Design Advisory Group) which tapped outside design expertise to comment on and try to raise the quality of individual schemes.

While this philosophy applied to all planning applications for building within the development area, over which it had normal development control powers, the LDDC was in a stronger position to exert influence where it was land owner as well. Even so, it was frequently an uphill struggle with sceptical volume house builders who were convinced of the virtues of their traditional design approach. But a number of highly respected architects did design housing In Docklands including Jeremy Dixon, Richard MacCormac and Piers Gough. Award-winning schemes included Burrell's Wharf, Clippers Quay and Felstead Wharf on the Isle of Dogs, Prusoms Island in Wapping and the Redriff Estate, Brandram s Wharf and the Amos Estate in Rotherhithe.

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Boom, Bubble and Bust

Rising Tide of Success

Overnight queues for the early private housing schemes provided proof of pent-up local demand for owner occupation as well as highlighting a new inner city market to help offset longstanding migration from the conurbations. Docklands might still have been in public transport limbo, but the tide was turning. The Government s decision to back new light railway from Tower Hill to Poplar and Island Gardens in the Isle of Dogs and north to Stratford confirmed for many people the change in people's perceptions. Docklands had a future. Essential shopping appeared with supermarkets on the Isle of Dogs and Beckton and a third planned for Surrey Quays in Southwark.

Cascades and Anchorage PointUnlike a New Town corporation, the LDDC only owned a proportion of the land and therefore could only actively promote a proportion of the development. For the regeneration of other sites, it had to rely on market confidence and action by private land owners. Although the need for improving the older estates was obvious, the local authorities were not noticeably keen to play their part. Docklands was, after all, only a small part of all three boroughs and the local authorities had more than enough trouble tackling the problems of some of the most deprived wards in the country without concentrating their efforts in the Urban Development Area specifically. Political antagonism grew from 1982 and only moved towards more pragmatic co-operation after 1987, when the Conservatives were returned to power for a third term.

However, house builders began to realise they need not simply wait for the LDDC to release land. Barratts was one of the first companies to seize opportunities to acquire property including impressive warehouses in Wapping and a former industrial site opposite the Royal Naval College on the Isle of Dogs. At that time, the term "loft living" was confined to Manhattan and the market for shell flats in converted industrial buildings was only just emerging and for a limited sector of the market. Developers, who owned or bought sites outside Corporation owner ship, concentrated at first on Wapping and Limehouse on the north side of the river, Butlers Wharf and St Saviour's to the south. Proposals needed planning permission but that was the extent of LDDC influence.

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Spotlight on YUPPIES

Riverside living downstream of the Tower of London widened its attractions beyond the socially adventurous, who had originally moved into a handful of converted warehouses regardless of surrounding dereliction. Developers congregated in the area for example McInerney, Wates, Jacobs Island, Roger Malcolm, Regalian and Kentish Homes. Londoners followed suit. Such was the success that the Corporation's original housing targets were raised from 9,000 to 16,000 on its own land and from 4,000 to 9,000 on land in private ownership.

Publicity snowballed. In economic jargon, the regeneration multiplier effect was working. However, the popularity of specific areas with the young and upwardly mobile, or YUPPIES, also had its downside as Docklands as a whole increasingly became associated in people's minds with a few high profile extremely expensive penthouses for City magnates. The many hundreds (and subsequently thousands) of ordinary and relatively accessible homes going up in the Surrey Docks and Beckton for sale to people on normal London incomes - including those purchased by local residents - were taken for granted and forgotten.

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Failure of Controls

The success of the new East London forced up land values, particularly in Wapping. On the plus side, higher and prices demonstrated confidence in the future, provided an opportunity further to improve quality and also began to create for the LDDC an income stream to supplement Government grant, which could only be to the good. On the other hand, as land became more expensive, the more difficult it became for builders working in harness with the LDDC on Corporation owned land to produce homes which at least some local people could afford. Even so, during the first seven years, of more than 4,600 homes built and sold on LDDC owned land, 45 per cent had been bought by local residents, or the children of local tenants.

The LDDC could not ringfence these sites and hold down their prices in the general upwards surge. They had to be pitched at market levels, the Corporation's 1983/84 annual report commented, so that "small numbers of individuals are not tempted to make swift windfall capital gains at public expense". But some people did. Few individuals are averse to a good bargain and a number with priority rights seized the opportunity to reserve homes in the restricted booking period and then sold on at higher prices without moving in. A market developed in rent books which were sold to outsiders by council tenants who had no wish or ability to buy.

The LDDC countered by introducing greater controls including proof that landlords had received notices to quit and financial clawbacks if the new homes were sold within a specific period. It also tried to offset the impact of rising prices through the introduction of cheaper mortgages and interest free loans of up to £10,000 on the basis that the LDDC would share in any future capital gain on a pro rata basis when the owner decided to sell.

Like Canute, the LDDC could not stem the penalties of success. This balancing act became increasingly difficult and finally impossible as enthusiasm for a good bargain was slowly swamped by the fever of speculation and the souring experience of greed.Maconochies Wharf

House values became the talk of the town and, in Docklands, where so many new properties were coming on stream, speculation was rife, with down payments for purchases off plan followed, before completion, by resale at a handsome profit. This new London futures market, with its seemingly guaranteed rewards, attracted all walks of society, people who were only too pleased to take what appeared to be no or low risk to make a quick and very substantial return.

As ever the buck had to stop somewhere. While the Stock Exchange collapse on Black Monday in October 1987 caused a hiccup, the bubble burst following the announcement by the then Chancellor of tne Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, of the end of double mortgage tax relief in July 1988. A final surge to beat the deadline left the market totally dead once the new less generous regime came into operation. Developers with good antennae smelled danger. Barratts, for example, took cover and withdrew from all contracts still in negotiation. This company survived. Others did not. Individual property gamblers came to grief. So did many ordinary home buyers - and not just in Docklands - who thought the market would go on rising for ever and found themselves imprisoned by negative equity and, in 1990, a mortgage interest rate of almost 15%.

Builders on Corporation land found they had to complete developments as a result of legal agreements written into land contracts. There was no question of firms starting new schemes and in 1990 the LDDC decided not even to attempt to sell any more land for housing for sale. When interest reawakened, there had been a four-year gap in Corporation land deals for private housing. The economic climate deteriorated generally but the national recession hit London and the South East particularly hard. For the first time thousands of white collar jobs in the South East were at risk.

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Housing Policy Review

Shift of Focus

In 1985 the LDDC took stock of the impact of its housing policies. While the initial emphasis placed on creating a private housing market had met with undreamt of success, the LDDC's affordable housing programme was proving less effective in providing original residents with a step up the housing ladder.

Hythe PointIn his evidence to the 1980 House of Lords Select Committee, Sir Nigel Broackes had suggested new build targets of 50% owner occupation, 25% housing association and 25% shared equity, subject to availability of public funding.

Four years on, housing for sale was providing about 75% of all new property built, with housing for rent at 22%. Interest in shared ownership was however minuscule, as were attempts, if successful for the participants, to encourage self build.

The LDDC undertook a housing policy review in 1986. "Obviously there is a very substantial number of local tenants who cannot afford to purchase and for whom very little opportunity currently exists to move out of older and deteriorating council housing," it said. "Land for council building for rent has been allocated with generous proportions in each area but is being developed very slowly and there is patently a lack of finance to sustain a regular and satisfactory future supply. Existing housing for rent is generally either old an/or of a poor quality and there are no clearly established council programmes in Docklands for sustained refurbishment. Provision for shared ownership and equity sharing is well below that envisaged and although there are a number of proposals in hand which will improve performance, there is insufficient and sporadic housing association involvement in regeneration. Almost everywhere in Docklands there is a marked contrast between bustling house building on Corporation land and languishing inactivity in existing housing areas and on land earmarked for public sector housing building.

"The areas for housing policy adjustment have become self-evident," the report continued "They are for new council house building, refurbishment of existing council housing and for housing association provision for rent and shared ownership. Essentially, each is constrained by a lack of public sector funds but suffers also from a lack of concerted and co-ordinated programmes by the authorities and agencies concerned. The Corporation needs to address how best it can assist in remedying these problems and establish to what extent it can create new initiatives with the local authorities, the Housing Corporation and local community organisations."

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Fresh ApproachShadwell Basin

As the LDDC was not allowed to fund the local councils, it decided to look at alternatives. One example involved the exchange of a council-owned potential office site in Wapping for a number of new homes and cheaper Corporation housing sites elsewhere. Reclaimed land was sold to councils at cost rather than open market value. The LDDC had already bought decaying council blocks - for example in Acorn Walk in Rotherhithe - for resale to the private sector to modernise for sale to individuals. The homes sold cheaply, the council received cash which it could then use for improving other needy blocks.

The LDDC also then looked at the potential for encouraging housing associations to rehouse tenants to free up more property for renovation and create a rolling programme or updating council flats. It also discussed the need to win agreement from the Department of the Environment and the Housing Corporation for a strategic new housing programme for Docklands. Since the Government had set a time limit on the work of the Corporation, speed was of the essence. The LDDC could not just let land allocated for housing association developments to be left undeveloped waiting for uncertain funds.

The LDDC decided it must radically alter its role and tackle areas of responsibility which until then had been primarily seen as those of the local housing authority. "Housing is a highly charged political issue," the report concluded. "Undeniably the Corporation will be drawn into a more exposed and more public arena." However the changes took time to implement.

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Deals with Newham and Tower Hamlets

Memorandum of Agreement

Major agreements with two of the local Dock ands councils, Newham and Tower Hamlets, marked a turning point and led to improvements in the quality of life for many local people including the provision of new social housing.

The first with Newham was signed in the heady days of 1987, when it seemed there was nothing to stop the glittering regeneration of Docklands. London City Airport was already open and development around the three Royal Docks was set to follow in the wake of Canary Wharf to create London's new water city, complete with homes for sale and rent, a large shopping centre at Gallions Reach, business park, exhibition centre and marina. This mixed development included a stronger commercial element than Newham had been planning for the area. It also required first class access by rail and road.

To win the Council's support and enable the speedy construction of the new infrastructure without prolonged wrangling over the principle and subsequent acquisition of a multiplicity of land holdings, the LDDC and Newham negotiated a deal with substantial benefits on both sides. In exchange for Borough co-operation to smooth the process of delivery, the LDDC agreed to help the Borough achieve a major new social housing programme, provide relevant training facilities so that local people could secure a proportion of the new jobs and pay for or support a substantial range of projects to improve life for existing and new residents with a target spend of £3 million per year.

Both organisations agreed on the magnitude of the Borough s housing problems and the need to consider the use of LDDC subsidised land over and above sites already on offer to the council. Both parties agreed to an objective of 1,500 units to let at fair rents subject to financial circumstance and review.

However Newham and the LDDC defined social housing differently. The LDDC continued to include low-cost housing for sale whereas Newham did not. Its definition specified only housing for rent, shared ownership, self build and co-operatives.

In the mid 1990's, this policy was reviewed and both parties accepted that it was no longer beneficial or practical to build more social housing in the south of the Borough. Nevertheless the Memorandum of Agreement marked a turning point in relations between the LDDC and Newham. The two organisations might not at that time approve of each other's policies and practice and Newham's politicians might have felt it necessary to continue to criticise the LDDC in public, but they had at last found common ground for co-operation and action. The LDDC could get on with the construction of transport infrastructure and encourage development, which could create a new economic base to serve the immediate area and London more generally. The Council was assured that the Royals would also provide homes for those in need in a community with reasonable Timber Wharvesfacilities. The two organisations had found a way to work together and tackle regeneration in the round.

Proposals for the first housing scheme were drawn up with developers and a consortium of housing associations. These would have created a mixed community of some 700 homes at Winsor Park in Beckton with a cross-section of homes for sale and for rent at different levels. But, as so often happens, planning was upset by events. The scheme was caught up in the property collapse, the chief private promoters had to withdraw, all private development ceased and although the social housing went ahead, the proposed balance was lost. The Memorandum with its promises of additional social housing and community provision, for which activists had so long campaigned, remained firmly on the books.

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Tower Hamlets Accord

Meanwhile, a similar agreement was under negotiation with Tower Hamlets to enable the construction of the Limehouse Link and associated highways. Once again the LDDC needed co-operation. As well as essential land acquisition, the proposed cut Barley Mow Estateand cover road tunnel affected a swathe of housing owned by the local council, some of which would have to be demolished, some of which formed part of proposed wider regeneration.

Under the Accord, which was agreed in principle in 1988 and signed one year later, Tower Hamlets supported the improvement of public transport and highways infrastructure and the LDDC agreed to fund new or refurbished housing for local families living in a defined area plus £35 million expenditure on social, economic and community regeneration projects to be individually agreed by both parties.

As a result, the housing of 556 families was transformed over a relatively short time. Tenants were offered a choice - to move into new property bought by the LDDC and managed by a housing association, to remain council tenants but move elsewhere on a temporary or permanent basis or to receive a transferable discount on the right to buy. All tenants received disturbance allowances, including payments to tenants on the rundown St Vincent's Estate for new white goods and upholstered chairs and sofas in order to avoid the possible transfer of cockroaches to their new homes.

The treatment of tenants of Barley Mow, an estate which was transformed by refurbishment, was equally generous and humane. These blocks had to be vacated but, as many families wished to return once the work was finished, they were moved temporarily as a group to nearby Roy Square, which had been built for sale but had been caught by the collapse in the property market. These households received allowances for their old electrical goods and carpets which had to be left behind and the LDDC also paid for carpets and curtains in the flats which were to become their homes for three years.

In 1988, this major rehousing exercise was expected to cost £47.5 million net allowing for the sale of surplus land and homes. In the event, the total net cost, according to a subsequent National Audit Office report, was more than £100 million.

One major factor was the discovery of 90 hidden households, that is, second families who, unknown to the Council, shared homes with those on the official records.

A second factor was the need for a very tight timetable. Of the options available, the existence nearby of Timber Wharves, a large private housing scheme on the Isle of Dogs with 300 homes under construction, provided the best immediate means of rehousing such a large number of families and keeping much of the community together.

Two other smaller schemes were built at Lukin Street in Shadwell and Devon's Road in Bow.

Not all of the properties acquired at Timber Wharves were subsequently needed as some families chose to leave the area altogether or to move into the private sector. Approximately 120 properties were eventually surplus to requirement and sold to housing associations operating in the area. However, because of the intervening slump in the property market, there was a substantial loss on the original purchase price. During this time, as part of the intricate deal for Canary Wharf, the completion of the Limehouse Link was all important. Providing access from central to the new East London, its construction was running over budget.

It was a testing, tense time. Receipts from land sales slumped almost simultaneously with the launch by the Corporation of major new social housing and community strategies. Something had to give.

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New Housing Strategies

Critical House of Commons Reports

The Corporation was succeeding in terms of attracting newcomers who it was hoped would broaden the area's social and economic spectrum. It had also provided housing choice so that for the first time original residents and their children could stay in the area if they wanted and could also afford to buy a house or flat.

However, there was from the mid 1980s increasing public concern about the lack of improvements for the original dockland communities, a situation which became increasingly obvious as bright new houses and flats emerged almost cheek by jowl with council estates, which provided living conditions as harsh as any in London. Local people tended to regard the former docklands as their rightful heritage, land which would be directly used for their benefit. The fact that large scale public housing projects were no longer financially possible, had no meaning locally. Nor did the fact that the local authorities, not the LDDC, were still responsible for housing provision and management. It was widely felt that the Corporation, which was set up by the Conservative Government, obviously had plenty of money and should be doing something for the real local people.

Contrary to the findings of the LDDC's 1990 Household Survey which suggested that 58% of all people moving in the area had previously lived in Docklands or one of the three local Boroughs, the belief that outsiders were buying into the area and reaping all the benefits prevailed.

Political activists built on the growing discontent and made the most of the contrast in Parliament and the media.

However, with the re examination of housing policy internally and the commitment to major social housing projects in two of the three Boroughs through the agreements drawn up in 1987 and 1988, LDDC policy was already moving in a more socially and community conscious direction.

It moved even faster as a result of two critical House of Commons reports the Employment Committee on the Employment Effects of Urban Development Corporations, published in 1988, and the Public Accounts Committee on Urban Development Corporations, published in 1989. Although they covered development areas in other parts of the country, both concentrated in large part on the LDDC and Docklands.

London Docklands was always bound to become a political football The scale of redevelopment combined with its location so near to the heart of the capital city and the media were bound to keep it in the spotlight. In addition, there was an inbuilt conflict between Conservative intentions to inject private capital, attitudes and practice into the area and its historic continuing connections with the Labour Party, the unions and its nostalgia for the past in a world which had moved on.

With so many pressures, so much activity and the need for speed to retain the impetus of change, the LDDC had little hope of keeping everyone alongside. The concept of partnership had yet to seem obvious and activists consistently did their best to undermine the LDDC. Docklands was the largest redevelopment area in Europe and attracted world-wide admiration. Yet stiff the criticism mounted locally. To the Government it also seemed extraordinary to be spending so much money and getting so little, if any, credit.

While the House of Commons Employment Committee accepted the significant impact of the LDDC in terms of the built environment, the report said: "it is not good for the health of a community for the original inhabitants of an area to see others benefiting, as they see it, at their expense while they suffer from increased road traffic congestion, higher house prices and associated ills. Nor is it just."

The following year, the Public Accounts Committee, after subjecting the Corporation and the Department of the Environment to a barrage of detailed questions, homed in on the need for greater attention to housing and social facilities.

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Financial Catalyst

But even before these two reports were published, the Government, now settling into its third term, and the Corporation Board were shifting towards a more interventionist housing strategy. The first Chief Executive left at the end of 1987. His successor was the Chief Executiye of a London borough, Michael Honey, with a remit inter alia to control the rising costs of the new infrastructure and to pay more attention to community needs. By the end of the year he had appointed Elizabeth Filkin, formerly Chief Executive of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, to the new post of Director of Community Services, which included housing.

The then Secretary of State for the Environment, Nicholas Ridley, had already approved the increase of overall housing targets for Docklands from 25,000 to 32,000 to ease development pressure on other parts of the South East. These pressures were bearing on him directly as he strove to balance the demands for land for new housing in the Home Counties against the need to conserve the rural environment and contain Urban sprawl. Government ministers cannot easily ignore criticism from House of Commons committees and it was obviously important that Docklands met with local as well as international approval. The need for greater co-operation was obvious. Housing and community improvements were both areas where greater emphasis and spending should help to knit new and existing development together and create a better political and media climate.

By the Summer of 1989, the Corporation, with approval from the Department of the Environment, published a new housing strategy. The Government had made clear that the LDDC must deliver housing for local people at prices they could afford within a balanced housing programme. The LDDC had been paying an average subsidy of £16,000 per home, but by then the housing market was dead and financial support for affordable homes, even for priority categories of potential home owners, was virtually abandoned. Apart from shared ownership, which had never proved popular, emphasis was switched in the immediate future from owner occupation to social housing. it was proposed that the Corporation should, in effect, become a social housing development agency within the area. Acting as a financial catalyst it would help fund the local authorities and housing associations to build new homes for rent and contribute towards the costs of modernising existing estates internally instead of simply improving the external environment. In terms of resources, new build should take priority over refurbishment, which, according to one calculation, needed an investment of about £220 million to catch up with the enormous backlog.

"Housing choice should be available to persons of different income levels", the strategy paper said. "if the sole objective is physical regeneration, refurbishment should have priority. If the objective is also a social one, LDDC needs to demonstrate that it has been able to promote access to housing for local people and new provision should have priority." The strategy did not just see housing need in terms of Docklands but widened the area to the three Boroughs as a whole, setting out their problems in terms of overcrowding, homelessness, loss of stock, unfit properties and incomes. in an area of acute housing need with increasing homelessness, the first priority must be, it added, to increase numbers of available dwellings, however poor the living conditions of those already housed.

The suggested budget over three years was £50 million - £30 million towards subsidies for new housing including a proportion of shared ownership and £20 million for refurbishment.

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Direct Subsidy

During this middle period (1988-1991) the LDDC dramatically increased its investment in new and refurbished housing. Development of social housing on LDDC land was stimulated by substantial direct subsidies to housing associations, in many cases equalling or exceeding the grant made by the Housing Corporation, which was normally the main source of public subsidy.

The most significant scheme was at Winsor Park, Beckton. Originally conceived as a mixed tenure scheme, the Corporation went ahead with the social housing when the private market collapsed, in order to honour commitments within the Memorandum of Agreement with Newham. As well as undertaking a massive decontamination scheme the LDDC made a grant of £20 million towards 403 new homes for rent. The Housing Corporation Grant was £13 million. This was one of the largest housing association schemes in the country, undertaken by a consortium of seven associations led by East Thames Housing Group. A wide variety of housing was provided but the emphasis was on family homes with gardens.

Another substantial scheme at this time was the regeneration of the Downtown Estates on the Surrey Docks peninsula. In 1988 a deal was struck with Southwark Council and a consortium of six housing associations, led by South London Family Association, to refurbish 229 dwellings on the Redriff Estate for rent and shared ownership, and to develop 270 new homes for rent on adjoining LDDC owned sites. This scheme attracted the largest ever Housing Corporation grant made to that date in South London of £22 million. The LDDC provided £5.4 million over and above the transfer of its sites.

Masthouse Terrace on the Isle of Dogs involved 187 new homes on a riverside site owned jointly by the LDDC and Tower Hamlets Council. For this scheme the LDDC provided £7.1 million to add to the Housing Corporation grant of £8.7 million. The scheme was part of a wider land swap with Tower Hamlets Council under which the LDDC acquired land at Hermitage Riverside in Wapping. As part of this deal, the LDDC undertook to fund social housing at Hermitage Wall where 52 new homes were built.

Other new social housing schemes were funded by the LDDC in Beckton, Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs during this period resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of new housing association homes built for rent and shared ownership in the area. A full schedule of LDDC funded schemes is set out in the Appendix.

During the 1980s, LDDC support for the improvement of existing rented housing had focused upon external environmental improvements to play areas, parking areas, landscaping, boundaries and lighting. The LDDC now pressed for approval to become involved in more fundamental improvements as an important aspect of regeneration, not just lifting the appearance of the area but improving the living conditions of the traditional communities.

Clearly, given the scale of the problem, and the statutory responsibility of the Councils, the LDDC s involvement was focused upon their priorities and was conditional upon joint funding. By now, the local authorities were more prepared to work with the LDDC. They realised that they should make the most of opportunities offered by additional funding to their areas while they could.

As a result a significant number of estates were totally upgraded inside and out, in Southwark and Tower Hamlets where the older Council housing blocks were concentrated. The LDDC took the lead in many of these schemes.

At the Roche Estate in Limehouse, an estate of 156 dwellings, for example, comprehensive refurbishment was undertaken in 1990 with the benefit of a £3.2 million grant. Similarly Swan and Osprey Estates in the Surrey Docks with 273 homes were improved with the benefit of grants totalling £5.5 million. The Barleymow Estate in Limehouse (184 homes) was dramatically transformed by an Estates Action programme to which the LDDC contributed £5,8 million. (See Appendix for a full schedule of refurbishment schemes supported by the LDDC).

The Government was keen to link these improvements to changes from Council renting to housing association, co-operative or even private occupation. However the Corporation did not in practice press for such conditions because of the potential effect on working relationships with the Boroughs.

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Budget Problems

The strategy was however too ambitious and mistook the extent of the Government's commitment to expensive new building programmes as opposed to refurbishment. Ministers at the Department of the Environment had changed in the meantime and with those changes had come a shift in policy emphasis which was to be implied rather than spelled out directly.

The strategy also emerged at a time when the economic climate had changed. Boom times were over and the LDDC was forced almost immediately to cut its social cloth to fit its budget. Prior to the collapse of the housing market, land sales for house-building substantially boosted Corporation receipts. The LDDC could scarcely be blamed for the sudden drop in land sales in 1989190 from a predicted £130 million to £10 million. But the unexpected shortfall combined with the rising costs of the Limehouse Link forced the Department of the Environment to find an additional £70 million from other departmental budgets simply to keep the Docklands ship afloat. Within the LDDC, most programmes were kept below their original estimates except housing, which leapt by 46% from an estimated £46 million to £67 million. The Corporation, it was explained, had brought forward social housing projects to take advantage of market opportunities and had taken into account expenditure on relocation housing associated with the Limehouse Link to meet tenants' choice.

The situation was delicate. Ministers and civil servants become distinctly unhappy when budgets come to grief and, while the LDDC could not be blamed for the recession, they undoubtedly felt it should treat its partner and paymaster with respect in drawing up its budget for the following year. However, the Corporation stuck to its new housing and community remit. The draft corporate plan did not simply set out a programme of some £350 million, the majority of which related to the construction of the Limehouse Link and the Docklands Light Railway extension to Beckton, It also pressed the case for further expenditure including a £60 million increase over three years on housing.

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Realignment of Priorities

Even with the benefit of hindsight, it is difficult to know how the LDDC managed to get so far out of line. The feeling in Whitehall was that housing had been given too high a priority when, particularly at a time of budgetary constraint, there were other more fundamental issues to address. The Minister of State, by then Michael Portillo, and the Department rocked the LDDC by formally throwing out its 1990 Corporate Plan and issuing their own precise indication of future priorities under the shorthand labels of the Transport Action Plan and the Narrow Focus [of activities].

The completion of transport infrastructure topped the list. Housing was to concentrate on refurbishment and new schemes already committed, particularly under the Tower Hamlets Accord and Newham Memorandum. The new slim line Corporate Plan for 1990/91 said, when published the following year, "The LDDC recognises the present constraints on public expenditure and further improvements in the management structure will make best use of the resources available by securing value for money and concentrating resources on the transport programme and other projects that will have the maximum impact on economic, physical and social regeneration. This includes building confidence in London Docklands, attracting inward investment, business support and housing refurbishment, as well as training and other schemes that will allow local people to take advantage of the opportunities provided by regeneration of the London Docklands economy."

The plan added: "The pressures brought about by the slow down in the property market and the large expansion in the Corporation's expenditure on transport infrastructure have caused the LDDC to refocus the corporate aims it has adopted to achieve the corporate goal." That goal was "to secure the lasting physical, economic and social regeneration of the urban development area". The Royals were seen as a major economic opportunity for London and the scale of proposed housing was substantially cut back.

Michael Honey left by the end of 1990 to become Chief Executive of Gloucestershire County Council. His successor, Eric Sorensen, arrived from the Department of the Environment in the Spring of 1991. The reassessment of LDDC policy and priorities led to a period of internal restructuring and redundancies, overlapping with the dead housing market, the recession and administration for Canary Wharf, by then a potent symbol of Docklands. Change was in the air but the road back to departmental trust and the winning of public appoval and local acceptance was uphill.

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The Final Years

A Balanced Programme

Whilst the most ambitious aspirations of the social housing strategy gave way to refurbishment, nevertheless the LDDC continued funding new homes in its final years supporting new housing association development and generally improving conditions for existing residents.

Relationships had been forged with the Boroughs and expectations heightened. However, the emphasis was now much more on partnership. New build subsidy was generally restricted to the equivalent of land value, This put Docklands upon a level playing field with adjoining areas so that LDDC sites could compete effectively for Housing Corporation money but thrust the primary responsibility back to the Housing Corporation to fund new social housing. This meant that sites might take longer to secure funding or that creative new funding packages had to be explored. However all LDDC sites earmarked for social housing during this period were started.

Similarly on the refurbishment front many further schemes were delivered but the proportion of LDDC funding was lower and focused on enhancing the Councils' immediate priorities (See Tables 4-6 on the Tables Page).

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Southwark and BecktonWinsor Park

There was pressure to do as much as possible in Southwark and Beckton because they were earmarked for early LDDC completion of remit. Significant new housing schemes were backed but at much lower subsidy levels than before. A package of 208 homes on four sites in Beckton was secured with LDDC grant of only £1.75 million (compared with for example the earlier £20 million grant for 403 homes at Winsor Park). A major initiative in the Surrey Docks was 185 homes for shared ownership by Crystal Palace Housing Association with an LDDC grant of £2.6 million.

The last significant estate in the Surrey Docks to be improved - Tunnel Estates - was refurbished with an LDDC grant of £1.4 million.

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Isle of Dogs

For a crucial period, politics in Tower Hamlets were complicated by the delegation of powers to seven local mini town halls or neighbourhood committees and the fact that, although the Liberal Democrats were in power centrally, Labour still controlled the local town halls on the Isle of Dogs and in Wapping and Limehouse. Continuing local opposition to the LDDC led to delays in local refurbishment, while rigid adherence to allocation policies when new social housing finally materialised upset the traditional community.

The LDDC did not have large land holdings for residential development on the Isle of Dogs as it did for example in the Surrey Docks or Wapping and Beckton. When the central area on the Island around the docks became an Enterprise Zone for a period of 10 years from 1982, tax and other benefits were confined to commercial and industrial development not housing. Those sites which the Corporation did own outside the Enterprise Zone were marketed for private development in the early years. Apart from two self-build schemes, the first new major grant aided social housing on LDDC land was built at Masthouse Terrace in 1991.

The allocation of these homes was carried out by local housing officers at neighbourhood level and a number of large Bengali families were transferred in from other parts of the borough. Many believe that this was an important factor in bringing about the short-lived election in 1993 of a British National Party candidate to the Council in a by-election. The shock of racism in a Borough with an ethnic population of about 35% had immediate reverberations and spurred the Corporation and the Local Authority to greater collaboration in meeting the housing needs of the traditional local communities. Considerable refurbishment activity also continued with some 1,000 homes improved across the Isle of Dogs, Poplar and Wapping. Major schemes included John Scurr House in Limehouse, which was transformed from short life housing, and the Wapping Estate.

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Royal DocksWest Silvertown Urban Village

In the Royal Docks, at West Silvertown, the LDDC launched London's first urban village, a mixed development concept blessed by Prince Charles. Basically the proposals were designed to produce a new community of about 5,000 people with homes, jobs and local facilities all within easy reach. The Royals particularly suffered from the recession which sucked all wind out of the development sails in the early 1990s and left this most eastern part of Docklands still in search of a solid new economic base to add to the new airport and shopping facilities. The first stage of the village, with over 1,000 homes (75% owner occupied, 25% social/rented), proved popular. The initiative was launched with a 'planning for real' exercise designed to tap local knowledge and opinion and one indirect result was the decision to demolish two existing neighbouring tower blocks and include their site and subsequent new housing association homes as part of the village.

Social housing in West Silvertown has formed part of the LDDC s contribution to the 1987 Memorandum of Agreement with Newham. At least 1,200 of the proposed 1,500 have been built with the Corporation claiming, under its definition in the original agreement, that the contract was fulfilled by the inclusion of low cost owner-occupied housing. But that difference assumed less importance after Spring 1997, when Newham set out a new vision for the area and adopted policies which aim to transform the borough into a place of opportunity rather than poverty and neglect, to increase local property values and the income profile and to avoid a continued flow of people from other boroughs who require sustained support. In his scenario, traditional housing for rent no longer has its former priority.

The creation of a new community of some 500 new homes at Winsor Terrace in Beckton, was one of the largest projects built under the Memorandum. The scheme did however highlight the difficulties inherent in large estates with concentrations of people who are out of work and in receipt of housing benefit. As a result the Corporation worked with the housing associations and local estate residents to provide new community facilities.

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Achievements on the Ground

With council housing in 1981 providing 83% of homes in the area, the construction of more of the same was not going to change the general public view of Docklands. The area needed new transport links and a new economic base, not, however great the continuing housing need, the obvious reinforcement of the status quo. The attraction of private housing for sale in turn attracted new people who helped introduce different attitudes and aspirations and injected additional spending into the local economy.

As the number of developments grew and became increasing y expensive and beyond the means of a poorer than average community, the contrast between old and new became increasingly apparent. Although the Corporation was not the housing authority, concern led to more direct intervention in the provision of new and improved social housing for local people.

In all, more than 6,250 new council and housing association homes were built between 1981 and 1998. New social housing eventually formed 26% of the more than 24,000 new homes built over the 17 years.

In the early years, LDDC help came mainly through insistence on a fixed proportion of housing association units to be built by private house builders bidding for its land. Subsidy was given in terms of lost income - the land would have sold at a higher price without this condition. In later years, the Corporation contributed directly to social housing costs, more than £51 million to more than 2,000 of the 6,250 homes built and managed by housing associations and a small proportion of those built by the local authorities - 936 at the end of March 1998. About 640 units in the housing association schemes were shared ownership.

In local terms, nearly 2,900 of the housing association and local authority new houses and flats were located in the Royal Docks, about 2,000 in the Surrey Docks, 633 in Wapping and over 800 in the Isle of Dogs.

The Corporation also helped finance major refurbishment of nearly 5,000 flats in local authority estates and paid for environmental improvements affecting more than 3,000 other council owned properties. While nearly 50% of these properties were in Tower Hamlets, in all about 50 council estates across the whole of London Docklands benefited from LDDC investment totalling £42.7 million.

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In the private market, nearly 17,800 homes were built for sale. Over 6,100 were located in the Surrey Docks, more than 4,000 in the Isle of Dogs, nearly 4,000 in Wapping and more than 3,500 in Beckton and the Royals.

During the 17 years the population more than doubled from just under 40,000 to an estimated 83,000 people. While there was no dwellings count in the 1981 census, there were nearly 15,000 households living in the Docklands area at that time. Today there are an estimated 38,000 houses and flats. The populations of Wapping and Limehouse, the Surrey Docks and the Royals have all more than doubled and that of the Isle of Dogs has increased by about 50%.

When the LDDC was created, the traditional Labour-controlled local authorities were anxious that increased numbers of home owners moving in from elsewhere might overwhelm the area and their power base. In the event, their fears proved groundless. The net growth of some 40,000 people form such a small proportion of each of the boroughs as a whole that new corners can only have a marginal impact, whatever their political allegiance.

As time has passed, local views about the quality and choice of housing has become increasingly positive. According to opinion polls carried out by MORI, 57% of those interviewed in 1996 thought the situation had improved compared with only 27% in 1990. The verdict varies in different parts of Docklands with as many as three in four of these interviewed in the Surrey Docks reacting favourably compared with less than 50% in Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs. On the whole, people who have bought their own homes or are tenants with a housing association were more contented than council tenants. Nevertheless by 1996 65% of residents considered the LDDC had done a good job, 61 % thought the area had changed for the better and 66% considered overall prospects for the area to be good.

The success of house building in Docklands and the creation of areas which now form part of the London housing market as desirable places to live have achieved major Corporation and Government goals. Since 1981, Docklands has provided 10% of all new private and social housing building across Greater London. Today the split in tenure is more balanced. However despite the scale of private sector house building, owner occupation is estimated at 45% compared with 57% in the capital at large.

More, as always, could have been done. Theoretically, for example, there might have been better co ordination with the Housing Corporation to secure Docklands' regeneration as a priority in allocating its resources but only at the expense of other areas. The LDDC could perhaps have steered resources into major refurbishment sooner. But since the properties belonged to the local councils, programmes required full local authority co-operation and only time made such co-operative working arrangements possible for the former antagonists. As it is, the significant attack on refurbishment leaves the area with the majority of its housing in much better condition.

The LDDC has been an effective, crude, tool for housing change and improvement and for injecting a new mixed population into the area. It created a new market in inner-city private housing, largely within range of people on average incomes, and contributed substantially to the improvement of existing local housing conditions.

Without the Corporation and given public spending restrictions, much of this would never have occurred. The three Boroughs have now taken over responsibility for the future and the continued need to raise standards and to create London communities which match the expectations of the twenty-first century.

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Appendix

Tables One to Nine - on continuation page

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Bibliography

Docklands Redevelopment Proposals for East London - R. Travers Morgan &Partners, 1973

London Docklands Strategic Plan - Docklands Joint Committee, 1976

Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980

Docklands Urban Development Corporation, Draft Business Plan 1991/1982 - Vol 1 - Coopers & Lybrand Associates

1980 London Docklands Development Corporation (Area and Constitution Order 1980) - Select Committee of the House of Lords, HMSO, 1981

The Problems of Management of Urban Renewal (Inner Cities Policies-Partnerships, Programmes) - House of Commons Environment Committee, Minutes of Evidence, 8 March 1983

Docklands Consultative Committee - House Price Increases in Docklands, 1986

Social Housing - R. Baker, 1987

The Employment Effects of Urban Development Corporations - House of Commons Employment Committee Third Report; House of Commons Paper 327-1, HMSO, 1988

Urban Development Corporations - Committee of Public Accounts, Twentieth Report, HMSO, 1989

The Economic Development of LDDC - KPMG Peat Marwick McLintock, 1990

Ten Years of Docklands: How the Cake was Cut - Association of London Authorites and the Docklands Consultative Committee

1991 London Docklands Development Corporation: The Limehouse Link - Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, National Audit Office, HMSO, 1995

Housing and the Regeneration of Docklands - Churches Standing Committee for London Docklands, 1995

Focus on London 97 - The Stationery Office, 1996

Annual Reports, Corporate Plans, briefing and internal papers of the London Docklands Development Corporation

Docklands News - monthly newspaper of the LDDC

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Acknowledgements

This monograph is a collaboration by past and present staff of the London Docklands Development Corporation assessing the LDDC's impact on housing and its broad political context.

Because of the area's scale and complexity and personal roles, passion and politics, no two individuals, even those most closely involved, ever see Docklands' development from the same viewpoint.

The LDDC would like to thank the many people, not all named here, who have been extremely helpful and given generously of their time and interest, in trying to draw out the main threads of housing policy and implementation:

Gareth Bendon, LDDC Head of Executive Office
Sunny Crouch, LDDC Director Marketing and Public Affairs
Julia Heynat, LDDC Corporate Information Manager
John Johnson, LDDC Economic and Social Projects Manager
Helen Kenney, LDDC Community Development Manager
David Morgan, former LDDC Director of Planning
Eddie Oliver, former LDDC Deputy Chief Executive
Richard Reynolds, Managing Director, Barratt East London
Barry Shaw, former LDDC Head of Urban Design
Stephen Shaw, LDDC Housing, Amenities and Services Manager
Howard Sheppard, LDDC Director, City Design and Planning
Eric Sorensen, former LDDC Chief Executive
Peter Turlik, LDDC Head of Strategic Affairs
Frank Vickery, Assistant Chief Executive, East Thames Housing Group
Peter Wade, Canary Wharf, Community Liaison Officer
Reg Ward, former LDDC Chief Executive

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Other Monographs in this series, all published in 1997/98, are as follows

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Completion Booklets

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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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