LDDC Monograph
Attracting investment
- Creating Value Establishing a Property Market in London Docklands
(March 1998)
Home > LDDC Monographs > Property


Site Index (Alt+1>Enter)



Preparing the Way
The Beckton Breakthrough
The First Enterprise Zone Sales
The Canary Wharf Story
In the Wake of Canary Wharf
The Royals
Surrey Docks: The Hidden Success Story
Success in Wapping
The Slump



The Future

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)

Top of Page


This monograph is one of a series published by the London Docklands Development Corporation in its final year of operation.

It outlines the Corporation's approach to creating a property market in an area previously bypassed by investors and regarded by many as London's backyard. With its lack of communications, vast vacant areas, derelict buildings and desolate air, there was little incentive for private sector investment. Nor was there much encouragement for private sector involvement from the local authorities of the day. Land values were negative. London Docklands was seen as a problem rather than an investment opportunity.

As a keen observer of the London scene for many years, I witnessed the transformation of London Docklands with more than a degree of personal and professional interest. This monograph provides some pointers of how that transformation came about.

John Grigsby
February 1998

Top of Page


The history of development and infrastructure in London Docklands following the closure of London's Docks demonstrates how a problem can be turned into an opportunity.

Just how successfully this has been achieved was demonstrated by the fact that the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Tony Blair, MP, chose the 38th floor of Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs to host the Anglo-French summit on 7th November, 1997. During the 1960s and 1970s, the docks were a persistent problem in the capital's backyard which left East London with eight and a half square miles of disused docks, vast stretches of water and derelict land and redundant buildings many of considerable architectural quality.Canary Wharf

It was a problem which the five riverside boroughs of Southwark, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Greenwich and the Greater London Council (GLC), through the Docklands Joint Committee (DJC), were unable to solve whatever the political mix of government, boroughs and GLC.

Various ideas were mooted. Some planners seriously suggested that the area should be grassed over.

A zoo, a prison and other "non conforming" uses such as heat and power generation were suggested. Under labour control, the DJC favoured thousands of council houses.

However, Michael Heseltine, the former Secretary of State for the Environment in the Conservative Government elected in 1979, was appalled by the amount of derelict land he saw around the country and refused to believe that there was no solution to what by then had become a wasteland next to the City of London.

In 1980 Parliament passed the Local Government, Planning and Land Act which established development corporations in London Docklands and on Merseyside. They were loosely based on the model of the new town development corporations.

They had only three key powers but they were formidable. First was the power of land assembly including compulsory purchase powers. The London Docklands Development Corporation's (LDDC) access to special vesting powers enabled it to acquire quickly, without a public inquiry, land from other public bodies, such as the GLC and the Docklands Boroughs.

The most important was the Port of London Authority (PLA) which had run the docks, but much land was also acquired by agreement from British Gas.

Top of Page

Between its birth on 2nd July 1981 and the end of December in the same year, it used vesting orders to acquire 514 acres, about half the land in public ownership.

Second, the LDDC was provided with development control powers within its area of eight and a half square miles from the three boroughs involved: Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark.

Finally it had the power to spend the money which it received in Government grant to prepare land for development and to bring about the physical, social and economic regeneration of the area.

Direct government grant funded the administration and staffing of the LDDC itself; the provision of landscaping and environmental improvements - a considerable concern for a body determined to improve the environment and which eventually planted 160,000 trees - together with major transport and service infrastructure, such as gas, water, drainage and electricity.

Government grant also funded activities expected to produce a direct financial return, notably the preparation of sites for sale. However, once the land was sold, the Corporation was initially expected to repay the proceeds to the Government, or, if it could not sell the land, borrow the cost from the Public Works loan fund. The rules were changed in 1983 to enable the Corporation to keep and use the receipts.

However, the LDDC lacked other powers. It was not the strategic plan making authority. That was the responsibility of the GLC and the boroughs.

Top of Page

Although it could build roads on its own land, highways also remained the responsibility of the local authorities.

It had reserve development powers in its first three years, but Heseltine made it plain that if it had to use these powers he would have deemed it to have failed. Ted Hollamby, the chief planner and architect in the early days, never had to design a building in Docklands.

The enormous task of land reclamation was to be supervised by the Corporation's small team, but carried out by the private sector. On 26th April 1982, a total of 482 acres (195 ha.) on the Isle of Dogs was declared by the Government to be one of Britain's 11 Enterprise Zones (EZs).Enterprise Zone

The EZ gave the occupiers a 10 year period of freedom from local council taxes and the developers the right to offset 100% of the investment against future tax. There was a general freedom from planning jurisdiction, although developers needed a special permission if they wanted to build above 120 feet (36.6 metres).

The staff was small, led by a team of five chief officers and overseen by a board of 11 nominated by the Secretary of State for the Environment. The Executive Board comprised three members. The Chief Executive was Reg Ward, the former Chief Executive of Hereford and Worcester, an inspirational motivator, a human catherine wheel of ideas and visions; some came to nothing but others shaped the Docklands of today.

The tactful chairmanship of Nigel Broackes, the then chairman of Trafalgar House, allowed Ward to follow his vision while allaying the frequent reservations of the Board. He once fondly described Ward as "a dreamer with both feet firmly planted in mid-air."

Top of Page

The third member was Bob Mellish, Deputy Chairman and first Labour and then Independent MP for Bermandsey until 1982, who was disenchanted with the failure of the local authorities to deal with the problems of housing and employment in his area. He was particularly interested in housing and was wont to say: 'We've got 18 months lads, to get some bricks and mortar on the ground before the 1983 election. The Government wants action on this."

In 1981 the PLA announced the closure of the Royal Docks so adding substantially to the Corporation's regeneration task.

From the moment it came into being in July 1981, hitting the water surfing, the Corporation had two immediate priorities.

One was to put in the basic services which the docks had not needed: sewerage, gas, electricity and roads, in order to make the land saleable.

The other, which preoccupied the Board and officers such as Reg Ward and Ted Hollamby, was to create an individual docklands identity which would be a marketing tool to change people's perceptions of an area which few Londoners had ever seen.

Sometimes, as with the red brick road through the former docks on the Isle of Dogs, the same object served both functions. It provided a much needed service road, while, unlike anything in London, it helped to shape the Corporation's identity. It is a tradition which lives on, for example in the idiosyncratic pumping stations and the elegant footbridges.

Top of Page

Preparing the Way

The conservation of the landscape of dock buildings and water played a key part in establishing the Docklands "brand image." The Docklands architectural heritage had not been ignored. The late lan Nairn had eulogised about the area 15 years before.

The Georgian Group and Save Britain's Heritage, for example, had fought hard, but in vain, to retain the Telford warehouses at St Katharine Docks and Victorian warehouses at the London Docks.

But nobody seemed to know how to go about protecting this huge complex of grand industrial buildings and water. The London Docks were filled in and, while a few Victorian warehouses were converted into apartments, the local authorities were at best ambivalent about their future and many were destroyed. Mysterious fires started in empty warehouses along the river. In one week over 50 fires were reported.

The PLA and the London Borough of Southwark had filled in much of the lacework of waterways in the Surrey Docks in order to provide a site for a major wholesale market, the proposed Trammell Crow trade mart.

Top of Page

Broackes, Hollamby and Ward made an early decision that no more docks were to be infilled. It was the water which distinguished Docklands from other sites in East London. Following proposals by the LDDC a further 116 buildings were listed as being of special architectural or historic interest.

They initially faced a problem with the warehouses. Unlike the local councils - which were short of cash and often wanted the land for other purposes - the LDDC had no special powers to give grants to owners to preserve them. However the Corporation's enlightened planning approach provided a new impetus. The result is that the Thames now provides one of the best examples of old, if unlisted, industrial buildings adapted for other uses anywhere in Europe.

Nevertheless, it was to be 16 years, after several false starts, before work began on the finest group of all, the Grade 1 listed warehouses at West India Dock, on the Isle of Dogs.

The cranes which were due to be sold for scrap were retained. Broackes was initially startled when Ted Hollamby suggested that the Corporation should use the precious regeneration funds to clean Nicholas Hawksmoor's St George in the East Church on The Highway in Wapping.

However, by the Corporation's first anniversary, it had become a gleaming white Baroque beacon, symbolising the area's rebirth.

Other churches, St Paul's Shadwell, St Anne's limehouse, All Saints Poplar, St Mark's Silvertown, were cleaned and repaired - they were not only the focus for their communities, but in a sense their trade mark. A strategy of organic flexible growth was started which used the fixed points, whether a local church, a scruffy bit of open space, or a high street which needed improvement, to show local people that the LDDC was in business.

Top of Page

From the beginning, there were debates about how to proceed with the development of the area. Some members of the board favoured a masterplan. Ward and other board members resisted this. They pointed out that it would take time to prepare and that their job was to bring new life into parts of the inner city which already had a skeleton framework; old and decrepit though it may be. The future success of Docklands lay in retaining its unique character and remnants of its historic past, Ward and Hollamby argued.

There was a determination shared by both board members and the employees that Docklands was to be something more than the large business park, cheek-by-jowl with housing estates, which many in Government envisaged. Hollamby, for example, set up a trust to commission works of art, although this was quickly stopped by the Government, and was not resurrected as an important activity until the mid 1990s.

There were also arguments about where the focus of the development effort should be. Some board members argued that it should start at St Katharine Docks where Taylor Woodrow had seated a new development company, St Katharine by the Tower, and had started to develop the area for a mixture of uses including the then World Trade Centre and work its way down the Thames.

Ward held out for the first efforts to be concentrated on the Isle of Dogs, arguing that Wapping was so near the City of London that development would be much easier to achieve there.

Much of the early work was a matter of projecting images. For example, Ward decided that the new towns were having it all their own way. They were able to point out the disadvantages of London while the capital was prohibited from advertising its own attractions.

Without asking anyone's permission, with no budget and no approval from the Department of the Environment, Ward went the rounds of the advertising agencies. One came up with the image of crows and the slogan: "Why be in the middle of nowhere when you can be in the middle of London?"

Top of Page

Ward took it to Michael Heseltine who laughed but said that he could not possibly use copy knocking other Government assisted areas.

However, Heseltine conceded that if Ward could produce evidence of 'raiding copy" from the provinces, he might allow the advertisements to go ahead.

Ward and his team worked round the clock to create a dossier showing all the copy knocking London. Heseltine received it on Friday and on the following Wednesday gave his approval to a television advertising campaign which was due to start next day.

Meanwhile, the priority was to prepare land for development as quickly as possible. It generally took the engineering team under David Crompton, the first chief engineer, about 18 months from moving onto the site to having it ready for sale. Crompton was the architect of much of the infrastructure which developed in Docklands long after he left in 1988.

The Board made an early decision to use its only chance to reclaim land on the Isle of Dogs to a standard where it could be used for housing - even though this increased the expense. Anything could then be built on the site. The problem with basic services, such as gas and electricity, was gauging the level of demand. Crompton went to the London Electricity Board and asked it to put 30 megawatts of capacity into the Isle of Dogs. The board pointed out that he had 12 megawatts already and he did not need more. Soon he was back asking for 300 megawatts and the board finally installed 600, at the Corporation's expense.

Top of Page

The increased demand and the road building involved meant that the surface water could no longer drain into the docks. It had to be changed into a foul water system.

The whole area had to be re-sewered with a tunnel taking sewage from the Royal Docks to the Beckton sewerage works. Another tunnel was designed through difficult ground, to take the Isle of Dogs sewage to Abbey Mills.

Riverside and dock walls had to be strengthened because the developers would not take responsibility for them. Early engineering works involved digging out canals in the recently filled London and Surrey Docks to return some of the water-based environment.

There was also a great deal of demolition. In 1982 alone a lead works in Rotherhithe was pulled down and the site decontaminated - against the opposition of some residents who regarded it as a local landmark. Also demolished were two million sq.ft (185,870 sq.m.) of tin sheds, some of which had been let by the PLA in the hope of gaining increased compensation, a gas works, the heavily vandalised Glengall footbridge over Millwall Dock and Shipwright House, a depressing block of older flats at the approach to Limehouse from the City.

The insistence on a high standard of landscaping was to be a theme of the Corporation's approach.

Top of Page

The Beckton Breakthrough

Outside the Corporation, it was assumed that the main thrust of the regeneration policy would be to attract industry and commerce, although providing "affordable housing" was part of its remit.

But the first breakthrough had nothing to do with industry and less to do with conservation and occurred in an unlikely quarter: Beckton in Newham at the far east of the Corporation's area.

There was a general belief that there was no market in the East End for owner occupation. Only four per cent of the people living in the Docklands area owned their homes. At the Housebuilders Federation conference in 1980, Ward, as Chief Executive designate, made a speech which challenged the housebuilders to look to the East End of London as a place where they could provide low cost housing for sale - a particular preoccupation of Heseltine.

The floor greeted him with silence, but he was later approached by leaders of the housebuilders, including Lawrie Barratt and Tom Baron, head of Christian Salvesen and adviser to Heseltine on private sector housing, who said they would consider his challenge.

There was a 22 acre (9 ha.) site available at Savage Gardens, Beckton, which had been prepared by Newham Borough Council and the DJC for a housing association which had run into funding difficulties.

The site was too big, and the market too untested, for a single builder to take the risk of developing it alone. The LDDC invited leading housebuilders to a protracted lunch where they were offered the chance to compete for chunks of the site.

Four major builders, Wimpey, Barratt, Broseley and Comben agreed to construct 601 houses and flats over two years. Most were two and three bed roomed houses with gardens priced at £20,000 to £28,000. In Beckton, builders were encouraged to start work on the foundations while discussing the planning permission, so tight was the timetable.

Five months after they started work, the builders reported 245 sales or nominations. Houses were being sold off plan, many of them to local people living in council houses nearby. Houses built soon after in Rotherhithe Street in Surrey Docks were also sold off plan.

The success of Beckton - which has worn well and is now an attractive well maintained new quarter - taught the Corporation several lessons. The first was that there was an untapped market for owner occupied houses in Docklands; a theme which was to run with one major interruption - through the 17 years of the Corporation's existence.

Top of Page

The second was the importance of marketing, even hype, to get development moving. If the developers' commercial machismo had not been challenged, not a single one would have taken on the site. The third was the importance of seizing opportunities as they came. If part of the history of Docklands has been reaction to unforeseen circumstances - of which Canary Wharf is the supreme example the LDDC team was always prepared to seize the initiative.

Housing in BecktonHousing in Beckton

In 1981 with 95% of the existing housing stock rented mostly from the local boroughs, Docklands provided a unique opportunity to introduce housing for sale. Housebuilders were at first naturally cautious but were persuaded to build some low-cost housing for sale in Beckton. The result and success of these schemes developed into a major programme of housebuilding throughout the area, encouraged by the positive attitude of the Corporation. Affordable low-cost housing for local people was a key element of this housing programme which soon extended from Beckton to other parts of Docklands. The programme provided a variety of housing types and sizes in a range of prices and was Instrumental in building up the population of the area from some 39,000 residents in 1981 to over 83,000 in 1998, It involved the construction of over 24, 000 homes, mostly for sale, resulting in owner-occupation rising to 45%.

Top of Page

The First Enterprise Zone Sales

July 1982, the LDDC's first birthday month, was extremely significant. Not only was the Enterprise Zone in operation, the LDDC owned 273 acres (110 ha.) of land and water in the Zone and as the EZ authority it actively promoted it for commercial development. As the majority landowner, it was able to influence the design and quality of buildings which it was debarred from doing as a planning authority by virtue of the Zone's relaxed planning regime.

A short take-off Dash 7 landed on Heron Quays in the Isle of Dogs to demonstrate the practicality of siting an airport in the docks and the £77 million Docklands Light Railway from Tower Gateway and Stratford to Island Gardens was agreed in principle.

The team lost no opportunity to promote the area. The new Ford Sierra was launched in one of the Fred Olsen warehouses (since demolished) on the Isle of Dogs.

The creation of the EZ on the Isle of Dogs had an immediate and dramatic effect. Limehouse Studios was established in a former warehouse with the conversion designed by the architect Terry Farrell (the building was later demolished to make way for Canary Wharf).

The Northern and Shell publishing group, which had been based in Covent Garden and had been looking for new premises in Reading, built a new brick headquarters on the Millwall Dock - the first office building in the Zone - which was of the type and quality which the Board wanted. Fifteen years on the company is thriving having expanded to larger premises on the opposite side of the dock.

Top of Page

lndescon Court Developments erected 11 distinctive Seifert-designed white panel and blue glass buildings. These were for fairly small businesses willing to seize the opportunities which the EZ offered. Wimpey Property Holdings developed the Wimpey Enterprise Business Park, a striking group of buildings which reflected in its cool architecture the use for high technology industry. With the Lanterns development, these schemes accounted for 250,000 sq.ft (23,000 sq m) of initial commercial space to rent.

Indescon Courtlndescon Court

The designation of the Isle of Dogs Enterprise Zone on 26th April 1982 provided the catalyst to attract new investors to London Docklands. Indescon Court designed by Richard Seifert and constructed by Ogden Developments in 1983-84 was the very first speculative commercial development in the Enterprise Zone. It provided 12 business units ranging in size from 3,500 sq. ft to 73,000 sq. ft (325 sq m to 1200 sq m.) at rents from £3 50 to £3.75 a sq.ft (£37 60 to £40 35 per sq. m.). The development was the first to provide modern business space in a purpose designed landscape setting with modem standards of car parking and loading provision. It provided a new quality baseline for future commercial developments in Docklands as well as providing a home for the many service sector companies attracted to the area by the Corporation.

By April 1983, the LDDC had built up a rolling programme of land acquisition, preparation and sale. It had 84 active projects on site involving reclamation, drainage, new roads and sewers, mostly in the EZ. Housebuilding, mainly for sale, was taking place on a total of 94 acres (38 ha.). The Beckton Alps, complete with ski slope, were being created from polluted spoil.

Nevertheless, selling the land was difficult. Initially only the developer contractors like lndescon and Wimpey who saw the advantages of the financial incentives of the EZ were prepared to build business units.

The problem was that there was no commercial market in Docklands. Nothing had moved in the area for 10 years. Stratford was the nearest place where sales had taken place which would give any indication of the level of compensation which should be paid to owners several miles away whose land the Corporation had acquired through vesting. Most of the West End agents were uninterested in helping the Corporation. They took the orthodox City of London line that there was no future for commercial property east of Tower Bridge.

The LDDC team was looking for businesses ready to take advantage of the tax concessions and planning freedom which the EZ offered.

There was one footloose industry: newspapers. Further, Stock Exchange deregulation, or the "big bang," was due in 1986 and developers were looking for large floor areas for the new dealing rooms.

In most of the City conservation constraints seemed to make these impracticable. But Fleet Street was lined with buildings which were basically factories with front offices.

Top of Page

Rupert Murdoch had started building "Fortress Wapping" before the LDDC was set up on part of the old London Docks, ostensibly to print a new evening paper with new technology.

The Telegraph group signed an agreement with the LDDC in 1983 for a new 285,000 sq.ft (26,635 sq.m.) printing works at Millwall Outer Dock on the Isle of Dogs which was completed in 1987. The Guardian followed with plans early in 1984 for a 45,000 sq.ft (4,205 sq.m.) printing works on Marsh Wall as part of the Wimpey Business Park while the Financial Times committed itself to a new printing works in East India Dock.

By 1984 the Zone was beginning to attract speculative schemes of a striking design for their time: for example Skylines, 60,000 sq.ft (5,607 sq.m.) for small businesses at Limeharbour, and Heron Quays, a 200,000 sq.ft (18,691 sq.m.) office development, built on piles into the West India Dock. By the Spring of 1985, there were 50 major commercial and housing schemes either built or proposed for the Isle of Dogs. They included the first post Modernist phase of South Quay, Greenwich View, with its distinctive dark glass and blue trim and Great Eastern Enterprise, a two phase scheme by Standard Commercial Properties with a distinctive green motif. In addition an existing building had been converted into the London Arena, for indoor sports attractions. By then the Island also had an ASDA supermarket - a bonus to office workers who had considered the area a wasteland.

While eyebrows were raised at the Department of Environment, Ward and his team used the planning freedom combined with the tax incentives to entice development, while they used their ownership of the land to control its design. The insistence on quality reassured the small developers to come to terms with land values which were difficult to assess.

Top of Page

Over the Isle of Dogs as a whole, values were initially negative - Ward calculates a figure of up to £200,000 an acre. Even when the LDDC had paid the PLA £30,000 an acre in compensation on vesting and another £30,000 to £40,000 on preparing the site, it still had to sell to the developers the notion that the advantages of the EZ would give them a return on their investment.

In the years 1985-87 the financial benefits of the Zone were critical in securing development ahead of its time; there was still no proven market for the types of scheme it actually attracted - but which thrived. The fact that all 11 units in lndescon Court had been let by early 1985 was an indication that the strategy was working.

With the first reports of interest in Canary Wharf, attention turned to East India Dock - which, while in the EZ, had been overshadowed by the focus on the core of the isle of Dogs. The LDDC team regarded it as a pivot with the potential to link the EZ to the undeveloped Royal Docks. However, the Royals eastern edge was bedevilled by uncertainty over the future of the East London River Crossing.

The Financial Times chose Leamouth to build its new printing centre and Reuters to build a new technology/computer development. In 1987, the LDDC received a high price for a land sale to the Scandinavian company NCC for a 800,000 sq.ft (74,766 sq.m.) commercial development in East India Dock.

Top of Page

The Japanese-financed London Telehouse, a communications headquarters, was started in East India Dock. Rosehaugh Stanhope came forward with plans to develop the Brunswick Wharf Power Station.

NCC atr LeamouthNCC - Leamouth

Leamouth marks the eastern extremity of the Isle of Dogs Enterprise Zone. Following extensive land preparation and construction of new roads and the DLR Beckton Extension by the Corporation, it has attracted international investment NCC, a Swedish property company, created a first class office development incorporating a new Town Hall for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, whilst the Japanese financed Telehouse development provides disaster recovery facilities for a variety of City firms. Today, further investment is being made by the Japanese to extend the Telehouse development whilst Granada has opened a new Travelodge.

Across Docklands, communications were taking off - literally in the case of London City Airport in the Royal Docks which the Government approved after a hard fought public inquiry. Within 12 months, both British Telecom in North Woolwich and Mercury Communications on the Isle of Dogs had established new earth satellite systems supported by a comprehensive fibre optic network.

The Docklands Light Railway arrived in 1987, crashing through the barrier at Island Gardens under manual control while it tested the speed of entry into the station, prior to opening to the travelling public. Almost without anyone noticing, Docklands in general, and the EZ in particular, had created the infrastructure to support the financial services sector.

This was proved when accountants, Littlejohn Frazer, took a site to build a 40,000 sq.ft (3,738 sq m.) office building on the western edge of Canary Wharf. This was a huge psychological boost which demonstrated that the area could be attractive to City firms.

Top of Page

The Canary Wharf Story

In 1984 the restaurateurs, the Roux Brothers, were looking for several thousand square feet of space to prepare pre-cooked meals. The late Michael von Clemm, chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) and also chairman of Roux Restaurants, was invited for lunch by the LDDC on the Thames barge moored alongside Shed 31 at Canary Wharf.

Von Clemm came from Boston and when he looked through the porthole at Shed 31, a simple brick-concrete infill, he commented that it reminded him of the warehouses in Boston harbour which had been converted into back up offices and small business premises. Ward remembers him suddenly leaning back and saying: "I do not know why we do not go for a shed like 31 as a 200,000 sq.ft (18,691 sq.m.) back up office."

Suddenly, the Isle of Dogs was visited by people inspecting Shed 31. Ward and his team were invited to the CSFB boardroom at the beginning of March 1985 to discuss the project.

West India Docks - early '80sDuring the discussions, a large man, G.Ware Travelstead, an American property adviser, raised his hand and said: "We're asking ourselves the wrong question. Of course we can take Shed 31 and convert it into a back up office, but we have spent the last five years courting at the Court of the City of London for a new site for a new configuration of building without success. The question is: 'Can we move our front office to the Isle of Dogs?"' There was immediate dissent. Ward, however, pointed out that Citibank had successfully moved into mid-town New York and had also moved from the central business district in Hong Kong, drawing other users with it. Eventually it would do the same in Docklands, constructing its own building at Canary Wharf.

However, the LDDC sold sites, not options, and Ward had to work hard to persuade the board to grant the six month option which Travelstead wanted. Travelstead had to submit a scheme by September and the board would make up its mind within a month.

At that stage, they were talking about a million sq.ft (92,900 sq.m.) of space, but the project grew rapidly. At the end of April it had increased to two million sq.ft (185,800 sq.m.); by the end of June to four million (371,700 sq.m.). In August 1985 in the offices of Skidmore Owings and Merrill, the American master planners, a plan for a mini-Manhattan on the Thames was pinned to the wall. With great boldness, the board decided to continue the discussions.

Top of Page

It was breaking all the rules. It had not consulted the Department of the Environment nor the GLC, the strategic planning authority, let alone the borough of Tower Hamlets or the City of London, about the impact of such a huge scheme.

Hollamby was among those who thought it completely alien to the small scale development, like Heron Quays, which until then the LDDC had been trying to attract to the Isle of Dogs.

In the latter part of 1986, CSFB and Morgan Stanley, the investment bankers, who had joined Travelstead in the consortium, pulled out as members, though not as potential tenants. Travelstead looked round for partners and found the Reichmann Brothers, the Canadian owners of Olympia and York (O&Y), who had built Battery Park in New York.

By the late Spring of 1987, however, Travelstead found that he could not find the backing he wanted and in turn pulled out. Within six weeks, O&Y had drawn up 700 pages of documents. On 17th July 1987, O&Y Canary Wharf Investments and the LDDC signed the Master Building Agreement for a 12.2 million sq.ft (1.2 million sq.m.) £3 billion international financial centre. The price paid for the 20 acres (8 ha.) of the 71 acre (28.75 ha.) site which the LDDC owned was equivalent to £1 million an acre of which £8 million was payable in cash and £12 million was represented by the developer's commitment to various site works of public benefit.

Top of Page

Canary Wharf 1997Canary Wharf 1997

The Canary Wharf development of some 12 million sq ft (1.2 million sq m.) agreed by the Corporation in July 1987 marked the third and final phase of development activity in the Isle of Dogs Enterprise Zone. Developed by Olympia & York, the scheme was built out to some one third of its total size, some 4.4 million sq, ft (409, 000 sq, m.) before the 1989-90 recession halted work The company was subsequently placed in administration and acquired by the creditor banks in 1993. In 1995 a new company, International Property Corporation Ltd, led by Paul Reichmann, reacquired the development from the banks and work has now started on further new buildings. Today Canary Wharf is at the heart of London's new business district and has attracted many international companies such as Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse First Boston, Readers Digest and BZW. The Canary Whart tower has also become London's new Fleet Street housing many of the UK's national newspapers including the Daily Telegraph, Independent and Daily Mirror.

O&Y agreed to contribute to the extension of the DLR to the Bank and later also agreed to pay £400 million towards the cost of bringing the Jubilee Line to Docklands. It agreed with Tower Hamlets the construction and adoption of the huge Westferry Circus roundabout outside the EZ which provided access to the complex. For its part, the LDDC pledged £20 million towards infrastructure provision and the acceleration of improved road schemes.

The foundation work started in April 1988 and in November 1990, the distinctive stainless steel louvred pyramid was placed on Cesar Peili's 800 ft (244 m.) tower. In August 1991 the first tenants moved in. Just as the tower dramatically changed the physical profile of Docklands, so Canary Wharf completely changed its public profile and new players appeared on the scene.

Top of Page

In the Wake of Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf generated the case for a level of infrastructure which nobody in Docklands, let alone the Government, had ever contemplated. Nor did the Government have any intention of funding it.

In 1986-87 private investment completed and committed in Docklands was £1.06 billion. The following year it had grown to £2.16 billion, bringing the cumulative total to £4.4 billion since the Corporation started. Sir Christopher Benson, who had succeeded Sir Nigel Broackes as Chairman in 1984, reported that the 1987 stock market crash had made little impact on the confidence of investors in Docklands.

By the beginning of 1988, there were few large undeveloped sites left in the EZ. Outside Canary Wharf a total of 2.7 million sq.ft (260,000 sq.m.) of development, mainly office space, was either committed or underway. The Charterhouse Group's 1.7m sq.ft (162,000 sq.m.) Harbour Exchange office development, which involved the demolition of West India House, the gleaming blue glass Norman Foster building which had been the LDDC's headquarters, was in particular of a quality and design of which the original team had dreamed.

Other developments included the second phase of South Quay Plaza, City Harbour, Glengall Bridge, Scandinavian Centre and Meridian Gate.

South Quay, Isle of DogsSouth Quays c 1995

South Quay reflects the second phase of developments in the Enterprise Zone. This scheme took place in the mid to late 1980s as increasing developer confidence resulted in higher land values and the first higher density multistorey office schemes, reflecting a move away from the single storey business space accommodation of Indescon Court, the Lanterns and the Wimpey Enterprise Business Park. The opening of the DLR in 1987 with a station at South Quay provided additional impetus to these office developments which predated Canary Wharf. The South Quay area was significantly affected by the IRA bombing of February 1996 and is currently undergoing redevelopment and restoration with completion expected in 1999.

But, although the LDDC maintained that it would be a complement to, rather than a challenge to, the Square Mile, the developments alarmed the City of London.

Top of Page

In 1986, Michael Cassidy, Chairman of the City Corporation's planning committee, lifted the restraints on office development in the City. At the end of the year 17 million sq.ft (1.6 million sq.m.) of office space was either being built or had planning permission in the City with more promised for the following year.

Tracking of the property market by Knight Frank Research (KFR) demonstrates that Cassidy's fears were groundless. In 1987, for example, the take up of office space in Docklands was 298,219 sq.ft (27,871 sq.m.) compared with 6,759,612 sq.ft (631,740 sq.m.) in the City. In 1995, when the Canary Wharf tower started to fill up, total take up amounted to only 1,065,859 square feet (99,613 sq.m.) compared with 4,628,445 sq.ft (432,565 sq.m.) in the City. Even in 1997, the best year for Docklands, lettings only reached 1.8 million sq.ft (170,00 sq.m.). But a far higher proportion of the Docklands property is modern and air-conditioned.

Meanwhile, the Docklands boom continued. In 1987, the LDDC received high prices from two Swedish firms, one from NCC for land at East India Dock and from Skanska for land in Wapping for the 823,900 sq.ft (77,000 sq.m.) Thomas More Street development, which included a Safeway supermarket. The same year, the first phase of South Quay was completed and journalists and other staff of the Daily Telegraph moved in.

Magazine publishers, The Builder Group, moved into Great Eastern Enterprise. Barclays moved into Hertsmere House a year later. Between 1987 and 1990, the LDDC was talking confidently about second wave regeneration particularly the prospect of pulling down some of the shed-like structures from the early days of the Enterprise Zone south of South Quay and replacing them with taller higher-density buildings.

There was a belief that the increase in land values would make it viable to build bridges to both the Greenwich and Surrey Docks peninsulas. There was talk of underwater car parks. Not only Swedish and Canadian but Japanese money was coming in.

Top of Page

The Royals

Meanwhile, Reg Ward was determined to press ahead with an extraordinarily ambitious development of the huge area of the Royal Docks. However, some members of the Board who had shown such steadfastness over the Canary Wharf proposals, became anxious that the Corporation was overstretching itself. Not only did David Hall, the property director, spend most of his time over three years negotiating over Canary Wharf, but a huge housing programme was underway across Docklands.

The Royals seemed to many members of the board a dock too far. Ward believed that the only way to advance the Royals at the speed which he wanted was to find an architect of international stature to put his case.

He turned to Richard Rogers, the architect of Lloyds of London, as a designer who could respond to the vast scale of the docks.

Mike Davies who led the Rogers team produced a design analysis which indicated the key elements for any development to do justice to the Royals' grandeur. By July 1986, Ward had allocated the whole of the Royals to three major schemes worth £2 billion.

Top of Page

North of the Royal Albert Dock and Royal Albert Basin, Rosehaugh Stanhope was ready to build an 888,000 sq.ft (83,000 sq.m.) regional shopping centre and a 2,461,000 sq.ft (230,000 sq.m.) science and commercial park.

The scheme, designed by Rogers, also included 1,060 homes, and 1,015,430 sq.ft (94,900 sq.m.) of leisure and community development, designed to complement London City Airport on the south side of the dock.

On the north side of the Royal Victoria Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock Development Company proposed a 23,000 seater domed arena, a 214,000 sq.ft (20,000 sq.m.) exhibition hall, shopping, offices, leisure facilities and 1,950 houses and flats. On the dock's south side, Conran Roche, Heron, Mowlem, Barratt and Countryside put together what many considered the most attractive scheme of all: a mixed development of 4,000 homes with offices, light industry and high technology.

It was the first time that the LDDC had put together major development schemes where the developers themselves were ready to contribute significantly towards the basic infrastructure to service them.

For the first time too, Ward felt able to say that the main priority was not to obtain the maximum land price in the way it had on the Isle of Dogs. While the LDDC needed a price which it could justify to the Treasury, it accepted that it would share in the value created by the building and the infrastructure provided by the developers.

Ward believes that in mid-1986 the LDDC could have delivered development in the Royals at the same time as Canary Wharf. Nicholas Ridley had been appointed Environment Secretary in 1986. When he visited, Ward proudly demonstrated what they intended to do.

The visit was not a success.The Minister told them that he did not want any of the commercial schemes. These should go to the North East. Ridley, who was under pressure from the "green" wing of his party to protect the countryside of the Home Counties, told the LDDC team that he wanted the Royals to be predominantly devoted to housing.

Top of Page

Ward argued in vain that there was no work in the area and the transport too poor to take them to the places where there was any. The schemes had been designed for their particular sites.

But they were dead by the water, although efforts were made to obtain the maximum land prices in 1987.

In September of that year, the LDDC agreed with Newham the general land uses it proposed for the Royals. The Memorandum of Agreement package included providing affordable houses, jobs, training and social and community benefits for local people. However, the property crash meant development of much of the Royals was put on hold for several years.

Royal DocksRoyal Docks

The Royals, some 1,000 acres of land and water, have always represented a major development challenge to the Corporation. They were the site of three major consortium proposals which were decimated by the property crash of the late 1980s. However, with the Beckton Extension of the DLR, the completion of the Docklands Highways and the expansion of London City Airport, the Royals have now emerged as the home for the Corporations latest developments a major Exhibition Centre for London, a Business Park, the Urban Village and the Docklands Campus of the University of East London, all of which are in varying stages of progression.

Nevertheless, the efforts of providing vital infrastructure and services were not wasted. Although the regional shopping centre died, the other components of the schemes now being built and proposed for the Royals are similar in outline to those earlier schemes. Ward left in November 1987 to be succeeded by Michael Honey, former Chief Executive of the London Borough of Richmond, who adopted a more community-oriented approach.

Top of Page

Surrey Docks: The Hidden Success Story

By the mid 1980s, it had become relatively easy to sell houses in Docklands. Warehouse conversions were selling well in Wapping - giving the whole of Docklands a spurious reputation as a home for yuppies - and new houses were also selling there successfully.

Housebuilding in Surrey Docks began in earnest. Surrey Docks is often called the hidden success story of the Corporation.

This is partly because the largest new housing development in London is tucked away behind Jamaica Road. The area started with some advantages.

The docks had been among the first to close in 1969. The GLC had built a spine road through the area, and comparatively little new infrastructure was needed. It was fortunate in having two influential members on the LDDC Board: Bob (later Lord) Mellish, Deputy Chairman of the Corporation and John O'Grady, a former leader of Southwark and one of the pragmatic breed of Labour politicians who had controlled the borough for many years.

But there were also severe drawbacks. Southwark Council had made strenuous efforts to attract the huge Trammell Crow trade mart, a large wholesale trading centre, and with the PLA had filled in the docks to create a development site.

This, however, destroyed much of the distinctive dockland character which the LDDC was at such pains to preserve in other parts of its area.

The LDDC heeded the pleas of Southwark Council not to vest the land as it negotiated with Trammell Crow. By 1982 the Trammell Crow deal had fallen through and the LDDC vested the 132 acres (53 ha.) of land.

But a new left wing Labour faction took control of the borough at the council elections and decided to fight the Corporation. Before it lost control of the land, Southwark gave permanent leases to many "bad neighbour" industries, such as scrap yards and motor transport companies which took the LDDC two years to relocate.

The Southwark leadership decided to have nothing to do with the Corporation. In some ways this made life easier because the Corporation could appeal over the heads of the council - and the self appointed "community groups" - to local people.

The LDDC had arranged with Southwark in 1981 to buy new homes to rehouse people living in the dilapidated Downtown blocks. After the elections, Southwark refused to take up the first 111 flats and the Corporation arranged for the World of Property Housing Trust to buy and manage the flats with funds provided by the Corporation.

Top of Page

The Council produced its local plan which zoned for industrial use the areas where new houses had been built. In an almost unprecedented action, the Secretary of State for the Environment decreed that Southwark should not have a plan at all.

Chris Farrow was appointed Area Team Director by the LDDC in 1985 and headed a small young team. One of their first acts was to dig out part of the recently filled in docks to try to return the water which had made it a distinctive part of London. Surrey and Canada Waters were restored and linked by a 2Oft (6 m.) wide canal.

Officially Greenland and South Docks had been left as open water, a dumping ground, they too had been filled - with 98 stolen cars, including a Rolls Royce. A policeman sat in a deck chair, checking each car for bodies as it was fished out. He was responsible for one of the most successful clear up rates of auto crime in the history of the Metropolitan Police.

Nelson DockHoliday Inn, Nelson Dock

The historic Nelson Dock with its dry dock was a victim of the 1989 recession which terminated the housing boom of that decade. Planned as a residential development, the developers transformed their development into a hotel, originally the Scandic Crown Hotel, and now the Holiday Inn. Enjoying a riverside location with its own pier, the hotel was a response to the increasing interest in Docklands by the tourism sector. Today, it is one of five hotels which have been established in the area, reflecting the extension of tourism activity from the traditional parts of Central London. A further four hotels are under construction or planned

The Surrey Docks team was left to get on with the work with the minimum of interference. They had a distinctive development philosophy - stitching the area back into an existing urban structure, only three miles (5 km) from Central London, rather than creating a new quarter as on the Isle of Dogs.

Farrow says that they were among the first to use the word "holistic' to describe their approach - which was not simply about building houses but reviving the whole social infrastructure which had been neglected. This included not only community facilities and parks, but shopping.

The team attracted Tesco which developed a neighbourhood shopping centre on Canada Water. Tesco was persuaded to double the size it originally envisaged for its own store which at one time had the fifth largest turnover in the country.

Top of Page

Tesco took a third of the space in the 278,200 sq.ft (26,000 sq.m.) centre and high street names like BHS, WH Smith, Boots and Top Shop in the rest. Associated Newspapers built a 1 million sq.ft (92,930sq.m.) plant to print the Daily Mail, bringing 1,000 jobs to the area. The Scandic Crown (now the Holiday Inn), converted from a housing scheme, became the first new hotel in Docklands since the opening of the Tower Thistle Hotel in Wapping in 1973. There were new parks and London's largest working marina at the South Dock.

Surrey Quays Shopping CentreSurrey Quays Shopping Centre

Prior to 1981, London Docklands was conspicuous by the absence of any major retailers in the area - in order to shop local residents had to travel outside the area. Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, with Tesco as its anchor tenant, underlined the provision of a wide range of new local shopping facilities involving major national retailers. Tesco's investment at Surrey Quays was complemented by that of Asda at Beckton and the Isle of Dogs and that of Safeway at Wapping and subsequently by Savacentre at Beckton and Tesco's Metro Store at Canary Wharf. Today these stores are the key elements of the district centres which have been established in each of the sub areas of Docklands, serving notj ust a local population, but also the wider areas.

The team decided to develop Greenland Dock as a set piece, making full use of the dock. Conran Roche produced a development framework. Greenland Dock turned out to be immensely popular and brought in about £72 million for a spend of £18 million.

Houses built by the Danish company lslef sold quickly and other developers stepped in. Surrey Docks produced a range of houses along tree lined streets which were immediately popular. As in Wapping, the Surrey Docks development cost the taxpayers very little because there was no need for huge infrastructure development.

After Margaret Thatcher's third election victory in 1987, the council became more co-operative. When the Corporation handed back the area to Southwark in December 1996, the population had risen from just under 6,000 in 1981 to 16,000. The LDDC had provided land for 4,000 of the new homes built.

Top of Page

Owner occupation had risen from three per cent to more than 40 per cent. Profits from the sale of land had enabled the Corporation to invest over £10.5 million to help the council refurbish over 1,500 council homes.

But Surrey Docks was only part of the Corporation's involvement in the south side of the river.

By the early 1970s, commercial activity at Hay's Wharf, east of London Bridge, and Butlers Wharf, east of Tower Bridge, was virtually dead, although the Courage Brewery with its distinctive turret by Butlers Wharf only closed in 1982. The 25 acre (10 ha.) Butlers Wharf site, with its canyons of warehouses on either side of the street crossed by walkways, is more evocative of the commercial past than any other part of Docklands.

The St Martin's Property Group, which wanted to build a mixed development keeping some of the original buildings at Hay's Wharf, asked to be included in the LDDC area under a special development order to speed up the planning process.

Hays GalleriaLondon Bridge City - Butlers Wharf

These two schemes facing the City and on the south bank of the River Thames provide a complementary development. London Bridge City (left) is a massive office and mixed use development, financed by the Kuwait Investment Office, developed by St Martin's Property Company and recently acquired by the DePfa Bank and Capital & Income Group. Butlers WharfApart from offices occupied by such prestigious companies as Price Waterhouse, the scheme incorporates a new hospital, and Hay's Galleria, a complex of small retail and restaurant outlets. The redevelopment of Butlers Wharf l(right) ed by Sir Terence Conran as a gastronomic and craft oasis centred around an historic brewery which has been converted to apartments overlooking Tower Bridge. Both developments were much helped by the Corporation's positive planning policies regarding the reuse of riverside warehouse buildings.

At Butlers Wharf, Sir Terence Conran with his business partners and his design consultancy Conran Roche, produced a scheme for mixed development which involved moving the Design Museum to Shad Thames from the Boilerhouse at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Top of Page

The LDDC approach was the same in both cases, though different from that adopted in Surrey Docks. It acted as an enabler, working with the developers and, in later years, Southwark Council, to achieve their objectives as quickly as possible, while retaining the character of the area.

Most of the infrastructure was in place and very little land was vested in the Corporation - for example only 108 of the 1,600 houses and flats completed in the area between 1981 and 1994 were built on LDDC land. Some of the new architecture of London Bridge City, particularly No 1 London Bridge, had its critics, but it was quickly let. The Hay's Galleria has proved a popular tourist attraction and gave Ted Hollamby a rare chance to practise his design skills when his suggestions for the shape of the canopy were adopted.

Butlers Wharf, which was in receivership at one stage, flourishes with restaurants. The area east of Butlers Wharf from Mill Street to Kings Stairs Gardens contains interesting examples of both conservation and new build. New Concordia Wharf was among the first dock buildings to be converted to residential use in London carried out by the 23 year old Andrew Wadsworth in 1980 while the garden village conservation area by St Saviours Dock, also has striking new buildings such as China Wharf by Piers Gough, the architect of The Circle towards the west.

Top of Page

Success in Wapping

Meanwhile, over the river at Wapping the St Katharine Docks development, with the former World Trade Centre and the London Commodity Exchange, and other attractions such as the Dickens Inn, flourished both as an office area and as a tourist attraction.

Commercial development was concentrated on the west of the area building on the success of St Katharine Docks, notably with the News International complex, the Skanska development at Thomas More Street but also smaller ones such as Sovereign Court on The Highway.

The LDDC strategy was to preserve and enhance Wapping's unique historic character of narrow streets, riverside warehouses and mixed uses. It started by encouraging owner occupiers to move into the area by helping towards the conversion of the remaining warehouses and the building of homes for sale on vacant land.

A strong landscape infrastructure was designed around the new system of canals linking Shadwell and Hermitage Basins, the two docks which had not been completely filled in by the PLA.

There was one disappointment, however. Work was delayed on the dramatic warehouses at Tobacco Dock which were expected to be the East End equivalent of Covent Garden. It was eventually finished to a high standard, and 70 per cent of the shops were let in the early 1990s; but they began trading as the recession started to bite and the building is now largely empty.

Thomas More StreetThomas More Street

Initial development activity in Docklands was through the commitment of small UK entrepreneurs and overseas investors. The UK Institutions were conspicuous by their absence. By the mid- 1980s, the Docklands commercial property market was attracting considerable investment from all over the world At the height of the market, significant investment contributions were being made by Swedish funds as illustrated by this commercial development by Skanska. The scheme located at the eastern edge of St Katharjne Docks was an award-winning office development and at the time created a new land disposal record in terms of receipts. After a difficult start, the scheme is now nearly fully let to a number of financial and banking institutions, confirming the expansion of the City eastwards towards Docklands.

Top of Page

The Slump

However, in Docklands in the late 1980s some housing developers were becoming nervous. LET, the developers of the much praised Glengall Bridge mixed development on the Isle of Dogs, sold out.

The Government's ending of dual mortgage tax relief for unmarried couples, while it created a small boom, killed the speculative housing market almost on the day it ended in August 1988.

The effect in Docklands was severe. A total of 11,000 houses had been completed for owner occupation under LDDC schemes.

In seven years the number of owner occupiers had risen from 700 to more than 12,500, but it was to be more than four years before another home for sale was started.

It was a pause in an extraordinary story. In the mid 1980s, the LDDC's policy of favouring local council tenants on sites they had sold for housing led to rumours of rent books changing hands for thousands of pounds - even Porsches - particularly in Wapping where one speculator was said to have bought 10 houses. However, nobody was ever prosecuted for buying or selling a rent book.

Those who speculated and only set themselves to do business in Docklands suffered. Kentish Homes, the developer of Cascades, CZWG's striking nautically inspired block by the river, went into liquidation and some building societies lost money. Many home buyers were trapped in negative equity from which it took them years to escape.

Regailan had built the first phase of Free Trade Wharf, on the riverside in Wapping but was to leave the remainder through the recession. Only now is Atlantic Wharf - the remaining phase of Free Trade Wharf - being completed.

By the summer of 1990 the LDDC accepted that the second wave of commercial regeneration was not going to happen for the forseeable future. However, developers were still insisting that firms and organisations, like the LDDC itself at its Thames Quay headquarters, signed 25 year leases when they moved to new premises.

Some presented the problems of Docklands as a metaphor for the collapse of the market-driven economy. The case for the prosecution was put in October 1989 by Chris Shepley, President of the Royal Town Planning institute, and now HM Chief Inspector of Planning.

'Pretty well all the rules have been broken in Docklands," he said - a view with which Reg Ward might cheerfully agree. 'There has been no strategic plan capable of examining whether it is a good thing to bring all these jobs into East London, given its current lack of access, the cost of improving links, the effect on the wider transport network beyond docklands itself, the area employees are likely to live in and so on."

He wondered: "Why the Docklands Light Railway is designed as though it were serving Alton Towers rather than Island Gardens."

Top of Page

One reason was that nobody could have envisaged the scale of development which the market based approach to regeneration adopted by the LDDC, reinforced by the incentives of the EZ and the economic climate of the mid to late 1980s, would generate. The original expectation was to create eight million sq.ft (743,500 sq.m.) of commercial space on the Isle of Dogs. To-day there are 15 million sq.ft (1.4 million sq.m.).

The mid-1980s success of Docklands had created its own problems. Shepley shared a platform with Michael Portillo, then Minister for Transport, who seems to have taken his message to heart.

The LDDC Board decided to increase its investment in community and social projects. By then Portillo had become the Local Government Minister with responsibility for Docklands. He shook the Corporation by formally rejecting its 1990 Corporate Plan on the grounds that the programme was insufficiently focused and the budget bid was an excessive demand for public funds. He told the LDDC that its main priority must be to improve transport links and other infrastructure to make the area attractive when the recession ended.

The contract for the £255 million Limehouse Link - which the press dubbed the most expensive road in the world - had been let in September 1989 and work started in the November.

Michael Honey left and Eric Sorensen, a senior civil servant, became Chief Executive. The plan was redrafted. The Limehouse Link - and the short time between conception and completion - was Rag Ward's final legacy to Docklands. To Government arguments that there was neither money nor time in the programme for such a road, which would normally have taken 15 years to plan and build, he had replied that if it was not built Docklands traffic would bring the City of London to a halt.

The Government gave its grudging consent, but the LDDC had to find the money, not only for the road, but another £100 million to rehouse those affected, and to pay for the £35 million package of social and community benefits as part of The Accord.

Top of Page

With the collapse of the schemes for the Royals, the Corporation also had to fund the extension of the DLR to Beckton itself. In all it paid a £247 million bill for this later phase of the DLR.

In 1990-91, for example, the Corporation's total spending was £343 million, made up of £316 million in grant and £27 million in receipts from the sale of land. Of that roads and transport accounted for £138 million and the DLR another £79 million.

In March 1991, the outgoing chairman, Sir David Hardy, described the year 1990-91 as the most challenging in the Corporation's history. But the next was even worse.

Michael Pickard, a successful businessman with close links to the City of London, took over as Chairman on lst March 1992. The Conservatives were returned in the general election on the 6th and in May 1992 O&Y Canary Wharf went into administration, victim of the recession, combined with an oversupply of offices and the perception that communications in Docklands were still poor.

This presented Pickard and the LDDC team with an enormous problem. The Government had consistently said that it would extend the Jubilee Line only if O&Y put in the £400 million contribution it had agreed towards the then estimated cost of £2 billion. The administrators from Ernst & Young, who were now running the development, were in no position to honour that pledge.

The tenants at Canary Wharf had the right to move out if the Jubilee Line was not built. Pickard and the LDDC team had to convince the Government and the banks that barbed wire could be put in around this towering symbol of the regeneration of the East End if money was not found to allow a start to be made on the Extension.

Now Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Michael Portillo again appeared in the Docklands saga, this time to argue that there were other more pressing schemes. But the creditor banks, led by lain Cheyne of Lloyds Bank, brought Canary Wharf out of administration in October 1993 and raising the first tranche of £100 million which persuaded the Cabinet to give approval for work to start on the line in December 1993.

Top of Page

Canary Wharf was sold to International Property Corporation for a reported £700 million at the end of 1995. It steadily attracted newspapers, including the Telegraph, Mirror and independent groups, and banking and financial services. It is now over 98% let.

During the years of recession, the great challenge for the LDDC team was simply to keep its land disposal programme going. However, even in the most dismal year of 1991-92, the corporation sold £7 million worth of land - important in maintaining confidence in the area.

The following year it sold £20 million worth - a large site in North Beckton to Sainsbury for a Savacentre accounted for the bulk of it.

However, the lettings market was moribund. In 1992, according to Knight Frank, only 99,403 sq.ft (9,290 sq.m.) of office space in Docklands was taken up.

Infrastructure spending was not confined to transport. In June 1992, the LDDC and Thames Water let a £17 million contract - the largest for two years - for the construction of a new sewer between Prestons Road Roundabout and Abbey Mills.

The low prices enabled the LDDC to sell land for social uses - which it had been unable to do in the boom years. Three school sites were sold in the space of a year and there were several disposals to housing associations.

Top of Page

On the 76 acre (30.7 ha.) site of West Silvertown Urban Village, south of the Royal Victoria Dock - the first of its kind in Britain - the Corporation, as the housing market picked up, resisted the approaches of housebuilders who wanted to repeat the model of Beckton.

The LDDC wanted the density and the quality to create a large enough urban mass to sustain basic amenities; not only shopping; but health facilities and a primary school. Employment generating uses were to be a substantial and integral feature of the scheme. It wanted the private sector to pay for a significant proportion of site preparation and the infrastructure, this requirement being reflected in the price developers had to pay for the land.

It arranged a two stage competition for phase one of the Urban Village (36 acres 14.6 ha.) from which Wimpey Homes emerged as the preferred partner, The first stage focused on concept and design, the second on finance, A wide range of homes for up to 5,000 people is being built. The LDDC produced a partnership arrangement whereby it took a percentage of everything which was sold on the site.

Pickard used the period of recession to form alliances with Michael Cassidy and David Weeks, former Leader of Westminster Council, arguing that it did not much matter where the investment went as long as it came to London. London First Centre, the inward investment agency for the capital, was set up as a result, funded substantially by the three authorities, the City Corporation, Westminster City Council and the LDDC. However, Cassidy did Docklands an unintended favour when BZW decided to move to Canary Wharf in 1994 by claiming that the investment bank belonged in the City. The marketing team's phones rang with calls from investors intrigued at what the area had to offer.

Top of Page


Soon after the then Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. John Major opened the new Limehouse Link in May 1993, Docklands saw the first signs of re-emerging confidence. Fairview bought a site at the southern end of Millwall Dock for owner occupation and Barratts began building for sale in Rotherhithe.

Commercial buildings like Canary View and parts of Harbour Exchange were bought from the receivers. Nevertheless, the area received a severe setback in 1994 when a proposal to move the Department of the Environment to Docklands as a sign of confidence in its future, had to be dropped because of opposition from its staff.

This inspired a change of marketing strategy and a campaign began emphasising the advantages in lifestyle which Docklands could offer. While the executives told the LDDC that the buildings were wonderful and half the price of the City and the West End, the task was to persuade their employees to want to come to Docklands.

The LDDC emphasised the attractions of shops, pubs, restaurants, wine bars and events. Canary Wharf alone now has more than 50 shops, many of them the upmarket high street retailers. London Docklands has every major supermarket except for Marks & Spencer.

Eric Sorensen left in 1997 to become Chief Executive of the Millennium Commission. He was succeeded by Neil Spence and Roger Squire, the Assistant Chief Executives, as Joint Chief Executives. During his six years he ensured that the infrastructure was in place when the recovery came.

In February 1997 work began on a 560,000 sq.ft (52,336 sq.m.) headquarters for Citibank designed by Sir Norman Foster, the first large new commercial building for a decade. The American architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill have started work on a new 275,000 sq.ft (25,700 sq.m.) building at Canary Wharf to house an extension of Credit Suisse First Boston's facilities. In November 1997, Canary Wharf made the decision to start development on a speculative basis again, with the intention of adding 8.56 million sq.ft (800,000 sq.m.) of office space over the next seven years.

Top of Page

The Grade 1 listed warehouses, on the north side of West India Quay, built between 1800 and 1803, are being converted. A consortium of Manhattan Loft Corporation, Marylebone Warwick Balfour and London and Easter Properties is creating 94 loft apartments and 72,000 sq.ft (6,700 sq.m.) of restaurants, bars and shops. Under a separate scheme, part of the warehouses will become the Museum of Docklands, with Heritage lottery and LDDC funding.

West India QuayWest India Quay

With its Grade 1 listed sugar warehouse and ledger building, built in 1800-03, West India Quay is the centrepiece of a mixed refurbishment and new-build development. It will provide a new home for the Museum of Docklands, a hotel, cinema, supermarket, apartments, restaurants and bars. With its extensive water frontage linked by an award winning footbridge to Canary Wharf, the development provides a focus of activity for both visitors and the local community The scheme exemplifies the Corporations positive approach to conservation in retaining and re-using the many historic buildings located within the Docklands area which the Corporation inherited on its creation in 1981.

To the north, a nine screen multiplex cinema and 26,000 sq.ft (2,429 sq.m.) supermarket are planned. On the eastern part of the site, a new 32 storey curved glass tower will incorporate a 220 bedroom hotel - one of four under construction or which are planned for the area over the next two years. In addition a 132-room Granada Travelodge opened at East India Dock in December 1997.

Construction began in June 1997 on Canary Riverside, a joint development by Canary Wharf Ltd, Hotel Properties Ltd and Pidemco Ltd. Phase 1 will comprise approximately 786,000 sq.ft (73,000 sq.m.) of development and include 317 residential apartments, a 150-room five star hotel, leisure facilities and restaurants and will be completed during 1999. Forte Hotels has also begun construction of an 18 storey, 314-room luxury hotel at Canary View, now The World Trade Centre, South Quay. Construction of an 86-room Ibis Hotel at Prestons Road is likely to begin in Spring 1998. A sign that the area is taking its place as a mature quarter of London.

Top of Page

East India Dock, which seemed in the early 1990s to have missed the development tide, is now more than 80% let and houses the central services for Tower Hamlets Borough Council. The LDDC has negotiated an extension of Telehouse, the main European clearing centre for the internet. With the Financial Times now being printed by West Ferry Printers in the Isle of Dogs, SMC Investments has acquired the building and an adjacent site for redevelopment as retail and leisure in a joint venture with V&P Midlands Ltd Artist impression - Norton Healthcare(the Richardson brothers).

The Royals received a huge boost in 1996 when Norton Healthcare, a subsidiary of the American IVAX Corporation, announced that it would site its European headquarters at the eastern end of the Royal Albert Dock. The move highlighted one of the advantages of the 2.14 million sq.ft (200,000 sq.m.) business park on the north side of the dock: that firms can design and build their own premises and have all their facilities on one site in a high quality setting next to the docks, along with excellent transport links.

One thousand homes, 777 for sale, and 235 for rent, in Phase 1 of West Silvertown Urban Village - the first in London - to the south side of the Royal Victoria Dock, are now under construction on a 36 acre (14.6 ha.) site, with a large community centre, healthcare, childcare and meeting facilities.

Little more than two months before the LDDC ceased work it achieved a spectacular coup when it signed the agreement to build the new international exhibition centre, ExCeL, on the north side of Royal Victoria Dock.

Model of Excel Exhibition CentreNot only will the East End of London have an exhibition space as big as Earls Court and Olympia combined, the £200 million phase 1 of the project will be the impetus for marketing the second phase of West Silvertown Urban Village, a footbridge walk away. In contrast to the housing-led Phase 1, the second phase on 40 acres (16 ha.) round Pontoon Dock will be led by shopping, business and leisure uses.

The agreement for the exhibition centre was signed on 22nd January by the LDDC with two wholly owned subsidiary companies of Country Heights Holdings, a large Malaysian property developer, and the shareholders of the London International Exhibition Centre Ltd, which had promoted the project to that date.

Top of Page

The first phase will comprise 700,000 sq.ft (66,000 sq.m.) of gross lettable exhibition hall, 260,000 sq.ft (24,000 sq.m.) of conference, meeting and banqueting accommodation and parking for 5,000 cars. Three on-site hotels with 1,000 bedrooms are planned for latter phases.

The LDDC is contributing the 85 acre site and investing in associated infrastructure in return for shareholding and a percentage of turnover. There will be no net cost to the public purse.

The scheme has the potential to create 14,000 jobs. The future of the Royals seems assured.

Model of UEL Docklands CampusIn the Business Park, work has started on a Docklands Campus for the University of East London, designed by Edward Cullinan. The first major civic building in the Royals, it should be a spectacular adornment to the waterfront - and an addition to the life of the local community.

Add to this an international rowing course, making use of the stunning stretches of water, with Sports Lottery and LDDC funding being used to move the bridge at the end of the dock to extend it to Olympic length; the prospect of London's biggest square since Trafalgar Square next to the exhibition centre and a 23 acre (9 ha.) park by the Thames Barrier. The competition to design the park was won by Patel and Taylor with Groupe Signes who designed the Parc Citroen in Paris. The park is now under construction. Its completion will be seen through by English Partnerships and it will open in time for the Millennium when it will be taken over by the London Borough of Newham. The park will be linked to the Urban Village, with housing schemes on either side. On the western side Barratt will build 250 homes on a 4.8 acre (1.97 ha.) site, while the 6 acre (2.4 ha.) eastern parcel will be marketed by English Partnerships. The framework of a thriving Royal Docks has finally been created.

Top of Page


It has been a bumpy ride. Docklands started during one recession and just as it was recovering from the second, part of the core area at South Quay was devastated by an IRA bomb on 9th February 1996, which killed two people and damaged a million sq.ft of office space, as well as adjacent council housing. However, the bomb showed the resilience of the business and residential communities and Docklands itself. Most companies found alternative premises in the area and were back at work within a week.

Something like £1.86 billion of Government grant has been spent in Docklands, producing £7.2 billion of private investment - 75 per cent from abroad. Apart from the £3 billion invested in Canary Wharf from Canada, the USA, France, Switzerland and Finland, money has come from Japan, Kuwait, Qatar, South Africa and Sweden - more than £760 million in the case of the latter alone. Firms in the Far East, the Netherlands and Denmark have invested in housing. Critics also point out that there have also been hidden subsidies in the form of the freedom from local taxes and the capital allowances given in the EZ and the favouring of the areas in the east of London in the road building programmes.

No Government figures are available for the final cost of any EZ programmes; however, the LDDC had the same powers as the other 10 EZ areas, although it perhaps used them more imaginatively than some. The LDDC funded the road building programmes within its area many of which benefited a wider area while the concentration on the area east of London had been part of Government policy since the mid 1970's.

Has it all been worth it, even it we do not know the cost to the final penny?

1 would say "yes" without hesitation. Seventeen years is the blink of an eyelid in the life of a great city and the £1.86 billion of public money is small change when set against the cost of maintaining the pound in the Black Wednesday debacle, for example.

From the Gastrodrome of Butlers Wharf to the suburbs of Beckton, from the pubs of St Katharine Docks to the smart shops of Canary Wharf, East London has been transformed - and for the better. Who would have imagined in 1981 that in 1997 Tower Hamlets would have the second highest average earnings rate in Britain?

Over 24,000 houses and flats have been built - nearly three quarters of which have been sold to owner occupiers. Nevertheless a quarter have been built by housing associations and councils and nearly 8,000 council homes have been improved, with LDDC funding. 83,000 people now live here compared to 39,400 in 1981. A total of 25.1 million sq.ft (2.3 million sq.m.) of commercial and industrial space has been built, of which 14.8 million sq.ft (1.4 million sq.m.) is for office use and is 92% let.

Jobs have increased from 27,000 to 85,000. The LDDC has helped fund 11 new primary schools and two new secondary schools as well as a number of extensions and refurbishments, along with 11 new or improved health centres.

And whether or not more Urban Development Corporations are ever designated, lessons have been learned. The first surely is that the LDDC has shown that there is a better and quicker way of providing infrastructure In 17 years - about the time it takes to plan and build a conventional major road - an airport, two tunnelled dual carriage roads and a light railway with two extensions and most of the Jubilee Line extension have been built.

Top of Page

Not to mention sewers, striking pumping stations by the architects John Outram, Richard Rogers and Nicholas Grimshaw - whose work, completed in October 1997, cleverly reflects the design of the Thames barrier - and latterly decorative footbridges like those at Limekiln Dock and St Saviours, Bermondsey Riverside and West India Dock.

A good place to start putting the lessons into practice would be the muchneeded Thames Gateway Bridge at Gallions Reach from Beckton to Thamesmead.

It is only fair to point out that the LDDC had the power to spend money, which the DJC, for example operating under the constraints on local government spending, never enjoyed. An important element in the LDDC's success was its ability, with the help of a budget of £4 million, to market the Docklands brand name, particularly abroad. At present, it seems doubtful whether the successor bodies will have anything approaching either the same funds or the focused approach, although London First Centre, the inward investment agency which the Corporation helped to create, will certainly bridge the gap.

Could a different approach have been adopted, a strategic plan, for example? It could, but it is doubtful whether so much could have been achieved so quickly; which is not to say that the Docklands approach could be successfully copied anywhere. Its nearness to central London justified the more flexible approach.

Those who lost their jobs in the docks never to work again may still feel resentful. But their children have a brighter future than they could have imagined with the prospect of good education, training, jobs, environment and houses.

There is still much to be done: two phases of London Bridge City, the remainder of Canary Wharf and much of the Royals - notably infrastructure work including the construction of a flyover across the A13/A406 junction to relieve congestion at the northern end of Royal Docks Road.

George lacobescu, Chief Executive of Canary Wharf, for example, says that in future they will be not only building for tenants, but also erecting speculative structures, on a phased basis.

The critical mass of the building which had such an effect on the last 17 years has been reached.

Top of Page

The Future

The Isle of Dogs has already established itself as London's new business district and a premier communications centre, certainly for newspapers. We can expect its ability to provide purpose-built premises within easy reach of the City and West End to attract the new breed of television stations which will arrive in the wake of the digital and cable revolution.

It is increasingly becoming a genuine quarter of London in its own right, where people live, work, visit and play. The new hotels planned for the area and the Millennium celebrations should only reinforce that trend.

A future recession, however prolonged. is unlikely to shake its position in the way the last one threatened, if only because by Spring 1999 the Jubilee Line will be in place, intersecting every Underground Line, bringing Canary Wharf within 10 - 15 minutes of the West End - and almost certainly making people even more enthusiastic to live and work in Docklands.

However, we can expect the Isle of Dogs, in particular, to look substantially different in 10 years time. Some of the cheap and cheerful stylish structures, Skylines and Heron Quays, for example, as well as buildings towards the south of Millwall Dock, will probably be found to be taking up valuable commercial space.

Canary Wharf should be by then completed. Docklands, as a whole, will increasingly become the commercial and cultural sheet anchor, not only of East London, but of the Northern bank of the Thames Gateway.

Top of Page

The Royals, with their magnificent stretches of water and excellent transport links, have been largely committed for development. The challenge will be to spread the benefits to the London south of the Thames, particularly to areas like Woolwich which have some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country.

Here, two pieces of the jigsaw are missing: one physical, the other both psychological and physical.

A new road link between Docklands and the south bank is essential. The Blackwall Tunnel cannot cope.

Docklands needs it for enhancing access to the Channel ports and the Channel Tunnel. Aspiring Thamesmead and depressed Woolwich need it, not only to link them to Docklands, but to use the excellent road communications now in place in East London to the North, the Midlands and the East Coast ports. At the least the Thames Gateway crossing at Gallions Reach and the Woolwich Rail Tunnel are needed if the full benefits of the Docklands success - and the transport network built to date - are to help the whole area.

Few outside the area realise how tantalisingly close the Greenwich Peninsula is to the Royals. If Britain is to bid for the Olympic Games it needs a physical manifestation of the cohesion of two of the likely sites. One proposal is for a cable car from a point near the DLR's East India station to the Millennium site.

Another is a footbridge. Cesar Pelli, the architect of the Canary Wharf Tower, has designed the world's highest pedestrian bridge between the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Could he, or one of the eminent architects involved in the Docklands story, not do something similar for London?

The LDDC has for the first time in London's history halted the drift from east to west. The prize for cross-Thames linking is an extraordinary one: a new city for the Millennium, joining both banks of the Thames, fusing the historic and the new, the derelict and the gleaming. It would reflect and consolidate the Docklands achievement.

Top of Page


LDDC Land Sales and Disposal Income


Amount Sold (Acres)

Disposal Income £k

1981-82 0 0
1982-83 33 1,673
1983-84 54 3,555
1984-85 178 4,775
1985-86 185 10,031
1986-87 85 37,602
1987-88 43 63,962
1988- 89 22 115,148
1989-90 25 24,312
1990-91 36 26,719
1991-92 21 11,467
1992-93 42 17,404
1993-94 14 6,412
1994-95 21 6,961
1995-96 39 10,365
1996-97 78 33,752
1997-98* 185** 62,569
*Estimate ** Includes conditional sale of 85 acres for ExCel, the international exhibition centre

Top of Page

LDDC Land Disposals by Land Use (Acres)



Surrey Docks

Wapping, Limehouse and Isle of Dogs


Airport 102 - - -
Office 13 1 92 106
Canary Wharf - Land - - 31 31
Other Commercial 182* 19 48 249
Community Facility 2 3 3 8
Education 8 7 5 20
Leisure 9 1 4 14
Residential 197 115 114 426
Retail 30 32 4 66
Roads and Transport 12 - 2 14
University 25
580 178 303 1061
Water 417
Roads and Transport 550
To be sold 145

* Includes conditional sale of 85 acres for ExCel, the international exhibition centre

Top of Page

Housing Completions 1981/2 - 1997/8


Annual Completions

Cumulative Completions

1981-82 0 0
1982-83 450 450
1983-84 1,047 1,497
1984-85 901 2,398
1985-86 1,832 4,230
1986-87 2,698 6,928
1987-88 1,854 8,782
1988- 89 2,615 11,397
1989-90 1,962 13,359
1990-91 1,869 15,228
1991-92 870 16,098
1992-93 614 16,712
1993-94 748 17,460
1994-95 1,225 18,685
1995-96 1,159 19,844
1996-97 1,771 21,615
1997-98* 2,427 24,042

Top of Page

Housing Starts 1981/2 - 1997/8


Annual Starts

Cumulative Starts

1981-82 601 601
1982-83 1,333 1,934
1983-84 2,024 3,958
1984-85 3,010 6,968
1985-86 2,434 9,402
1986-87 2,570 11,972
1987-88 2,450 14,422
1988- 89 852 15,274
1989-90 705 15,979
1990-91 655 16,634
1991-92 479 17,113
1992-93 651 17,764
1993-94 973 18,737
1994-95 1,311 20,048
1995-96 1,720 21,768
1996-97 2,585 24,353
1997-98* 2,765 27,118

Top of Page

New Build Commercial and Industrial Floorspace 1981/2 - 1997/8


Annual Million Sq.m.

Cumulative Million Sq.m.

1981-82 0.02 0.02
1982-83 0.02 0.04
1983-84 0.12 0.16
1984-85 0.02 0.18
1985-86 0.17 0.35
1986-87 0.08 0.43
1987-88 0.06 0.49
1988- 89 0.32 0.81
1989-90 0.29 1.10
1990-91 0.27 1.37
1991-92 0.65 2.02
1992-93 0.18 2.20
1993-94 0.04 2.24
1994-95 0.02 2.26
1995-96 0.02 2.28
1996-97 0.02 2.30
1997-98* 0.03 2.33

Top of Page


In writing this monograph I was helped by a number of individuals. I am particularly grateful to Reg Ward, the first Chief Executive, for illuminating the early development approach adopted by the Corporation. Among other of the first chief officers, Ted Hollamby, the Architecture and Planning Director, and David Crompton, the first Chief Engineer, gave enormous assistance in outlining the approaches to their disciplines which lasted throughout the life of the Corporation. Chris Farrow, Surrey Docks Area Team Director, and David Morgan, at one time Planning Director, provided me with incisive accounts of the Corporation's approach to Southwark and to the housing programme respectively.

Peter Turlik, who was there from the beginning and was formerly responsible for the Isle of Dogs Enterprise Zone, provided an invaluable overview as did Eric Sorensen, former Chief Executive of the LDDC.

Helpful guidance and comment was also provided by current Corporation staff including Roger Squire and Neil Spence, Joint Chief Executives, Andrew Grainger, Head of Land Development, Sunny Crouch, Director of Marketing and Public Affairs, Ron Berry, Head of Engineering and Julia Heynat, Corporate Information Manager.

Above all, I am grateful to Vicki Blyth, Head of Media and PR at the LDDC, who provided much appreciated support and assistance throughout.

John Grigsby

Top of Page

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

Top of Page

Completion Booklets

Top of Page

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

Top of Page

The Innes Partnership logo

LDDC History Pages
Tel: +44(0) 208 123 6374 ~ Fax: +44(0)20 8251 9858
E mail: Click Here
High speed hosting by Zyne Technologies
Page last modified:18th April 2009