Sadly the LDDC's first Chief Executive, Reg Ward, died on Thursday 6th January 2011, aged 83. He was the hero of the staff who worked for him in those early heady days. This page is dedicated to his memory.
Here is the text of an obituary prepared for us by David Donoghue who was Director of Communications at LDDC in its early days
Legendary chief executive of the London Docklands Development Corporation who masterminded the regeneration of London's East End.
Reg Ward, chief executive of the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) from 1981 to 1988, who devised and saw through the plans for the DLR, London City Airport, the Royal Docks, Surrey Quays, the ExCel Centre and Canary Wharf, has died aged 83.
The powerful but controversial LDDC quango was set up by Michael Heseltine in Margaret Thatcher's government in 1981 in response to the drastic economic decline of London's docks. Its remit extended six miles downriver from Tower Bridge and covered parts of Southwark, Newham and Tower Hamlets.At the time, unemployment stood at 17.8%, 10,000 jobs had been lost in just three years and 60% of the area was derelict.
Attempts by the local councils and the GLC to revive the area had become totally moribund. Heseltine gave the new body both planning control and the resources to 'make things happen'. He appointed leading developer Nigel Broackes to chair the body; Bob Mellish, a veteran local Labour MP, as deputy chairman and Reg Ward as chief executive.
For nine months Reg was the only member of staff. From the outset it was clear that his vision was far and away more ambitious than the original expectations of some decent houses and a few small work premises. Whilst he got on famously well with Broackes, Mellish and Heseltine, his vision and persistence did not sit well with civil servants or the local authorities. However, he is now viewed as the main driver behind the extraordinary ongoing change and development in London Docklands.
Thousands of jobs and homes have been delivered together with massive infrastructure and transport benefits, including the Jubilee Line and the Riverbus. His admirers claim that London would never have won the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games had not Ward battled vigorously for better transport links in the East End. Lord Heseltine said: “He was an outstanding success and it led to one of the world's outstanding regeneration projects. His energy was proverbial, his imagination huge. I greatly enjoyed working with him. Reg made a great contribution to the redevelopment of the East End. We owe him a great debt".
The son of a miner, Albert Joseph Reginald Ward was born on October 5 1927 in the Forest of Dean and educated at East Dean Grammar School at Cinderford, Gloucestershire. He studied Medieval History, then Fine Art and Architecture, at Manchester University. He became a tax inspector and in his mid-30s worked for Lancashire County Council. He then rose through the ranks of local government, becoming chief executive of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and later of Hereford and Worcester County Council. He served as a member of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Commission into Housing 1986-7 and became a Fellow of the University of London and of the Royal Society for the Arts.
In 1982 I stood alone with Reg on an empty Canary Wharf on what is now the base of Canary Wharf tower – One Canada Square. We were the only people to be seen for miles around. No workers, no visitors, no-one passing through and it was eerily quiet. Today there are over 120,000 people working there. Some success.
We were there looking to launch Limehouse Television studios, the first major company to move into the new Isle of Dogs Enterprise Zone. Limehouse was an instant success and attracted VIPs, celebrities and leading politicians despite appalling transport and traffic problems.These included a US banker, Michael von Clemm, who suggested a new financial centre be created there. Ward jumped on this and the resulting scheme became the Canary Wharf development. After several hiccups a contract was eventually signed with Paul Reichmann, of the Canadian property developers Olympia and York, in 1987.
Ward’s greatest achievement was to persuade hard-nosed City and property investors that a Docklands revival really was going to work. Whilst initially the media, property industry and even the LDDC board were cynical, it was Ward’s unremitting persistence - and brilliant marketing - that one the day.
Reg stepped down from the job of chief executive in 1988. He set up his own consultancy to work on a number of major regeneration projects around the world including the Olympic cities Barcelona and Sydney before being appointed to head the regeneration of St Kitts in the Caribbean. But he continued to be a regular contributor to debates on urban regeneration and the future of the Thames Gateway.
In his last years Reg took life little easier at his home near his daughter at Broadwell Manor. In April 2004 Reg and his wife Betty celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a lunchtime party at Stow-in-the Wold attended by many of the LDDC's original staff. Betty died early in 2010. Reg leaves 2 children, John and Sarah.
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Here are some of the obituaries which appeared in the press following news of Reg's demise:
There is also an obituary in the online version of Architect's Journal on 20th January but it can seen only by subscribers to that publication. See also the Reg Ward page on Wikipedia
And here are some of the many tributes received from members of staff and others who knew Reg:
"He really was an exceptional man with such a huge vision".
"Everybody loved Reg - even the old Dockers in the end!"
"Feel stunned. Brought back so many great memories.. Guess we will be telling Reg Ward stories for the rest of our lives. I have never met anyone like him. Just pathetic he never got the recognition he deserved. But Docklands is his legacy"
"What a life of wonderful achievements Reg leaves behind"
"He was a real leader with a big vision which is rare in any walk of life"
"For me his death is the end of an era. What a pity we couldn't have got some sort of recognition for all he did. Still we who knew him well knew that he was the force behind LDDC and there is a lasting memorial of him in all the development in Docklands"
"It strikes me that his understanding midwifery of the early LDDC has never been fully acknowledged and perhaps a way of drawing attention to that can be sought or created"
"Reg inspired so many of us"
"What a man and what an influence. I recall in my early days at LDDC (when we used to work until 9 pm) I happened across Reg and a group of the architects. With his usual enthusiasm he was sketching out the route of his proposed DLR on a sheet of paper as they all looked on attentively and agog at this amazing vision.....and it came to pass. Concepts into Action..is the motto I recall. A fantastic man"
"Reg’s role in creating the UK’s most successful regeneration programme was very undervalued"
"A great figure and one who achieved so much"
"Although I was not involved in the early days, I know how much he did in the first vital years – without his vision, the outcome would have been very different and there would have been so much less to build on for all of us who came after."
"I met him once or twice after he left the LDDC, and I was very much struck by his energy and enthusiasm. Even though he had left the LDDC he was still interested to know about all the projects on the go and the things we were planning for Docklands."
"He did so much for Docklands - a very inspiring gentleman. I didn't work with him but I did meet him one afternoon long after he had left the LDDC when he came down to the Royal Docks office on the off chance of meeting Dru. We only had a brief chat but I can understand why people thought so much of him."
"He was such a charismatic character, many of us will feel saddened by news of his passing."
"Great man who brought a great team together. I didn’t work that closely with him but the few times I did meet with him were warm and inspiring. And, as you say, he left a great legacy which he’s hardly been recognised for"
"Reg made a great contribution to the redevelopment of the East End."
"Lovely man Reg"
"Lorna told me how she and Julian would be going home after midnight, following a long night working at Limehouse studios, and they would regularly see Reg just walking around, looking, learning and "dreaming" of what could be! That would have been long after politicians, Whitehall civil servants, local Councillors etc were tucked up in their beds. That is an indication of what Reg brought to the job at the head of the LDDC and why it became such a great success in such a relatively short period of time.
"So much of what the London Docklands are today is a direct result of Reg's huge vision for the area. He was much loved by all who worked for him in those heady days and he will be greatly missed."
"Reg was a joy to know and will be sadly missed"
"Although I was involved with the Corporation after Reg had left he was clearly the inspiration of LDDC in the early years"
"Still cross that he never got the recognition he deserved"
" I have just read the obituaries and have tears in my eyes. He was such a charismatic gentleman ... whenever he was in the office there with us... there was always a delightful calm and happiness. His love for architecture of course was obviously apparent, but I have only just learnt that he too had a fine art background; if only I'd known at the time! A very sad loss, not just to those who were priviledged to know him but to society in general. A visionary who was able to realise many of his visions and taught so many in his path."
"I have known and worked with Reg Ward since 1981 when the Docklands Development Corporation was first formed. He was a man with vision and it was his idea with Bill Lindsell of Mowlem's to build the London City Airport. He was also involved in getting the infrastructure here in Docklands such as the Docklands Light Railway. He was understanding and listened to the local community. God Bless him for all that he did for Docklands"
"In the end no award, no recognition of that kind"
"His forthright style did not sit well with his colleagues in central government and he was eased out of the job shortly after the deal on Canary Wharf was signed. However, he is now viewed as the main driver behind the extraordinary change and development in London Docklands. Unlike many others (sometimes tax exiles) who created a lot less, Reg never received national honours, a fact that failed to rankle him, but annoyed his former close colleagues."
"Reg's legacy lies in the transformation of east London – without him, it just would not have happened.
" We send our sincere condolences for a great man who has made an amazing difference to East London and because of his good work my sister has a place to live near Canary Wharf in East London. We hope it continues to be a success and that more good work is done for our city of London, he leaves a wonderful legacy behind him and perhaps should have a dedication on The One show for viewers to appreciate the history of his work."
There was a celebration of the life and times of Reg Ward at Canary Wharf on 4th July 2011
- click here for more details
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