Theme Week London – Docklands

Wednesday, 13 April 2011 - 09:53 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: Architecture, General, London

West India Quay © Gordon Joly

West India Quay © Gordon Joly

Docklands is the semi-official name for an area in northeast and southeast London, England. It forms part of the boroughs of Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Greenwich. The docks were formerly part of the Port of London, at one time the world’s largest port. They have now been redeveloped principally for commercial and residential use. The name London Docklands was used for the first time in a government report on redevelopment plans in 1971 but has since become virtually universally adopted. It also created conflict between the new and old communities of the London Docklands. Efforts to redevelop the docks began almost as soon as they were closed, although it took a decade for most plans to move beyond the drawing board and another decade for redevelopment to take full effect. The situation was greatly complicated by the large number of landowners involved: the PLA, the Greater London Council (GLC), the British Gas Corporation, five borough councils, British Rail and the Central Electricity Generating Board. To address this problem, in 1981 the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine, formed the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) to redevelop the area. This was a statutory body appointed and funded by central government (a quango), with wide powers to acquire and dispose of land in the Docklands. It also served as the development planning authority for the area.

Another important government intervention was the designation in 1982 of an enterprise zone, an area in which businesses were exempt from property taxes and had other incentives, including simplified planning and capital allowances. This made investing in the Docklands a significantly more attractive proposition and was instrumental in starting a property boom in the area.

LDDC was controversial – it was accused of favouring elitist luxury developments rather than affordable housing, and it was unpopular with the local communities, who felt that their needs were not being addressed. Nonetheless, the LDDC was central to a remarkable transformation in the area, although how far it was in control of events is debatable. It was wound up in 1998 when control of the Docklands area was handed back to the respective local authorities.

The massive development programme managed by the LDDC during the 1980s and 1990s saw a huge area of the Docklands converted into a mixture of residential, commercial and light industrial space. The clearest symbol of the whole effort was the ambitious Canary Wharf project that constructed Britain’s tallest building and established a second major financial centre in London. However, there is no evidence that LDDC foresaw this scale of development and nearby Heron Quays had already been developed as low density offices when Canary Wharf was proposed, with similar development already underway on Canary Wharf itself, Limehouse Studios being the most famous occupant.

St Katharine Docks © ChrisO Shopping in a former storage buildings © Carl Frieder Kathe Shadwell Basin © Dave Pape Docklands Museum at night © Gordon Joly Millennium Dome from Greenwich Docks © Tharnton345 Millennium Dome and Canary Wharf © Michael Pead Docklands map © Se16boy Canary Wharf © Drriad Canary Wharf Towers from Greenwich © Tharnton345 Canary Wharf at sunset © Matthew Kimemia Barque Twee Gezusters © David Merrett West India Quay © Gordon Joly
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Shopping in a former storage buildings © Carl Frieder Kathe
Canary Wharf was far from trouble free and the property slump of the early 1990s halted development for several years. Developers found themselves saddled with property which they were unable to sell or let.

Over the past 30 years, the population of the Docklands has more than doubled and the area has become both a major business centre and an increasingly acceptable area to live. Transport links have improved significantly, with the Isle of Dogs gaining a tube connection via the Jubilee Line Extension (opened 1999) and the DLR being extended to Beckton, Lewisham, London City Airport, North Woolwich and Stratford. Canary Wharf has become one of Europe’s biggest clusters of skyscrapers and a direct challenge to the financial dominance of the City.

Although most of the old Dockland wharfs and warehouses have been demolished, some have been restored and converted into flats. Most of the docks themselves have survived and are now used as marinas or watersports centres (the major exception being the Surrey Commercial Docks, now largely filled in). Although large ships can – and occasionally still do – visit the old docks, all of the commercial traffic has moved down-river.

The revival of the Docklands has had major effects in run-down surrounding areas. Greenwich and Deptford are undergoing large-scale redevelopment, chiefly as a result of the improved transport links making them more attractive to commuters.

The Docklands’ redevelopment has, however, had some less beneficial aspects. The massive property boom and consequent rise in house prices has led to friction between the new arrivals and the old Docklands communities, who have complained of being squeezed out. It has also made for some of the most striking disparities to be seen anywhere in Britain: luxury executive flats constructed alongside run-down public housing estates.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facepage pages/Twitter accounts. Read more on LDDC – London Dockland Development Corporation – History page, Museum of London – Docklands, London 2012 and Wikipedia Docklands. Learn more about the use of photos.




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