About LDDC

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What's on this page?

What was the LDDC?
The task

How well did LDDC succeed?
The Future
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LDDC LogoWhat was the LDDC?

THE Corporation was an urban development corporation, the second to be established by the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine, under s.136 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. Its object was to secure the regeneration of the London Docklands Urban Development Area (UDA) comprising 8 square miles of East London in the Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark. This was a response to a huge decline in the economy of the area brought about by the progressive closure of the docks (and dock related activity) from the 1960s onwards. Years later, in his book Life in the Jungle*, Michael Heseltine wrote:Michael Heseltine 

"I had found myself in in small plane, heading in that direction by way of the London's East End.   My indignation at what was happening on the South Bank was as nothing compared to my reaction to the immense tracts of dereliction I now observed.  The rotting docks - long since abandoned for deep-water harbours able to take modern container ships downstream - the crumbling infrastructure that had once supported their thriving industry and vast expanses of polluted land left behind by modern technology and enhanced environmentalism.  The place was a tip: 6,000 acres of forgotten wasteland"  

There had been attempts by the local authorities to deal with this. These are described in an LDDC monograph "Initiating Urban Change" published in 1997 - see below. These efforts were perceived by the Government to be much too slow and there was a need for resources on a scale which it would only make available through a focussed agency of its own. LDDC was wholly financed by grant from the Government and the income generated by the disposal of land for housing, industrial and commercial development.

(* Hodder and Stoughton, 2000, ISBN 0 340 73915 0 - see pages 130,153, 200, 211-214, 380, 397-398 and 515.  Among LDDC veterans Michael Heseltine is regarded as the father of the Corporation) 

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Map of London Docklands UDAPowers

Although its influence in the area was undoubtedly very strong, LDDC's powers were limited:

It had powers to acquire land by agreement or compulsory purchase and, in the case of the large amount of land in the public sector, there were powers for it to be vested in the Corporation by the Secretary of State. This ensured a supply of land for development.

It took over from the London Boroughs their planning (but not their plan making) powers. This was response to the Government's perception that the Boroughs had been too restrictive in exercising their development control and other powers because their plans for the area were outmoded and inappropriate.

It had powers, and the resources, to provide new (or refurbish the existing) infrastructure.

Apart from planning all other public services (housing, education, health etc) remained firmly in the hands of the Boroughs and other public agencies although the Corporation could and did provide funds for their development and improvement. The Corporation's lack of remit in this respect was often misunderstood by those who felt the LDDC should do more to revitalise these services for the benefit of local people.

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The Task

THE 1980 Act requires an urban development corporation "to secure the regeneration of its area, by bringing land and buildings into effective use, encouraging the development of existing and new industry and commerce, creating an attractive environment and ensuring that housing and social facilities are available to encourage people to live and work in the area".Newham 6th Form College

Against such a brief the task facing the Corporation in 1981 was daunting. A Regeneration Research Report (No 12 - see below) published in 1997 by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) analysed the problems of the Docklands as follows:

  The area experienced catastrophic job losses over a short period of time, as the Docks closed. Between 1978 and 1983, over 12,000 jobs were lost. The skills of the local population, directed at blue collar work, were inappropriate for many of the growth areas of the London economy.

  A high proportion of land was held by public bodies who had neither the will nor the capital to make it available for redevelopment. Relatively little land was in private holdings. Thus the supply of land was constrained by a pattern of ownership which was not market sensitive.

  The extent of dereliction in parts of Docklands was so severe that the costs of development would be very high and uncertain, lowering the attractiveness of the area to investors. External intervention was needed to meet extra-ordinary land reclamation costs and to improve developer confidence more generally.

  Many development sites were poorly served by the local infrastructure - the provision of which would be essential for these sites to be developed. Poor strategic links between Docklands and the rest of London, the country and internationally, would have created additional costs for employers thus depressing the potential returns on investment.

Western Dock, Wapping, 1981  The market alone was unlikely to provide the environmental improvements (including landscaping, refurbishment of the dock estate or restoration of prominent landmarks) or the provision of infrastructure and amenities that were essential if Docklands was to cast off its run-down image and become an attractive place in which to live and conduct business.

  There were certain gaps in available information that were hindering the operation of markets - for example, the almost complete absence of private house-building in the area for years meant that housing developers had no idea on the potential return for new-build, thus magnifying the risk to developers and deterring investment.

  This combination of factors made it difficult for the market, without external intervention, to reverse the steep cycle of decline experienced by Docklands before the establishment of LDDC.

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THE Corporation was at work for 17 years. In its final Annual Report in 1998 it headlined its achievements as follows:

  1.86 billion in public sector investment

  7.7 billion in private sector investment

Western Dock, Wapping, 1998

  1,066 acres of land sold for redevelopment

  144 km of new and improved roads

  the construction of the Docklands Light Railway

  25 million sq feet of commercial /industrial floorspace built

  1,884 acres of derelict land reclaimed

  24,046 new homes built

  2,700 businesses trading

  contributions to 5 new health centres and the redevelopment of 6 more

  funding towards 11 new primary schools, 2 secondary schools, 3 post-16 colleges and 9 vocational training centres

  94 awards for architecture, conservation and landscaping

  85,000 now at work in London Docklands

There is more detailed information in the LDDC's 1998 Regeneration Statement and its nine monographs describing its work in the various fields in which it operated - see below

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Winsor Park EstateHow well did LDDC succeed?

OPINIONS vary about how well the Corporation succeeded in its regeneration task and the extent to which its work was a benefit to the original inhabitants of its area. Another Regeneration Research Report (Number 16 - see below) published by DETR in 1998 has this to say:-

  The LDDC has successfully tackled the widespread multiple market failure which prevailed in the London Docklands in 1981. Failures in land, housing and commercial property markets have been addressed and labour market failures have been alleviated by a combination of training projects, improvements in accessibility in and out of Docklands and the creation of new local jobs.

  When all projects are completed the total public sector cost of regenerating Docklands will be of the order of 3,900 million, 48% incurred by the LDDC, 25% by London Transport and 27% by the Isle of Dogs Enterprise Zone. Almost half the public sector cost of regenerating Docklands was devoted to transport infrastructure.

  Private sector investment in Docklands, at 8,700 million by March 1998, has been substantial and will continue to increase well into the next century.

  The LDDC has generated a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits. Prominent amongst these are over 24,000 housing units and over 80,000 gross jobs within the Urban Development Area (UDA). Housing tenure is substantially more varied, employment is three times higher, the number of firms has increased fivefold and the new stock of housing will accommodate an additional 45,000 population.

  With respect to value-for-money, the evaluation concluded that every 1M of public sector cost generated net additional benefits in the UDA of 23 jobs, 8500 sq m of office floorspace, 7.8 housing units plus many other diverse and intermediate benefits. Since almost all the costs have been incurred and some of the benefits have still to materialise, this cost-benefit ratio should be more favourable by a third when the end state position is reached in 2010 or 2015.

  In spite of vociferous comments to the contrary over the life of the Corporation, the LDDC generated substantial benefits specifically for local communities and residents. The amount of new social housing is higher than it would have been in the absence of the Corporation.

  In the wider local economy, the net impact of LDDC activities is lower, but even so, the LDDC generated an additional 23,000 jobs in Central London by increasing the supply of high grade office accommodation which led to a more competitive financial centre.

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View of DocklandsCompletion

THE Corporation, which was established on 2nd July 1981, was expected to need 10-15 years to accomplish its task. In October 1994 it began by stages to withdraw. Bermondsey Riverside in Southwark was the first area to be "dedesignated" and the withdrawal process ended with the Royal Docks on 31st March 1998 although its task there was not fully complete. The Corporation was formally wound up on 30th June 1998.

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The Future

IN most of the LDDC's area the Corporation' work was sufficiently complete, and the momentum of regeneration such, that there was no need for a specialised agency to take over its role. The Boroughs and other local agencies were left to carry on the work. In the Royal Docks, however, the Corporation's there was a good deal of outstanding work. This was taken over by another agency of the central government, English Partnerships, working in collaboration with the London Borough of Newham to whom the LDDC's planning powers were restored. The joint team established for this purpose operated from offices on the north side of the Royal Albert Dock just opposite the Airport. 

In July 2000, the interests, assets and liabilities of English Partnerships in the London region transferred to the new London Development Agency (LDA). The LDA joined the nine other Regional Development Agencies which were set up in 1999 but unlike the others, the LDA is answerable to the Mayor of London, and is one of four bodies for which the Mayor is responsible (the others being the Metropolitan Police, Fire Authority and Transport for London).   Recent and new developments in the Royal Docks are the subject of another article on this site

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More Information


The Corporation's own account of its work is recorded in a series of nine monographs published towards the end of its life and summed up in its Regeneration Statement. These have been reproduced in HTML format and are available at the LDDC History Pages:-

Regeneration Statement
Initiating Urban Change - London Docklands before the LDDC
Starting from Scratch - The Development of Transport in London Docklands
A Strategy for Regeneration - The Planning and Development Strategy of the LDDC
Attracting Investment Creating Value - Establishing a Property Market in London Docklands
Employment: New Jobs and Opportunities - The Employment Strategy of the LDDC
Regeneration and the Arts in London Docklands
Housing in the Renewed London Docklands - A Major Contribution to Capital Living
Learning to Work and Live Together - The LDDC and the Local Communities
Laying the Foundations for Regeneration - Engineering in London Docklands

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Completion Booklets

The LDDC withdrew from its area by stages starting with Bermondsey Riverside on 30th October 1994 and ending with the Royal Docks 31st March 1998. As each area was "de-designated" the Corporation published a booklet with a brief history of the area and of the LDDC's work there. These are also available at LDDC History Pages as follows:-

  Area Date of De-designation
Bermondsey Riverside 30th October 1994
Beckton 31st December 1995
Surrey Docks 20th December 1996
Wapping and Limehouse 31st January 1997
Isle of Dogs 10th October 1997
Royal Docks 31st March 1998
(Note: The LDDC's Monographs and Completion Booklets are reproduced by kind permission of the Commission for the New Towns now known as English Partnerships. They are 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.)

DETR Studies

In 1997/98 the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) commissioned an evaluation of the LDDC by Cambridge Policy Consultants Ltd. This followed an earlier baseline report undertaken by consultants PriceWaterhouse. Summaries of these reports, referrred to above, are available on the DETR's website:-

DETR Research Summary No.16 - "Regenerating London Docklands"

DETR Research Summary No.12 - Baseline Study: "The Condition of London Docklands in 1981"

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NAO Report - How European Cities Achieve Renaissance

In 2007 the National Audit Office carried out a study of how central government departments work with each other and with regional and local bodies to deliver the Government's ambitious aspirations for the Thames Gateway. As part of this study the NAO explored how seven European cities or regions have tackled regeneration and brrought sustainable growth and renewal to local communities. Brief summaries of these companion studies are published in the NAO publication How European Cities Achieve Renaissance. Among the short reports, on pages 21-28, is one on the LDDC's work in London Docklands.

The report of the main studyThe Thames Gateway: Laying the Foundation is also well worth a read. There is also an Executive Summary


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The Royal Docks Trust (London)
Registered in England and Wales as a company limited by guarantee: Registration No: 3032232
Registered as a charity: Registration No: 1045057
Registered office: 37 Rushey Green, Catford, London SE6 4AF