So long, Docklands ...and pounds 1.8bn

A Billion-Pound Conservative flagship quango will be wound up in three months' time, with opinion still divided over whether it represented good value for the taxpayer or was a monumental waste of public money.

Since its formation in 1981 by Michael Heseltine, the then Environment Secretary, the London Docklands Development Corporation has received pounds 1.8bn in taxpayers' money. In addition, Docklands has swallowed 80 per cent of London's transport budget since 1981, a figure which does not include the new Jubilee Line extension. While the rest of London suffered from a worsening transport system, senior Tories, notably Mr Heseltine and the two Prime Ministers, Mrs Thatcher and John Major, poured pounds 2.2bn into road and rail links for just one part of the capital.

On 31 March 1998 the corporation will cease to exist, bowing out in a blaze of publicity, emphasising the success of the Canary Wharf project and the building of new homes in the former docks complex in London's East End. In one area, the Royal Docks, more than pounds 400m of public money has been spent, but without any noticeable benefit.

Executives can claim Canary Wharf is over 92 per cent let, that 73,000 people now work in Docklands compared with 27,000 in 1981, and almost 22,000 new homes have been built in the area.

Much of the employment created is not new to London but represents jobs relocated from elsewhere in the capital. The total is also thought to include temporary staff working on Docklands' construction projects, such as the Jubilee Line. Local people have not reaped the benefit of the job bonanza: the area remains one of the poorest in the capital with severe social problems. Neither, too, have they seen an improvement in housing. While some home schemes have been directed at local people, Docklands has spawned numerous luxury developments beyond the reach of most eastenders.

At one stage the corporation employed 500 people, many of them in marketing and selling. They have promoted Docklands heavily overseas, attending international conferences and trade fairs. Despite this effort, commercial tenants tend to have been drawn from companies already operating in London. Other areas of the capital, particularly the City, have suffered as the LDDC has fought an aggressive campaign to woo firms away.

And, while attention has focused on the belatedly successful Canary Wharf project, to the east a huge swathe of the old docks is still undeveloped. In the former Royal Docks, Victoria, Albert and George V, 70 acres of land remains virtually empty, with little prospect of immediate large-scale commercial building.

The University of East London is planning a campus in the Royal Docks but no major office projects are under way. Clearing the Royal Docks has cost the taxpayer pounds 400m so far without any tangible benefit.

A spokesman for the City of London Corporation said: "Docklands as a whole has received an extremely large amount of public money. It has been so heavily dependent on public money that when the Tories say it is an example of free market capitalism they are talking nonsense."

A property expert said the LDDC had made, "a useful contribution to the London property scene. It helped to free up space and to keep rents down a bit".

A former leader of a local council said he thought the LDDC and its Tory backers could have done a lot more. To have built an airport in the middle of Docklands but to not have given it a rail link was, he said, "stupid", and the lack of job creation he described as "disappointing". There was a shortage of affordable housing when the LDDC began, said the council leader, and there is still such a shortage.

A spokeswoman for the LDDC said the corporation had been presented with a vast amount of land in need of regeneration. That had largely been achieved. The recession slowed down some schemes but confidence had returned. She acknowledged that some people thought the Royal Docks too far from central London, but she was confident that space there would be let. A business park and an urban village are planned.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living