Note: This Booklet is reproduced
by kind permission of the Commission for the New Towns now known as English
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only and may not be reproduced for other purposes except with the permission
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by Eric Sorensen, Chief Executive, London Docklands Development Corporation
On 31st December 1995 the London Docklands Development
Corporation completed its remit in Beckton. The event marked the culmination
of over 14 years of co-operation with the London Borough of Newham and
with the fast growing local community. If
Beckton is associated with one single achievement in the life of the Corporation,
it has to be new homes for sale. It was in Cyprus that the first Corporation
sponsored housing development - indeed the first new private housing in
Docklands for many years - started in November 1981. The new homes built
by Barratt, Wimpey, Broseley and Comben were a huge success. This housing
provided an important foundation for the balanced community which Beckton
is today. It also encouraged the Corporation to release further land for
housing throughout the Urban Development Area and attracted developers
to build homes in London Docklands.
The starting point for the LDDC's work in Beckton was
the 1980 Beckton District Plan, the only up-to-date statutory plan in
London Docklands at the time the Corporation was set up. Well before a
Memorandum of Agreement was signed with the London Borough of Newham in
1987, there was close co-operation on numerous projects, for example,
the house building programme and the creation of the Beckton Alps, now
a dry ski slope. The Corporation implemented a number of community projects
in the 1980 Beckton District Plan such as the West Beckton Children's
Centre, shops, flats and a community centre at Cyprus and many landscaping
and public amenity schemes. The Memorandum of Agreement made provision
for local people to benefit from new developments in the Royal Docks.
The Council for its part agreed to co- operate with the Corporation in
the highway schemes to serve the Royal Docks and to give support for the
large developments planned for the area.
The area has been enhanced by the opening of the Docklands
Light Railway Extension to Beckton in March 1994 and significant numbers
of jobs have been created in the London Industrial Park, the District
Centre, the Whitbread Travel Inn and the new retail park with its Savacentre,
B&Q and other stores. The growing and well established community and
leisure facilities include the Corporation funded Equestrian Centre and
the East Beckton District Centre, currently under construction. The future
of the area's thriving voluntary sector has also been secured with the
setting up of the Royal Docks Trust by the LDDC and the Council.
Regeneration in Beckton has reached the point of being
self sustaining. Beckton is a well established, self confident community
with all the advantages of good facilities, excellent transport links
and a pleasant environment. The Corporation will continue to work with
the London Borough of Newham to secure further projects which benefit
both Beckton and the Royal Docks, such as the provision of secondary schooling
south of the A13, the undergrounding of electricity pylons, improvements
to the A13 and a new river crossing at Gallions Reach. Beckton is now
well placed to build on 14 years of investment by the LDDC and to take
advantage of the employment and business opportunities that will be created
in the Royal Docks in the coming years.
London Docklands Development Corporation
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that was named after a gas man
Throughout most of its history, much of Beckton was flat,
low lying marshland. In the 19th Century, when the east of London was
used to serve the needs of the west, the Gas Light and Coke Company bought
540 acres in the area and in 1870 opened Europe's largest gas works, serving
the whole of London. In honour of the event, the whole district was named
after Simon Adams Beck, the Governor of the Company. What became today's
GMB Trade Union was founded at these works, which stopped making gas in
1969 after the introduction of natural gas.
Beckton's other historic service to London was in drainage.
n 1875, Joseph Bazalgette's monumental drainage system for the metropolitan
area was completed. It ended cholera in London. and led to the development
of the modern flush toilet. It also gave Beckton the distinction of being
the destination for all of the sewage of London north of the Thames, and
of having the largest sewage treatment works n Europe.
areas in the south and west of Beckton were not involved in either of
these activities. Instead, in the first half of the 20th Century they
were earmarked for a fourth great dock, should the three massive Royal
Docks prove inadequate. However, in the mid 1960s the Port of London Authority
faced facts and abandoned its plans to build the dock - a precursor of
the decline of business which was to lead to the closure of the Royals
Meanwhile, the fact that the PLA owned much of the land
stood in the way of would be developers. The main exception was Cyprus,
an estate built in 1881 after the opening of the Royal Albert Dock, and
so named because of the raising of the Union Jack over the Mediterranean
island three years earlier in 1878.
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What Beckton was like in 1981
Five years before the creation of the LDDC, the London
Docklands Strategic Plan published by the Docklands Joint Committee in
1976 had started the ball rolling in proposing Beckton as a residential
area. A population increase to 28,000 was envisaged, mostly housed in
local authority housing.
1981, in practical pursuit of this vision, the London Borough of Newham
had drained the rnarshes and put in a foul drainage system. It had laid
out distributor roads, provided a large part of the eventual district
park and started a council house building programme. One new school had
been built and another was about to start. Two private residential schemes
had also been put forward and progress was being made on Phase 1 of East
Beckton District Centre, including the Asda Superstore. The development
of the London Industrial Park had started on former gas works land, providing
a range of industrial and warehousing units as well as sites for larger
users such as R. Whites, the drinks manufacturer. Some unpleasant "bad
neighbour" industries on Tollgate Road and in Cyprus were in the
process of being relocated.
Despite these foundations for the future, it was the
dereliction of the past which dominated much of Beckton. The closed gas
works, only part of which were to come within the LDDC's Urban Development
Area, were decaying and in parts dangerous. Employment was thin. Even
before the Port of London Authority formally closed the Royal Docks in
November 1981, employment in them had mostly been reduced to non-dock
temporary work which only survived because of the low rents.
social and community amenities were few. Those that existed were mostly
of poor quality and poorly housed. Shopping was confined to small local
parades in Custom House and corner shops, Both commercial and public sector
facilities were badly affected by a declining residential and working
population. The new open spaces in West Beckton and Cyprus, whilst attractive,
were difficult to get to. Most of the rest of the environment was poor.
As for transport, it was conspicuous by its absence.
A few bus services lightly touched the edge of the area. Roads were few:
there was not even a direct link between the eastern and western ends
of the area. The exception to this was the North Circular Road, which
brought heavy goods vehicles trundling to and from the Woolwich Ferry
into existing and proposed residential areas.
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Beckton leads in private housing
In 1981, when the London Docklands Development Corporation
came into being, the population of Beckton was 5,106. By December 1995,
it had more than tripled to 17,864, largely due to the area's now established
reputation for attractive, affordable owner occupied housing.
place in the history of the LDDC lies to a large extent in being the area
which led the way in private house building. In 1981 the LDDC scaled down
the 1976 London Docklands Strategic Plan's population target for Beckton
of 28,000 to 20,000, as it wished to give new impetus to lower density
private housing schemes to achieve a more balanced population mix.
It is important to put the 1981 LDDC emphasis on private
housing into context. The April 1981 census showed that the future Urban
Development Area had precisely 784 owner-occupiers within its eight and
a half square miles: 73 in Southwark, 262 in Tower Hamlets and 449 in
Newham, out of a total of 14,881 homes in the area.
LDDC approached leading house builders with the result
that, somewhat against their better judgment, Barratt, Wimpey, Broseley
and Comben began the first phase of private house building in Beckton
in November 1981. Much to their surprise, all 601 houses and flats were
quickly sold, and in March 1982 - a landmark event in the Corporation's
life - the then Environment Secretary, Michael Heseltine returned to London
Docklands for the first time since he had designated the LDDC in July
1981 to hand over the keys to the first owner-occupiers in Cyprus.
early success set the tone, not just for Beckton but for the whole of
London Docklands. The LDDC started releasing more land. Areas closer to
the centre of London such as Wapping and Surrey Docks, also hitherto treated
with suspicion by builders and developers, benefited from the lead taken
by Beckton. The 1982/83 LDDC Annual Report noted that work had started
on six sites containing some 936 homes, about two thirds in Newham and
the remainder in Southwark . and that it was about to start on the building
of 954 further homes in west and mid-Beckton, the Isle of Dogs, Southwark
and Wapping. And so it continued, with the result that during the first
ten years of the LDDC, owner occupation in Beckton increased from 20%
of all housing to 55% - the largest figure in the entire UDA. During the
same period, rented social housing decreased from 64% to 37%, although
of course it rose in numerical terms.
In the 1987 Memorandum the Corporation committed itself
to help provide a substantial number of social housing units in Newham
Docklands. In partnership with local housing associations the LDDC provided
over 800 homes in the Beckton area towards this target.
Emphasis on balanced development
It is fair to say that the LDDC gave greatly added impetus
- indeed, transformed - the efforts already under way in 1981 to encourage
residential development in the area. As elsewhere in the Royal Docks area,
the Corporation began with a meticulous emphasis on infrastructure. Services,
drainage, roads, footpaths and cycleways took priority, As well as the
Beckton Alps already mentioned, 22 hectares were reclaimed at Winsor Park
for housing and associated facilities.
1981 developers have been encouraged to create 4,000 new homes on LDDC
owned sites of all tenures - owner occupied, shared equity, self build
and private, housing association and local authority rented. With the
tenure mix adjusted to a more balanced level, social housing received
a new impetus, resulting in over 500 units at Winsor Park. Schemes have
been for low rise housing of a range of types and sizes (including sheltered
housing, care in the community accommodation, large family houses and
starter homes) within a high quality environment.
This housing development has been supported by the provision
of a range of facilities substantially assisted by LDDC funding. As a
result, there are now five primary schools, two health centres, three
community centres and a community house, a children's centre and a church
centre, and many more facilities are being built.
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Many new facilities
The Asda Superstore opened in 1983. The range of shopping
facilities began to be enhanced through the development of the Beckton
Retail Park adjoining the London Industrial Park. This comprised a DIY
store and eight other units. These changes, already revolutionary when
compared to what the area had known before, moved to even greater importance
with the arrival of the Sainsbury's Savacentre on a site next to the A13
in 1993. This not only secured the regeneration of the last major site
owned by the LDDC in the area of north-east Beckton, but more important
created 700 local jobs. The arrival of B&Q and others such as McDonald's
on adjoining land has further enhanced this process. The London Industrial
Park, now almost fully developed, provides local jobs in manufacturing,
warehousing and distribution in modern, purpose built premises.
Since 1981 the Corporation
has contributed £2.3 million to three new primary schools in Beckton and
is committed to contributions to a further primary school and a new secondary
school. Further funding has gone to the new Newham Sixth Form College
and the Royal Docks campus of the Newham College of Further Education.
New health centres in Tollgate Road and West Beckton
have also received support.
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Many LDDC grants
As the end of its remit approached, the Corporation took
care to provide additional support for the growing population in new residential
areas. For instance, in 1995 the LDDC gave £700,000 for the Royal Docks
Medical Centre in Cyprus, due to open in Autumn 1996.
Beckton District Park occupies the centre of the area.
It includes a lake for boating and fishing, a sports centre, exercise
trail, and many sports pitches in a landscaped setting. Nearby is the
recently extended Newham City Farm, which like the park owes its existence
to an LDDC grant - most recently £980,000 to improve visitor facilities.
The LDDC has also assisted in the provision of livery stables at Stansfeld
Road and funded the international competition standard Docklands Equestrian
Centre next to Savacentre with £1.05 million. This is the home of Newham
Riding School and Association, a registered charity which provides riding
for local disabled and disadvantaged adults and children. The Corporation
has funded a programme for the provision of children's play areas throughout
Beckton, provided £434,000 for the West Beckton Children's Centre and
£1.14 million for St Marks Community Centre. Winsor Park Community Centre
has been funded to the tune of £446,000, as well as a children and young
people's resource centre with £777,000. An Agoraspace - an all weather
pitch - has been laid out next to the two buildings with LDDC funding
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The Leisure Scene
There can be no more appropriate symbol of how Beckton
has changed for the better than the Beckton Alps. These protuberances
on the otherwise fiat landscape resulted from the tipping of waste by
the Beckton gas works. Whilst thought had been given before to the reclamation
of this huge tip, it was the LDDC in the early 1980s which
had the vision to have it compacted and re-profiled, and a combined encapsulation
and drainage scheme was carried out to contain and control the waste.
A dry ski slope and associated facilities were funded by the private sector
and Government grant.
There are now a number of commercial leisure activities
in Beckton. In addition to the Beckton Alps, these include a golf driving
range and ten pin bowling centre. Two public houses have been built, one
of them Whitbread's Winsor House Travel Inn, with hotel accommodation
and a restaurant. A programme to enhance existing facilities has been
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The Corporation has improved the environment and the
physical appearance of the area by reclamation schemes, assisting in the
improvement of existing housing estates and parks and open spaces and
relocating bad neighbour uses. The 8 km of the Docklands Light Railway
Beckton extension today enjoys the results of the LDDC's landscaping works
and planting, including indigenous trees and wildflower meadows. At nearby
Bow Creek, disused railway sidings have been transformed into London's
first interactive water ecology park, a hands on experience for children
to learn ail about water and its ecology.
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Transport now excellent....
The Docklands Light Railway's Beckton extension opened
in March 1994 to Poplar, with a full direct service to Tower Gateway and
connecting service to Bank opening in Autumn 1995. This marked a milestone
in the development of Beckton and the regeneration of the Royal Docks.
The LDDC's highways programme has transformed road access.
The main new highways, Royal Albert Way and Royal Docks Road, serve Beckton
in three important ways. They provide a by-pass to Beckton's residential
and commercial areas, they have greatly improved access between Beckton
and the Royals, and they mean that Beckton is now connected on four or
six lane highways to the Isle of Dogs business district, the City and
West End, as well as to the M11 and M25 via the A13 and A406.
... and integrated
The LDDC has been anxious throughout to ensure that new
roads have minimal impact on the area, and in particular that they do
not create barriers to pedestrian movement between Beckton and the Royals.
The results of the Corporation's emphasis on pedestrian and cycle facilities
can be seen to great benefit in Beckton, which today enjoys a comprehensive
pedestrian and cycle network, built beside
Royal Docks Road and through parks and open spaces.
The construction of Royal Albert Way allowed the closure
of Strait Road to all but buses, creating a quiet and safe route. Beckton
residents can now walk to DLR stations and to shops and other community
facilities using these routes. The LDDC has also upgraded the bridle-way
which crosses Beckton.
In 1994 the bus network in Beckton was reorganised to
reflect the opening of the DLR extension and a new bus interchange station
was built by the LDDC at Prince Regent DLR Station. Further improvements
are planned with the opening of the Jubilee Line Bus Station at Canning
Town in 1998.
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The future of the area
Many developments have improved the quality of life in
Beckton. The Docklands Light Railway Beckton extension enables people
to connect easily with London Underground at Tower Gateway, Stratford
and Bank. This has transformed public transport accessibility, and will
be greatly reinforced by the arrival of the Jubilee Line extension in
1998. The whole area has been opened up with new roads and bridges. In
housing, Beckton now boasts the highest ratio of owner occupation in the
UDA. Sainsbury's Savacentre and the B&Q led retail scheme has greatly
improved shopping facilities and increased local employment. There are
three new parks and five new primary schools. Just to the north of the
area NewVIC (Newham Sixth Form College) serves the needs of a wide area
where post-16 staying on rates have dramatically improved. Thames House,
Newham College of Further Education's third campus, has benefited from
LDDC funding of £1.46 million.
More still remains to be done. In 1993 the LDDC paid
for a study aimed at establishing the views of residents and identifying
facilities that were needed.
One of the key issues, the improvement of East Beckton
District Centre, is on the way to being met with a multi-purpose building
under construction by the London Borough of Newham. The LDDC is contributing
£2.8 million to this £4 million programme, as part of the withdrawal package
agreed with Newham Council. Another part of the package includes a £1.2
million LDDC endowment to the new Royal Docks Trust to allow the continued
operation of the community grants programme into the future. These and
other practical points relating to the transition to the future were settled
by a formal agreement between the Council and the Corporation known as
the Statement of Agreed Intentions.
London Borough of Newham is determined to take Beckton forward, and plans
to use the report's findings to progress the momentum of regeneration
further, including the provision of improved arts, leisure, cultural and
religious facilities in the area.
The LDDC has worked with Newham to secure a secondary
school south of the A13 and has promised a contribution of at least £3
million towards its construction. Work will start in summer 1997 with
completion scheduled for September 1999.
The Corporation's continuing work in the adjoining area
of the Royal Docks will impact positively on the concerns of Beckton residents.
For instance, ExCeL, the planned new international exhibition centre for
London, has been calculated by Touche Ross to create more than 14,000
new jobs both in itself and in service industries, whilst the Royals University
College, due to receive its first students in 1999, is being created to
bring higher education to local people and attract high technology employers
to the area.
The Corporation took the view that by the end of 1995,
no major investment projects would remain for it in Beckton, and that
its role would largely be confined to a planning function. The London
Borough of Newham wished to resume that function.
With a positive planning framework in place, and by mutual
agreement, the LDDC handed on the area to Newham Council on 31st December
1995. Beckton today is an excellent example of regeneration, and the LDDC's
work will serve as a model for other inner city areas world-wide. The
residents and businesses of Beckton are fortunate in being handed on to
a local authority which is so enthusiastic to build on the sound base
which has been established.
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published in 1997/98
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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
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