LDDC Strategy
Water Use Strategy (1997)
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For the benefit of its successors the LDDC in 1997 published these details of it's policies and strategy concerning the use of the docks and other waters within its area for leisure and other purposes.  The strategy document was rich in pictures and while in converting it for web use we have included as many of them as possible a few have been omitted to reduce the loading time of the page.  Likewise the large maps have been separately processed - however they can easily be reached by clicking the links below. 



=> Introduction
=> Background
=> Principal Water Uses

     Shared Water Use
     Water Sports Centres
=>Other Water Uses
     Floating Restaurants, Pubs
     Historic Vessels
     Visiting Ships and Moorings
     Commercial Freight Activity
=>Access to the Water
=>Nature Conservation
     Build Out

     Development Effects: Wind
=>Designation -Future Management
    Royal Docks
     Royal Victoria Dock

     Pontoon Dock

     Royal Albert Dock
     Albert Dock Basin
     King George V Dock



East India Dock/Leamouth
River Lea/Bow Creek
Poplar Dock
Blackwall Basin
West India Docks
Millwall Dock - Inner
Millwall Dock - Outer
Limehouse Basin
Shadwell Basin
Hermitage Basin
Surrey Docks
   South Dock

   Greenland Dock
   Canada Water
   Surrey Water
   Lavender Pond

LDDC Monographs
Completion Booklets
Popular Press Releases
Annual Reports and Accounts

Large Maps

Water Area Users (West) - 252kb
Water Area Users (East) - 201 kb
Water Access (West) - 145 kb
Water Access (East) - 99 kb
Royal Docks - RODMA Lease and Service Charge Area - 164kb

(Note: This LDDC Strategy document has been reproduced by kind permission of the Commission for the New Towns now known as English Partnerships. It is 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)

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Extent of Strategy

The Strategy considers the enclosed docks and the River Thames within London Docklands.

  1. To provide a framework for the Corporation to consider the development of, access to and activity on the water areas in the enclosed docks and River Thames.
  2. To provide a policy context for Corporation and RoDMA strategies, and programmes which affect the water area.
  3. To provide a programme to guide the future development of watersports and recreation in the docks for the remainder of the Corporation’s life and beyond.

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The 430 acres of enclosed docks and the River Thames provide an outstanding opportunity for water-based activities within the heart of the Capital. Whilst traditionally the docks and river have been used for watersports including skiff racing and fishing - it is said that rowing as an organised sport originated from competitions among watermen in the 17th Century - the waters today are used by a wide variety of clubs and watersports centres which host events and activities for wind powered, paddle and motorised sports.

Since the LDDC’s inception, there has been a number of consultants’ reports produced in relation to water use policy, as well as a number of in-house policy papers. The most recent report, which sought to pull together all aspects of water use policy, was the Water Development Strategy prepared by Grant Thornton and submitted to the LDDC Board in 1991. While the Board agreed the broad thrust of the report, it did not approve the specific recommendations.

Since then, the Corporation has secured legislation (the London Docklands Development Corporation Act 1994) to allow, inter alia, the making of byelaws to regulate the dock estate. The byelaws have been made and were confirmed in December 1996.

In preparing for the transition of the control of the Royal Docks to the Royal Docks Management Authority at the Corporations demise, the LDDC and RoDMA Boards have agreed a set of “Golden Rules” for the management and licensing arrangements for the RoDMA water areas (ref: A Strategy for Future Water Use, LDDC 1995). The Corporation has also recently revised and reissued its Water Safety Policy which sets out the LDDC’s established practices on water safety and defines responsibilities.

This Strategy seeks to provide a context for these policy documents and a framework for future decisions on the use and development of the water for the Corporation, the Boroughs and succession authorities. It has been the subject of a wide consultation exercise in the autumn of 1996 (see Appendix 1) and in its final form reflects many points put forward by those consulted who, in general, warmly welcomed the strategy.

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1. Principal Water Uses

1.1 Location

The main water uses currently operating in each of the docks were located there to take best advantage of the physical characteristics of the dock. These vary from the small and irregularly shaped Shadwell Basin to the 1mile long and linear Royal Albert Dock. They remain the most rational allocation of dock space. Additionally, and on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accident’s advice, incompatible activities such as motor powered watersports and wind powered sports are separated into self-contained water areas for safety reasons.

Any variation to this allocation, say for a one off event, is conducted only with the agreement of the Harbourmaster and with the appropriate permission (a license) from the relevant management authority.

Motorised watersports (water skiing and personal watercraft) are located in the King George V Dock adjacent to the airport where the noise generated does not interfere with residential amenity.

Sailing, windsurfing and canoeing are located within Shadwell Basin, Millwall Outer Dock, Greenland Dock and the Royal Victoria Dock. The different sizes and characteristics of these water areas offer varying opportunities for these activities -Shadwell Basin at 7.5 acres is more restricted in capacity and scope than the 83 acres of the Royal Victoria Dock; it is widely used by novices/youths. The Royal Victoria Dock offers more opportunity for the developing sailor, although all levels can and do use the available docks.

Rowing and canoe racing are principally carried on in the Royal Albert Dock and to a lesser extent Royal Victoria Dock where there is sufficient length to allow for racing or practising. More competent canoeists use the tidal waters of the Thames. Greenland Dock is also used to hold an annual rowing regatta although as the Regatta Centre facilities at the Royal Albert Dock develop, it may increasingly become the focus for such activities.

Dragon Boat racing, which is similar to rowing in its requirements, is principally undertaken at Millwall Outer Dock, and the Royal Albert Dock, although Greenland Dock does host events and Shadwell Basin is used more for participatory and fun events.

The River Thames is increasingly used for sailing, canoeing and rowing by those centres which have good access. The tidal variation and strong currents of this reach of the river make safety a paramount consideration for river borne activities.

Fishing, which is well established in the western half of Docklands, especially in Shadwell Basin, Greenland Dock and the West India Docks, is also creeping back into the Royal Docks; it was successfully reintroduced to the Albert Basin in 1994 and there are plans to extend this as quay edge works are completed and the docks become more accessible. The Thames is also fished extensively.

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1.2 Shared Water Use

Due to the demands on the water area from:

  • different operators functioning in the same dock
  • the passage of larger vessels through docks to mooring areas
  • dredging and other dock maintenance
  • one-off and large events

there needs to be a mechanism to avoid conflicts.

In terms of event programmes, this co-ordination has traditionally been conducted through the Harbourmaster and the Docklands Water Development Group - a forum for water users to meet on a quarterly basis set up, administered and serviced by the Corporation. There is no reason why this forum should cease post LDDC. It could and should he organised on a Borough basis or through the managing agencies which succeed the LDDC in looking after the docks after the Corporation is wound up.

Through the Water Development Group, organisations produce a list of proposed water events within the year/season. Once collated, the information provides a clear indication of any clashes with regular water activities or with other events which might have the effect of diluting attendance.

A more formalised version has been set up for the Royals which is administered by the Harhourmaster on behalf of the Royal Docks Management Authority (RoDMA). The ‘Diary of Water Events’ lists all planned usage of the water areas whether for an event or a boat movement and represents a priority use which others must respect. It will continue to be produced following the Corporation’s demise by RoDMA and will be communicated to water users in the form of a notice and/or possibly in the form of a booklet with advertisements and articles which is self financing. It could even he profit making as is that produced by Plymouth City Council.

The docks are of a size such that to date conflicts between users operating on the same waters have been largely avoided. The Royal Victoria Dock, for example, is used by the Royal Victoria Dock Watersports Centre (RVDWC) and by Peter Chilvers Windsurfing without conflict. However, with increasing usage of the water due to:

  • more sessions at the Centres (for e.g., RVDWC increased theirs overall by over 15% in 94/95, and by 42% the previous year);
  • more operators (for e.g., London Sea School and Sea Cadets on the RVD); and
  • increased usage associated with adjacent landside development (Urban Village moorings, Exhibition Centre)

the potential for conflicts is growing and will continue to do so in the future.

There will need to be an assessment of the capacity of the docks to accommodate the increasing demands and a mechanism devised for the more popular water areas to cater for it. This may be in the form of defined periods during which users can undertake activities or specific areas on which these activities can be undertaken, as at Poole Harbour and other coastal areas. This would he implemented through the licences granted by the appropriate management authority.

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1.3 Events

Events are important to the use of the water. They can assist in:

a) increasing public awareness of watersports and recreation facilities in Docklands;
b) promoting the use of those facilities and the water;
e) encouraging people to take up watersports; and
d) drawing people into Docklands to watch the events.

By increasing the use of the Centres, events play an important part in the viability of the facilities. The Corporation has supported events and activities on the water through a grant fund. There has been a significant increase in the numbers of events, participants and spectators in the last three years (for example, from 31 LDDC supported events in 1993/94 to 49 in 1995/96).

As the Corporation gradually withdraws, the grants are being tapered to encourage an increasing sponsorship from other sources including local businesses. Organisations will need to increase their links with the private sector to build on the events programme developed with the assistance of the grant fund, either directly or through a partnership scheme with the local authority

Boat Show - The development of the Exhibition Centre (ExCeL) next to the Royal Victoria Dock provides an exceptional opportunity to introduce major water related events to the docks. The National Dinghy Exhibition is out-growing its current location at Alexandra Palace and is a prime candidate, but the most exciting opportunity lies in the scope for a boat show.

The idea of a boat show has been raised in the past but the infrastructure has not been available. Neither the Boat Show at Earls Court nor the National Dinghy and Board Sailing Exhibitions at Alexandra Palace has access to a major body of water, and Southampton Boat Show, which does, has no permanent covered exhibition space. The Royal Victoria Dock
and ExCeL offer an exciting opportunity to stage a national boat show with the added attraction of sailing competitions and boat handling opportunities.

Matchboat Racing - The 1994 RYA match racing finals were held in the Southampton Docks at the same time as their boat show. The Royal Victoria Dock is an ideal venue for such events; with the foot bridge air draft at 14 metres to bridge soffit, the clearance is sufficient for the development of RYA match racing competitions in the future.

Exotic Fleet Racing - The most common and consistently televised series in Britain is the Ultra 30s Challenge, although 15ff skiffs and International 14s are also raced. Although these craft would not achieve the limits of their potential in the confines of the dock, races would be attractive because of the natural theatre of the dock.

Team Racing - One of the fastest growing trends in sailing sport, team racing is undertaken by schools, universities and clubs. The Royal Victoria Dock provides a superb venue for these events with the potential for a regional centre for London and for national and, being close to London City Airport, even international events. Additionally, the Royal Victoria Dock provides excellent opportunities for spectators which have been limited at other venues.

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1.4 Water Sports Centres

There are a four principal watersports centres operating in the four main areas - Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre in Wapping, the Surrey Docks Watersports Centre in Rotherhithe, the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre in the Isle of Dogs and the Royal Victoria Dock Watersports Centre in the Royals. The completion of the facilities at Royal Albert Dock will provide a further centre in the Royals in the near future (rowing, canoeing and dragon boating will be the principal activities). There are also other water sports facilities throughout Docklands, although these are either commercial or not publicly funded.

Traditionally, the four main Centres have been community based operations, heavily subsidised by the local authority and seen by them as primarily providing affordable watersports for local people. For the most part, they still are.

By and large, they have sought support from grant making organisations including the Corporation for equipment, sponsorship, training etc but have been heavily dependent on the local authority especially for revenue funding. Their focus, therefore, has been on continuing affordable community provision rather than on laying the foundations for financial self-sufficiency by expanding their clientele and activity base.

However, with a combination of increasing pressure on local authority resources (LBN and LBTH have both reduced their grants), continuing expectations from their principal funders to maintain low charges and easy access to all sections of the community and the relatively high costs in providing water sports activities (safety cover, craft depreciation etc), the Centres are facing financial pressures and an uncertain future.

Continued provision for the local Docklands community is important and must be maintained. However, centres must increasingly look to cross-subsidising this provision by charging realistic prices for those who can afford it and for those outside the area. Indeed, water areas such as the Royal Victoria Dock and Albert Dock provide unparalleled watersports opportunities within London and can be considered as a regional, or even national asset. In other words, the Centres, while retaining their service to the local community, must also move towards a more commercial footing, identifying and attracting a wider clientele with attractive facilities, a wide range of courses and activities for users, good equipment and a good standard of service. This will inevitably change the nature of the Centres, but is the key to their long term future at a time when continued local authority funding, certainly at current levels, cannot be guaranteed.

The Centres will need to consider the potential for income generation of their landside facilities and to maximise it. Although the buildings can be a significant liability if not properly managed, they have the potential to generate income to subsidise the water activities and secure the facility. For example, the watersports centre at Willen Lake, Milton Keynes derives much of its income from landside uses and this is used to support its water programme.

Besides commercial activities such as gym, bar, restaurant, etc, the Centres will need to consider all options, including education. The facilities are ideally placed, with the existing courses and training programmes to establish links with local colleges and so offer a range of training opportunities in leisure related subjects at NVQ or similar level.

As the Corporation withdraws from the UDA it is important that the watersports centres do not become polarised according to Borough boundaries and engage in mutually destructive competition with each other. Their future lies in providing complementary services which exploit the facilities, staff skills and water areas to offer development opportunities for water users at all levels of skill and experience.

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2. Other Water Uses

As wide a variety of water uses as possible should be encouraged, subject to constraints such as the shape of dock, London City Airport and general management and safety requirements. This is contained within the LDDC Act 1994 under the general duty provisions which, in relation to the water, refers to the duty of securing a “diversity of purposes which may include sporting, recreational, cultural, commercial, energy-related and navigational purposes.”

2.1 Floating Restaurants, Pubs

Some docks (St Katharine’s, West India, Millwall Inner and South Docks) have attracted floating restaurants and pubs and others will do so as demand for such facilities grows, for example, at Limehouse Basin. Such activity adds interest and colour to the dock edge environment and provides income from mooring fees. In some docks, such boats may be inappropriate; landside facilities, such as clubhouses, will provide venues for eating and drinking and the boats could be perceived as a hazard to novice water users.

In the Royals, these boats have not yet appeared because of a lack of supporting population, restricted access to the dock sides, the construction work and lock repairs.

In the medium to long term, however, there may well be a demand linked to developments on the land including the Exhibition Centre and Urban Village Phase II.

The most appropriate location for such vessels in terms of watersports will be in areas of wind shadow or confused wind where water activities will be limited. The Pontoon Dock is a good example. Post development, the latter would provide a focus for moorings, offering a sheltered location with a range of additional and supporting uses around the dock. Such vessels would not be located where they adversely affect local conditions for watersports or unduly restrict the amount of useable water area for watersports.

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2.2 Historic Vessels

The Corporation is currently, considering an initiative which provides a visitor attraction of historic vessels in support of the museum proposals. The vessels would be open to the public and the Corporation’s successors would coordinate the management of the moorings. The boats would create interest and activity on the dock edge and enhance the waterside settings of adjacent buildings. They would also provide an important education resource for local and visiting schools.

If the scheme proceeds, the Corporation would grant the Trusts legal interests to moor the boats in West India Quay. The West India Quay location would augment the development of the Museum of Docklands proposal to site in the nineteenth century warehouses on the north quay.

There are other locations within the dock system which may also be appropriate; generally, however, the location of historic vessels should be linked to existing and planned tourist destinations and where they minimise interference with activities on the water. St Katharine Dock is already established as a location for historic vessels and the smaller dock basins such as Limehouse Basin and the Pontoon Dock have similar potential.

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2.3 Visiting Ships and Moorings

In general, the demand for marina berthing in the South, South-East and East Anglia exceeds supply. The demand from the population of London is largely catered for but not satisfied by the south coast marinas and those in southern East Anglia. These facilities are all some 50-70 miles, or up to 2.5 hours drive from the centre of London. There are currently four marinas in London Docklands - St Katharine Haven, Limehouse Basin, South Dock and the Gallions Point Marina in the Albert Basin. Further marinas could be contemplated at the western end of the South Branch of the West India Docks, the Millwall Inner Dock, Blackwall Basin and the Pontoon Dock although the dock walls in some of these locations are in different ownership.

Successful marina facilities include shore-based facilities such as showers, changing areas, cafeterias, club rooms, chandlery, shop and repair facilities.

Marinas are important as visitor attraction facilities in themselves, and motor cruisers, which are likely to make up the hulk of visiting boats, provide a suitable facility for businesses and other entertainment uses. However, users expect good access to their berths at most states of the tide. It appears that a one hour wait either side of low tide is generally acceptable, but that two hours generally is not. Although under-used at present, the Gallions Point Marina at the eastern end of Docklands is likely to become increasingly popular exploiting the motor cruiser trade from clubs located further up river.

Further quayside treatment in areas suitable for moorings in the Royals should allow for power, water and sewage disposal connections ashore.

Moorings for pleasure craft should be avoided in docks which are primarily used for watersports, where they reduce the available water areas for activities and could be a hazard to novice users. This is particularly true of the Royal Victoria Dock where, in addition, a strong easterly wind which is prevalent in the winter can cause considerable damage to pontoons and boats moored along the southern edge of the docks. Nevertheless, and depending on the length of vessel, the marinas in Docklands provide approximately 600 berths for pleasure boats and small craft.

Parts of the docks should he considered as berthing for winter lay overs for some of the larger yachts.. South Dock of the West India Docks is an option. The location is attractive with good transport connections to the City and West End and easy access to London City Airport, Stanstead and other major airports.

There are, however, specific restrictions in the Royals relating to the safeguarding of Airport operations. These limit the air draft of vessels which can use the dock and moor within it during the times the Airport is operational. Additionally, under “Notice to Mariners” issued by the Harbourmaster, Radar operation for any visiting ship is not permitted whilst the Airport is functioning.

The Strategic Planning Guidance for the River Thames (GOL February 1997) advocates the provision of new and upgraded piers to promote passenger transport on the river. The Inland Waterways Association also see the need for more public piers to encourage the increased recreational use of the Thames. The Corporation is currently responsible for two piers within its area. Old piers are being refurbished as part of planning agreements for adjacent development which improves the general level of provision in the area. This policy will continue to be promoted.

With the development of the Exhibition Centre, it may be feasible to establish a boat sale facility in Docklands, most probably in the Royals or the West India Docks. Boats could be craned into the dock for demonstrations. Enquiries have been received in the past but so for none have come to fruition. There arc already chandlers and boat repair facilities in the area.

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2.4 Sub-Aqua

There are four clubs and one school operating in Docklands with a combined membership of over one hundred although many more will have passed through these organisations and not become members - about 250 divers have successfully completed the training at the Docklands Dive Club in the past three years All of the clubs and schools are based around swimming pools (e.g. St Georges, Seven Islands etc) where the basic training is given. Trips are currently made to specialist inland centres such as Gildenborough near Peterborough or the coast for further training and for recreational purposes.

For inland sites, diving requires relatively clean, deep water with good visibility. The British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) and affiliated clubs and schools have expressed considerable interest in the docks but the poor visibility and substrate, together with other water uses, limit the opportunities. Therefore, recreational diving in the docks has not been encouraged, although diving to carry out inspections or for maintenance and repair work of the dock infrastructure or vessels is commonplace.

This is, however, a sport which can and should be extended into the challenging but stable conditions of the dock. In so doing, safety is the major consideration and divers would need to operate (in teams) in a clearly marked, buoyed off area with an effective back up system. Diving clubs/schools would operate through nominated centres, where the use of the water could be monitored and trained staff be on hand to assist should any divers get into difficulties. The Harhourmaster would need to be given notice prior to any dive.

As with all immersion sports, water quality is an important consideration. Water in the docks is tested regularly against rigorous standards which include compliance with physical and bacteriological limits. Although failures periodically occur, usually because of algae growths in the summer months, generally, the water quality is good and meets the EC Bathing Water Directive 1976 on most counts. The most common failure factor is water clarity.

The docks could provide a limited but rich resource for training and recreation and a focus for the sport in London and the South East. It would provide a pool of expertise to support the local underwater service activities and, potentially, additional revenue for the nominated centres.

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2.5 Commercial Freight Activity

Although the docks are no longer used for commercial freight, the waterborne transport of construction materials is a significant use of the docks and the river which the Corporation supports. For example, during the construction of Canary Wharf there were 10,000 barge movements which avoided considerable numbers of lorry trips within London and the Docklands area. For larger developments such as the Exhibition Centre and for major works to the marine estate, the docks will see an increased usage of this nature. Careful management will be needed to ensure that watersports are able to operate safely when construction traffic uses the dock; care will need to be taken that the watersports infrastructure is not damaged in the process.

The river is still used for commercial freight although numbers have declined significantly in the last 30 years. However, the PLA forecast a doubling in trade for the Port of London by the year 2020 (ref: Strategic Planning Guidance for the River Thames, GOL February 1997). With the development opportunities offered by the tidal Thames, recreational and leisure use of the river will also increase.

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3. Access to the Water

The Corporation is committed to securing public access to the majority of the 55 miles of quaysides and to the riverside in Docklands mainly through the provision of riverside and dockside walkways but also through refurbished stairs and slipways. The duty to promote public access to the waterside is a provision of the LDDC Act 1994. It is also a principal objective of the Environment Agency (Recreation Strategy for the River Thames -Space to Live Space to Play), included in the local authorities UDP policies and in line with the Strategic Planning Guidance for the River Thames (GOL February 1997).

These walkways provide opportunities for a range of passive leisure activities such as walking, sitting, watching/spectating and, more recently, eating and drinking at pubs and cafes in adjacent waterside developments. They have also allowed more active pursuits such as cycling and jogging and have been key to the growing numbers who fish the docks and the river. Fishing has grown considerably in the last 10 years; the accessibility to all the docks is improving and it is estimated that almost 10,000 anglers regularly fish the docks.

The Corporation has invested significantly in enhancement of open spaces adjacent to the river and docks such as King Edward VII Memorial Park, Sir John McDougall Gardens, the planned development of the Thames Barrier Park and the Deards Site at the eastern end of MilIwall Outer Dock. These provide a particularly important recreation resource.

Historically, access to both the docks and river was restricted for reasons of security and safety. Limited access to the river, however, was afforded by steps, stairs and other landing places often at the end of narrow passages, such as Wapping Old Stairs, which are now part of the area’s character and heritage. These were used by watermen and lightermen; they also provide access to the foreshore which is important for recreation, historical and ecological reasons. Many of the access points are in a deteriorating state due to lack of maintenance and have been temporarily closed. The Corporation has refurbished a number of steps into the river and is grant aiding the refurbishment of four more such stairs jointly with the owners. The Corporation has also refurbished Johnsons Drawdock and created a slipway in the former Millwall outer dock Lock entrance providing access to the river for sailing, canoeing, rowing and other water activities operating independently, as part of a club or an event. It has also undertaken the refurbishment of Newcastle Drawdock. These locations are as important to those leaving the river as to those accessing it. The PLA have produced a publication Access to the River Thames - Port of London Review (May 1996) which provides a comprehensive survey of landing facilities along the river from Teddington to Southend and recommends the selective retention of access points where suitable and the limited closure of others where not.

Access to the dock waters, however, is controlled. It is provided through the various centres and organisations which are licensed to use the water. The public thus have access to most of the docks and can participate in a wide range of activities. Access is also provided for recreational sailing and motor boating etc. using the marinas or mooring facilities within the docks. Access is not, however, permitted for informal recreation such as swimming or casual usage of watercraft. This is principally on grounds of safety.

Swimming has been a significant problem in the docks especially in hot weather when the dock waters become enticing. False quays, turbidity, the depth of the water and consequent dramatic change in temperature make the dock dangerous for swimming. Several deaths have occurred. The Corporation has formulated bylaws, confirmed by the Secretary of State in December 1996, making failure to comply with the prohibition on swimming in the docks a criminal offence. Additionally, the Corporation has produced a Water Safety Policy Statement 1996 which updates previous guidance produced in conjunction with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). The Corporation, local authorities, police and the watersports organisations are all working with the local schools in an effort to educate children on the safe use of the docks. All waterside developments and projects are expected to incorporate water safety measures to the appropriate standards.

Casual uncontrolled use of the docks for such sports as sailing, boardsailing and canoeing is discouraged principally for safety reasons. Casual users are allowed to launch their craft only at, and through, Water Sports Centres where the use can be monitored and supervised by experienced staff. Additionally, the fees charged also go to the Centre as an additional source of revenue.

Riverside or dockside walkways will be open to the public at all times without restriction unless public safety issues suggest otherwise. An agreement to limited closure will only be considered if an alternative and convenient route is available to the public.

Swimming will only he considered with the express consent of the Harbourmaster and if stringent safety measures are applied. An example is the swim section of the Triathlon where divers and safety staff monitor and stay close to competitors.

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4. Nature Conservation

The varied and large areas of water in London Docklands provide habitats for a wide range of wildlife. The Corporation’s policy towards the ecology of the docks has been to protect and enhance this unique environment and to capitalise on the good health of the dock waters by attracting increasing numbers of waterfowl. In 1993 the LDDC launched 12 experimental tern rafts designed by the RSPB (a further sponsored raft was launched in May 1996). They have been particularly successful with four pairs of Common Terns, with the breeding in 1994 doubling to eight in 1995. The target is to establish a colony of breeding Common Terns (ie. 20-30 pairs).

The nesting rafts are located at places which minimise conflict with water sports, recreational activities, navigation and London City Airport. Three of the rafts are in East India Dock Basin and their success has helped secure the future use of that Dock as a Bird Sanctuary and Ecology Park. The Basin, whilst connected to the River Thames, is at the mouth of the Lea and is a location on the migratory route of many birds (see Policy, East India Dock, Leamouth, on page 22).

The Corporation has backed up its bird initiative with an education programme and has successfully secured sponsorship from Texaco of a bird education pack and an interpretation panel. The pack has been distributed to many local schools. The scope for this type of sponsorship and educational work is huge and will be developed. Education is an essential component of the Corporations nature conservation programme and the provision of information and interpretive material about the natural habitat will be encouraged.

In pursuing this programme the Corporation has relied on the expertise of a range of bodies and currently bird activity is monitored throughout the year. Arrangements will be made for these partnerships and expertise to continue through sponsorship after the demise of the LDDC and so ensure the future ecological health and development of the dock areas. It is important to continue to promote the role of water areas in increasing biodiversity in Docklands, thereby contributing to the wider programme supported by the DoE following the Rio “Earth Summit” in 1992 and embodied in Agenda 21.

As part of the wider strategy for biodiversity consideration will be given to projects to diversify the fish culture and the creation of a wide variety of habitats through planting and quay edge treatment to encourage wildlife.

The Corporation has worked closely with the Boroughs, leading environmental and ecology organisations and major companies in developing initiatives in this field. It can also work with the watersports organisations; non motorised watersports and wildlife are not incompatible partners and successfully live side by side on many rivers and inland waterways.

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5. Development

5.1 Build Out

The scale and grandeur of the remaining waterscapes are unique. There may be regeneration benefits to be secured by allowing developments to extend out over the dock water but these need to be carefully balanced against the need to preserve these waterscapes for sports and recreational use in its existing or developing form. There are so few opportunities within the Capital that the quality of the existing resource is significant to sports provision.

Encroachment into the foreshore of the River Thames will be resisted by the Environment Agency: Thames Region, Government Office for London and the PLA because of the consequences for habitat deterioration and changes of water level. The Corporation, in considering such applications, has sought to ensure that there is a proper balance between the needs of site development and those of the water users.

Where build-out has been permitted, generally the Corporation has preferred piling to dock filling. The piling allows water to move, maintaining deep water movements and currents and limiting any adverse effects on water activities.

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5.2 Bridges

In considering future bridge proposals for a water area which is currently, or could be, used for water activities, an assessment will be undertaken which examines the following:

  • bridge height - what activities will be precluded/limited
  • span/supports - ditto
  • effect on the wind (aerodynamics)
  • activities - existing and potential
  • opening or fixed bridge
  • safety - how easy is it to jump off the bridge

Generally, the higher the bridge soffit above the water (air draft) and the fewer the number of supports in the water, the smaller the impact on water activities, Opening sections either in the main bridge section or to one side will allow the passage of craft but, depending on the opening width, will not allow sailing activities. Additionally, the provision of opening sections within the bridge may increase the size of structural members required; generally the larger the members the greater the impact on air flow around the bridge and thus the possible adverse effect on sailing activities. The greater the height of the bridge the smaller the likely negative effects, such as turbulence, which might affect sailing on the dock.

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5.3 Development Effects: Wind

Wind interacts with buildings to create wind shadows, turbulence, shear, jets of faster air or vortices. It also reacts with the type of surface it is travelling over, for example a rougher surface produces more turbulence but slower wind speeds.

Development adjacent to water areas which can be used for sports and recreation will be designed to limit the worst effects of the building(s) on wind conditions on the dock. This will vary, depending on the principal use of the dock. For instance, sailing and windsurfing require a ‘clean’ wind, that is, not confused’, and would benefit from the tiering of development away from the waters edge which encourages the wind. An example is the Urban Village Phase 1. In some cases the tiering of a building can even improve wind conditions on the dock and, on larger developments, provide terraces for watching water borne events.

Rowing and canoeing, on the other hand, benefit from more sheltered waters although for competition courses, a consistency of conditions across the lanes is most important.

In any waterside development, the Corporation has placed the onus on the developer to demonstrate that the proposals do not adversely affect or preclude water based activities.

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6. Designation - Future Management

In 1990, the Corporation set up the Royal Docks Management Authority (R0DMA), a private non-profit making company, to manage and maintain the water areas and associated engineering infrastructure in the Royal Docks. The company has been granted a 225 year lease by the LDDC to undertake its role into the long term. It is funded via a service charge on land owners within the RoDMA service charge area.

RoDMA has explicit responsibilities to maintain public access to the water areas, and the detailed policies describing how it does this will be put in place prior to dedesignation. The main responsibility of RoDMA in respect of water use at present is the issuing of licenses for the use of the water areas to all the water users within the terms laid out in the “Golden Rules” document. These will vary depending on the scale of the operation and the investment of the organisation in the landside facility. The Water Events Diary, which addresses the day to day management of the water areas, has recently been initiated and the standard terms of the water licence issued by RoDMA have been changed accordingly.

Although fundamental to the use of the water areas, RoDMA has no direct responsibility towards the watersports centres themselves because RoDMA’s control is limited to the water. It does, however, have legal responsibilities to the jetski operators and one other as landlord. Additionally, the majority of the facilities fall within the service charge area from which RoDMA will derive much of its income.

Greenland Dock and South Dock, part of the dock estate in the London Borough of Southwark were passed into the ownership of Southwark Council on the 20th December 1996. The remaining water areas were transferred on the 31st March 1997.

The Corporation dedesignated from Wapping on the 31st January 1997, passing its responsibilities on to Tower Hamlets Council. It will not, however, be transferring responsibility of part of the dock estate - the canals - until the completion of the Wapping borehole project which will provide a supply of fresh groundwater to the canals. The Shadwell Basin Project has been granted a lease and licence for the landside site and dock water under the terms of which they are responsible for the day to day management of both including the aeration of the water to maintain its quality. Funding to cover the maintenance costs has been made available in a charitable fund.

British Waterways will be succeeding the Corporation as owner of the West India and Millwall Dock estate with effect from the autumn of 1997. They will be inheriting the LDDC powers and duties under the 1994 Act.

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7. Policies

Royal Docks

Royal Victoria Dock

1. The location, scale and position of this dock make it one of the best sites in London for sailing and windsurfing and unique in East London. It represents the peak of a hierarchy as far as sailing and general watersports progression/teaching is concerned. “It offers the only site of sufficient size on which to run realistic competitive dinghy and windsurfing events, and extend those day boat sailors, in supervised conditions, who aspire to use the tidal waters” Alix Cowie, RVD Water Use Study 1994.

The Corporation has agreed to a 50 metre build-out along the north quay of the eastern half of the dock in connection with the Exhibition Centre. Further significant intrusion into the water and erosion of visible water space will be resisted whether by build-out, moorings or infrastructure other than in connection with the Watersports Centre and the active use of the water.

2. The Corporation has indicated its support for proposals to develop a permanent watersports centre for non-powered craft at the western end of the dock and a willingness to contribute substantially towards the capital cost. This provides the best location in relation to the prevailing winds and the widest part of the dock for novices and children to develop their sailing skills.

3. Powered watersports or recreational activities will be precluded from the dock for safety reasons. This general policy should not, however, preclude one-off events such as a Power Boat Grand Prix or Motorboat Event connected with the Exhibition Centre.

4. Demonstrations or events connected with the use of the Exhibition Centre will generally he confined to the dock area east of the new Royal Victoria Dock Footbridge unless otherwise agreed with RoDMA and the water users. This will he reflected in the licenses for use of the water.

5. Moorings at the western end of the Royal Victoria Dock would reduce the available area of water for sailing and may be perceived as a hazard by novice water users from the watersports centre. In extreme weather conditions (winter storms) craft on fixed moorings and access pontoons could be severely damaged, particularly in the south west corner during easterly gales.

There is a general presumption against permanent moorings at the western end of the Royal Victoria Dock. Moorings connected with the Urban Village will he designed to minimise incursion into recreational water areas and minimise hazard to novice water users. The numbers of moorings will he minimised and limited in number to 25; the design must take account of severe conditions during bad weather.

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Pontoon Dock

1. The Pontoon Dock can offer a protected mooring area and will be developed, in the long term, as a focus for boat ownership, especially amongst those residents of the Urban Village and possibly also for other boating organisations. By its very location, it offers a safe haven throughout the year and, following the redevelopment of the area, a secure environment.

2. The strategic urban framework plans for the area indicate an aspiration for a pedestrian bridge at the neck of the Pontoon Dock. Any bridge in this location will allow for the passage of motor cruisers and sailing boats to protected moorings within the dock. Rowing boats and canoes will be able to navigate from the Pontoon Dock to the Royal Victoria Dock without opening a section of the bridge.

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Royal Albert Dock

1. The Corporation is continuing to work closely with the Royal Albert Dock Trust (RADT) to develop the 2000 metre rowing and canoeing course by extending the current facility into the Royal Albert Dock Basin. This will provide a course of international and Olympic standards, the only one in the south of England, and provide a focus for watersports provision in the Royal Docks and London. This facility will provide a focal point for local clubs and clubs within the South-East to train, run events and hold competitions. In December 1996 the RADT received a significant award from the Sports Lottery Fund to extend the course and develop the facilities to service it; the LDDC is providing the match funding for the works to the course.

2. The infrastructure to support the course, namely:

a clubhouse
a boathouse
start and finishing installations
a pedestrian walkway running parallel to the course used for coaching supervision and for spectators

is close to implementation. The clubhouse and boathouse are both due to start on site in summer of 1997.

3. The course is currently used for rowing, canoeing and dragon boating. The dock is also used for the transit of vessels through to the Royal Victoria Dock.

4. The new developments on the land to the north of the Royal Albert Dock will need to be designed to have the minimum adverse effect on the rowing course. Consistent wind and water conditions across all lanes are important to the competitiveness of an international rowing course.

5. For safety reasons access to the water will be restricted to one point of embarkation. There has to be a strict circulation pattern because the principal sport is undertaken facing backwards.

6. It is essential that the LDDC/RoDMA reserve the occasional right of passage for large vessels travelling to and from the Royal Victoria Dock via the Albert Dock upon reasonable notice.

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Albert Dock Basin

1. The Albert Basin is ideally suited in size and location adjacent to the River Thames to he a marina. The small ship lock which links the Basin directly to the Thames is adequate for motor cruisers either using the facility on a club basis or visiting from up river or around the coast.

The success of a marina will be influenced by the development surrounding the Basin. The western extent of the marina will be limited by the proposed new bridge (replacing the old swing bridge) and the boundary of the London City Airport Public Safety Zone (PSZ). The latter encroaches into the south-west corner of the Basin and restricts the use of those areas within the PSZ boundary. The boundaries of the Public Safety Zones are currently under review.

The Corporation will continue to promote the Basin as an attractive location for a permanent facility and maintain the policy of providing short term licences until a more permanent commitment is forthcoming.

2. Fishing on the north quay will continue to be encouraged from agreed dockside areas. The provision of safety railings will allow access to the water for anglers consonant with RoSPA’s advice

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King George V Dock

1. The KGV Dock will continue to be the location for motor powered watersports. The current uses of water skiing and personal watercraft take up two-thirds and one-third of the dock respectively.

2. The Corporation has contributed towards the cost of refitting a barge from which the PWC Club can operate - the Tereza Joanne. This has been leased to the club; it is owned by RoDMA.

3. The waterski operation has been temporarily closed and relocated to enable works to the dolphins to be completed. It is intended to provide a new centre on the south quay, incorporating club facilities, showers, changing rooms, storage and car parking. This facility should be flexible in its design and be capable of accommodating both the waterski and PWC operations if required. Skiers will need to walk between the clubhouse and the pick-up points on the water (between dolphins 4 and 5).

4. This dock will also be available for model powerboat racing and practice subject to this activity causing no interference with the Airports radio and navigational equipment. The overall dock meets the minimum space requirements (no less than 210m in length, 80m in width) and is not noise sensitive. There are pontoons available at both existing watersports facilities and car parking (for up to 60 spaces) also. The current Personal Watercraft operator has expressed an interest in accommodating this activity.5. Fishing will generally be precluded for safety reasons. However, fishing will be considered in the water area between the dolphins and the quay where the water is not actively used.

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East India Dock/Leamouth

1. East India Dock Basin has been identified as the principal bird sanctuary in Docklands and will continue to be developed as such along the following lines:

a) For the visitor, the area has been made safe for public access through the provision of walkways, ramps, and steps. Facilities will be provided to enable the observation of birds without disturbance. With the advice of English Heritage, the listed lock artefacts have been restored. East India Dock will become a destination along a number of footpaths which link in to the wider pedestrian network although access will be restricted between dusk and dawn.

b) For the wildlife, the Corporation will provide a range of habitats which will encourage birds, aquatic life, etc to live, feed and breed in the area. Such habitats will include a kingfisher bank, reedbeds and shingle islands.

2. Fishing will not be permitted at East India Dock Bird Sanctuary. The treatment of the waters edge would be in conflict with this activity. Also, past experience at Lavender Pond has shown the two uses to be incompatible.

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River Lea/Bow Creek

1. In 1995 the LDDC and the NRA undertook a joint project to plant a stretch of river bank with reeds to assist in filtration and cleaning of the Lea. This is currently being monitored. Depending on results, further planting will be undertaken although such opportunities do not arise in the main tideway.

2. Public access to the banks of the River Lea will be encouraged.

3. Bow Creek has been developed primarily as a plant sanctuary with emphasis on water plants and those species which have evolved as a result of past trading activities. The site will be a wardened park open to the public which seeks to educate visitors.

4. The Corporation will continue to develop the range of demonstration habitats and this has been assisted by the installation of a wind driven water pump.

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Poplar Dock

1. Poplar Dock East provides an attractive waterside setting for proposed development to the east of Trafalgar Way and existing residential development to the south. The Corporation is currently building a hard ramp boat access in a former cut to improve access to the water. In addition, a berm is also being created which will improve the habitat, by forming shallows, for fish and other acquatic life to breed in.

2. Fishing will be permitted in the dock subject to any development restrictions.

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Blackwall Basin

1. This basin provides access to Poplar Dock and a waterside setting for existing and proposed developments. It is an attractive location for a sheltered moorings and small boat usage or even a marina development within the West India Dock system.

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West India Docks

1. South Branch of the West India Docks will remain the principal location for deep water moorings thus allowing large ships and naval vessels to visit Docklands easily. These large ships are an attraction in their own right; they also provide a link back to the docks’ past.

2. South Branch will continue to be used for watersports linked to the landside facility operated by the Docklands Scout Project and the Sea Cadets.

With the growing pool of spectators and participants provided by the surrounding offices, the West India Dock system will be increasingly used for one-off events linked to specific occasions such as the Sea Food Fair or corporate promotions. There is also scope for lunchtime activities such as sailing as a recreational option specifically aimed at the local office population.

The Corporation will consider the provision of appropriate facilities to service this opportunity.

3. The provision of bird rafts will be best sited in the western part of the dock away from the major water activity areas.

4. In the long term, the South Branch may be an ideal location for the winter lay-over of large yachts in the heart of the capital and within easy reach of the West End and City Airport. This should not, however, be at the expense of watersports activities on the dock. The Corporation will undertake research into the opportunities for this.

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MilIwall Dock - Inner

1. This dock will continue to be an area supporting the more passive water recreation pursuits; a location and centre for floating restaurants and pubs and an attractive area to walk around at lunch time or in the evening.

2. This will not preclude the occasional use of the dock for motor cruiser regattas offering those involved a convenient location with significant local facilities.

3. The bird rafts moored in the centre of the dock have been successful and will continue to be located in this area.

4. Fishing will be permitted in the dock.

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MiIIwalI Dock - Outer

1. This dock will remain the principal water area for the sailing centre. Powered watercraft will be precluded from the dock for reasons of safety and residential amenity except for safety boats operating from the sailing centre or vessels under the control of the Harbourmaster. This will not, however, preclude the use of the dock for one off events.

2. The limited size of the dock will preclude the use of the water by another organisation except through the sailing centre.

3. Fishing will be a secondary activity within the dock; the relative narrowness of the water area and nature of the water sports activities may be in conflict with the anglers.

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Limehouse Basin

1. The Basin, which is owned by British Waterways, is the gateway to England’s canals and provides a vital staging point for cruising on London’s canals, the River Lea and Stort navigations via Limehouse Cut and the Thames. The marina, which is managed by the Cruising Association, is now established and provides an important additional facility for narrow boats, inland waterways craft and yachts in Docklands.

2. The Basin is an important recreational resource at the junction of a number of footpaths and increasingly provides a focus for development on surrounding land. It will become a visitor destination in its own right centred on the use of the water by canal and small cruising boats and associated activities.

3. There is limited fishing in the Basin itself although the adjoining canals and River Thames are actively used. British Waterways will review its policy as the marina becomes more popular.

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Shadwell Basin

1. Shadwell Basin will continue to be used for non-powered watersports, offering a sheltered location for the teaching of novices and youths in the relative safety of the Dock. For the more experienced, the tidal waters of the Thames provide progression within the area; the larger docks in the Royals and to a lesser extent the Isle of Dogs, provide opportunities for further development in supervised conditions.

2. The docks will also continue to be used for fishing. It is currently the operational base for the Shadwell Angling and Preservation Society. The monitoring and maintenance of water quality will become the responsibility of the East London Marine Venture.

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Hermitage Basin

1. The refurbished dock basin will provide a waterside setting for surrounding residential development to which the public will have access.

2. The basin has been planted with several types of lily and water hawthorn and stocked with a variety of fish. It will be fed by water run off from surrounding development. Fishing will not be permitted.


Surrey Docks

South Dock

1. South Dock will continue to be a location for Docklands largest marina with overspill into Greenland Dock. The lock has a wide tidal window and river moorings allowing good accessibility to the Marina. The lock also allows access to the river for sailing centre craft via South Dock. This is an important facility for the centre.

2. Fishing will not be permitted within the marina.

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Greenland Dock

1. This dock will remain the principal water area for the purpose built Surrey Docks Watersports Centre. The beach, which was originally installed and recently resurfaced by the LDDC, will continue to provide a facility for novice water users from which to launch/land craft.

2. The principal use is shared with the overspill berthing from the Marina and fishing; Greenland Dock provides one of the main fishing areas in the Surrey Docks.

3. Powered watersports are excluded from the Dock. However, this general policy will not preclude ‘one off” events.


Canada Water

1. The LDDC have restored the freshwater habitat of the dock by installing a low speed wind turbine to draw up ground water and created a wetland and wildfowl nesting island. The water area will continue to provide a unique freshwater resource contributing to the wide range of habitats in Docklands.

2. Fishing will be reviewed in the light of its current status as a wildlife habitat.


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Surrey Water

1. The dock will continue to provide a focus for the amenity of residential uses surrounding the water.

2. The historical designation of this area as suitable for model power boating is no longer appropriate. Although silenced, the boats are relatively noisy and would conflict with the residential character of the area. Also, the configuration of the water space precludes racing to the standards laid down by the National Circuit Racing Association for model craft. The use of the water for non-powered model craft, however, would be acceptable.

3. The pontoon, which has attracted misuse and vandalism, has been removed from the dock. The future use of the pontoon will be investigated.

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Lavender Pond

Lavender Pond remains one of the most successful and important ecology sites in the Surrey Docks and is home to many waterfowl and aquatic plants and creatures. This water area, together with the interpretative facilities based at the adjoining pumphouse, will continue to be used as a recreational and educational resource.

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AlixCowie (1990)
Marinas and Moorings Study
LDDC, unpublished

Alix Cowie (1994)
Royal Victoria Dock Water Users Study
LDDC, unpublished

Chesterton/Ashurst Morris Crisp (1995)
RoDMA - A Strategy for Future Water Use
LDDC, unpublished

East London Marine Venture (1985)
Water Recreation in London’s Docklands

Government Office for London (1997)
Strategic Planning Guidance for the River Thames
London: The Stationary Office

Grant Thornton (1991)
Water Development Strategy for LDDC
Unpublished LDDC report

LDDC (1992)
Waterside Design Guidelines
LDDC, Planning Section

LDDC (1996)
Water Safety Policy Statement
LDDC, Health and Safety

London Docklands Development Corporation Act 1994
HMSO, London

LDDC (1996)
London Docklands Development Corporation Byelaws

National Rivers Authority/Sports Council (1995)
A Recreation Strategy for the River Thames - Space to live, space to play
NRA Thames Region, Reading

Port of London Authority (1996)
Access to the River Thames - A PLA Review - Steps, Stairs and Landing Places On The Tidal Thames.
PLA, London

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London Borough of Tower Hamlets
London Borough of Southwark
London Borough of Newham
British Waterways
Environment Agency
Port of London Authority
English Sports Council
River Thames Society
Royal Yachting Association
British Canoe Union
British Sub-Aqua Club
British Water Ski Federation
Amateur Rowing Association
Inland Waterways Association
London Rivers Authority
Lea Valley Regional Park Authority
British Dragon Boat Association
Federation of Anglers in London and The SE
London City Airport
Civil Aviation Authority
Docklands Forum
Peter Chilvers Windsurfing
Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre
Docklands Watersports Club
London Docklands Regatta
London Docklands Angling Consortium
Docklands Scout Project
London Sea School
National Anglers Council
Poplar Blackwall & District Rowing Club
Royal Docks Waterski Club
Royal Victoria Dock Watersports Centre
Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre
Surrey Docks Watersports Centre
Government Office for London
Sea Cadets
English Nature
London Ecology Unit
Thames Estuary Project
Royal Docks Consultative Group
Wapping River Police
Association of Island Communities
National Lottery Directorate

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LDDC Monographs

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Completion Booklets

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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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