The Guardian – 15 October 1981 

A £200 million plan to create a breeding ground for high technology industries in London’s derelict docklands is being put together with help from the new London Docklands Development Corporation.  It would occupy more than two million square feet at the northern end of a new enterprise zone on the Isle of Dogs which the Environment Secretary, Mr Michael Heseltine, is expected to designate early next year. 

Confidential proposals are being prepared by a consortium called Thames Island Estates to build an artificial island on a stretch of water between Canary Wharf and Heron Wharf in the Royal Docks.  Its development would straddle the two wharves and the island. 

At the core of the development would be a one million square feet technology centre unlike any development yet seen in Britain.  Its closest parallel would be Tsukuba City, near Tokyo, where the Japanese government has pulled together nine of the country’s mail research and development institutes into one place to stimulate innovation.

The Thames Island Estates proposal is in some ways more ambitious than this.  It aims to foster the so-called “sunrise” industries in the fields of energy conservation, renewable energy, microelectronics, information technology, product and process engineering, pollution control, automation and robotics. 

It also seeks to establish a North-South centre for trade with developing countries. 

The idea is that the fusion of all these activities on one site will create an explosion of innovation which will be given a commercial outlet. 

The consortium is formed by a company called Earthlife Developments which was the runner-up in the contest for development of the Surrey Docks site earlier this year when it submitted similar ideas : Balfour Beatty Construction; and as yet undisclosed company with strong property and financial interests.

It is being encouraged by the London docklands Development Corporation which was set up by the Government this year to organise industrial regeneration in this area. 

The LDDC board has already considered an outline submission from the consortium and is due to pass its verdict on the final plans next month.  If both sides are satisfied – and the consortium is keen to establish hat the LDDC is making suitable improvements to infrastructure and transport links – the deal would be announced early next year.

Mr Nigel Tuersley, for Earthlife Developments, explained yesterday that the centre was designed to be “the point of technology transfer for Europe”.  Around the high technology complex would be built hotels, a conference centre, housing, shops, and cafes.

The LDDC hopes that this can be one of the main developments around which the Isle of Dogs enterprise zone will take off.  Another is likely to be the Daily Telegraph, which will move its printing operation to the area if final plans are agreed at the end of this month. 


Nigel Tuersley