DOCKLAND REVIVAL FAILS TO MAKE HEADWAY
The Guardian – 29 March 1982
The London Docklands Development (LDDC) - Mr Michael Heseltine's experiment in test-tube capitalism - which was formed last year to regenerate eight miles of under-used and substantially derelict land along the Thames, from London Bridge in the west to Beckton in the east, appears to be falling short of its original ambitions.
Mr Heseltine, the Environment Secretary, believed that, the only way to make rapid progress was to take planning powers away from the relevant local authorities and give them to a development corporation, which could adopt the dynamic style of new town agencies.
At the core of the LDDC area was to be an enterprise zone on the Isle of Dogs, which is due to be designated by the end of next month and officially opened by the Chancellor, Sir Geoffrey Howe, in May.
The LDDC is not, however, progressing according to its original plans. Last autumn its chief executive, Mr Reg Ward said that the strategy was to attract about three glamour industrial investments, around which new industries and communities could be based.
He now concedes that “time scales have elongated.” The Daily Telegraph is going ahead with plans for a new production plant in the zone but other big projects, notably the £200 million Thames Island plan to create a breeding ground for high technology "sunrise" industries, have not received the sort of encouragement from the LDDC board which they had been led to expect.
Mr Nigel Tuersley, a director of the Thames Island project in which the construction firm Balfour Beatty has a substantial interest, says that it attracted very considerable enthusiasm and support from the LDDC officers under Mr Ward. A package was put together which would have involved the LDDC in bearing some of the commercial risk in the early years.
This active development role was however, rejected by the LDDC board under its chairman, Mr Nigel Broackes. Thames Island was asked to reformulate its proposals in a way which required less commitment from the LDDC.
"The level of support that we had previously anticipated from the LDDC, and which we felt to be essential was not at the end of the day forthcoming," Mr Tuersley says. "This has necessitated revision of the basis on which the scheme has to be developed."
He is still optimistic about its future and quality, but says: "Without a framework of confidence for the deployment of private capital, only piecemeal relatively low-grade development will be possible, with the consequence of a vastly lowered horizon of achievement for the London enterprise zone, and the loss of a unique opportunity for London and the UK."