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London Docklands

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Edward Clarke 13PM

London Docklands

London has been an important port since Roman times. It was an important city nationally and goods from all over the Roman Empire were brought into the Thames area for distribution around the country. It was therefore an important trading centre with shipping routes to many different destinations on the Continent.

During Saxon and Medieval times, dock activity declined and the London Docklands was not such an important trading centre. But during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I the dockland activity increased greatly. Dock activity was so great in fact that there were too many boats wanting to moor. Goods had to be passed to smaller boats who then passed them onto the warehouses. However, a lot of the goods were stolen so laws controlling mooring were introduced. It was during the Elizabethan period that the drained Stepney Marshes first became known as the Isle of Dogs.

In the early Nineteenth century, trading companies started to develop dock areas next to their warehouses so that boats could moor right next to their warehouses. The first company to do this was the West India Trading Company whose docks opened in 1802. It proved very successful, so in 1806 East India docks were opened. The two docks merged in 1838. Millwall docks were opened in 1868 before going on to join with the India docks in 1909. However, each dock seemed small quickly due to the increase in activity every time s new dock was opened.

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The area was also not very attractive for prospective redevelopers due to a combination of factors. These ranged from poor infrastructure, poor access to the rest of land, severe dereliction making it very expensive for redevelopment and also the fact that most of the land was held by public bodies which didn’t make the area market sensitive. Fig. 1 shows Shadwell Basin in 1985.



One of the main foci of the redevelopment of the area was the transport infrastructure. Almost half the public sector cost (£3,900 million) was spent improving the transport infrastructure. 144km of new and improved roads were provided along with extensive cycle networks serving the whole of the Docklands area.

The biggest transport project was the building of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). This transport system was 18km before the Lewisham extension, and now serves 133 stations both north and south of the river in the Docklands area. It also links into the tube network at Bank and Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf is now served by the Jubilee Line extension and the station has undergone redevelopment itself ensuring that it is capable of transporting the large number of commuters that work in the area. The integrated DLR and tube network in the area now reliably carries over 100,000 passengers daily.

The redevelopment schemes also focused on the residential areas of the Docklands. Approximately 25,000 new homes were built in the area, and public services were greatly improved.

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Further office developments continue to spring up at pace, although with time lack of space will surely constrain further developments.

It is important to note that although the main aims of the UDC revolved around the attraction of industry to the area the quality of the residential areas has also been improved. Although there is still more work to be done in this area, the contributions the LDDC made to schools and health centres have improved the quality and frequency of essential services.

However, there is one major criticism of the work of the LDDC. That is that the new jobs that have been created in the area have not been for the local people. Seeing as the dock jobs that were lost were those of the local people surely any new jobs should be aimed at the same local people who were now unemployed.

The new office developments have been on the whole filled by large companies moving out of the The City and relocating their workforce, thereby not creating any new jobs for the local people. This is the one major criticism of the redevelopment schemes, although on the whole I feel the area is now the thriving centre of business it was in its heyday.

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