UEL seminar on post-Olympic regeneration in East London

Notes taken at a seminar hosted by the University of East London (UEL) in the offices of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). 30 January 2013. Ralph Ward in the chair, ex-DCLG (Department of Communities and Local Government) now prof at UEL. “East London’s big projects stop at their edges as though dropped from aky… – Canary Wharf (CW), Westfield, Excel…”  (very scrappy notes so far but I’ll try and edit them, clean them up)

First speaker: Martin Crookston on the history of East London strategies.

Past strategies slide show: Dock closures, DJSP (Docklands Joint Strategic Plan)  1976 wanting more working class housing and industries to replace the docks; filling the docks.//  London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) 1979-88 operated by seeking investors incrementally from west to east, couldn’t mention “planning” (almost like after communism in E Europe). 1988-98 CW and the presentation as 3rd centre of London;  outer E london becomes the commuter hinterland. 1993 birth of Channel Tunnel rail Link (CTRL) corridor with nodes… // 2003 Prescott etc Gateway plans with emphasis on developing brownfield land… // 2004 London Plan period with strong emphasis on shift east, and on finance and business services. // Boris version 2011 adds nod to suburbs but…  Adds stuff on housing quality, adding SPGs including one on Legacy.

Strong E-W geography, strongly radial. No strong relationships N-S. Newham’s “arc” at right-angles to reality. How far should thinking extend? Right down estuary? Interesting rail freight map; Stansted UK’s 4th airport, with new oweners who may actually compete. Big freight hub too. LCY is small beer.

Current strategy- Olympic Legacy Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) lists Dumb objects: Crossrail, Westfield, Der Coe-Stadion, focus? purpose? Wizard Wheezes like Old Street; nonsense; Wood Wharf; Old press centre>>media cetre?;   now we are in Picklesville and danger of inter-area competition. SPG from Boris as a constraining document. Not really a vision. What is the thing FOR?  Enormous problem of severance around stratford, not much better than in 1980s… hardly any new roads, just footbridges. Glad to hear that LLDC are preparing a local plan.

Second speaker Eric Sorensen

Starts on sequence: Westfield was being discussed long before Olympics thought of, and improving the station was triggered by the arrival of the Jubilee Line Extension (JLE).  Roads are useful but these ones (A13, Stratford High St, East Cross Route) are a blight on humanity.

UK economy is 3%smaller than 5 years ago, US+3% and plans have not adapted to this.   CW conceived when UK grew at 4.5%p.a. Wood Wharf 20 more acres would be a huge addition for Finance and Business Services (FBS) to digest and that won’t happen.  TMT (technology media telecomms) will be more important. But no pre-lets are happening now (without which no development takes place), so wood wharf will be 10 storey groundscrapers. Derwent London have 2 x 80,000 ft2 blocks in Islington for TMT housing Expedia & Ticketmaster. Staff come from everywhere in the world?/UK?, and they can be attracted to a place like Islington…  Cleaners etc come from Newham.

Southern half of IoD is all 2 bed flats replacing B1 buildings of the early LDDC period.

Developments need some history. (Recalled that Reg Ward had to get the cranes back from scrap at great expense to decorate CW, with a mighty battle with DoE to pay for them)  There were no takers for Sugar Quay until after they spent £3m on the roof, then LDDC got £10m for that row of warehouses (where the Museum of London Docklands is, oyster bars etc).

East of CW is a total mess. Try to walk around it.   Royal Docks a very worrying area. Lots of blight and Ballymore’s inability/disinclination to develop along noth shore just east of Lea.  Highway between Poplar station and Poplar is one of LDDC’s biggest mistakes:  maybe 3 lanesx2 wd be better than 4×2; speed could be slower than 40mph, but it’s a disaster as it is.  Boris’s SPG is utterly depressing list of nice outcomes.  Barking town square is different and fun.

“Thames Gateway” has completely disappeared from discussion.  Buried by Pickles.

Prescott an interesting person, but too obsessed with huge brownfield sites like Barking Riverside which is a disaster, threatening to gobble public money for DLR further extensions.

Comments etc from others:

Roger (?) directs host boroughs unit (=”growth boroughs unit”)  Quotes the regeneration PROMISE . Must be kept. One of the most disadvantaged communities in England. Need to redress conditions. Also have to house another 300,000(?) people.  How provide all this housing?  How prioritise ?  Important growth point for London economy – ref to an Oxford Economics report?? (What report is this?)  (Very critical of the pickles machinery but I missed a bit).

Another questioner: what to do first?  Eric: UCL would be wonderful if you can do it

Richard Simmons U of G (ex CABE).  Danger of monoculture and massive projects.  Need a lot of smaller stuff.

Aldo Miranda UEL Start from the people, not the buildings, not the space.

Martin Crookston: nobody ever did anything about the people effects of the Games – nobody ever thought of getting all the local kids to welcome people and then develop it into careers for those people.  (Fierce objection to this from a Newham Councillor Connor, cabinet member for ….  Almost apoplectic. Another Newham councillor, not very clear, was saying that the Olympic games was used to help get local people into jobs).

Jo Alexander (CARP) saying that Newham totally opposed to proper consultation, about retaining our community… doing anything they don’t see as profitable.

Richard (?name) who had been a member of the olympic bid team…. dangers from rising house prices..  But we lack government commitment.

Michael Ward: the promises that were made are very important…  lots of people in the room were involved in making the promises. Whichever problem we are trying to to solve its impossibble because the state has withdrawn.  State delivered at LDDC. State did it for the olympics and is doing it for HS2.  We must get the state back if anything positive is to happen.

Eric Sorensen:  LDDC had huge slugs of public money. LLDC seem to have nothing much… But Mayoralty has a lot of resources and is steadily getting more and more.


Guest Speakers:

Eric Sorensen

Eric Sorensen has been at the centre of urban policy and practice in London

for decades. As a senior civil servant he managed the first inner city

Directorate at the then Department of Education (DoE), before becoming chief

executive of the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) in 1991. He

led the London Development Partnership which advised the incoming Mayor in

2000 on strategic priorities for London, and then led the London Thames

Gateway Partnership. He has recently retired as Chief Executive of the

Central London Partnership.


Martin Crookston

Martin Crookston is an experienced consultant in the field of regeneration

and urban planning. As Director of Llewellyn Davies he managed the East

Thames Corridor study for Michael Heseltine which gave rise to the Thames

Gateway and has undertaken numerous studies on east London issues, including

Thames River crossings and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, where he helped

prepare the case for Stratford station. Recently he has been advising Tower

Hamlets on Olympic legacies.


Chair   Ralph Ward

Ralph Ward has recently retired from the Department for Communities and Local

Government (DCLG) as their planning and regeneration adviser on Thames

Gateway and Olympic legacy. He worked in the London Development Unit in the

Government Office for London (GOL) when it managed London’s strategic

development issues prior to the arrival of the GLA, and before that as a

senior development planner for LDDC. He is now a visiting Professor at LERI, UEL.


Please also have a look at the Call for Papers for the International

Conference on Olympic Legacies to be held at the University of East London in

September 2013 (for details see: www.uel.ac.uk/legacyconference ).



Author: Editors


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