When you think of Docklands, you think of skyscrapers and bankers – and that’s not rhyming slang. But a lot of the old London docks that went through regeneration in the 1980s are residential areas. Some already were residential – the homes of the dockers. Others have been gentrified, with huge “luxury” blocks of flats which are set apart physically and financially from the old docklands homes – rows of terraced houses, low rise council flats.
Many of the residents of those areas of Silvertown, Custom House and west Beckton look across the road to the luxury flats, the Excel Centre, hotels and a new university which have been built to look over the water of the old docks. When you walk along these roads that divide the new from the old, the divide between “them” and “us” is palpable.
One area which did do well out of the regeneration was Beckton. It now boasts treelined streets of family homes, schools, health centres, cheap supermarkets, parks, allotments and walkways away from the traffic. The open space should feel welcoming in what was once a very industrial area. But it feels desolate, souless and uncared for. And even on bright days, you meet very few people using the walkways and parks.
On days with the slightest of breezes, these open areas turn into wind tunnels. Walking across the park can be a bracing experience.
You get the feeling whoever planned the regeneration of Docklands meant well didn’t really have any idea about the needs of people.