Longtime Residents on Isle of Dogs Growl That Redevelopment Passed Them By
Redevelopment on the lavish scale of London's Docklands cannot happen without a human cost, and the Isle of Dogs (so named, it is said, because King Charles II kept his whippets there in the 17th century) offers proof.
When the docks closed during the 1970s, tens of thousands of people lost their jobs. But new jobs created in the government's Enterprise Zone were mainly for highly skilled workers.
"When Canary Wharf was conceived," says former London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) chairman Michael Pickard, "it was clear the existing labor force would not have the skills or education to work there."
Many islanders who had expected to get jobs moved away. Others lived on welfare in humble homes on the edge of the development.
They watched hundreds of new apartments sprout, all beyond their means. Some of the apartments were offered by Labour Party-controlled local councils to immigrants from southern Asia and Somalia.
The result was local resentment and a falling away of support for Labour in local government elections. In 1993, Derek Beackon became the first member of the openly racist British National Party to win a seat on the council serving the Isle of Dogs.
Linda Stone, a BNP supporter, says the party exists, "to stop Indians and Pakistanis [from] taking our jobs."
A stroll across the Isle of Dogs, with its high-tech buildings, sidewalk cafes, and expensive shops, confirms that it is geared not to ordinary working people but to the prosperous middle classes.
Working-class islanders fear that next year's winding up of the LDDC, which has subsidized many social facilities in the last 15 years, will mean a sudden shortage of cash.
Richard Roberts, a local community leader, says that after the LDDC disappears, it will cost 6.5 million ($10.4 million) a year to run amenities such as free day-care centers, where working parents can leave their children.
"We shall end up begging for money from the National Lottery," Mr. Roberts says.
Local business-center operator Arthur Moreton, while acknowledging the "great achievement" of the Docklands initiative, says winding up the LDDC is "likely to mean social problems for the Isle of Dogs in the near future."