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16 APR 2020 (WED) 11:30-12:30

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

The M25 Orbital Motorway and the “Move to the Middle of London”: Policy, infrastructure and ideological history in and around London’s Docklands, 1979-85

Map Library, Rm10.10, 10/F, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU

Mr David Mountain PhD Candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Manchester

About the Speaker:

David Mountain is a PhD Candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant in Architecture at the University of Manchester, supervised by Dr Lukasz Stanek and Prof Kevin Ward. He previously completed an MSc in Urban Studies at University College London, and a BA in History of Art at the department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. His Master’s dissertation concerned the rise of the adaptive reuse of infrastructure in the London Docklands; its theoretical slant was extended for publication in an edited volume that arose from participating at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference in 2016. This book, "Emerging Urban Spaces: A Planetary Perspective”, was published in Springer’s Urban Book Series in 2018.


This paper investigates how work on the long-envisaged orbital motorway around London precipitated an urban-developmental paradigm-shift from state-led suburbanisation to state-led gentrification, as realised in prototypical form in London’s former Docklands. This paper begins by defining the political and urban-historical problematic of Docklands in 1979 at the time of Thatcher’s election, articulating the convergence of narratives within which the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was set up: reformist urban planning, new towns for inner cities, the crisis of spatial planning and the ‘inner city crisis.’ After assessing aspects of continuity and change with new towns under simultaneous development, the paper analyses the planning of road infrastructure in and around the LDDC’s area in the early 1980s, and in particular the impact of the planning and construction of the M25 London Orbital motorway. Finally, this paper examines the politics of residential and employment density in Docklands, and argues that, despite not conceiving of it as such, the LDDC strategy was based on what is now understood as state-led gentrification.

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