15-05-2012, por Owen Hatherley
The myth that Canary Wharf did east London any good
There are few places so utterly implicated in our discontents as this symbol of the ludicrousness of 'trickle-down' economics
Foto Oli Scarff / Getty Images / The Guardian
Canary Wharf, the "second City", an "evil twin" to London's financial district, has overtaken his ancient rival, according to the Financial Times. It wouldn't be altogether surprising if some saw this as a cause for celebration. Canary Wharf, and the 1980s Docklands development of which it was the most successful part, was an enterprise zone, an idea that the current government is trying to revive. As an enterprise zone it was deliberately unplanned, low-tax, and in theory low on "big government", except for the not-so-small matter of massive public investment projects such as the Docklands Light Railway or the cleaning, dredging and decontaminating of the old industrial sites. Regardless, if it has "worked", then surely the coalition's new zones can point to it as some kind of model. One form of industry, the dock labour of the Port of London, was replaced with another, financial services. Around 80,000 jobs in the former, 150,000 in the latter. What could possibly be wrong with this?
Everything. Canary Wharf has been for the last 20 years the most spectacular expression of London's transformation into a city with levels of inequality that previous generations liked to think they'd fought a war to eliminate. Very, very few of the new jobs went to those who had lost their jobs when the Port of London followed the containers to Tilbury; those that did were the most menial – cleaners, baristas, prostitutes. The new housing that emerged, first as a low-rise trickle in the 80s and 90s followed by a high-rise flood in the 00s, was without exception speculatively built. Inflated prices, dictated by the means of a captive market of bankers, soon forced up rents and mortgages in the surrounding areas, a major cause of London's current acute housing crisis. (Continua)
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