Thamesmead: A late 20th century New Town
There is probably no area within the London Borough of Bexley that generates more comment and discussion than Thamesmead, a huge development of high- and low-rise blocks with interconnecting walkways that covers 130 acres of former marshland in the north of the borough near the River Thames.
Since the first residents moved into what was then a new riverside town in the late 1960s, the area has been plagued with social problems ranging from high crime levels with graffiti and vandalism to a lack of amenities such as shops and schools.
Many problems relate to the behaviour of a displaced population, most of whom came from areas of so-called ‘slum housing’ in the East End. But when the building of the town was first suggested in the early 1960s most of those involved had the feeling that the scheme would solve many of the social problems of inner-city London. They were encouraged in this by Thamesmead’s innovative design and the fact that it would provide an enormous number of new homes for the most needy people and was using land that was to all intents and purposes redundant.