Urban regeneration in London: Lower Lea Valley

The site for the 2012 Olympic Park was selected Stratford in the Lower Lea Valley of East London, situated north of the London Docklands and mostly within the Newham borough. The River Lea, a tributary of the River Thames, flows through the Olympic Park. The region was in dire need of urban regeneration.

What was the area like before regeneration?

​Before the London 2012 Olympics, the Lower Lea Valley was an area of urban deprivation with many derelict industrial sites, poor quality housing and high unemployment rates, and chemicals badly contaminated the land and waterways. Previously the Lower Lea Valley was an important agricultural community known for potato growing and a country retreat for the wealthy from the City. The introduction of the railway saw the creation of the Royal Docks, leading to industrialisation.

Why did the area need regenerating?

The Lower Lea Valley was in desperate need of regeneration after the closure of the docks and manufacturing industries due to the following:

  • Derelict industrial wasteland
  • Low GCSE achievement
  • High rates of unemployment
  • High levels of deprivation
  • Low household incomes
  • Poor health
  • Lack of infrastructure

How did they regenerate the area?

  • Polluted land was decontaminated
  • Pylons were relocated underground
  • Underused canals were transformed into a new ‘water city’
  • Approximately 110 hectares of brownfield land will be reclaimed to produce the Olympic Park.

What economic changes have taken place?

  • Twenty thousand new jobs by 2030, bringing £5 billion to the area.
  • The Olympics generated £9 billion in extra income for the UK from the sales of buildings after the Olympics
  • Unemployment fell overall across London during the Olympic period
  • Infrastructure improved: homes, schools, and transport to connect the area to the rest of London.
  • The total bill for the Olympics was £8.77 billion of taxpayers’ money. (£5 billion over budget).
  • Few jobs were created for local people
The Aquatics Centre beside the River Lee

The Aquatics Centre beside the River Lee

What environmental changes have taken place?

  • 3.3 million tons of CO2 were created
  • Wildlife had to be relocated, e.g. newts, toads and lizards
  • Many of the materials for the stadiums and the Olympic Park came from overseas
Features of the regeneration of the Lower Lea Valley

Features of the regeneration of the Lower Lea Valley

What social changes have taken place?

  • Ten thousand new homes will be built in the park by 2030; 40% are ‘affordable homes’. 3,000 of these are the former athlete’s village
  • A new academy has been built to educate 2,000 pupils aged 3 to 18.
  • The community, schools, and elite athletes can use the aquatics centre and velodrome facilities.
  • Rent/property prices increased due to the Olympics
  • Properties were demolished to make way for the site.
Stratford London, UK - 22 July 2021- Large scale construction site, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford

Stratford London, UK – 22 July 2021- Large scale construction site, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford




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