More than two decades of urban decay in Lewisham and the Greenwich Peninsular in south-east London was the result of a snap change of heart by former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine
In an interview with Building, Heseltine reveals that when he was secretary of state for the environment between 1979 and 1983 he caved in to a civil servant's suggestion that the two areas should not be rejuvenated.

Heseltine had originally intended to incorporate seven areas into his London urban development corporation, set up to regenerate the dying Docklands area. Five of these areas were on the north bank of the Thames, and led to the construction of Canary Wharf. The final two were the Greenwich Peninsula and Lewisham, south of the river.

Heseltine said: "Somebody came to me one day and said: 'Isn't the north [side of the Thames] big enough? You've got 6000 acres.' And rather hopelessly and blankly I said: 'All right, we'll leave out the other two sites.'"

Heseltine admitted that he was exhausted by his attempts to get the civil service to agree to the idea of UDCs at all. "I don't come out of this story very well," he said. "It was the wrong decision, but it was such a battle to get this [the UDC] through. My department was totally opposed to what I was doing."

In his autobiography, Life in the Jungle, Heseltine did not go into the detail of his decision, and simply said that he had "settled" for the land on the north bank of the Thames.

He also admitted in the book that Greenwich was left to deteriorate further until the Millennium Dome was built in the late 1990s.

Although new housing has yet to be built on the Dome site in any significant numbers, architect Terry Farrell has recently submitted plans for 10,000 homes there for Meridian Delta Consortium, led by developer Quintain.