In 1980, Heseltine established the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC), which took over local authority planning powers in the teeth of opposition from Labour boroughs.
Speaking last night at the Royal Town Planning Institute's Nathaniel Lichfield Lecture, Heseltine restated his pride in the LDDC's work, which he said had led to the creation of one of the world's leading financial centres at Canary Wharf, a new airport and a major exhibition centre in Excel.
He said that if he had predicted these and other east London succeses 40 years ago, "I would have been carried off by men in white coats".
But answering questions later on, he admitted that he could have communicated better with local people at the time.
"The existing community was very hostile to what we were doing," he said, suggesting that many of them had thought him "a toffee-nosed wotsit who didn't understand what they wanted".
In retrospect, he said, he should have spent more time communicating with them.
"There wouldn't have been a meeting of minds, and it wouldn't have changed the policies" he said. "But I could have talked to them, and I didn't".