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Thames Gateway

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 29 November 2007

One year ago, we published the interim plan for the Thames Gateway, Europe’s largest regeneration programme, setting out the long-term vision and objectives for the Thames Gateway. We are today publishing a delivery plan, which sets out cross-government priorities and funding progress for the next three years.

Since last year, we have seen major progress on key projects including Crossrail, the Eurostar Ebbsfleet station, the O2 complex and the Olympic Park investment over the last three years includes improving green spaces such as Rainham Marshes, and public sector improvement such as new Sure Start centres as well as economic regeneration projects. Two new universities at Southend and Medway are providing nearly 5,000 new higher and further education places, the Docklands Light Railway extension to Woolwich will be completed in 2009 and employment growth from 2001-2005 was 9 per cent.—faster than the national average.

The plan published today provides a framework for making the best use of public investment, local ownership, big project expertise and private sector entrepreneurship. It sets out a proposed spending programme for 2008-11 which includes £500 million from the Department for Communities and Local Government for regeneration and £100 million for local transport improvements within a total Government investment commitment of over £9 billion.

The cross-government plan identifies three important themes for change in the Gateway: a strong economy, improvements in the quality of life for local communities and the development of the Gateway as an eco-region.

Within these, key to the success of the region are: (1) economic transformation in four key areas: Canary Wharf, London Gateway, Ebbsfleet Valley, and the Olympic Park with Stratford City; (2) supporting the ten largest developments for new homes; (3) the Thames Gateway Parklands; and (4) investing in a skilled workforce.

In terms of local communities, we have given priority in our spending allocations to six priority locations: Stratford, the Lower Lea and the Royal Docks; London Riverside; Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich; Thurrock; Kent Thameside; and Medway. There are also five urban renewal areas receiving support: Barking; Basildon; Erith; Sittingbourne and Swale; and Southend.

The plan sets out the route to make the most of the economic potential of the Gateway, encourage new investment and jobs, and boost the skills of local people to take up new opportunities. This plan outlines:

an increase in the number of new jobs we expect in the Gateway to 225,000 by 2016;

a £200 million Strategic Economic Investment Fund to support priority projects from the RDAs’ Thames Gateway Economic Development Investment Plan, that the RDAs estimate will lever in an additional £75 million and is on top of their baseline annual investment;

a “Pan-Gateway” skills plan developed by the Learning and Skills Councils to invest £1.6 billion in teaching and learning, and £850 million in new building for further education;

the building and opening of new and extended further and higher education campuses in Grays and Basildon, Swale and Medway, creating around 9,000 places;

commitment to a recommended approach to the biggest remaining constraint to development in the Thames Gateway, junction 30 of the M25 (the junction with the A13) with an announcement in 2008;

an allocation of £100 million from the Community Infrastructure Fund to invest in 13 local transport schemes.

On top of economic investment, we are committed to improving the quality of life for all residents in the Gateway as a critical part of regeneration—building more affordable houses, investing in thriving town centres, public places and spaces, growing and improving public services, and supporting community cohesion. In this plan:

we prioritise funding from the Thames Gateway programme to secure housing programmes in the 10 locations where extra homes are most urgently needed. These 10 programmes are expected to deliver nearly 110,000 homes by 2016, the majority of our target figure;

we set out the Housing Corporation intention to invest over £800 million in around 15,000 affordable homes by 2011;

we confirm that Communities and Local Government will ask the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) to do a further housing audit in the Gateway in 2010 to measure progress in improving design quality;

we include planned spending of over £600 million in this CSR period as part of a longer-term £1.4 billion programme on new hospital provision serving the Gateway;

we include planned investment of £1.2 billion on new or substantially refurbished schools in Gateway authorities, as well as £278 million allocated to support Sure Start centres in Gateway authorities, including 90 new ones;

we announce the appointment of Sir Terry Farrell as Design Champion for the Thames Gateway Parklands, a new programme to celebrate and enhance the individual character of the Gateway backed by a £35 million allocation of Thames Gateway funding to invest in improving the natural and urban environment;

The plan also outlines the challenges for the Gateway in both increasing economic growth, development and prosperity and tackling climate change. The Thames Gateway can lead the way with environmental jobs, greater use of renewables and new technologies, and environmental improvements to existing homes and building. This plan takes the first steps to promote higher standards for cutting carbon emissions, water conservation, reducing waste, and protecting people against flood risk. The plan outlines:

that Communities and Local Government will invite proposals for a new Eco-quarter in the Gateway, similar to the plans for eco-towns but this time—for the first time—within an existing urban area;

a continuing commitment to 80 per cent. of new homes being built on brownfield land;

some £2 million available to promoters and developers to fund eco-risk assessments of the top 10 housing programmes, to ensure they will design in climate change mitigation, flood risk management, energy and water efficiency from the start;

planned investment of £15 million in a community-focused programme to retrofit existing homes with energy saving measures that will reduce emissions by up to 60 per cent.

an allocation of £1.5 million from the Thames Gateway fund to work with the Energy Savings Trust to establish the first of the new national energy service centres to deliver the Green Homes Services across the Gateway;

a follow-up to our 'water neutrality' feasibility study, investigating costs and possible delivery mechanisms;

work on the costs and possible delivery mechanisms for a zero construction waste target across the Gateway;

investment by the RDAs in an International Institute for sustainability.

The Government will ensure that public funds invested in the Gateway are subject to rigorous appraisal to secure value for money and, wherever possible, be used to attract additional private funding to maximise the benefit for Thames Gateway communities. The levels of funding set out in this delivery plan are therefore indicative and subject to final confirmation as individual projects come forward for appraisal.

The role of Government across the Gateway is to ensure that key infrastructure is provided to promote improvement and growth and to provide the conditions that enable investor confidence to flourish. We need the market to respond to the new opportunities on offer. The ultimate measure of success will be when that investor confidence is assured and places in the Gateway take on a new and self-sustaining identity.