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Read the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth: government response to Commission here and the Government Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission report here.
With the Thames Estuary considered by many to having been unable to reach its full potential in recent decades, and the current Government looking increasingly at ‘larger-than-local’ planning, it is no surprise the Thames Estuary is identified by Secretary of State James Brokenshire MP as having potential to deliver growth beneficial for the whole UK; being of a scale and importance comparable to the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.
The Thames Estuary takes in a large swathe of South East England stretching from east London to areas of south Essex and north Kent.
The Government has recognised that coordinating the 18 local authorities, two county councils, two development corporations and the Greater London Authority, which all operate across the Estuary, as well as a host of other stakeholders and organisations, will be a challenging task. To address this it has committed to establishing a ‘Thames Estuary Growth Board’, to be chaired by an independent Estuary Envoy. There will also be a new Cabinet-level ministerial champion for the Estuary in Government.
The Thames Estuary has substantial economic strengths, and benefits from significant international trade especially via the Estuary’s ports. In its response, the Government looks to shore up these strengths, but also widen the skills base of those living in the Estuary. Creative industries are seen as a key emerging sector and will benefit from £4.3 million of funding from the Cultural Development Fund, as part of the support for a Thames Estuary production corridor. Local Enterprise Partnerships are seen to be crucial players and will benefit from Government support to produce their Local Industrial Strategies, as well as financial support for the provision of their Growth Hubs. Medicine will also be a key area of growth, with a new Kent and Medway Medical School, the country’s largest ever medical training expansion creating an additional 1,500 medical student places.
Woven into this growth is a need to create sustainable and well integrated communities and places. The Government proposes a ‘natural capital approach’ that is intended to enhance the Estuary’s many environmental assets, whilst improving flood defence and air quality, providing access opportunities for residents and visitors, as well as attracting inward investment. This will be encapsulated in the new Great Thames Park for which the Government will support a study to develop options and consult on the area to be included.
The Estuary’s unique role as a gateway between the UK and the rest of the world will be celebrated in a ‘Year of the Thames’ cultural programme to complement the upcoming Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In addition to this, further placemaking is to be supported through ongoing Government awards from Growth Deal funding and the Stronger Towns and Growing Places Funds.
To support these proposals the Government is looking to provide ongoing support and finance to deliver new homes and transport links in the Estuary. Tailored support is available from Homes England to support housing plans, and the Government is looking at options for the creation of at least two locally-led development corporations. £291 million is being used to unlock 18,000 new homes at London Docklands whilst a further £300 million is being made available to the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation to drive delivery of the new garden city. The Government is also backing the proposed Lower Thames Crossing and providing £4.85 million to develop a business case for extending the new Elizabeth Line from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet. Of course, the Government has not taken all board all of the Commission’s proposals. Its suggestion for a multi-modal crossing as part of the next Thames Barrier will not be pursued due to a number of constraints and a lack of support in the current business case of the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan.
Moving forward we hope the Government will keep to its pledges to help deliver on the opportunities presented in this dynamic area. Recognition of the Estuary’s importance alongside the likes of the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine should now supercharge work in the area and Turley very much look forward to being part of it.
27 March 2019