Big things are happening in the Eastern London/Essex/Estuary region, with expanding ports, more homes and new transport infrastructure. Despite its strengths, however, the Thames Estuary faces many challenges, including significant pockets of deprivation, and has been consistently unable to deliver the same level of economic growth as other parts of the UK for the last few decades. This is why in 2016, the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission was formed and tasked with developing an ambitious vision and delivery plan for north Kent, south Essex and east London. The Commission published their 2050 Vision report in June 2018.
I've been campaigning for that coherent plan to be acted upon so that we can maximise the opportunities for residents from economic development, particularly when it comes to jobs, skills, quality of life and revived green spaces, and hope to help enact the vision of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission.
I am delighted that the government has now published its response to the Commission's report from last summer into how we join together what is happening in the region. Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire MP, who previously represented Hornchurch, has now made a series of commitments that includes:
a. Strengthening governance: Creating a new £1 million strategic board, chaired by an independent Thames Estuary Envoy, which will support delivery of the vision and champion the Thames Estuary with key stakeholders, including local and central government.
b. Strengthening ministerial advocacy: Creating a new Cabinet-level ministerial champion for the Thames Estuary who will act as an advocate and critical friend for the Thames Estuary within government.
c. Delivering homes: Exploring ambitious housing and infrastructure deals with authorities in the Estuary, and committing to exploring the potential for at least two new locally-led development corporations. We will work collaboratively with places to create thriving communities where people want to live and work, to deliver highquality, popular and well-designed places to live.
d. Improving mobility and infrastructure: Continuing to progress at pace with transport infrastructure investment in the Estuary, including investing around £200 million of Local Growth Fund, £125 million on improvements to the strategic road network at Bean and Ebbsfleet, and multi-billion-pound investments in the Lower Thames Crossing and the Elizabeth Line. We will launch an officer-led, crossgovernment group to realise the wider benefits of the Lower Thames Crossing, as well as supporting local partners in enhancing transport links from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet in Kent.
e. Promoting the Thames Estuary: We will launch a strategic communications campaign to promote the Thames Estuary as a great place to work, live and do business, supported by a ‘Year of the Thames’ cultural programme. We are working with local partners to promote inward investment opportunities in the Estuary.
f. Agreeing Local Industrial Strategies: Ensuring places across the Thames Estuary have fully-evidenced Local Industrial Strategies, aligned to the UK Industrial Strategy, to increase productivity, so it is clear how all communities across the Estuary can contribute to, and benefit from, economic prosperity.
g. Addressing the low skills challenge: We are funding regional labour market analysis into the Estuary to inform both national and local policy objectives for skills in relation to labour markets; we will also seek to support and enhance existing local arrangements for raising skills levels through our nationwide reforms.
h. Providing £4.3 million of funding for the Thames Estuary creative production corridor: We are funding this collaboration between local partners across the Estuary to cement the Estuary as a world-leader for cultural and creative industries.
i. Great Thames Park: At Budget 2018, we announced support for a study to develop options and consult the community on the benefits of a Great Thames Park and increase general understanding of the natural capital opportunities for the Estuary.
j. Environmental: To bring together relevant authorities to collaborate on the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan actions required to make sure that growth in the Estuary is sustainable and resilient.
Here is the letter he sent me about this exciting agenda. The full report can be found online here