News: 26 June 2018Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission Report Launch

Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission Report Launch

On the day that the Commons voted on Heathrow expansion the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission Report was enthusiastically received by the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The long-awaited report chaired by Sir John Armitt, sets out a 2050 Vision that showcases the huge economic potential of the Thames Estuary described as a set of five interconnected but distinct economies, rather than a single functional economic area:

  1. City Ribbon from Canary Wharf to Barking Riverside
  2. Inner Estuary from Dartford Crossing to London Gateway
  3. South Essex Foreshore from Basildon to Southend-on-Sea
  4. North Kent Foreshore from Rochester to Ramsgate
  5. The River Thames and Medway through to the Sea

The Vision is for these five productive places to drive sustainable growth, creating 1.3 million new jobs, generating £190 billion additional GVA and supported by at least one million new homes.  This is a vision that sums to Thames Estuary becoming a highly desirable place to live, work and play and begin to rectify the lost ground this region has on the more established and well governed Northern Powerhouses and even the newly established CaMkOx.     

The Commission acknowledges the strong functional relationship with London but at the same time, is firmly against creating a commuter belt for London. Within the Gateway there is land available of a scale and location that is simply not replicated in London, or indeed the wider South East, placing Essex and Kent at the forefront of the UK’s ability to maximise its economic competitiveness in the Global arena. Enabling this economic growth outside of London is crucial to UK PLC and the future placemaking of North Kent and South Essex.

And how will growth be realised? The key is connecting places - more capacity, more routes, more river crossings, better services and more frequent services.  Moving people and goods; into and out of London, across the region, within the region; is fundamental to unlocking Thames Estuary’s growth potential.

Realising the Vision - business as usual is not good enough

The Vision document spells it out; business as usual is not going to deliver growth at scale and pace; governance and reforms and new delivery models are needed. Current arrangements are not fit for purpose, accordingly, the Vision promotes two changes to existing structures and two further recommendations;

  1. The Vision calls for a single voice for the Thames Estuary to be provided through a strengthened and streamlined Thames Gateway Strategic Group (TGSG).
  2. To split the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) along Kent and Essex – one step beyond the federated lines that it currently operates along - in order to sharpen focus on growth priorities. 
  3. Joint spatial plans are endorsed by the Commission, who acknowledge the progress made across South Essex to this end. 
  4. Finally, the Commission sees a role for Development Corporations, backed by substantial investment, planning powers and freedoms and flexibilities from Government, coordinated by TGSG.

This is just the beginning

The role of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission has ended with the launch of the Vision, the recommendations contained therein and the accompanying technical report.  Yesterday, the baton was handed to partners on the ground in the Thames Estuary, who have six months to consider its findings and respond to Government.

The report is optimistic in tone and a rallying call for public and private sector partners to get behind a vision for the Thames Estuary.  We strongly encourage landowners, developers, policy makers and business leaders alike to support this Vision and to speak with a clear, single voice to Government to have any chance of securing the necessary commitments from Government, whether that be in the form of a commitment to Crossrail 2, or Housing Deal(s), or further Local Growth Funding.

Even then, with the slickest partnership arrangement, total clarity of communication with Government and a top-notch evidence base, there are no guarantees.  Thames Estuary finds itself in a competition with other places, that is the nature of the beast, all the Thames Estuary partners can do is put their best foot forward, and that must be the focus hereon in. 

The direction of travel is clear. As always, how we get there is less so. The five priority areas focus attention, which given the geography of the region is necessary. The Joint plans will bind these areas together. The South Essex Authorities are leading the way in this respect but with the majority of the north Kent LPAs going through local plan consultations in 2017 or 2018 or the need for Local Plan reviews to be undertaken within the next few years, there is a real opportunity for a Joint plan on the Kent side to be actioned. With Kent County Council championing this approach, the Commissions Vision could be easily realised. We need everyone’s buy-in. 

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