The Thames Gateway
The Thames Gateway is Europe’s largest regeneration project, stretching 40 miles along the Thames estuary from Canary Wharf in London to Southend in Essex and Sittingbourne in Kent. The area includes the largest designated brownfield site in the south of England, which is intended to become a leading eco-region.
The government anticipates the Thames Gateway will provide environmental jobs and lead the way with a greater use of renewables and new technologies. Carbon neutral improvements to both new and existing homes and buildings will aim to create a leading eco-region for the rest of the country to follow.
Regenerating existing towns and creating new carbon-neutral urban developments is intended to transform the Thames Gateway region and relieve the huge demand for housing in the south east region.
The Thames Gateway is a cluster of cities, towns and villages around the Thames estuary. Each is different and individual, but networked together.
Who is involved?
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is responsible for co-ordinating the project and development will be largely delivered by the three regional development agencies:
• The London Development Agency (LDA) – part of the Greater London Authority
• The East of England Development Agency (EEDA)
• The South East England Development Agency (SEEDA)
• together with English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency who are helping to deliver sustainable neighbourhoods, organise infrastructure improvements and new jobs and facilities for local people.
Adding to the 1.5 million people who already live in the region, 160,000 new zero carbon homes and 225,000 jobs are to be created by 2016, with significant government investment in local schools, further education colleges, hospitals and transport systems to cater for the growing population in the region. The Thames Gateway Delivery Plan (2007) outlined a government spending plan of £1.4 billion for hospital provision and £1.2 billion on schools in the 16 gateway local authorities.
The Thames Gateway Delivery Plan represented the first steps towards promoting higher standards for cutting carbon emissions, water conservation, reducing waste, and protecting people against flood risk. The plan also announced that DCLG will invite proposals for the country’s first eco-quarter in the gateway, similar to eco-towns but being based in an existing urban area.
The gateway was established as a national policy priority in 1994, with the publication of Thames Gateway Regional Planning Guidance by the Department of Environment. In 2003, the launch of the Sustainable Communities Plan put further focus on the Thames gateway as one of the key growth areas in the south east.
Critics of the Thames Gateway – ‘from regeneration to housing growth’
In May 2007 The National Audit Office released a report Laying the Foundations in which they warned that house building in the project would need to “more than double” to reach it targets.
Warning that to realising their ambitions would “require a step change in how central government departments work together with regional and local agencies”
The Public Accounts Select Committee warned the project could become a “public spending calamity” if management was not vastly improved. The scale of the project has raised concerns that progress will be slowed by the number of bodies and organisations charged with overseeing development of the project.
Campaign groups such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) are concerned about the wider environmental impact of development on such a large scale.
Focus on the Thames Gateway 2, a report released in Novemebber 2007 by CPRE was critical of the green space management and access to local servies in the local authorities of the gateway. Hilary Newport, spokesperson on the Thames Gateway for CPRE, criticised the government for seemingly moving the agenda of the gateway from regeneration to housing growth at almost any costs.
The same report however, identified that most local authorities in the gateway had imporoved their use of brownfield land and were actively promoting good housing design, a cause championed by Commission for Built the Environment (CABE)
December 2007, Judith Armitt stepped down as Head of the Thames Gateway regeneration after a year in the position. Joe Montgomery, as director general , regions and communities, now has direct responsibility and will coordinate the work of government department and agencies in the gateway.