Thames growth day an "opportunity for real, meaningful debate"

by Natalie Vincent Thu 1 November 2018, 10:55 am

Council representatives from east London, Kent and Essex met with business leaders and major developers regional stakeholders at the second annual Thames Estuary Growth Day event yesterday (31 October), to discuss what is needed to meet the ambitious objectives for one of the UK's major development opportunity areas.

BBC home editor, Mark Easton, chairs the event

Held at CentrED at London’s Excel Centre in Newham, over 150 delegates including members of local authorities, developers and consultants shared ideas for collaborating to  transform the region into an economic powerhouse. Participants were responding to the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission’s report, published in June, which makes the case for creating one million homes and 1.3 million jobs for the region. 

Participants were responding to the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission's report, published in June, which makes the case for creating one million homes and 1.3 million jobs for the region. 

The event was chaired by the BBC home editor, Mark Easton. Keynote speakers included: Tony Pidgley, president of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and chairman of Berkeley Homes; Rob Sinclair, CEO of London City Airport; Fiona Fletcher-Smith, group director of developer L&Q, Rokhsana Fiaz, the newly elected mayor of Newham and Sadie Morgan, head of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission. 

Easton spoke of the need to finding ways of responding to the economic and social challenges facing the region: "Here today we have all the expertise needed to shape the places and revitalise the old along this precious river; the infrastructure, amenities, homes and businesses that will form productive communities that we all want to see."

Great focus was given to the need to improve transport infrastructure within the Thames Estuary corridor, with Morgan promoting "sustainable growth over quick wins" and Sinclair describing the planned four-year, £500 million expansion of London City Airport as "resetting the button" and using it as the gateway - not just for London - but the whole of Essex and Kent.

Sinclair said: "The Thames has a critical role in making London the great trading and maritime centre of the world; the amount of change has been really quite incredible. But I do believe that the opportunity is even more exciting going forward and the pace of change is quickening."

Fletcher-Smith spoke about the transport issues facing L&Q’s £500 million development at Barking Riverside: "It's not terribly well-connected and for us at Barking Riverside, rail [transport] is absolutely vital.

"Everyone thinks that London is incredibly well-connected; there are parts of this city with amazing capacity [for development] but there simply isn’t the infrastructure network."

Newly elected Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz set out her vision for the east London borough's "huge regeneration opportunities", highlighting the delivery new homes, jobs and a focus on "inclusive, good growth that brings real benefit to local people."

By 2025, it is estimated that Newham will have invested £22 billion creating more than 35,000 homes and 100,000 new jobs. Completed projects in the borough include the Olympic Park, and the redevelopment of the Royal Docks, which has achieved enterprise zone status.

Pidgley highlighted the importance of “pulling together the public and private sector to reverse the decline” in the area by “investing in local people right from the start so they can see and share in with the vision. He added: "Commitment to placemaking is an investment, it’s not a cost."

Four panel discussions took place at the event on sustainable development, increasing employment opportunities and building partnerships, and a council leader forum with Darren Rodwell of London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Teresa O'Neill of London Borough of Bexley, Alan Jarrett of Medway Council and John Lamb, of Southend-on-Sea Council.

Morgan identified digital deprivation, poor air quality and substandard education as challenges to planning new towns, noting the slow of growth in Ebbsfleet Garden City as an example.

She added: "We've not looked for quick wins, but for sustainable growth; we see the region as a tapestry of different economies places and people, performing well in parts, but underperforming in others."

Easton concluded by saying the success of TEGD is that "it's not just one sector talking to itself, but an opportunity for real, meaningful debate."

To view photos from the event, click here

To express interest in attending next year's Thames Estuary Growth Day, please contact Jake Westhead at or call 0207 978 6840




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