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Approach and methodology

The research, analysis and consultation behind our guide to the future of the Thames Gateway, New things happen.

In 2006 CABE was asked to gather and analyse existing information about the social, economic, environmental and cultural character of the Thames Gateway that would inform what is special and unique about this area to provide a coherent narrative for future change.

New Things Happen: a guide to the future Thames Gateway, describes what people in the Gateway told us were important themes that would set out what the Thames Gateway was all about. CABE are now making accessible the research that was gathered to support this document.

The background work that was prepared over the last year includes maps and diagrams, think pieces and literature reviews. The principle elements of the Thames Gateway identity project are:

  1. baseline character assessment
  2. character analysis
  3. consultation
  4. developing a concept for Thames Gateway Parklands
  5. project monitoring
  6. New things happen: a guide to the future Thames Gateway

A summary of each principle element and the main outputs is described below:

Stage one: baseline character assessment

This first stage of the project was commissioned jointly by CABE and the Countryside Agency, from LDA Design. The work collates available baseline information prepared at a regional and sub-regional scale and identifies the gaps. This work is a starting point for developing a fuller understanding of character and identity in the Thames Gateway.


  • Think piece and literature review
    The think piece outlines the role of character and identity in shaping the future growth of the Thames Gateway. The literature review draws on visions for the Thames Gateway and sources of landscape, urban and riverscape character.
  • Baseline maps
    GIS and non-GIS data, mapped physical and demographic data as well as drawing on mapped information from other sources that could influence thinking as the project developed.

Stage two: character analysis

LDA Design condensed and refined some of the thinking developed on the relationship between character, identity and design in the Thames Gateway. This thinking was applied to the baseline character information to develop a set of maps and commentaries exploring identity around some key emerging themes, including topography, flood risk, strategic connections, ethnic diversity, cultural heritage.

They also compiled 15 case studies of national and international exemplar projects such as Malmo, Sydney and Emscher Landschaftspark in the Rhur region. The purpose of this document is to learn lessons from towns, cities and regions that have used an understanding of their special characteristics combined with interventions from great designers and visionary promoters of change to create vibrant and successful places.

A strategic transport analysis for the Thames Gateway had already been prepared by Alan Baxter and Associates (ABA) for their own use. CABE commissioned ABA to complete this study to draw into the character analysis stage of the identity project. It looks at the evolution of routes from London eastwards dating from Roman times to the present day. The study also maps and describes proposed transport connections and begins to identify key character areas, their relationship to each other and the routes that connect them.

The emerging analysis highlighted the importance of further study to understand the urban character of different places and how these places work in relation to each other in terms of population growth, movement and diversity, key attractors, house prices and housing density and comparisons of urban morphology. CABE commissioned ABA to carry out the strategic urban character analysis work.


  • Preliminary analysis, emerging ideas
    Proposes a top down, bottom up approach using a sustainable development spatial framework as a vehicle for delivery; review of literature that is concerned with links between character, identity and design; commentary on emerging themes
  • Maps exploring identity
    To be read in conjunction with commentary in the above doc
  • Learning from the best
    15 case studies
  • Strategic transport study
    Highlighting the role of movement networks as important drivers shaping the potential form and location of future growth for the area
  • Detailed urban character analysis
    Analysis of constraints to development and map based narrative identifying social and infrastructural aspects of urban areas concluding with positive character elements that should influence future identity

Stage three: consultation

CABE invited Essex Design Initiative, Kent Architecture Centre and the GLA's Architecture and Urbanism Unit to run three workshops in each sub-region for key decision makers and organisations responsible for shaping future development in the Gateway. The purpose of the workshops was to discuss options for the future identity of the Thames Gateway and to gain support for the identity project. Henley Centre Headlight Vision was commissioned to facilitate the workshops and prepare a report of the findings.

CABE also carried out its own workshop sessions, facilitated by Wolff Olins, with key staff involved in the project from CLG and CABE. The aim of these two half day sessions was to initiate a creative process that would make the leap towards a shared understanding of what the future identity of the Thames Gateway should include. Wolff Olins wrote a 300 word statement on the future identity of the area as a summary of the outcome of these sessions.


  • Sub-regional workshops report
  • Highlights common themes and next steps that emerged from discussions across the three workshops
  • Future identity workshop sessions
    New things happen narrative.
  • Findings workshop
    On 23 June Wolff Olins narrative was presented to 40 people with expert knowledge or political influence in the Thames Gateway. The aim was to test the themes raised in the narrative and gauge continued support for the project as our findings were emerging.

Stage four: developing the concept for the Thames Gateway Parklands

CLG asked CABE to extend its original commission to LDA Design to develop their stage 2 work, that considered new ways of marrying the approaches of urban design and landscape character, by developing the Thames Gateway Parklands concept, a proposed vehicle for achieving sustainable development. This work defines the concept of the Parklands, its role in relation to the economy, housing and jobs and the need to develop within environmental limits. It clarifies existing, emerging and potential plans and projects supporting delivery of the Parklands idea.


Stage five: project monitoring

CABE set up three groups with clear roles to ensure that the project delivers high quality outputs, on time and to budget.

Client group: CLG, CABE, representative from TGSP

Monthly progress reports on the identity project and strategic framework

Project board: CABE

Twice monthly internal meetings monitoring the quality of consultant reports and ensuring CABE is producing clear and coherent messages at each stage of the project

Advisory group: CA, EA, EH, SDC, TEPartnership, GLA, KAC, EDI, Terry Farrell

Three meetings arranged between May and November. The purpose of this group is to feed in key expertise to the project.


CABE presented the project to TGSP at key stages of the process to feed in comments and ensure the project had local political support at each stage.

Stage six: new things happen: a guide to the future Thames Gateway

New things happen: a guide to the future Thames Gateway describes the identity and character of the Thames Gateway. It defines the key ideas which should be at the heart of planning policies, investment strategies, design decisions and environmental projects for individual places across the region. New things happen sets out a vision for the future of the Thames Gateway and four themes which could help create a strong, coherent image for the region. An accompanying map illustrates how the different character of places, parklands and connections in the Gateway is set to develop, now and in the future. It is meant for clients and investors in both public and private sectors who have a role in shaping future development.