Thames Gateway and the Olympics

Thames Gateway is able to weather the current economic conditions – Minister

Published 26 November 2008

The Thames Gateway is in a strong position to weather the current economic storm and grow in the long term, Thames Gateway Minister Margaret Beckett announced in a major speech today.

Backed up with £9.6bn Government investment, the Thames Gateway is a prime example of how Government intervention and support is helping deal with the global economic pressures, the Minister said.

New projects are starting or progressing all the time and the long-term prospects for the Gateway remain strong across the region. For example, the Thames Gateway now has one of the largest single inward investment projects in the UK in the last two decades.

At the Thames Gateway Forum in East London, the Minister set out a raft of new measures to further boost the region, including transforming it into a world-leading eco-region that will make it a showcase for sustainable living.

A proposed "eco-quarter" is the centrepiece of a new 47-point strategy that will ensure economic development and regeneration creates a greener way of life for residents.

The strategy is being accompanied by up to £35m being awarded to create green and open spaces throughout the Gateway as part of the Parklands programme.

Education is also receiving a boost. Measures were announced to plug a skills shortage in the region through the new Thames Gateway Skills Framework. Currently only 20 per cent of people in the Gateway have degree level qualifications or equivalent compared to nearly 30 per cent in England.

The framework is a commitment from government departments and funding agencies, regional development agencies, universities and colleges to work together to equip local people with the skills needed to meet future employment needs.

Thames Gateway Minister Margaret Beckett said:

"The financial downturn poses new challenges for towns and communities  across the country. But I believe that we have sound reasons to remain  optimistic for the Gateway's long-term prospects.

"Over the past year the first contracts have been awarded for the construction  of the world's most advanced container port, London Gateway. New schools  and campuses have opened across the region, including the Financial Skills  academy at Tower Hamlets. Construction has begun on the Olympic stadium  three months ahead of schedule.

 "So now is not the time to give up on the Gateway or start watering down our  ambitions. In fact, it is more relevant today than ever before.

 "And today's eco-region strategy and Skills Plan are just two of the projects  ensuring we remain on course to ensure the success of one of the most  ambitious regeneration schemes in Europe."

Good progress has already been made since the launch of the Gateway Delivery plan last year and confidence in the region continues to grow:

  • the first contracts have been awarded for the construction of the UK's most advanced container port, London Gateway. This is one of the biggest single inward investment projects in the UK in the last two decades
  • Canary Wharf is still planning to grow over the long term and investment bank J.P. Morgan announced last week a deal with Canary Wharf Group to start construction on a new Europe Headquarters
  • new schools and campuses have opened across the region, including the Financial Skills Academy at Tower Hamlets
  • construction has begun on the Olympic stadium three months ahead of schedule.

The Thames Gateway is a huge project with unique strengths derived from four economic drivers: Shellhaven, Ebbsfleet, Canary Wharf and Stratford City. In the coming year more progress will be seen.

Margaret Beckett will oversee the transition this week of the day to day management of the Gateway to the new delivery body the Homes and Communities Agency. This means funding and expertise will then be in one place, making it easier for investors and local authorities to regenerate the region.

And transport links will keep on getting better, bringing jobs to people and vice versa. The DLR Woolwich extension will open in February. The renovation of Gillingham station will get under way. And fast domestic services will be running between Ebbsfleet and St Pancras this time next year. 

Notes to editors

Eco-region

 The eco-region will involve:

  • an eco-quarter in an existing urban area, which will be a combination of existing buildings and new development that develops and tests new green technology and provides a showcase for sustainable development and new initiatives. The eco-quarter will demonstrate the economic and practical benefits of sustainable design and technology. It will establish green standards which build on the Government's eco-towns programme, and provide a global example of what can be done in existing developed areas
  • up to £35m investment in the first stages of delivering the "Parklands Vision". Over £19m has been committed so far for 9 projects, which will provide improved green and open spaces and access to residents in the Gateway
  • £1.25m investment in the Green Homes Programme, run by the Energy Savings Trust, to provide more advice to residents, local authorities and community projects on what they can do to save energy and water
  • eco-Assessments, which will be carried out on the designs for the ten main housing developments in the Gateway, to ensure that the plans maximise the opportunity to develop more sustainable living. £160,000 funding is being announced today to carry out the first of these assessments in Kent Thameside
  • creating both an Environmental Infrastructure Fund and a Renewable Energy Challenge Fund. Together these will support new and innovative approaches to dealing with waste, water and renewable energy in the Gateway
  • using the Olympics as a showcase for sustainable building, energy efficiency and renewable energy, underlining the green credentials of the whole region
  • creating more "green-collar jobs" in the Gateway by encouraging research, innovation and investment in emerging green areas - sustainable construction, low carbon energy solutions, and innovative manufacturing.

Thames Gateway Framework

 The Framework will ensure:

  • education agencies and government departments work with each other and employers to ensure local people can take full advantage of employment opportunities in their area through an ongoing, pioneering, collaborative approach
  • a closer match is made between skills development now and jobs in the future, through an expansion of employer-led initiatives such as Train to Gain and apprenticeships
  • partners working together to deliver local access to state of the art facilities providing further and higher education institutions in a single location, building on the highly successful multiversity model, for example in Medway and Southend
  • a firm focus on progression - ensuring that people have clear opportunities to move up from one skills level to the next including more readily available work-based training
  • this builds on progress made in the last year, including the Learning and Skills Council Thames Gateway Skills Plan 2008-09. This plan announced a £1.6 billion investment in raising young people's educational attainment and increasing participation, as well as £850 million for new further education facilities.

Thames Gateway background:

  • there has been real progress in the Gateway over the years - more than 48,000 new homes have been built between 2001 and 2007
  • office space has grown 12%
  • the number of jobs has grown by around 9% compared with 4% in England

The publications are available at: www.communities.gov.uk/thamesgateway/about/tgforum2008

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