Thames Estuary is being seen as the Britain’s biggest growth opportunity and is being backed by the UK government. Especially after it claimed a potential to create 1.5m jobs and add value of up to £115bn to the nation’s economy, the development is being addressed as the integral to growth and recovery post-Brexit and post-Covid.
The Thames Estuary Growth Board is led by the government-appointed envoy Kate Willard, who launched an action plan called the Green Blue. She set out plans for the next two years, looking ahead over the next period, it aimed to fulfil the potential of the region, comprised of East London, north Kent, south Essex and the Thames itself.
Each board member possessed a high level of expertise in their area and is fresh to this type of project, she said. Working as one unified voice, they were set to deliver the greenest and most productive estuary in the world. Willard also said that the fully formed private/public Growth Board was continuously functioning to leverage significant quantities of private sector investment and make the estuary a captivating investment proposition. The board was working to increase merchandise and passengers who moved on the river by 25 and 50 per cent, respectively, over a five-year period. It was also establishing a hydrogen production, storage and fuelling infrastructure to backing a shift to green vessels and support green, land-based transport. She believed that it would enable the region to deliver on the government agenda of jobs, clean air, productivity, and international trade. There are over 30 projects in expansion across sectors including transport, infrastructure, leisure and culture. This also includes the Lower Thames Crossing, which is a 2.6-mile tunnel (the longest in the UK) connecting communities in Kent, Thurrock and Essex. It is hyped as the most ambitious UK road project since the M25.
The Thames Estuary was well positioned to become one of 10 free ports proposed for the UK and is said to have different customs rule to various other UK ports. With the tariff flexibility, customs facilitations and tax measures, the Freeport is said to offer a much wider profits for businesses such as planning reforms, funding for infrastructure improvements and innovation incentives. The Freeport is said to generate jobs and opportunities for the area, helping communities along the estuary. The London Resort in Swancombe, Kent, will be one of Europe’s largest edifice projects which is three times larger than any other UK resort park. It is said to transform 535 acres into two theme parks, a water park, and 3,500 hotel rooms, creating a claimed 30,000 jobs. The historic London markets of Smithfield, Billingsgate and New Spitalfields are being combined into one market, located in Dagenham Docks, by 2023. A large area of 42-acre site will be the country’s largest comprehensive food destination, carrying a huge economic boost to the area and generating employment opportunities for local societies.
The board is also supporting creative and cultural projects to position in London and the south-east. It is working with Arts Council England to device its new strategy, ‘Let’s Create’ in order to develop the Thames Estuary Production Corridor, and supervise the Estuary Festival in spring 2021. The Growth Board is joining forces with Transport East, Transport for South East and Transport for London for a co-ordinated approach.
Willard promised that they were there only to get things done and the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke MP, said that the plan would drive growth by prioritizing jobs, better infrastructure for transport, investment and the expansion of housing. The UK is open for business and the Thames Estuary Growth Board’s plan shall make this clear he said.