Thames Gateway

From Academic Kids

The Thames Gateway is an area of land stretching from East London, 40 miles eastwards towards the estuary of the Thames, including parts of North Kent and South Essex, which has been identified as a national priority for urban regeneration. From its westernmost point at West-ferry, on the Isle of Dogs Peninsula, it runs either side of the river through the East London Docklands to Southend-on-Sea in Essex and Sittingbourne in Kent.

It comprises parts of the 15 different Local Authority areas of the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley, the Kent districts of Dartford, Gravesham, Medway and Swale as well as the Essex districts of Thurrock, Basildon, Castle Point and Southend-on-Sea, and is home to around 1.6 million people.

The Thames Gateway contains some of the most deprived wards in the country and is characterised by low educational ambition and attainment. Its boundary was drawn to capture the riverside strip that formerly hosted many land extensive industries, serving London and the South East, whose decline has left a legacy of large scale dereliction & contaminated land. This reservoir of brownfield land has been recognised by successive Governments and planners alike as having huge potential to act as a catalyst for the regeneration and growth and for the social advancement of the area, helping to aleviate some of the growth pressures on London and the South East and providing greater stability to the UK housing market and wider economy.

The Thames Gateway regeneration project is recognised as being the largest regeneration project in Europe. It covers 5 key strategic areas of development:

Further zones of development outside the London Gateway include the Medway towns (Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham), the Grain peninsula and Sittingbourne and Swale in Kent, plus Basildon, Canvey Island and Southend-on-Sea in Essex.

The task of co-ordinating the development of the Thames Gateway is organised under the auspices of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which implements Government policy as set by MISC 22, a cabinet committee chaired by the Prime Minister. Development will be largely delivered by the three Regional Development Agencies concerned: (LDA) London Development Agency, (EEDA) the East of England Development Agency and the (SEEDA) South East England Development Agency, as well as the national regeneration agency, English Partnerships. The Thames Gateway project aims to improve the economy of the region through the development of existing brownfield land, utilising major transport infrastructure provision, and through the renaissance of existing urban conurbations. Comparisons may be drawn with developments east of Paris along the Marne valley, but here a much greater land space is available.


Environmental concerns

Significant concerns have been raised time and again that development of this area will damage the North Kent Marshes which are recognoised as an Environmentally Sensitive Area, by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Proposals for a large international airport on Cliffe Marshes were dropped from the government's white paper on air transport in 2003 after they were rejected by local residents, the local council, as well as conservation charities such as the RSPB. However there is a judicial review underway looking at other options for airport expansion including the possibility of a floating airport off the Isle of Sheppey. BBC News report (

The north of Kent has historically been a marshland area and is under great pressure by developers. In addition to the great variety of wild life found on and along the Thames, these marshes offer invaluable natural flood protection for London area, ever under threat of flooding.

Dave Wardle, of the Environment Agency, believes that "London and the Thames Estuary currently have one of the best tidal defence systems in the world."

The Environment Agency assesses these systems will provide a high standard of protection well beyond 2030. However they also advise that future development in the Thames Gateway must go hand in hand with flood risk management, and take account of future plans for flood protection. The Agency insists it is important that effective flood risk management of the whole Estuary is not prejudiced by early decisions and development on the Gateway. (Source: (

The East Of England Plan (RSS14) attempts to rubber stamp Thames Gateway and thus put it into a legislative framework. A quick glance at some of the policies contained in this plan show that there is a clear attempt to mask the potentially damaging policies using PR speak. The phrase "Environmental improvement, to create a radically enhanced sense of place and image that attracts people and businesses, is an essential precondition to the process of economic change and regeneration in the sub-region. The internationally important historic and natural environment, focused on the coastal assets of Thames Gateway/South Essex, affords the opportunity to establish a unique blend of urban, rural, and coastal environments." (RSS14 Final Version for consultation, East Of England Regional Assembly ( speaks volumes.

To translate - "We want to make the area look prettier, rather than leaving these rotten old salt marshes and tidal flats, so that people will want to live here and work here, ignoring the fact that this will lead to a further degradation in the environment."

A further statement flies in the face of English Nature and insurance industry recommendations against building on flood plains. The insurance industry, which essentially defines where people will be able to buy houses, has started to refuse cover on homes in flood plains. But the East of England Plan says : "make best use of those areas protected by the River Thames tidal defences.", in other words it is encouraging building in flood plains (see Audacity quote above)

Development to date

"In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development defined Sustainable Development as 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'".

The very idea of promoting the ecological significance of the area by increasing public accessibility to the mashes and wetlands under threat, by improved transport corridors is nonsense and will cause further errosion of the area under review by these developments.

Before 2003 most conspicuous development was situated west of Beckton although housing schemes at Chafford Hundred, Chatham and Greenhithe have been substantial, a large shopping centre at Bluewater.

Future developments

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link, phase II of which is currently under construction, runs through the designated development area, crossing under the Thames near Dartford with an international railway station proposed at Ebbsfleet in Kent, and a second at Stratford in East London. This venture will shave 15 minutes of the journey time from London to Paris, and has to date exhausted nominated funding agreements several times, costing the taxpayer billions in excess of the proposed amount.

On the Essex side of the Thames, at Southend-on-Sea the council is using money provided through the scheme to redevelop the town centre and seafront and create a "transport corridor" along the A13.

Although these proposals were dropped in 2003 an international nautical freight service, requiring much of the removal of the Thames marshes at Cliffe, was also under consideration, with massive excavations envisaged to provide sufficient turning space for docking river traffic, consequently choking these very stated, and naturally occouring fortifications from flood by the ensuing development and infrasruture, as to lead to potentially catastrophic results further up river.

Transport for London is currently proposing a bridge between Beckton and Greenwich to be called the Thames Gateway Bridge. Along with the extensions of the Docklands Light Railway across the river to Woolwich, this will improve links between to two sides of the river and it is hoped this help spur economic growth and reduce the stress on existing road transport links.

During public consultation, 85% of respondents given the opportunity to air an opinion were in favour of the proposed bridge. However 74% supported keeping the Woolwich Ferry open "in some form". (Source: TFL Board paper on the bridge (

While the volume of traffic using the Ferry would diminish with a new bridge open, no decisions on the future of this traditional resource have been made, except that usage and viability of the Ferry will be reviewed after the TGB opens.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his July 2004 spending review, that there would be money made available for extensive house building on brownfield sites in the region in order to ease the high demand for affordable housing in the South East.

Plans for a Lower Thames Crossing between Canvey or Shell Haven and the Hoo peninsula were shelved as they were dependent upon the creation of Cliffe Airport.

There are also many plans that have been proposed to develop the area around Stratford as part of the plan for London to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

See also

External links


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