Budget 2016: Thames Gateway Mark II?

One of the throw away remarks in the budget and with no more detail in the red book was George Osborne’s announcement that he has given  regeneration guru Sir Michael Heseltine yet another task. This one is to  lead a Commission to develop a long-term vision and delivery plan for the Thames Estuary region.

As well as leading The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission – Lord Heseltine is already tasked with leading the task force to come up with proposals to  regenerate 100 of the UK’s worst housing estates and is a member of the National Infrastructure Commission.

The peer and millionaire publisher is to look at options on how to drive investment along the critical economic corridor linking the sea ports of Harwich, Felixstowe, Tilbury and Dover plus the Channel Tunnel with London.

Heseltine was the man responsible for creating the Docklands redevelopment and the rebirth of Liverpool in the 80s. Thames Gateway was the big idea under John Prescott in the labour government with an  ambition was to create thousands of new homes but developers failed to meet their commitments and the project collapsed with the financial crisis.

Current activity centres around the new Garden City development in Ebbsfleet and outline interest from Paramount to create a theme park.

David Burch, director  of Policy at Essex Chambers of Commerce, said "the devil will be in the detail". 

He said: “In principle we welcome the creation of the Thames Estuary Growth Commission to be chaired by Lord Heseltine. The Themes Estuary and south Essex are major contributors to the UK economy but need investment, especially in infrastructure to enable that growth to continue.

"We hope that this commission will focus on improving local roads such as the A13 andA127 and ensure the third Lower Thames Crossing goes ahead. Whilst we wait to see what form it takes we believe that it must work with local businesses and residents to develop solutions locally and not impose ideas from Whitehall."

Mr Burch added: “On infrastructure generally, we were disappointed that there was not great recognition of the needs of the south east and Essex in particular. Crossrail 2 is welcome and it must ultimately link to Stansted Airport and support investment along the M11 corridor. Whilst we also welcome the increased investment in our flood defences we didn’t hear anything about improving those on Canvey Island so will continue to work with others to ensure these are brought about.

“All in all this was not a bad budget for business but there is more that we would like to have seen for Essex, which is one of the few net contributors to the UK economy, so we will continue to lobby our MPs and Ministers on these issues”