Transcript of the speech as delivered.
I am delighted to address this year’s Thames Gateway Forum. I am particularly pleased to speak to you because, as some of you will know, I am not just the Minister for the Thames Gateway, but more or less a product of the Thames Gateway. I was born and grew up in Hornchurch; served as a councillor in Havering; represented Bexley on the Greater London Assembly; and am now Member of Parliament for Bromley and Chislehurst - Thames Gateway’s next door neighbour. To these credentials I can add, if needed, that my wife Daphne was until May a councillor in Southend and a former mayor of the town. So I know the Thames Gateway very well.
And I know that rumours of its demise are somewhat wide of the mark!
Time to decentralise
I am here to confirm that the coalition government is dedicated to playing its part in making the Thames Gateway the success it deserves to be. But we do believe the best way forward is to hand over the reins to local people, who are more than capable of leading themselves.
Decisions about the Thames Gateway shouldn’t be taken in Whitehall. They should be taken in the area, by the people who know the area. So we won’t issue more blueprints from Whitehall. We won’t be setting impressive-sounding but unrealistic targets either.
Instead, we’re putting power back in the hands of local people and their representatives - the people you’ve heard from this morning.
And the Thames Gateway is at the heart of plans for the local enterprise partnership in Kent, Essex and East Sussex, and the equivalent in London Thames Gateway. The glue will be provided by the new Thames Gateway Strategic Group, simplifying the plethora of bodies we have had up to now. The partnership and Group have much on which to build.
Olympics and their legacy
Pride of place must go to the Olympic and Paralympics games, which the whole of the Thames Gateway hosts in 2012. This is your opportunity to showcase East London and the rest of the Thames Gateway not just as a place for play, not just for a great sporting spectacular, but as a place in which to invest. Government will support that at home and abroad, and I know that you will lead the drive to bring new businesses to this part of Britain. The likes of DP World - literally building a bit more of Essex - Ikea, Westfield and Cemex already know its advantages, as do the Stobart Group - who are expanding Southend Airport in readiness for London 2012.
The Games themselves will be an inspiration, but the legacy they leave will be the measure of their success. That’s why, despite the current economic climate, the government has secured in the spending review half a billion pounds to transform the Games’ venues and park into a whole new district of London as well as improvements to public space in the host Boroughs. And the government is giving the Mayor of London powers which he intends to use to create a development corporation centred on the Olympic park to secure a lasting legacy from the Games.
And we won’t forget about the Thames Gateway after the Games. That’s why, in the Spending Review, we gave the go-ahead for Crossrail’s original plans - an investment worth £14.5bn to business and residents.
We have had tough choices to make about prioritising how we spend taxpayers’ money. But we know how important it is for Thames Gateway residents and businesses to be better connected with the rest of London.
The five new stations in the Thames Gateway - combined with improvements to the Docklands Light Railway and the London Overground - mean residents and businesses of East and South East London will be better served by public transport than ever before.
It will mean that:
- The business district of Canary Wharf can expand;
- Stratford will flourish;
- The world class international conference centre at Excel can grow;
- We can open up the untapped potential of the Royal Docks where there is 300 acres of land still to be developed;
- There will be a vital connection south of the river at Abbey Wood.
On the roads, we know that there is congestion in some places, at junction 30 of the M25 and at the Dartford Crossing. The Department for Transport is to review the options for a second crossing, funded by charges, between South Essex and North Kent.
Funding is, though, as we all know tight. We have faced difficult choices, and during this government’s review of the Kent Thameside Strategic Transport Programme, it has become clear that home building will be slower than originally anticipated. My officials will thoroughly review the scheme with local partners and reach across government to bust the barriers which currently stand between the people of North Kent and the infrastructure they need.
Meantime, I am pleased to see that the Mayor will provide the first cross river cable car connecting Custom House and the O2. This is an exciting new way to span the Thames which will be a boost to tourism as well as being a practical solution for local people. I look forward to my first ride across!
Of course, what any area really needs is jobs. And the infrastructure we’re supporting will help the Thames Gateway expand into new sectors. That’s why the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation has been investing in infrastructure at the Sustainable Industries Park, Dagenham.
The roll-call of firms - Thames Gateway Power, Paper Round and Closed Loop - wanting to locate or expand there is truly impressive, and provides the foundation for green technology which will become the backbone of the Thames Gateway.
I am thrilled too that, in this world-leading home for the creative and cultural industries, the first phase of the £60m High House Production Park in Purfleet backed by the Royal Opera House, will officially open on 6 December 2010. The opening is supported by one thousand people from the local community, a Big Society if ever I saw one. I hope to attend myself.
And Ravensbourne, formerly in my own constituency but recently moved to the O2, is now home to the future stars of digital media and design. The talent it will foster will ensure the Thames Gateway establishes its reputation as one of the best places in the world for creativity and innovation.
All this points to a vibrant future for the Thames Gateway:
- It is open for business
- It is an exciting place to live
- It is an inspiring place to visit.
In the hands of the communities of the Thames Gateway it will be better off:
- There will be more jobs
- Better transport, and
- Higher skills.
The government will play its part, being a full partner in making this a reality. We will work tirelessly on the Thames Gateway’s behalf - promoting it at home and abroad, making a success of the Olympics and infrastructure schemes like Crossrail, and providing the people and places of the Thames Gateway with the tools they need to make it a success. But it is your Thames Gateway: its future lies in your hands. Let’s work together in the years ahead to continue its success.