To note the paper and opportunities including plans for a major launch with partners to promote and further unlock the potential of the Thames Estuary.
Mr P Carter, CBE (Leader and Cabinet Member for Health Reform), David Smith (Director of Economic Development) and David Godfrey (Policy Adviser) were in attendance for this item.
1. Mr Godfrey introduced the report that set out the Government’s response to the Thames Estuary 2050 Commission that was published on 25 March 2019 which included an update to Members on the successful campaigns that had been undertaken with local partners to inform it. The Government’s response included support for the Crossrail to Ebbsfleet transport link; the launch of a strategic communications campaign to promote the Thames Estuary for inward investment; and the joint appointment of an independent Thames Estuary Envoy to Chair the Thames Gateway Strategic Group. Mr Godfrey outlined the proposed next steps to be taken in response towards generating “good” economic growth in the Estuary.
2. As a supplement to this, Mr Carter reiterated the need for increased inward investment, specifically around the promotion of the Crossrail to Ebbsfleet rail extension which would be central to supporting growth in the Thames Estuary through the high speed rail links to new destinations across London and in addition, would help to reduce road congestion through the promotion of rail travel. Mr Carter assured the Committee that work continued to be done with local partners to promote and create a federated governance structure through the appointment of the Estuary Envoy which would support key stakeholders, including local and central government officials with delivering the vision of the Thames Estuary. Mr Carter recognised that there had been very little traction in terms of infrastructure investment, however, was pleased to announce that momentum had since be regained to promote the Estuary as a national geographical priority which would deliver growth and success to the whole of the UK economy.
3. The Leader and officers responded to comments and questions as follows:
(a) Mr Carter confirmed that the appointed Independent Thames Estuary Envoy should be someone with an extensive network of contacts that could be utilised to support the delivery of the Thames Estuary vision. An ideal candidate was yet to be identified and he welcomed suggestions from the Committee.
(b) In response to Members concerns around the speed of progression, Mr Carter proposed that a large proportion of the money would be invested into the Thames Estuary campaign to promote inward investment, with a strategic and streamlined governance process implemented to ensure quick traction. Mr Godfrey informed the Committee that a large extent of the work on governance had already been agreed; it was intended that the next step in the process would involve one final meeting to confirm the agreed priorities and then for work to commence.
(c) With regards to concerns around the impact of the housing and commercial developments and the need to support growth within the communities with improved rail services, Mrs B Cooper (Corporate Director of Growth, Environment and Transport) informed the Committee that she sat on the officer group and the Crossrail to Ebbsfleet group with Paul Moore (Chair of the C2E alliance) which focused on increasing Kent’s access to train services. Mrs Cooper reminded Members that the Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet Crossrail service had always been part of the delivery plan, however, the Crossrail link could only be installed once the development plans of those sites had been agreed.
4. RESOLVED that the paper and opportunities, including plans for a major launch with partners to promote and further unlock the potential of the Thames Estuary, be noted.