THE THAMES GATEWAY: LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS
Publication of 62nd Report 2006-07
Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:
“The Department for Communities and Local Government is at present manifestly not up to the job of managing the enormously ambitious enterprise of regenerating the Thames Gateway region. Action must be taken now to prevent the enterprise ending in another public spending calamity.
“It still amounts to little more than a group of disjointed projects which do not add up to a programme which is purposeful and moving forward. The Department has been incapable of taking the present rather insubstantial vision and galvanizing the multitude of central, regional and local partners in the scheme to work together to turn it into reality.
“The Department has not yet established the basic arrangements for controlling the programme including - incredibly - a budget. It has failed so far to set clear and coordinated objectives and measures of progress. Crucial to the success of the enterprise will be a full and coordinated contribution by Whitehall departments but, like a small child clamouring for the attention of its bigger classmates, the Department does not have the influence to make this happen.
“The Department must now work on vastly improving its overall management of Thames Gateway. This will include producing a properly costed implementation plan and a coordinated marketing campaign aimed at potential private investors, employers and new residents.”
Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 62nd Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Department for Communities and Local Government, examined the Department’s overall management of the programme on four main issues: turning aspirations into plans that are delivered; more integrated and better coordinated expenditure; progress on delivering homes and employment opportunities; and achieving high quality and environmentally sustainable development.
The Thames Gateway is the largest regeneration and new housing programme managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government. It focuses on the area between Canary Wharf in London and the mouth of the River Thames, a length of approximately 40 miles. The Government intends that 160,000 new homes and 180,000 new jobs should be created in the area by 2016, and further development beyond that date. If successful the Thames Gateway will make a significant contribution to the number of new homes needed in the Greater South East and potentially could add a further £12 billion a year to the nation’s economy.
The Department has spent £673 million on the programme (2003-2008), and has sponsored many projects which are helping local partners to accelerate the regeneration of the region. Most of the finance for the development of housing and other infrastructure in the Thames Gateway is to be provided by the private sector. To help secure this investment the public sector has a key role in enabling development through provision of infrastructure, spatial planning, land remediation and ensuring that developers meet the expectations required of sustainable communities.
The Department is, however, only just starting to put in place the mechanisms for managing the programme commensurate with its scale and ambition, and many stakeholders have questioned the Department’s ability to show the leadership and influence within Whitehall to persuade other government departments to prioritise the Thames Gateway’s regeneration. Without significant improvement in the overall management of the programme it will remain a series of disjointed projects and is unlikely to achieve its potential to make a major difference to economic regeneration and sustainable housing.