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Conference reminder there’s plenty of great stuff happening in the Thames Estuary

3rd December 2021

I gave the keynote speech at this week’s Thames Estuary Development Conference – an excellent event that brought together an array of exceptional people working hard to make amazing things happen in our region.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic and Brexit, the overarching message from everyone who spoke was a resolute determination to deliver for the people and communities of this place.

The event involved presentations from people working on growth initiatives of all shapes and sizes across the Estuary. Everything from major ventures like Lower Thames Crossing and London Resort to regional town and riverside regenerations, transport schemes, enterprise parks and cultural projects. It also featured people from organisations delivering state-of-art production around meanwhile housing as a solution to our needs in that respect, and low carbon transformation projects to support our ambitions to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for energy and heat. Discover the full programme of chairs and speakers.

Watch a video of the event:

For me, the conference was an opportunity to update delegates on our principles, progress and next steps following our launch just 18 months ago.

Our role at the Thames Estuary Growth Board

We describe the role of the Growth Board using three phrases:

  • Firstly, we advocate – that means we champion this place. As Envoy, I spend a huge amount of time networking with Government, businesses, other regional leaders, and industry to put our region on the map.
  • Secondly, we convene – that is to say bringing the right people together to make great things happen.
  • And thirdly, we invest – finding and generating finance to make those great things a reality.

We were very clear when we started our work that our core purpose was to ‘add value’ and deliver Estuary-wide benefit at scale.

That means not stepping on the toes of the vast portfolio of projects already happening here but finding new ways of enhancing the Estuary.

That isn’t to say we don’t want to help or champion those things that are already underway. On the contrary, we are working with many to identify and drive further benefits, support them at key moments and unblock problems that may emerge along the way, by using our networks and influence.

What we do

A good example of our work to add value at Estuary-wide level is our Hydrogen Route Map, which we launched in October, and identifies opportunities to develop, produce, store, and use this abundant source of super-clean energy in geographical clusters across the Estuary.

Another illustration is our modal shift work to explore how the Thames could be better used for industry reducing freight traffic on the Capital’s roads.

What both these projects have in common is they reflect our desire to create the greenest and cleanest riverside region anywhere in the world – ‘great green growth’ is what we call it. My colleague Carla Guerrera joined us from Canada to talk about another aspect of this work – a set of guiding principles for green building and sustainable development in the future – which we will launch in 2022.

Another way in which we add value is by looking at things differently. That might sound a simplistic phrase but by examining challenges through a different lens, you identify new solutions. The work we are doing around infrastructure to unlock housing is a good illustration of that.

Finally, there is the question of money. We are generating game-changing propositions, but they require investment and we’ve been clear we can’t rely on Government for hand-outs to make them happen. Our approach is different. With my colleague Ken Dytor, who was a brilliant panellist at the conference, we are developing a sustainable model for investment that positions us to international markets and a key player in the Global Britain agenda.

We already knew the Estuary was an amazing place, but the vast amount of work in the pipeline and the passion and resilience of those involved to make it happen, was a superb reminder that we really are in a good place.

Thank you to Built Environment Networking for organising and Birketts LLP for sponsoring the event, as well as the brilliant session chairs, speakers and audience for making it an excellent event.

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View photos from the event:


Main photo credit: Roger Moody