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Happy first anniversary

22nd July 2021

Our first year at the Thames Estuary Growth Board

This time last year we launched, announcing our vision for the Thames Estuary in our ‘Green Blue Action Plan‘ on the Thames. I remember it was a beautiful day and the river sparkled in the sun. I remember how amazing our boat looked with our new branding on it. I remember that day with every sense. The sights, the sounds, the smells, as we steered with purpose down our great Estuary, talking with businesses and colleagues about how excited we were to be getting started.

Thames Estuary Envoy Kate Willard OBE pictured at the launch of ‘The Green Blue’ action plan. Smiling with back to Thames and clipper boat visible behind.

Thames Estuary Envoy Kate Willard OBE pictured at the launch of ‘The Green Blue’ action plan. Photo credit: Matt Crossick/PA Wire.

A brilliant year, getting brilliant stuff done…

We’ve done what we set out to do.

  • We have created an extraordinary Board with stellar individuals.
  • We have commissioned ambitious, but tight and grounded-in-reality investment strategies.
  • We have built sound relationships with the private sector and have strong dialogue with businesses and investors from within and around our patch.
  • We have also continued to help businesses who have needed our help over this period.
  • We have kept partners informed about our direction and what we are doing, and invited comment, engagement, and involvement.
  • We want to build a movement around the Estuary and the place we want it to become, so those two-way conversations are very important to us.

We said at the outset we wanted to be a Board that gets stuff done and I think we’re living up to that.

 …with some stand-out moments…

Thames Freeport – Campaigning with our partners, businesses and Thurrock Council, for a Thames Freeport was a stand-out moment and an amazing achievement for everyone involved. That will have significant benefits for Estuary communities for many years to come.

Creative Festival – I am also really proud of the work that Emily Buckley, Thames Estuary Growth Board Lead for Green Spaces, and Colette Bailey, Director at Metal, did on the Thames Estuary Trail launched during the Estuary 2021 Festival.

Hydrogen – In the hydrogen space, we brought some great minds together around the table and have started putting together the detail around this ground breaking investment strategy.

 …and some lowlights

For obvious reasons, I haven’t been able to get out and about around the Estuary. There are some parts of our patch I know better than others and I was looking forward to getting out and building relationships with people and places in those places I don’t know so well. I’ll be there soon though!

Turning our vision into a workplan

The Green Blue action plan we published this time last year set out our intentions. The Green Blue Workplan provides detail about how we will deliver them. To use the Ronseal analogy, it does what it says on the tin. We want people who read it to understand clearly what we are going to do, why we are doing it, and which outcomes we will use to measure our success.

The Green Blue Workplan cover July 2021

We’ll be transforming the Thames Estuary in ways people care about…

I’m excited about our work around net zero and levelling up. Whilst Thames Estuary Growth Board is not a delivery body, we work to develop investment opportunities to improve this place for everyone and influence around key policy areas.

Our work to catalyse a hydrogen ecosystem and greening light freight and logistics will contribute to cleaner air for our children and grandchildren.

Is levelling up simply about making great places for everyone to live?

When you strip away any political definition, levelling-up is just about making great places to live in with great health care, schools, housing and places to be outside and enjoy. For everyone. Lovely things that everybody wants wherever they live. We have a role in that.

This year, we published our Thames Estuary Levelling Up Data Atlas, which will help our local authorities make cases to Government for investment and opportunities.

Enhancing and protecting the environment

Our region is a beautiful interface between water and land and we want to help people get access to it and enjoy it whether that’s opening up pathways for walking and cycling, planting woodlands or encouraging sustainability and protecting its beauty.

Couple of people cycling together at the beach at sunrise sky at wooden deck summer time

…And accelerating investment across the Estuary

There are many great opportunities here in the Estuary, but they won’t happen without investment.

We know the Government is looking at how public sector investment can drive economic growth – but more importantly, how it can trigger and accelerate private sector investment.

Developing as a Strategic Investment Partner

We are in the early stages of developing a Strategic Investment Partner model which will bring new private sector investment to the table, to the Estuary and will be working closely with Government on this new model. This isn’t about grants or one-off funding bids but sustainable financing. We are exploring and testing our thinking now about how this investment model will evolve to accelerate the delivery of good green growth.

Working with great people to transform the Thames Estuary

I’ve met many amazing and fascinating people here. But I think the most inspiring has been the group of local authority leaders in the Estuary. There hasn’t always been Estuary-wide political consensus and buy-in in the past but they’ve seized upon this opportunity and offered their support, strength and vision. That’s a beautiful thing and we wouldn’t be where we are today without it or without them.

And I must give huge credit to our Board. They shape and guide our work with care and energy. I must also pay tribute to the contribution of Perry Glading, our Deputy Chair and my wing man. Thanks Perry, I couldn’t do it without you!

Kate Willard OBE with Perry Glading

Kate Willard OBE, Envoy and Chair, with Perry Glading Deputy Chair

We’ve got exciting plans for year 2…so watch this space!

We will have achieved firm first footings on the hydrogen ecosystem with clear investment plans landed for that and I’d like to think that we have also landed the first iteration of the Strategic Investment Partner model.

And, I’d like to land an unknown. Something we haven’t planned. I think my team are brilliant at spotting opportunities to innovate and create. Whilst we have a plan, we’re also agile, so I’d like to deliver a golden ticket as well. Watch this space!

If you’d like to be part of this amazing journey please get in touch