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The year that was 2021 – Autumn review

20th December 2021

October to December 2021 was a time of exciting announcements from the launch of the Thames Estuary Hydrogen Route Map, to official opening and the appointment of the chair of the Thames Freeport and important conversations at conferences from CPC21 to COP26 to the Thames Estuary Development Conference.

Tragically, this October, we lost two colleagues and champions of the Estuary: James Brokenshire and David Amess. Our thoughts remain with their friends and families.

Championing the region in October

Part of my unique role as Estuary Envoy is to be an ambassador and champion the region. In this capacity, I was deployed to the Conservative Party Conference in October this year to engage with government ministers, advisors and journalists which I blogged about.Tweet from Kate at the conference saying Fascinating chat with @BenHouchen and @KwasiKwarteng at #CPC21 The Estuary and Teesside are already great partners on hydrogen and we will do much more. Our latest here More to come. Watch this space!

I was able to speak with highly influential people – including Baroness Vere of Norbiton – Minister for Roads, Buses and Places and Jill Mortimer, MP for Hartlepool and, Ben Houchen, Mayor of Tees Valley about our exciting hydrogen plans.

I started important conversations with Paul Scully MP, Minister for London, about levelling up the Thames Estuary region, and Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng MP about our vision for driving good, green growth.

My colleagues presented the case for a Thames Estuary Hydrogen ecosystem in the lead up to COP26 at the launch of the Decarbonised Gas Alliance’s UK Roadshow.

We then launched the Thames Estuary Hydrogen Route Map which makes a compelling case for investment and has far-reaching, positive implications not only for the region, but for the UK as a whole. We’ve been contacted by lots of interested investors and end users, please get in touch if you want to be part of this too!

Many thanks to my colleagues Devrim Celal and Gavin Chapman, Joint Leads for Hydrogen, Ian Lewis, Executive Director, and commissioned partners at Ikigai and DNV.

Cover of the Thames Estuary Route Map Summary

Levelling up and Net Zero in November

Helping to address the complex, often masked deprivation and the compelling evidence for levelling up the region, we reported that the Thames Estuary region would receive almost £110million from the first round of levelling up funding announced in the autumn budget. We also welcomed news that the Thames Estuary was set to benefit from up to £16.9 from the Community Renewal Fund.

During COP26 we made clear how our work is helping and will help reach net zero targets – from hydrogen to river freight to maximising green aspects of major projects – with partners across the Estuary we’re making this the greenest Estuary in the world.

We welcomed Rt Hon Ruth Kelly as the first chair of the Thames Freeport. Ruth really understands how to make the Thames Freeport deliver positive changes for businesses, people and the environment, to help us achieve net zero and level up the region. I am really looking forward to working with her.

In the Estuary:

  • Lower Thames Crossing announced that local businesses would get a head start to be involved in the project which plans to spend £1 in every £3 with SMEs.
  • There was more exciting news from the Thames Freeport which announced that financial incentives for businesses would apply form 19 November 2021. The Thames Freeport is open for business!
  • We were delighted to be part of the Thames & London Waterways Forum jointly hosted by the Port of London Authority and the Greater London Authority, moderated by our fantastic colleague Martha Grekos. Randal Smith from the Growth Board’s Executive Team introduced our vision for using the river for moving light freight. More on this in 2022.
  • The Thames Estuary Development Conference was a beautiful reminder of all the fantastic work being done by partners across the region. I was delighted to be joined by colleagues form the Board: Carla Guerrera, from Purpose Driven Development, our Board Lead for Green Places and Ken Dytor, from Urban Catalyst, our Lead for Inward Investment. I already can’t wait for next year’s! In the meantime we will be at UKREiiF 17-19 May in Leeds and I hope to see you there!
  • The brilliant team at Creative Estuary launched a property portal for the creative industry so artists and makers can find the right space to help them flourish.

Graphic introducing Carla Guerrera as a speaker at the Thames Estuary Development Conference on 30 November 2021

Boost for cultural engagement in December

The team and I are preparing for lots of exciting things happening next year. We will be making announcements about our waterborne freight work, continuing to drive the hydrogen agenda and working with partners across the Estuary to make this the greenest and most productive Estuary in the world.

Ray Mia, Thames Estuary Growth Board Lead for Culture, Digital and the Thames Estuary Production Corridor saying "This funding aims to make creative arts more accessible to everyone. it is revealing that over half the projects in London and the South East that were awarded this funding are in the Estuary which provides further evidence of the distinct and multi-faceted need to level up this region.”

Estuary Visionaries

If you are looking to support environmentally-conscious businesses this (or any) time of year please do consider these fabulous Estuary Visionary businesses, and have yourself a happy sustainable Christmas (or whatever you prefer to celebrate.)

Our free Estuary Visionaries scheme is open to businesses in the Thames Estuary that are taking steps to be greener.

You can find out more and nominate businesses in the Estuary that are doing things in a more sustainable way here:

Wrapping Up 2021

We may be drawing 2021 to a close but our work to make sure that the Thames Estuary is transformed in a way that the people, businesses and environment need and deserve will continue. Our target is to deliver jobs, growth and infrastructure identified in the Growth Commission’s report by 2050. I’m incredibly proud of what has been done already, and I’m excited for the work that is to come.

The Thames Estuary is the UK’s number one opportunity for good, green growth. We will make it happen. Join us!