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The year that was 2021 – Spring review

14th December 2021

After the strong start to 2021, getting some significant projects started and campaigning successfully for the Thames Freeport, spring was no less productive.

In May we launched our Thames Estuary Levelling Up Data Atlas that mapped deprivation across the region for the first time.

Between April and June 2021 partners and projects in the region were busy too.

April – application approvals and appointing amazing partners

In April we commissioned WSP one of the world’s leading engineering professional services consultancies, to explore how the River Thames can be better used for freight, moving it off London roads to ease congestion and air pollution, whilst also supporting regeneration and boosting economic growth. This is a key part of making this the world’s greenest, most productive Estuary.

Elsewhere in the Estuary:

  • Southend’s Better Queensway regeneration project – that will bring over £500 million investment into the existing estate and catalyse improvements in Southend’s town centre – had its ‘hybrid’ planning application approved.

May – mapping deprivation and hydrogen next steps

In May 2021 we released the Thames Estuary Levelling Up Data Atlas which maps social inequalities and imbalances across the Thames Estuary region, which are as significant as anywhere in the country. Created by PRD, the aim of the Levelling Up Data Atlas is to inform ongoing discussions about what ‘levelling up’ means across the Estuary and how best to achieve it.

Our hydrogen work continued at pace with partners Ikigai and DNV holding workshops with investors to inform the development of a capital investment plan and ongoing engagement with Government.

The region became the setting for Estuary 2021 a large-scale arts festival led by a partnership of two locally-based arts organisations, Metal (South Essex) and Cement Fields (North Kent). The festival was the very exciting flagship and forerunner event of a transformative 3-year programme of cultural investment in the Thames Estuary being led by the very brilliant Creative Estuary.

June – joint working to transform the Estuary

In June, we partnered with National Highways (then Highways England), to appoint international consultancy and construction company, Mace, to look at how local stakeholders and businesses can take full advantage of the opportunities brought by the proposed Lower Thames Crossing.

Projects in the Estuary were taking steps forward:

  • As well as making journeys easier, creating over 22,000 jobs and establishing a SME Directory and free training for local businesses to get involved, National Highways announced a new woodland the size of 135 football pitches will be planted in partnership with Forestry England, alongside the route of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing.
  • The Thames Estuary Production Corridor announced its new project team led by We Made That to realise the next phase for making the Thames Estuary a world class centre for creative production.

Estuary Visionaries

More brilliant businesses who are doing things to be greener joined our free Estuary Visionaries scheme:

  • Gerald McDonald and Company, an Essex-based family run business that has established its sustainability credentials within the food and drink supply industry showing that embracing green evolution is key to their success.
  • Gallagher Group, based in Kent, is one of the South East’s leading civil engineering, aggregates, recycled aggregates, concrete and quarrying businesses with a long-term commitment to green growth and supporting the local community.

Whilst this Board wants to create the greenest Estuary in the world, there are businesses on both sides of the river that are already committed to being greener and I want to celebrate that. You can find out more and nominate businesses in the Estuary that are taking steps to do things in a more sustainable way here:

Spring sewn up

When we launched our vision ‘the Green Blue’ action plan in June 2020 I was adamant we would get stuff that needed doing done. It is also key that we don’t duplicate work and I am delighted to be working with such fantastic public and private sector partners here in the Estuary. This is how we will get the best for people, business and the environment here.

That’s my summary of spring 2021. In my next post we will celebrate our first year anniversary. We’ve achieved a lot already!