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Envoy sets out priorities for 2022 in new year message

11th January 2022

Dear Thames Estuary residents,

I want to wish you all the very best for 2022 and share a positive message for the year ahead.

As Estuary Envoy, I was appointed by government to lead long-term transformation across the Thames Estuary. Our region, which includes north Kent, south Essex and East London, is the UK’s greatest growth opportunity.

My job is two-fold: to lead the Thames Estuary Growth Board to make sure this happens, and to be its Envoy championing this place across the halls of Westminster, building relationships with decision makers across the country and abroad.

Our work in 2021 – Mapping the region’s levelling up needs

Last year, we commissioned research into inequalities and deprivation across our patch. Our Thames Estuary Levelling Up Data Atlas maps the huge need across the Estuary and shows our deprivation here is as significant as anywhere in the country.

With partners across the Estuary, I will be championing the needs of Estuary residents to Government in 2022. The Government’s Levelling Up White Paper is expected this year, and I am already having important conversations with those in power to make sure they understand this region needs support.

Supporting the Thames Freeport

The Thames Freeport is now open for business. Last year we campaigned for the Thames Estuary to be awarded a freeport, and in March we learned our bid had been successful. The Freeport promises to attract businesses and investment to the region. It will create over 21,000 jobs and opportunities for people locally to learn new skills and develop careers. It will be a hub for new green research and innovation. This year, we will be working with partners to make sure the opportunities it creates benefits communities across the Estuary.

Setting out the opportunity for hydrogen

Last year we announced our ambition to play a key role in green energy production: our Hydrogen Route Map identifies the huge opportunity here. From those sectors that would drive demand including transport, construction, to ideal locations for production and research. We launched this in October 2021 and investors, developers, and businesses from Dartford to Dubai have reached out to become part of our green power revolution. This is brilliant news for people in the Estuary. We will become a leader in this arena helping to make this the greenest Estuary in the world.

Good green growth on land and water

I am determined as we grow economically, this benefits people, businesses, and the environment across the Estuary. I call this good, green growth. This runs through everything we do. This year, we will kick off conversations with industry around making better use of the River Thames. We will share research that shows the scale and benefits of moving light freight off our roads and onto boats. This age-old route, with some modern-day thinking, could play a huge role in reducing congestion on our roads and cutting pollution.

Last year we celebrated our first anniversary. Looking at the progress we have made already, I hope that you will share my positivity. For people and businesses alike, it will be good, green growth in 2022.

Our priorities for 2022:

  1. Finding more ways to make this great Estuary even better – 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 and finding new ways of enhancing the Estuary. That work will continue in 2022.
  2. Another way in which we’ll 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 identifying new infrastructure to unlock housing is a good illustration of that. In 2022, we’ll keep thinking differently.
  3. We’ll find private 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. We are developing a sustainable model for investment in 2022 that positions us to international markets and a key player in the Global Britain agenda.
  4. We’ll promote our Estuary to the world. We know the Thames Estuary is the best growth opportunity in the UK and as the pandemic normalises, we’ll be selling its potential globally to attract investment, new business and visitors.
  5. And we’ll be fearless – Great things happen when amazing, passionate, talented people have the willingness and desire. We are already working with some fantastic people and partners to make things, like our vision for hydrogen, happen, and we’ll carry on doing so. We’ll be big, bold and brave in 2022.


Wishing you all the very best for a healthy, happy, green and prosperous new year

Kate Willard OBE,

Estuary Envoy and Chair of the Thames Estuary Growth Board