Ruth Kelly and Ken Livingstone join forces at Thames Gateway Forum promising to ramp up provision of family homes

Communities minister Ruth Kelly and London mayor Ken Livingstone have launched a combined drive to prevent the Thames Gateway becoming dominated by apartments.

The interim strategic framework for the area, launched by Kelly in her keynote speech opening the Thames Gateway Forum today, confirms that the housing target for the area has been increased to 160,000.

Recently appointed gateway chief executive Judith Armitt said that the bulk of the increase from the target of 120,000 outlined in earlier plans was accounted for by Livingstone’s willingness to increase housing provision in east London.

But she said that the government was keen to ensure that the development included an increased proportion of family homes. She said the government would look not only at the number of units, but also at the number of habitable rooms per hectar when measuring the density of individual developments.

A recent study by the University of East London found that 80% of the development being planned in the gateway is one or two bedroom units.

Livingstone backed the government’s drive to ramp up provision of family homes when he launched his first housing strategy also at the forum this week.

The document gives the first indication of how Livingstone intends to use new powers to fund affordable housing that he was promised by the government in last week’s Queen’s Speech.

It includes a commitment to increase the provision of larger three and four bedroom family housing.

Speaking at an event prior to the report’s launch this week, the mayor’s housing adviser Alan Benson said that the mayor was keen to promote high quality design and environmental standards. "He is willing to compromise on numbers before quality," he said.

Armitt also said that the government’s gateway strategy, while encouraging a network of green spaces in the gateway, did not endorse architect Terry Farrell’s concept of a national park in the area. ‘This isn’t quite Terry Farrell’s national park, because we want to attract rather than restrict development,’ she said.