Former deputy prime minister calls on British construction to revive Thames Estuary development


Former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine has revealed the full list of members of the task force he is heading to revive plans to redevelop the Thames Gateway.

In an exclusive interview with Building this week, Heseltine (pictured) confirmed the 17-strong task force, and predicted the Thames Estuary will become the UK’s next big development opportunity.

Members include John Armitt, whose CV includes stints as Costain chief executive and chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority; Foster & Partners chairman Norman Foster; Arup chair Gregory Hodkinson and the head of housebuilder Berkeley, Tony Pidgley.

Others on the team include DRMM Architects director Sadie Morgan and Atkins chief executive Uwe Krueger.

Called the Thames Estuary Growth Commission, the group will look into ways to attract private investors into the area which stretches from east London and across into north Kent and south Essex. The region had dropped off the government’s agenda after being championed by another former deputy prime minister, John Prescott, more than a decade ago.

Heseltine said: “The economic forecasts are so obvious, so irresistible that development is going to take place.”

The Tory grandee said it was important to get British builders and architects on board and added: “British civil engineering is building some of the most exciting projects in the world, so inviting the chief executives of Arup and Atkins and Fosters was a very obvious way of bringing British overseas expertise to our deliberations.”

He said the task force would cover private and public spheres and would have an overall responsibility for the development. “There’s a lot of work going on and nothing is more boring than people setting up to compete or duplicate what others are already doing,” he said.

“The first thing I wanted to achieve was the presence on the commission of four people who had existing roles, who it was very sensible to incorporate in our deliberations. First of all, the [DCLG] minister, Greg Clark. Secondly Andrew Adonis, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission and self-evidently we don’t want to duplicate what they’re doing. Thirdly, [deputy London mayor] Eddie Lister has got a committee of local government and the LEPs, so his presence on the commission was very important. And fourthly, [Treasury minister] Jim O’Neill, in order to involve the Treasury and financial institutions.”

The task force will look at how to make the most of planned infrastructure ahead of reporting back to chancellor George Osborne next year. The remaining members of the task force are property developers Stuart Lipton and George Iacobescu, chief executive of Canary Wharf, DCLG minister Mark Francois, Imperial College president Alice Gast, HS1 chief executive Nicola Shaw and head of infrastructure at Lloyds Bank, Geoffrey Spence.

To read the full interview with Michael Heseltine click here.