London mayor aims to bring Gateway regions of Thurrock and Dartford under Greater London Authority umbrella

Ken Livingstone
Credit: EMPICS
Livingstone: Has discussed plans with ministers

London mayor Ken Livingstone wants to take control of the Kent and Essex parts of the Thames Gateway to stop them being sidelined by the government’s stuttering efforts to regenerate the area.

The capital’s mayor told Building at the Labour Party Conference that he had discussed with ministers bringing the neighbouring and largely urban boroughs of Dartford and Thurrock under the wing of his Greater London Authority as part of a wider government review of the organisation.

The move came as it emerged that the government’s housing growth areas are losing momentum.

It also coincides with ministers and regeneration professionals at the conference in Brighton accepting the delivery of the Thames Gateway had to be altered to make it happen.

Communities secretary David Miliband is understood to be on the verge of announcing moves to focus the Gateway’s development on east London as part of his wider stock-take of government.

Livingstone said bringing the two councils under the GLA would aid the delivery of the Gateway’s regeneration, but stressed that it was up to the boroughs’ residents to make the decision.

He said: “If you live in Thurrock or Dartford you pay the same council tax as in London, but you don’t get things like free travel if you’re under 18. Life would be better for them, if they wanted to come into London.”

On the issue of delivery structures, I’m open-minded

Yvette Cooper, housing minister

He also said the pressing need to deliver the Olympics by 2012 meant there would be a short focus on the London element of the Gateway.

Ken Dytor of Urban Catalyst said that extending London further along the Gateway would be good for the area’s regeneration because of the strategic leadership Livingstone had provided in the capital.

Former housing minister Nick Raynsford, who is also in favour of the plan to extend the capital eastwards, said the government needed to have an overarching strategy on the Thames Gateway to make it work.

He said: “There needs to be more central oversight to ensure that the pace of development is managed, and that the gaps between the big development areas are filled. There’s a very real question of whether we can get the sum of the existing parts adding up to anything more without an overarching structure.”

Raynsford added that housing minister Yvette Cooper and communities minister David Miliband should form a top-level strategy group to drive forward activity in the Gateway, and that any sidelining of the Kent and Essex parts of the Gateway would be “disastrous”.

Cooper, speaking at a conference fringe meeting, did not rule out a shake-up of the numerous delivery bodies in the Gateway.

She said: “On the issue of the delivery structures, I’m open-minded. We clearly don’t want to spend a long time thinking again about what the best frameworks [for delivery] are, instead of actually doing it, but we need to look at getting the best results across the Gateway.”

  • The Construction Confederation has called on the government to reverse the chronic underinvestment in UK infrastructure. Speaking at a fringe meeting for the industry, CC chairman Peter Commins called on construction minister Alun Michael to show stronger leadership.

Launching the Construction Products Association’s Achievable Targets report, he said: “Despite the UK having the fourth largest economy, it has failed to invest in public services and infrastructure.”