Communities minister tells Thames Gateway Forum that framework will join up economic, public service and housing developments.

Communities minister David Milliband has announced there will be a strategic framework to work out an overarching vision for the Thames Gateway.

In a keynote speech at the Thames Gateway Forum at Excel in east London, he said the framework, which would “shape and guide strategic and local decisions” within the Gateway, would be led by the ODPM but would consult widely with local bodies. The minister said he had not yet considered bringing in an external consultant.

Milliband said that the ODPM hoped to have the framework ready by next summer. He said: “By summer of next year I want to have in place a strategic framework for the Gateway as a distinctive economic and social unit, there to shape and guide investments, decisions and actions. A framework that joins up development funding and recurrent expenditure. A framework which integrates economic, public service and housing developments….this cannot be a process of government diktat. It has to be a framework created and shared by the agencies and organisations in the Gateway in partnership with the government – a partnership of equals.”

Milliband said the framework would draw on regional spatial strategies and would link them together to give an overarching vision, but would also recognise the distinctiveness of the Thames Gateway as a region. It would also provide the basis on which planning decisions would be taken.

Earlier in his speech, Milliband had rejected the idea of creating one overall body to lead development within the Gateway, as recommended by Richard Rogers in the UTF report launched this week. He said he wanted draw on a decentralised structure and a wide range of partners.

He said: “The history of central planning shows that one institution in Stalinist control is likely to get complex project wrong. But in rejecting reorganisation and backing a structure better rooted in the distinct communities of the Gateway, we need to address the danger that we will fail to garner the gains from synergy, spread efforts too thinly, and fail to achieve sufficient focus and make optimal trade-offs. In other words, that we will fail to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.”

Also at the Thames Gateway conference……

  • David Higgins, the newly-appointed chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority, stressed the importance of the Stratford City development to create a successful Olympic Games.
  • He said the development was “essential” and that one of the first tasks he would take on board would be to link Stratford City to the Olympic village. He said: “We have to get Stratford right first. It will be the first thing people see when they enter the Lower Lea Valley, so it is crucial. We need to think about practical aspects such as drainage and gas. At the moment they are not integrated - there are two separate planning applications. We must make sure the designs complement each other.”
  • He stressed he had a close relationship with the Stratford City consortium and said there were working groups in place to ensure co-ordination between the two projects.
  • He added that the disputed land that lies in both the Olympic village and Stratford City, previously subject to a CPO from the LDA, would be part of the Olympic village but that both teams were co-ordinating what exactly the land would be used for. He also did not rule out the possibility of placing an Olympics venue within the Stratford City Development itself.