Former Dome chief Lord Falconer pins hopes on Crossrail and Olympics to kick-start programme

The peer who oversaw work on London’s Millennium Dome has branded progress on the Thames Gateway “disappointingly slow” on the eve of his return to involvement in the £9bn regeneration project.

Former lord chancellor Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who was in charge of the Thames Gateway programme between 2001 and 2002 as minister for housing and planning, has been appointed chair of the Thames Gateway London Partnership (TGLP), which is relaunching next week.

Falconer, who engineered the sale of the Millennium Dome to US entrepreneur Philip Anschutz in 2001, said he accepted there was private sector cynicism about the Gateway’s potential, due in part to the “great clutter of organisations” in the region and the 10 to 20-year timescale.

He said: “The importance of the Thames Gateway for London remains high, but progress has been disappointingly slow.”

However, he added that it was still possible to dispel cynicism about the project by starting to deliver on its aims to build 160,000 homes by 2016 and create 225,000 jobs.

He added: “Crossrail and the Olympics are a very major pair of projects which give us an opportunity that most parts of the country don’t have.”

The TGLP represents the 11 London boroughs inside the Gateway to national and London government. Falconer, whose appointment was announced last autumn, said the body will focus on core priorities such as skills, infrastructure and housing.

The chief executive of the government’s Thames Gateway Delivery Unit, Judith Armitt, was forced to leave in 2007 after a disagreement with then housing minister Yvette Cooper over the delivery plan for the programme.