John Prescott – 2003 Speech on the Thames Gateway

Below is the text of the speech made by the then Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, at the launch of a new house building project at the Thames Gateway on 30th July 2003.

Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, it’s great to be here at Ingress Abbey.

It is an example to all developers.

Award winning planning.

Award winning design.

Built on a brownfield site.

With social and market housing.

And the restoration of a listed building.

Some might say traditional values in a modern setting.

It is a first step towards a new city here in North Kent.

It is part of the 120,000 homes and 180,000 jobs we are aiming to create here in the Thames Gateway.

New homes will be built alongside the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which we rescued from collapse in 1998.

The first phase of the Rail Link is now nearing completion – on budget and on time – and today setting a new speed record at almost 200 miles an hour. The tunnel runs right below our feet.

Prime Minister, here at Ingress Abbey we are standing in the middle of the Thames Gateway – at the centre of the biggest brownfield site in Europe.

It is a fantastic opportunity.

An opportunity to boost the economy of the Thames Gateway and to provide the housing and jobs we need.

Michael Heseltine identified the potential for the Thames Gateway more than ten years ago.

Today we are not just talking about growth – we are making it happen.

It was only in February that we launched our Sustainable Communities Plan.

Today – under phase one of our programme – we are announcing plans to spend an additional £450 million over three years to support the development of key sites across the Gateway.

That public funding will lever in three or four times as much in private sector investment. The development of the gateway will be a partnership between the public and the private sector.

Public investment in infrastructure and land preparation will have a massive multiplyer effect.

It will be the private sector that provides the vast majority of new housing in the Gateway.

But we want to move ahead as quickly as we can.

So, today I am allocating an additional £130 million to projects at the London end of the Gateway – that is in Stratford, the Royal Docks, Greenwich, Woolwich and Barking Reach where housing pressures are the most intense.

An additional £100 million will be spent over the next three years here in North Kent, and £91 million in South Essex.

Another £100m will also shortly be allocated for other projects awaiting approval, including setting up new Urban Development Corporations in Thurrock and East London.

Getting the transport infrastructure in place is vital. Alastair Darling announced two weeks ago that he is allocating an additional £600 million for transport projects across the Gateway.

And we will make the most of the £5 billion investment in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link – and the £10 billion upgrade of the West Coast Main Line.

These massive, long term investments will provide us with faster, more efficient access to and from London from Europe and the north of England.

Together they will form a transport corridor which will be the centrepiece of development in the Thames Gateway and other Growth Areas from Ashford to Milton Keynes and Northampton in the Midlands.

When complete in 2007 the CTRL will open the way for domestic services providing additional capacity and faster journey times between Kent and London.

The journey time from Ebbsfleet to London will be cut to only 17 minutes – 17 minutes by train, not hours by the motor car. That makes sense. That’s about public investment for sustainable development.

The Dockland Light Railway will be extended to Woolwich and we will introduce new public transport infrastructure to open up Greenwich, Woolwich and Barking Reach.

We will also ensure that the schools and hospitals are in place and that all areas are protected from flooding. Today, for example, we have announced around £130 million for three new or extended university campuses in the Thames Gateway.

To the north of London, new development will also be well served by the transport investment we are making in:

– the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line,

– new rolling stock for the Midland Main Line,

– the new interchange with Channel Tunnel Rail Link at St Pancras and Kings Cross and

– additional investment in the M1 and M11 motorways.

In the growth areas, I am announcing today plans for and additional £163 million to be spent in:

Ashford, Milton Keynes and the South Midlands, and the London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor.

This investment will help deliver an extra 130,000 homes and 120,000 jobs in the Milton Keynes- South Midlands area alone.

To complete the picture, yesterday we announced a new £89 million Liveability Fund, to invest in our parks, public spaces and streets – improving the very sinews of our communities and the quality of life for everyone.

And although the Thames Gateway is about new build, we also want to continue our record of improving the social housing stock.

Two days ago we provided £1.5 billion to 13 new Arms Length Management Organisations to improve the quality of nearly 200,000 council-owned homes. That is in addition to the 800,000 council homes that have been brought up to a decent standard since 1997.

Finally, I am very pleased that we are joined here today by Richard McCarthy, who will join my department to head up the new Sustainable Communities office in the autumn.

The message today is that we are not just talking about sustainable growth.

We are making it happen.

Today marks the start of a long term commitment coupled with a long term process of delivery.

We are putting new delivery mechanisms in place.

We are putting the investment in place.

And we have the political commitment to make it happen.

Prime Minister, we are delighted that you are here with us today. We are embarking on a huge enterprise with the development of the Thames Gateway and the other growth areas. I know you want that to happen.

It is a huge challenge, but we all know you will be keeping a close eye on it with the Cabinet Committee you chair. And together with our partners in the public and private sector we are determined to deliver.