Local South East business leaders recently debated the critical role transport infrastructure plays in unlocking the potential of Thames Gateway and the wider South East region. The Forum, hosted by leading law firm Thomson Snell & Passmore, took place on 30 June 2016 at Eastgate, Northfleet. Chaired by Alex Lewsley, Senior Associate at Thomson Snell & Passmore’s commercial property team and based in the firm’s Thames Gateway office, it was attended by distinguished guest speakers involved in the Thames Gateway regeneration project.
The guest speakers at this year’s Forum included:
- David Liston-Jones, Chief Executive, Thames Gateway Kent Partnership
- Paul Spooner, Interim Chief Executive, Ebbsfleet Development Corporation
- Natalie Chapman, Head of Policy, Freight Transport Association
- Katie Stewart, Director of Environment Planning and Enforcement, Kent County Council
- David Testa, Chief Executive, London Paramount Entertainment Resort
Attendees and speakers highlighted the excitement around the huge potential of Thames Gateway and the South East region in terms of economic and business growth, new homes and new jobs for the local community. However the importance of implementing the necessary transport infrastructure to support it was evidently the biggest concern for those attending the Forum. It was stressed that regeneration in the area is crucial as business growth in the region is being hindered by transport constraints and severe congestion.
Some of the key points put forward by the guest speakers include:
- Although the Thames Gateway regeneration project has the potential to deliver an estimated 158,500 homes and 135,800 jobs by 2031, one of the obstacles identified in the discussion was the need for both private and public investment in the local transport infrastructure. Kent County Council is currently developing a local transport plan with the aims of providing the community with a resilient transport infrastructure to reduce congestion, improve economic growth and development, whilst meeting the demands of a growing population.
- The key transport investments will be the development of the Thames Lower Crossing, the Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet, and establishing Ebbsfleet International Station as an international transport hub. It is projected that 20% of London Paramount Entertainment Resort’s visitors will use the HS1 which has use of Ebbsfleet International Station.
- Alongside the concern to reduce congestion in the Kent region caused by the high level of import and export traffic, the Freight Transport Association has also identified a skills shortage – as only 1% of HGV drivers are women. This has been highlighted as an area of untapped potential, and the Association will seek to recruit more young people to the sector as road planners and engineers to meet growing demands.
- The importance of the expansion of airports in and around London was also raised. It was argued that the expansion of airports, especially Heathrow, are essential to reach new emerging markets and to ensure economic growth. Further expansion of airports would cement the UK’s position as part of the global supply chain.
Kamal Aggarwal, Head of Thomson Snell & Passmore’s Thames Gateway office, comments:
“The discussion has highlighted the importance of local transport infrastructure as the backbone to any regeneration project. There is certainly a lot of work for the local business community and the public sector to do, but there is also an abundance of opportunities for the wider local community. It is fantastic to witness our community working together to build a better tomorrow for future generations.”