Blair inspects green brownfield regeneration in Thames Gateway

Tony Blair has visited the Thames Gateway regeneration development to check on progress ahead of the impending general election and to mark the publication of a document highlighting progress since the project began in 2003.

Mr Blair praised the development, one of the world's biggest urban regeneration projects with over 120,000 new homes planned for the Essex and Kent riverside areas.

"We are spending £6 billion of Government investment to turn brownfield, derelict land into new homes, new jobs and new open space. We are transforming the lives of thousands of people by providing a high quality environment, better access to education, new job opportunities and the decent homes needed to keep communities strong and together," Mr Blair said.

Joining him on the tour, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott used the occasion to announce a series of new projects and a new code for sustainable buildings which all publicly funded new buildings will have to meet from April 2006.

The code will require buildings to use energy, water and material resources more efficiently, with an emphasis on energy efficiency in the home. Despite the hype, however, the code is merely voluntary and there are doubts that developers will want to cut profit margins to meet environmental goals.

It also does not meet the strictures of the EU energy performance in buildings directive which would require all buildings to be given an energy rating to allow people to see how much energy would be needed to heat and run their homes and offices. The Government was expected to announce plans last week as to how they would be implementing the directive yet it now appears to be postponed.

The deadline for implementing the directive is January 4th 2006.

However, such details did not seem to trouble Mr Prescott.

"We have a unique opportunity - now and for future generations. The Thames Gateway Strategy we are launching today shows how we are investing £6 billion across the Thames Gateway to create sustainable communities, stimulate economic development, deliver sustainable homes, enhance the local environment and restore historic town centres," he said.

The strategy paper highlighted progress made so far such as £1 billion investment in public transport, £40 million investment in three new universities, £60 million in healthcare provision in the four growth areas, and £26 million in local environment projects.

In addition, it announced new projects including the development of the Albert Dock as part of the Albert Basin strategy, the creation of Dagenham Dock Environmental Technology Centre as a sustainable industrial park, and the remodelling of Gravesend Community Woodland.

By David Hopkins



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