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Lord Adonis calls for new town at Ebbsfleet to kick start regeneration in the Thames Gateway in north Kent, Essex and east London

11 February 2014
by Chris Price

A think tank led by a Labour peer has outlined plans for a new town to be built in north Kent.

The plans laid out by former transport secretary Lord Adonis aim to kickstart regeneration in the area around east London, Kent and Essex known as the Thames Gateway.

Central to a series of development projects is the creation of Ebbsfleet – the first new town in the UK since the 1960s.

Ebbsfleet International train station

Ebbsfleet International train station

Put forward by think tank Centre for London, the blueprints hail Ebbsfleet's "excellent location" and huge potential with the proposed development of the Paramount theme park on the Swanscombe Peninsula.

The year-long review – entitled Go East: Unlocking the Potential of the Thames Estuary – also looks at the why development has been stifled in the region.

Lord Adonis said: "Successive governments have long recognised the development potential in the Thames Estuary.

"There is huge scope for new homes and infrastructure to transform the region into a thriving commercial and cultural centre, all the while easing the strain on housing supply in the South East and London.

Lord Adonis visited Ebbsfleet International in 2010

Lord Adonis visited Ebbsfleet International in 2010

"The key to unlocking this potential is Ebbsfleet. If we want to arrest the region's decades of structural decline we need to invest in its connectivity and wider appeal.

"Putting measures in place to build a new town at Ebbsfleet would kick start the process. The benefits would be enormous."

Planning and policy experts such as Sir Peter Hall, Professor Tony Travers, Francis Salway and Michael Heseltine have all contributed to the project.

Published as a series of essays, it says Ebbsfleet would be the catalyst for greater investment, allowing the region to grow as a hub for commerce and culture while helping London meet its development challenges.

The former Eastern Quarry where planning permission has been granted for 10,000 homes

The former Eastern Quarry where planning permission has been granted for 10,000 homes

The report says the public and private sector have not worked well together in the past, leading to delays in major development plans, such as proposals for a new Thames Crossing.

It also suggests major housing developments have not happened because it would take too long for developers to turn a profit, such as the 10,000-home Eastern Quarry development in Swanscombe, owned by FTSE100 developer Land Securities.

“Successive governments have long recognised the development potential in the Thames Estuary. The key to unlocking this potential is Ebbsfleet..." - Lord Adonis

The report proposes creating development corporations – made up of businesses and local politicians – which would have the power to grant planning permission for major projects in the area.

Centre for London director Ben Rogers said: "Politicians of all persuasions say they want to see more housing built and many are attracted to building garden cities and new towns on green field land.

"But this invariably meets with strong local resistance.

"It makes much more sense to look to the Thames Estuary, where there are plenty of town centres that could be regenerated and expanded and brown field sites that could be developed.

"This is especially true of Ebbsfleet, which has seen massive public investment in rail infrastructure and won’t need a huge amount of additional investment to bring to fruition."

Some have questioned why the report did not seek the views of people in the area.

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said: "We are very aware of the potential for Ebbsfleet. As far as I am aware this particular proposal hasn’t involved any consultation with local residents.

"For some time now we have been working with a whole range of organisations based at Ebbsfleet. The expansion of Bluewater and the potential for a theme park are very exciting projects."

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