Published: 13:17, 21 July 2020
| Updated: 16:03, 21 December 2020
A government-backed plan has been launched to turn the Thames Estuary into a national hub of industry, by supporting local projects in Kent and connecting the county to London by water.
The Thames Estuary Growth Board has claimed the prospective scheme could have the potential to create 1.5million jobs and add value of up to £115bn to the nation’s economy.
Dubbed "The Green Blue," the large-scale project is looking to support around 30 developments in the region, including the Lower Thames Crossing which will connect Kent and Essex.
It will also be looking to encourage greener methods of energy production and transportation, hoping to increase freight and passengers travelling on the river by 50% in a five-year period.
One Kent-based project it is also hoping to support is the London Resort project in Swanscombe, which has been called Britain's answer to Disneyland.
The £5 billion resort would transform 535 acres into two theme parks, a water park, and 3,500 hotel rooms, providing development plans are given the green light.
Kate Willard, chairman of the Thames Estuary Growth Board, said: "I absolutely know that there are plans to welcome visitors to London Resort by river."
The Thames envoy also sees it as a chance to connect neighbouring counties in an all-new way.
She said: "If you're standing in North Kent and looking over to Essex, one can see that vast expanse of water as a barrier, but on the contrary we see the Thames as something which is not a barrier but our lifeblood and opportunity."
Alongside supporting the Swanscombe resort project, there is also an opportunity for the waterway to be used as a freight path for the planned distribution centre on the site of the old Littlebrook power station.
Planning consent was granted to investors Tritax Big Box for the £205m redevelopment of the site into a four-storey warehouse to be built on a 45 acre plot of land near the Dartford Crossing.
Residents in the area raised concerns that the huge warehouse could add to traffic congestion on the Dartford Crossing and surrounding areas.
But the board chairman said plans to utilise the river for freight transport could free up space on the roads.
She said: "It's an opportunity for us to lift the freight off of our busy and congested roads and get back on the river.
"But to do that, we also recognise that those boats need to be clean and green as well.
"The kind of operators who have those boats and those wharves are also looking at how we could help to clean the river - a river is green, but what you put on it isn't necessarily."
Speaking to KentOnline in March, the director of the Manston Airport redevelopment discussed his hopes of using the Thames Estuary as a new cargo link to the capital.
The chairman added: "The Thames Estuary is brimming with potential, just waiting to be tapped into.
"The government recognises this, which is why it is viewed as integral to the future of the UK economy.
"But real growth is about more than nuts and bolts, it’s about people.
"That is why our board is here - we build partnerships; we create opportunities; we work closely with local communities."
Simon Clarke, minister for regional growth and local government, said: "I am so pleased to see the Thames Estuary Growth Board’s Green Blue Plan has been launched today.
"This plan will drive growth by prioritising jobs, better infrastructure for transport, investment and the expansion of housing.
"It’s a plan committed to green growth and ensuring that this world-famous river acts as a gateway to economic growth, benefitting the local community through the creation of better roads and improved town centres.
"The UK is open for business and the Thames Estuary Growth Board’s plan makes this clear."