The Thames Gateway is the largest regeneration and new housing programme managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government (the Department). It focuses on the area between Canary Wharf in London and the mouth of the River Thames, a length of approximately 40 miles. The Government intends that 160,000 new homes and 180,000 new jobs should be created in the area by 2016, and further development beyond that date. If successful the Thames Gateway will make a significant contribution to the number of new homes needed in the Greater South East and potentially could add a further £12 billion a year to the nation's economy.
The Department has spent £673 million on the programme (2003-2008), and has sponsored many projects which are helping local partners to accelerate the regeneration of the region. Most of the finance for the development of housing and other infrastructure in the Thames Gateway is to be provided by the private sector. To help secure this investment the public sector has a key role in enabling development through provision of infrastructure, spatial planning, land remediation and ensuring that developers meet the expectations required of sustainable communities.
The Department is, however, only just starting to put in place the mechanisms for managing the programme commensurate with its scale and ambition, and many stakeholders have questioned the Department's ability to show the leadership and influence within Whitehall to persuade other government departments to prioritise the Thames Gateway's regeneration. Without significant improvement in the overall management of the programme it will remain a series of disjointed projects and is unlikely to achieve its potential to make a major difference to economic regeneration and sustainable housing.
On the basis of a Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, we took evidence from the Department on its overall management of the programme on four main issues: turning aspirations into plans that are delivered; more integrated and better coordinated expenditure; progress on delivering homes and employment opportunities; and achieving high quality and environmentally sustainable development.