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23Aug91 UK: ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY EXPECTED TO ANNOUNCE PLANS FOR EAST THAMES URBAN DEVELOPMENT CORRIDOR SOON.

By Mark Smulian.Speculation is growing that Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine will use the Tory Party conference to pave the way for a massive redevelopment of the East Thames Corridor.Mr Heseltine has already written to Prime Minister John Major and other Cabinet members about his plan to shift new development from the west of London to the east.If the Cabinet backs him, he will use the party conference in October to announce a new development corporation for the 50km long corridor.Industry organisations, however, are calling for new infrastructure in the corridor before building work can start.The corridor stretches along the river through the east London boroughs, Essex and Kent. It has large tracts of former industrial land, pollution problems, marshes and farm land, most of it with poor road and public transport links.David Coates, land and planning officer of the House Builders Federation, is afraid that a development area to the east of London will be used as an excuse to stop new building in the Thames Valley and Hampshire.He said: 'The East Thames Corridor is a very long term thing. One hell of a lot of improvement is needed before private interests will take a serious look at it. If new settlements are allowed in the green belt there it will have implications for green belt policy elsewhere.'There seems to be the stick of planning direction at the moment. The private sector is going to need a lot of carrots in place before it will take the opportunities there.'Mr Coates said new building would still be needed elsewhere in the south-east.Jim Turner, spokesman for the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors, said development would not work in the corridor unless new infrastructure was in place first.He backed the idea of an urban development corporation, saying the Government should 'take a decent sized bite and not just pick at urban regeneration'.Labour's environment spokesman, Bryan Gould, whose Dagenham constituency is in the corridor, opposes any UDC.Mr Gould said: 'I am very much in favour of development to the east of London. It is a very exciting idea and there is great potential.He wants development led by local authorities working to a co-ordinated plan.He added: 'Otherwise you get all the difficulties of the London Docklands Development Corporation riding rough-shod over people's rights. If the LDDC could not succeed when property prices were booming in developing the Royal Docks, how could it take on all the area east of London?'Tory-controlled Essex County Council is worried about the Heseltine plan. The council says infrastructure in the county is not sufficient to deal with the people it has got, and could not cope with vast areas of new house building.A spokesman said: 'We really don't feel the need for a vast number of new houses. We would like to see more industry and offices in the county to cut commuting.'A survey by Serplan, the south east planning body, has found 1,139ha of land open for development in thecorridor, but 749ha of this has serious access or pollution problems.