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Contractors attack Gateway plans

Doubts have been raised about the Government’s plans for managing Europe’s biggest regeneration project

Contractors hoping to work on the Thames Gateway project have rounded on the Government for its failure to put together a coherent plan for the area.

This follows last week’s criticism by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s capacity to manage the project, which it said risked putting off private sector investors.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association chairman Peter Andrews said PAC’s report backed up what contractors have been saying for some time.

He said: “The whole enterprise lacks the joined up thinking that is needed to realise infrastructure should go in before the homes and jobs can be created.

“It also lacks the delivery systems necessary to succeed and the leadership and vision from Government to make sure that the Gateway is an inspiration for future regenerations and not another Dome.

“If one of Europe’s most ambitious regeneration projects is going to live up to its potential, the Government must get a grip on it.”

According to a Government source involved in the Gateway project, the PAC has struck a chord with local business.

The source said: “The Government has treated the Thames like a new town, rather than looking at the area as a whole.

“The area needs a lot of development in and around existing areas, rather than a new plan.”

PAC chairman Edward Leigh said the Thames Gateway development project, in which 160,000 homes, plus business and recreation centres, are planned by 2016, was too big for the DCLG and should instead be managed by the planned new Homes and Communities Agency.

Mr Leigh said: “The Department for Communities and Local Government is at present manifestly not up to the job of managing the enormously ambitious enterprise of regenerating the Thames Gateway region.

“The department has not yet established the basic arrangements for controlling the programme including, incredibly, a budget. It has failed so far to set clear and co-ordinated objectives and measures of progress.”

In response, a DCLG spokesman said the PAC report is already out of date.

He said: “It is baffling that the report should propose handing over the Gateway to the Homes and Communities Agency, which won’t actually exist for two years. We don’t believe this would help short-term delivery.”

The Thames Gateway regeneration project is the biggest such programme in western Europe and hopes to create 180,000 new jobs by 2016.

The area stretches 40 miles along the Thames estuary from Canary Wharf in east London across to Southend in Essex and down to Sittingbourne in Kent.

Approximately 1.45 million people live in the area.