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Thames Estuary to become creative hub

Words: Laura Edgar
Artist's impression

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has published plans to transform the Thames Estuary into a focal point for the creative and cultural industries.

The plans, produced in conjunction with the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) are intended to create jobs and stimulate growth to benefit the capital and the wider South-East.

The project spans several London boroughs as well as the counties of Essex and Kent, and is expected to build on the region’s “huge success” as a cultural and creative powerhouse, which Khan said is worth £35 billion to London’s economy alone.

Across London and the South-East, there are about 1.3 million people working in the creative economy and, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (pdf), 1.2 million new workers are needed in the sector over the next decade.

But Khan said issues including rising land values, rents and the lack of large-scale, cutting-edge production space threaten the sector’s growth and competitiveness.

The proposal document identifies the potential for several large-scale national hubs. Developments laid out in the document include:

•    What would be London’s largest film studio complex in Dagenham.
•    A national theatre-making studios complex in Bexley.
•    A state-of-the-art facility and foundry for manufacturing large-scale artworks and sculptures, including the UK's biggest 3D printing centre in Silvertown.
•    Quartermaster Studios in Purfleet, the UK's leading proposed independent media production facility.
•    A home for digital creativity and gaming at the University of Essex, Colchester.

The document has been submitted to Lord Heseltine, head of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission, which was launched last year.

Khan said: “London leads the way across the whole of the creative economy – from fashion to film, design to gaming, performing arts to the visual arts. It's only right that we build on this success and transform the Thames Estuary into a world-class centre for creative production – leading global innovation, developing the talent of the future and cultivating world-changing ideas.”

He urged Lord Heseltine to recommend the plan and ensure that the creative industries “are at the heart of the government’s industrial strategy”.

This industrial strategy, which was launched in January 2017, aims to “build on Britain’s strengths and tackle its underlying weaknesses to secure a future as a competitive, global nation”. It seeks to drive growth across the nations and create more high-skilled, high-paid jobs and opportunities.

Christian Brodie, chairman of SELEP, said: "The creative industries are one of the South-East's biggest success stories. As the UK competes on the world stage, we must harness the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the creative sector – enabling its growth and extending its global reach.

"The South East LEP is looking to build upon the connectivity with London, building a unique, self-sustaining infrastructure to support creative businesses in a way that has not been seen before."

Image credit | Rory Gardiner