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Vision for a creative production district along the Thames Estuary unveiled


The Mayor of London and Christian Brodie, Chairman of SELEP, have unveiled a bold vision to transform the Thames Estuary into a hub for the creative and cultural industries.

The plans focus on strengthening productivity, innovation and talent and bringing great benefits to London and the South East region through new jobs and businesses.

Sadiq Khan called on Lord Heseltine, Chairman of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission to back this proposal, which spans seven London boroughs, and the counties of Essex and Kent, and builds on the region’s huge success as a cultural and creative powerhouse – worth £35 billion per year to London’s economy alone.

If realised, this vision, which is backed by business, would see the Thames Estuary transformed into a global creative industries production district, with several large-scale developments of international excellence proposed.

The creative industries are the UK’s biggest growth sector, with 1.3 million people working in the creative economy across London and South East. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills predicts 1.2 million new workers are needed in the sector over the next decade.
However, rising land values, rents, business rates, the lack of large scale, cutting-edge production space and artists’ studios and a skills shortage threaten the sector’s future growth and competitiveness.

Building on the manufacturing legacy of East London and the Thames Estuary, the letter to Lord Heseltine outlined a future where the Thames Estuary becomes an internationally-renowned centre for major creative production facilities for building, innovating and testing new ideas – supporting growth, championing a low carbon economy, providing job opportunities and investing in a skilled workforce.

The creative industries are much less likely to be impacted by automation than other sectors and so represent a prime investment opportunity in the region.

This bold, new vision identifies the potential for several large-scale national hubs, which add up to one of the largest investments in industrial infrastructure since Canary Wharf was built in the 1980s.

These proposed developments include:

• 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
• A new national centre for experiential arts in Woolwich
• Quartermaster Studios in Purfleet, the UK’s leading proposed independent media production facility
• Building on the success of Turner Contemporary, a creative and digital hub will support opportunities including digital knowledge, skills and training, and studios
• A home for digital creativity and gaming at the University of Essex, Colchester
• In Kent, A new industrial research laboratory for prototyping, skills development and across multiple creative disciplines, a hub for our freelance workforce

The Thames Estuary already supports a number of existing studios, production centres, workshops and centres for innovation, including High House Production Park in Thurrock, Here East in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford and Resort Studios in Margate.

The Mayor has recently co-commissioned a feasibility study into building the capital’s largest film production studios for 25 years in Dagenham East. London City Island, situated on the Leamouth Peninsula, will have a vibrant cultural hub as the heart of the development – and will soon be home to English National Ballet’s production and training centre and the London Film School.

The Mayor and South East LEP welcomed the inclusion of the creative industries in the Government’s industrial Strategy Green Paper.
However, it is recognised that this creative district “will require committed support from central and local government. It will need investment in infrastructure that catalyses the market”, and they have together urged Lord Heseltine to “capitalise on the value and importance of the creative industries to the UK”, as the country leaves the European Union.

It is hoped that the Commission will consider recommending investment in the next stage of the feasibility for this bold and ambitious vision, which will be launched later this year – resulting in a masterplan for the whole region, looking ahead to the year 2050.

Information taken from South East Local Enterprise Partnership.