Provision for an extra 40,000 new dwellings in the London part of the Thames Gateway growth area has been highlighted in the area's interim plan, just published.
The plan, drawn up by the Thames Gateway Strategic Partnership and led by the government, has signalled some of the measures which will be required to deliver the 18,000 new jobs and now 160,000 new homes over the next ten years.
The plan has underlined the government's ambition to make development in the region low and then zero-carbon. Ministers have emphasised that this will mean over time there will be no net carbon emissions from new development.
A feasibility study is now underway which will set out how the region will move towards the goal of becoming a zero carbon region for all development. The area will be a test bed for action on climate change "acting as an exemplar both for its new developments and the existing building stock".
In addition, Whitehall is joining forces with the Environment Agency to carry out a feasibility study on water demand management which will expand on what needs to be done – and how much it will cost – to reduce the impact of new demand for water in the Gateway.
A key element will be the creation of what is being termed the Thames Gateway Parklands, which will extend the existing idea of green grids. This chimes with architect Sir Terry Farrell's campaign to treat the natural setting of the Gateway region as a new type of "national park".
The plan explains how the partnership has identified the capacity to provide up to 160,000 well designed sustainable homes on brown field sites and in town centres across the area.
In the coming months, the area's delivery partners and Communities and Local Government will produce a Gateway-wide affordable housing plan. At the same time, the partnership will prepare a design pact which local planning authorities in the area will be encouraged to sign up to.
The government design adviser, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), will be heavily involved in this and will be carrying out housing design audits. The target for this exercise is that by 2010, no scheme will be assessed as "poor" and that at least 50 per cent of schemes will be "good" or "very good".
The plan has stressed that much of the jobs and new economic investment will be concentrated in five localities: Canary Wharf, the so-called Gateway Ports Cluster, Stratford, the Lower Lea Valley and Ebbsfleet Valley.
Communities and Local Government Secretary, Ruth Kelly, said: "I want to see a stronger emphasis on leadership, on the environment, and particularly on well designed family friendly housing which to date has not always been up to scratch. To really fulfill the Gateway's potential we cannot simply aim to catch up with the rest of the UK – it must lead the way."
Meanwhile, CABE would like to see the development of the Thames Gateway echoing the way the San Francisco bay has evolved and not viewed simply in terms of the amount of new housing it can accommodate.
The message was spelled out in a guide to the future of the Thames Gateway, produced by the commission, which urges developers and planners to recognise the area as a place "where a global city meets a great estuary".
Speaking at the launch of the guide, CABE chairman, John Sorrell, drew a parallel with the San Francisco bay area of California which he described as "lively, centred on water, post industrial and looking good on it".
The commission's study is adamant that it would be huge mistake to see the Gateway as mainly somewhere to locate new housing. "To existing communities, innovation and enterprise matter just as much," it said.
The guide says the area "provides unrivalled opportunities for environmental technology, low carbon communities, more localised food production, renewable energy creation, flood risk management and enhanced biodiversity".
Sorrell said the region was ideally placed to exploit new ways of working in a low-carbon age. He added: "This is what makes the concept of the Thames Gateway Parklands important. I think the parklands should be a new kind of working landscape that both protects the environment and generates jobs."
Publication of the interim plan and the guide came as the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham gave the green-light for a flagship Gateway development, the Barking Riverside project which is scheduled to provide nearly 11,000 new homes, new jobs and community facilities on a Thameside site south of the A13.
The project is a joint venture between English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency and house builder Bellway.