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Council leader shares positive vision for future jobs and homes in Thames Estuary

by Suruchi Sharma Mon 7 October 2019, 3:56 pm

The leader of Barking and Dagenham Council has said those involved in the growth of the Thames Estuary are "serious" about the work that lies ahead at an annual event to discuss the region's future.

During a session on employment at the third Thames Estuary Growth Day delegates learned about how jobs would change in the coming decades, and how this will impact growth in the region.

The event at CentrEd at London’s ExCeL Centre in Newham was chaired by BBC News home editor Mark Easton and had delegates from local authorities, as well as developers and consultants sharing expert analysis on the region.

Last year the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission report highlighted that one million homes and 1.3 million jobs could be generated in the area.

Councillor Darren Rodwell said: “This is happening because we are the adults in the room and this is happening because we are serious about it. The fact is we have taken on the mantle from the government and said we accept your challenge.

“We want to be looking at what we can do to be aspirational and it doesn’t matter where you are or what sector you’re in – we all want the best for the future of our families, a nice home to live in and a community that actually looks out for one another, and a job or a process to allow us to adapt our working life.”

Jason Robinson, managing director of Urban Catalyst, spoke about the joint venture between the firm and Swan Housing Association for a £1bn regeneration of Purfleet town centre, and the importance of educational establishments as part of the scheme. The development in Thurrock will have 2,850 new homes, shops, a medical centre and community facilities.

He said: “Our big move was to close an existing railway crossing, build a new town centre and open up the riverfront, and wrap that whole thing in new community facilities. What we call social infrastructure provision such as health and education facilities that are all community-led but also bringing forward for the existing and new population.”

Robinson added: “Any large-phased regeneration scheme can’t be just housing-led.” He also shared the vision of creating a new media village that will become a creative hub in the area, and spoke about secondary school Harris Academy Riverside moving to its new site in Purfleet last month, as well as being in “deep negotiations” with London South Bank University (LSBU) to bring them into the school as a tertiary education provider.

Neil Impiazzi, partnership development director at SEGRO, discussed how the firm creates a community fund in each area they work in “to support those who face barriers back into work”.

He added: “We work with our customers in pre-employment training programmes, so we say to them we believe there are lots of talented people locally that you can recruit that just need a bit of support. They may be hugely passionate and may have suffered issues with mental health and need support in terms of confidence building. Many of our customers provide a whole range of jobs with some at entry-level - but it could be an entry-level into the world’s biggest logistics company like DHL and that is a career path.”

Heather Carey, director at the Work Foundation, started the employment session by sharing modern work trends and covered topics including the automation of jobs, gender pay gaps and the rise in flexible and remote working. She said to combat any employment issues in the Thames Estuary area what was needed was “a collaborative clear blueprint for action”.

She added: “In the coming years we are going to see five generations of people in the workplace – traditionalists, baby boomers, and generation X, Y and Z. That presents real challenges for employers in the Thames Estuary – how do you design a workplace and how do you build a work culture that resonates with individuals that are likely to have hugely different needs, perspectives and values.”

Carey added that employers needed to invest in training. She said: “We don’t embrace the culture of why we need to learn. All of our jobs will change so the key to dealing with uncertainty is to build in this culture of lifelong learning.”

She also spoke about a planning method called backcasting that helps developers achieve the goals required when working on a development project. She said: “You create the vision of what an area needs to be and then you compare it to where you are at, and you work back from the vision to work out at which critical points you need to make decisions.

"This leads you to longer-term strategic planning and I think from a skills perspective that can never be more important. You need to know what you’re working towards but it’s about embedding the principle, and that’s why upskilling and reskilling is really important.”

Sponsors for this year’s Thames Estuary Growth Day event included the Berkeley Group, Countryside, Estates & Agency Group, Glenny, L&Q, London City Airport, Port of London Authority and Weston Homes.

The event was organised and run by regeneration specialist 3Fox International. To learn more about the company’s work in events head to: www.3foxinternational.com/events

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