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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.

Transforming the Thames Estuary into a into a global creative industries production district

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.

UK’s biggest  growth sector

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.

Capital’s largest film production studios for 25 years in Dagenham East

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.

Mayor of London, Sadiq 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.

“I urge Lord Heseltine to recommend our vision and ensure that the creative industries are at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy.” 

Christian Brodie, Chairman of South East Local Enterprise Partnership, (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.

“To realise the vision we have set out, we must recognise the unique needs of the creative sector in the policies we shape and the investments we make.

“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.”

Sir John Sorrell, Chair of Creative Industries Federation, said: “The Thames Estuary offers an exciting opportunity to ensure that the creative industries remain the fastest growing part of the UK’s economy. Backing creative districts through wise investment and improvements to infrastructure will be fundamental to securing the productive workforce the UK needs. And this scheme offers communities in this area a chance to share in the prosperity the creative sector generates.”

Victoria Pomery OBE, CEO of Turner Contemporary, said: “Turner Contemporary’s world-class programme has driven the growth of a creative cluster and led the regeneration of Margate. The investment so far has yielded significant economic and social impact, exceeding all expectations. Going forward, our ambitious plans will build on Margate’s creative and natural assets and further develop a thriving ecosystem of artists, creatives and entrepreneurs, providing exciting opportunities for future generations.”

Sarah Dance, Co Chair, South East Creative Economy Network, said: “Over the last ten years, the South East has witnessed significant change in the cultural sector, driving growth, innovation and the visitor economy.

“As a result, the region boasts a rich and vibrant creative scene with an imaginative approach to place making. Continued investment in the South East’s creative and cultural sector is required and makes business sense for the UK economy.”

* According to research by NESTA (

Thames Estuary Production Corridor Vision