The Thames Gateway is in a strong position to weather the current economic storm and grow in the long term said Housing Minister Margaret Beckett MP today.

She was speaking at the launch of the Thames Gateway Forum today and said that with £9.6bn of government investment the Thames Gateway was a ‘prime example of how government intervention and support is helping deal with the global economic pressures’.

Beckett announced a 47-point strategy which she said will further boost the region and transform it into a ‘world-leading eco-region that will make it a showcase for sustainable living’.

The centrepiece of the strategy is an ‘eco-region’ in an existing urban area, which will be a combination of existing buildings and new development that develops and tests new Green technology and ‘provides a showcase for sustainable development and new initiatives’. It will establish green standards which build on the Government's eco-towns programme.

Up to £35m will be invested in the first stages of delivering the ‘Parklands Vision’ for the eco region while more than £19m that has been committed so far for 9 projects, which will provide improved green and open spaces and access to residents in the Gateway

There will be a £1.25m investment in the Green Homes Programme, run by the Energy Savings Trust, to provide more advice to residents, local authorities and community projects on what they can do to save energy and water

Eco-assessments will be carried out on the designs for the 10 main housing developments in the Gateway and £160,000 funding will be used to carry out the first of these assessments in Kent Thameside.

The government is also setting up an Environmental Infrastructure Fund and a Renewable Energy Challenge Fund which Beckett said will support ‘new and innovative approaches to dealing with waste, water and renewable energy in the Gateway’.

She said that new projects are starting or progressing all the time and the long-term prospects for the Gateway remain strong across the region.

Beckett said: ‘The financial downturn poses new challenges for towns and communities across the country. But I believe that we have sound reasons to remain optimistic for the Gateway's long-term prospects. Over the past year the first contracts have been awarded for the construction of the world's most advanced container port, London Gateway. New schools and campuses have opened across the region, including the Financial Skills academy at Tower Hamlets. Construction has begun on the Olympic stadium three months ahead of schedule.

‘So now is not the time to give up on the Gateway or start watering down our ambitions. In fact, it is more relevant today than ever before. And today's eco-region strategy and skills plan are just two of the projects ensuring we remain on course to ensure the success of one of the most ambitious regeneration schemes in Europe.’

Beckett will oversee the transition this week of the day to day management of the Gateway to the new delivery body the Homes and Communities Agency.