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EU Commissionerís First Visit to the South East to Discover the Gateway to Europe

29 January 2008

EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Danuta Hübner is to make her first visit to the South East of England to see first hand some of the most exciting regeneration projects supported by European funds in the Thames Gateway today (Tuesday 29th January, 2008) as part of a two-day visit to the Greater South East.

Commenting on the significance of the visit, Pam Alexander, SEEDA Chief Executive said: "This is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how regeneration in the Thames Gateway has moved on from being simply about physical development, and has progressed to upskilling local people and providing economic and social opportunities for communities. We have been able to use European funding as a catalyst for massive public and private sector investment. Creating new wealth and regenerating communities is what the Thames Gateway story is all about."

Paul Bevan, Chief Executive of the South East England Regional Assembly, who is also attending the visit, added: "Although one of Europe's top performing regions, South East England faces real challenges. Our ambition is to continue to grow economically while stabilising and in time reducing our ecological footprint. To do that we need to be at the leading edge of environmental innovation. As we are the UK's gateway to mainland Europe, improved and more sustainable transport is central to South East England's future success."

Ms Hübner will first travel to The Historic Dockyard Chatham, Kent, where she will meet Richard Holdsworth, Museum and Heritage Director of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust. Jonathan Sadler, SEEDA Development Director, Thames Gateway, will then take the Commissioner on a whistle-stop tour of SEEDA’s flagship site Chatham Maritime, including the Universities at Medway Campus.

Next Ms Hübner will travel to Land Securities landmark Thames Gateway building, The Observatory in Ebbsfleet, where she will meet with Jim Brathwaite, SEEDA Chairman, Ms Alexander and Mr Bevan. Other guests will include Sue John, SEEDA Board Member and Chair of the South East England Joint Europe Committee, Adam Cunnington, Development Director of Land Securities and Michael Ward, Chief Executive of the Kent Thameside Delivery Board.

As well as taking in breathtaking views of the London, Essex and Kent sections of the Thames Gateway while at The Observatory, Ms Hübner will sign the new Competitiveness Programme with Mr Brathwaite, which will bring £15 million of European funding into the region for schemes which will promote competitiveness across the whole of the South East while contributing to the reduction of the region’s ecological footprint. SEEDA secured the funding through the European Commission’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme. SEEDA will be match-funding the European contribution, making the programme worth more than £30 million to the South East between 2007 and 2013.

Beneficiaries of the funding will include local authorities and organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, which are being encouraged to apply for grants which will stimulate innovation for a sustainable economy, promote resource-efficient business practices and encourage sustainable consumption practices. SEEDA is hoping to begin approving projects from applicants in March 2008.

Co-ordinated by SEEDA and the Assembly, Ms Hübner’s visit is a chance for the organisations to demonstrate cross-agency working and highlight their key projects in the Thames Gateway with links to Europe. Schemes under discussion will include: HST Integration and HST Connect, which looks at the wider benefits of the High Speed

Train network across North West Europe; SEEDA-led project GROW, which has been developed in collaboration with the Assembly to bring together five high growth regions across Europe; and the ESPACE project, which promotes awareness of the importance of adapting to climate change.

In the Regional Economic Strategy SEEDA has identified Europe as a cross-cutting theme contributing to its three main objectives of Global Competitiveness, Smart Growth and Sustainable Prosperity.

Ms Alexander added: "This is a fantastic opportunity for us to demonstrate with real examples our commitment to the Lisbon Strategy. We want to work with European Member States and regions to draw on the benefits for our own global competitiveness through trade, joint ventures and research projects, whilst at the same time sharing best practice and exchanging experiences.

"Sustainable development is high on the European Commission’s list of priorities for 2008 and we want to make sure we contribute to the debate by bringing our own experience from the region to the table."

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