The unveiling of the Bluewater foundation stone on a key site in Thames Gateway marks what will be the biggest retail and leisure development of its kind in the UK.
When it opens the promoters estimate it will create 6,800 new jobs and construction will bring 7000 new jobs. In both sectors there is a commitment to train workers from the surrounding areas.
At the foundation ceremony Mr Heseltine, who five years ago promoted the idea of a special development area encompassing the riverside from East London to Sheerness said: 'Bluewater represents a vote of confidence in the future of Thames Gateway. I have always been convinced that it was an area of huge potential where there were development opportunities crying out to be taken.
'The development will give a massive boost to the economy of the area. It is anticipated the centre will attract 30 million visitors a year and have an annual turnover of nearly £600 million.'
Mr Heseltine's hopes for the area were taken forward in the successful Thames Gateway policy by regeneration minister David Curry.
Mr Curry, who launched the Thames Gateway Planning Framework last year, said: 'We are now reaping the benefits of the government's commitment to the regeneration of Thames Gateway.
'We have taken a lot of time and care in drawing up a planning framework for Thames Gateway which reflects community and business needs well into the 21st century.
'By working in partnership we have produced something that clearly meets those needs. The paper plans are now becoming bricks and mortar - and real jobs and investment opportunities are opening up.
'The Kent Thames-side partnership which brings together local councils, the University of Greenwich and Blue Circle Industries is a prime example of regeneration partnership in Thames Gateway, working together and working well.'