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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

The order establishing the Thurrock Development Corporation completed its parliamentary stages when the lords gave it an unopposed passage.

This is the first building block in the regeneration of the Thames Gateway - a crucial element in meeting the government's Sustainable Communities Plan, regenerating existing communities, providing new homes and jobs. Deputy prime minister John Prescott announced in July that Thurrock was to be one of five priority areas in the Thames Gateway.

Lord Rooker, minister of state in the ODPM, said the urban development corporation boundary would be coterminous with the borough boundary, giving the UDC with flexibility to consider developments across Thurrock. It would also enable the corporation to undertake a detailed appraisal of current land use and to develop strategic proposals for regeneration, housing and economic development.

Lord Rooker said the UDC would have powers to determine large-scale and strategic planning applications. The UDC would have to meet the same obligations as any other planning authority. Thurrock BC would remain the planning authority for other applications.

He added that consultation on the Thurrock UDC provoked responses from individuals, the voluntary sector, private sector, local authorities, quangos and government agencies. About half - including Thurrock BC - supported the UDC proposals, and no respondents stated opposition to the principle of establishing the UDC.

Conservative frontbencher Baroness Hanham said there was no objection to the principle of what was proposed but, as always, any concerns might lie in the practical application. She was especially concerned about the possibility of development on green belt land.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Maddock commented: 'Some people are a little surprised that the whole of Thurrock district was included given that a high proportion of it is green belt and this is an urban development corporation'.

Lord Rooker sai d he understood that green belt was a sensitive issue. The green belt - outside areas of outstanding natural beauty or national parks - was to stop towns joining up. However, that was not an excuse for building on green belt land in the urban fringe.

Hansard 28 Oct 2003: Column 212 - 217

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