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Parks pledge for Gateway

PUBLISHED: 11:13 04 December 2008 | UPDATED: 10:18 23 August 2010

pledge: Margaret Beckett.

pledge: Margaret Beckett.

PLANS have been unveiled to create Europe s largest man-made national park stretching 50 miles along the Thames Estuary. The park, which would also be the continent s biggest bird sanctuary, would encompass large parts of north Kent. Housing Minister Ma

PLANS have been unveiled to create Europe's largest man-made national park stretching 50 miles along the Thames Estuary.

The park, which would also be the continent's biggest bird sanctuary, would encompass large parts of north Kent.

Housing Minister Margaret Beckett pledged £35 million for the first stages of the development at the Thames Gateway Forum last Thursday.

Speaking at the forum, held at Excel in London's Docklands, she 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."

Announced by the government in 2003, the £9.6 billion project, to be completed over the next decade, will create over 160,000 new homes.

She said the region was in a strong position to weather the current economic storm and assured people the Thames Gateway regeneration project, which the park is part of, would not be deterred by the economic crisis.

Mrs Beckett added: "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."

Five major parklands in north Kent and Medway are expected to receive £20 million for the 'Greening the Gateway Kent and Medway' project.

In Gravesham, at the planned A2 Activity Park, 10km of bridle routes, cycle routes and green spaces are to be created and 1000m of canal routes will also be restored.

A project called Dartford Greenheart is expected to receive funds to improve and extend Central Park and create new cycle routes along the River Darent.

Leading architect Sir Terry Farrell designed the park and said it would include visitor centres, cycle and walking paths, woodlands and bird sanctuaries.

Victorian landing points may be reopened along the estuary allowing visitors to sail upstream and industrial areas would be drained, decontaminated and rejuvenated.

Sir Terry said: "I believe that the area's greatest asset is its landscape, and landscape is at the heart of my vision for the Thames Gateway Parklands.

"Landscape and environmental infrastructure is one area where low cost investment can accomplish a wide spread of achievements, and during a recession it offers a fantastic return on investment."

elizabeth.thornton@archant.co.uk

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