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Meet East London: Europe’s newest sustainability incubator

dagenhamdocks_ifs_sketchEast End London could soon be much more than the subject of West End put-downs and soap-opera drama a la “EastEnders,” thanks to London Thames Gateway’s major plans to make it the UK’s first “Eco Region.”

The biggest regeneration area in Europe, the Thames Gateway region has for centuries been the centre of major industrial progress, from becoming the home of the Royal Docks in the 19th century to developing modern industries such as the Dagenham Ford plant. Now the East End wants to continue this trend by becoming a leader in sustainable innovation.

The government has looked into making the Thames Gateway a new growth area for regeneration and economic activity, and believes that sustainability is at the forefront of this movement.

The core of Thames Gateway’s sustainable industrial frontier, the London Sustainable Industries Park, is due to be complete in 2012. The London Thames Gateway Development Corporation (LTGDC) is in charge of the new sustainability hub, the first of its kind for a European capital city.

clr3The sustainable industries park will act as an incubator for innovative companies, enabling them to communicate and network within the same region on the 60-acre site. By creating the UK’s largest concentration of environmental industries and technologies in one location, business park developers aim to help Britain’s cleantech sector huddle together and become stronger.

“One day every major city in the world will have its own Sustainable Industries Park to support the development of new environmental technologies, supply renewable energy and recycle and process waste,” said Mark Bradbury, Deputy Director of Development at LTGDC. “London will be the first. The London Sustainable Industries Park represents a major opportunity for London’s environmental technology businesses with access to Europe’s largest urban area and an unrivalled source of raw materials and a multi-billion pound marketplace on the doorstep.”

Closed Loop Recycling was the first firm to put its flag in the ground and claim the London Sustainable Industries Park as home. The world’s first recycling plant to produce food-grade rPET and rHDPE plastics, Closed Loop has some of the most advanced technology within the industry and supplies plastics for customers like Marks and Spencer and Coca Cola.

_a1q4089“It is going to be good to see more people in the area and for Closed Loop to be seen as the Granddad of the group,” said Nick Cliffe, the firm’s Marketing Director.

To try and get organisations within the sustainable industry talking, Gateway to London has set up EnviroNet — a sort-of Facebook for sustainable technologies and businesses. EnviroNet allows companies to communicate and learn more about sustainability within the Thames Gateway region, and also acts as a place where the grass roots can meet with major companies and developers.

“We want to have a broad base of companies within the network, companies with innovative ideas who need industrial space within a close proximity of an urban area,” said Bob Doyle, Inward Investment Manager for Gateway to London. “We currently have major waste management companies within the area but we have been talking to people within micro-renewables, construction and biofuels.”

Doyle continued, “We hope to introduce companies to the public sector in order for them to secure business opportunities, to create facilities and then employment. EnviroNet will allow people to pull together from different industries and local government to get projects moving.”

LTGDC has already invested £32 million into the London Sustainable Industries Park, with a commitment for a further £20 million. Plans for an Institute for Sustainability are also in the works.

The £40-million institute will provide a nucleus for collaborative research in the field of sustainability. Expertise will be sought from corporate and university partners, in particular the University of East London located just down the road from the business park.

While speaking to Greenbang, Gateway to London placed a strong emphasis on the fact that the new regeneration projects are not to separate industry and society, but to fuse them together through sustainability.

Take, for example, the waste management firm Cyclamax, which is locating its flagship facility in the sustainable industries park. The 100,000-tonne capacity gasification plant will produce up to 15 megawatts of energy a year, enough to power nearly 20,000 homes in the surrounding area.

“We have chosen the park in Dagenham because of its great location and support for occupiers,” said Tony Watkins, Managing Director of Cyclamax. “It also offers us exciting opportunities to develop synergies with the Thames Gateway Institute for Sustainability and other occupiers, to share knowledge and develop real solutions to the UK’s clean-energy requirements.”

Thames Gateway also plans to capture waste energy from the Barking Power Station to heat homes in the new Barking Riverside residential development. Currently, the power plant loses about 400 megawatts of heat into the Thames each year, a huge resource being wasted.

The whole infrastructure around the Royal Docks is set to change. With sustainable bus routes and transport linking both the new housing developments with the industrial park, the boundaries between industry and society will be distinctly blurred. Such progress should give the East End of London not only some serious sustainability cred, but some bragging rights to direct back at their West End counterparts.

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