More family homes and better designed buildings will be key to the Thames Gateway development, Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has pledged. The Interim Plan will lay down the foundations for 180,000 jobs and 160,000 homes over the next 10 years.

Ms Kelly said the government also believed the area could boost the UK economy by up to £12bn a year. The aim is for the development, which stretches from east London to north Kent and Essex, to become zero-carbon. Ms Kelly told the Thames Gateway Forum that the regeneration "requires long-term commitment and focus from us and our partners.

"We are already seeing progress on the ground in the Gateway with new transport links, university campuses, jobs and homes but for real success we must go further and faster." She said she also wanted a stronger emphasis on leadership, the environment and "particularly on well-designed family-friendly housing". Environmentalists have raised concerns the pressure to build new homes is leading to badly thought-out housing projects which will damage the environment and wildlife.

The plans, drawn up by the Thames Gateway Strategic Partnership, are designed so that the area will set new environmental standards for the rest of the country. As an economic hub there are plans to create 160,000 new homes and 180,000 new jobs along the Thames Estuary by 2016. This will be achieved by encouraging business investment in key locations, such as Canary Wharf and Stratford, and improving education and healthcare. Housing and Planning Minister Yvette Cooper said: "The Thames Gateway needs to be a beautiful place to live as well as a great place to work and invest.

"The sheer scale of development means the Gateway is a great location to pioneer new environmental technologies and to go further in cutting carbon emissions."