RIVER boats linking Southend to London, plus hospitals, schools and a customs-free zone form part of a bold new vision for the economic resurgence of south Essex Councils are planning to join forces to drive forward an ambitious vision shaping the longterm future of south Essex.

The plan is to boost economic development by creating 100,000 jobs, more than 96,000 homes, and a raft of improvements to public transport, education and health.

Among the aspirations is a plan to overhaul public transport including creating a passenger river boat service that will connect Southend to Tilbury and London.

New businesses are also expected to be attracted to the region through plans to establish a “freeport” – an area with little to-no tax to encourage economic development.

The freeport would operate outside of the usual tax rules and potentially allow businesses to avoid the usual tax requirements entirely.

Cycle routes and footpaths would also undergo a major transformation with the whole region becoming connected in order to reduce the need to travel by car.

The aim to reduce car use also ties in with future strategies to improve the health of residents, as well as go carbon neutral by 2040.

Train station and bus starts will also be improved and become what the councils call “living stations”.

This will see trees, plant and other green spaces built around public transport hubs to make them more attractive as well as environmentally friendly.

A large portion of the new housing will also be built within new villages and towns that will each be designed with infrastructure in mind.

This will include meeting the needs of the community with open green space, high speed internet, as well as schools and education facilities.

Meanwhile, plans to build 96,000 homes in less than 20 years will mean 4,500 built each year.

This is expected to create 39,000 additional construction jobs.

It will also mean up to £31million extra for the councils from additional council tax, along with business rates.

It is not clear where the councils hope to establish a freeport in South Essex but they are typically located at seaports and airports to allow businesses to import goods and re-export them with the usual tariffs.

South Essex councils will individually discuss the plan, with the aim of ultimately taking the ideas to central Government.