Thames Estuary flood defence work pulled forward because of climate change

New and improved climate models have illustrated the heightened risk of flooding from a warming climate and rising sea levels. This, says the Environment Agency, is why it needs to raise defences upstream of the Thames Barrier in inner London by 2050, 15 years earlier than it originally thought.

It’s looking to protect more than 1.4 million people and £321bn of property from both the existing risks faced from tidal flooding, and climate change.

“Sea levels are rising at an accelerated rate across the Thames Estuary, and it is therefore essential that we act now to respond to the changing climate,” says Julie Foley, the Environment Agency’s FCRM strategy & national adaptation director.

“Our updated plan recognises that defence raising needs to start earlier than originally thought – by some 15 years. Alongside, the plan also requires greater investment in habitats and natural flood management to support nature recovery.

“We cannot deliver the ambitions of the updated Thames Estuary 2100 Plan on our own. That is why we will continue to work with many partners to deliver a green and resilient estuary.”

While the agency says the Thames Barrier continues to operate reliably and effectively as part of the wider flood defence system and is expected to continue to protect London until 2070, its reviewing and deciding on an end-of-century option by 2040.

Work on flood defences has been underway right across the estuary area since the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan’s launch in 2012, including at the £63mn Dual Function Lock Gates project at Tilbury, the southern shoreline revetment project on Canvey Island and biodiversity-boosting assets in Deptford.

The plan also calls for riverside strategies to be embedded into local planning frameworks by 2030 to ensure that new development is designed to factor in future flood defence requirements.

“Flooding is devastating for communities – and its impacts will become more extreme as we contend with a changing climate. We will need to be more adaptive and flexible to deal with these threats,” says floods minister Rebecca Pow.

“The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan is a perfect example of this: a world-leading climate adaptation strategy which allows us to react to changing circumstances and ensure people living in the Thames Estuary are protected well into the future.”

Partners, including the Greater London Authority, councils, the Port of London Authority, the Wildlife Trusts and more, will continue to work together to raise flood defences sooner than expected to ensure communities in London and the wider Thames Estuary are ready to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Earlier this week, the agency also announced that its testing of ‘bathing water’ season has begun, with monitoring of water quality now underway. This means regular testing at ‘designated bathing sites.

Comments are closed.

This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

Skip to content