Catchment Planning & Floodrisk Management

A New Approach to Catchment Management

The Government has adopted a catchment-based approach to the management of the country’s fresh water and transitional water bodies, in recognition of the many factors which affect water quality. This approach aims to integrate land and water management in a sustainable way to balance environmental, economic and social demands at a catchment scale.

The ‘catchment-based’ approach aims to deliver and raise awareness of the Water Framework Directive (WFD)and what this means for our rivers, estuaries and coastal waters. The WFD is EU legislation requiring improvements to water quality and the river environment.

There are two separate catchment areas in the TLS region

The Tidal Thames

The Lower Thames (Datchet to Teddington)

Working in partnership with the Environment Agency, a catchment management group has been established for each area to gather information and views from stakeholders, users of the river and residents to begin to create an achievable, holistic vision for the catchment.

The project for the tidal Thames, Your Tidal Thames, is one of 25 pilot catchment projects, funded by Defra. The ‘Your Tidal Thames’ project is a joint project between Thames21 and Thames Estuary Partnership (TEP) advised by Thames Strategy Kew to Chelsea and the Thames Landscape Strategy based on a community approach to river management.

The project covers the tidal area of the River Thames – from Teddington Lock downstream to Haven Point on the north bank of the Thames Estuary in Essex and Warden Point on the south bank in Kent.

As part of this project we want to hear how you feel about the tidal Thames; what do you cherish and value about the river, what are your concerns, what do you see as the current pressures on the river, what improvements would you like to see, where are the opportunities for improvements to be made, and are you interested in being involved in helping to protect and make environmental improvements to the river?


Click here to find out about how you can get involved and input into this exciting project.


Click here to download the Your Tidal Thames introduction to the Water Framework Directive.


At present the status of the tidal Thames has been classified as ‘moderate’- the aim is that the river should have ‘good’ chemical status and ecological potential by 2027.


Click here to download details of the Environment Agency’s classification methodology for surface water bodies.


We hope this project will build on the opportunity provided by the Water Framework Directive to start planning improvements to the tidal Thames that are inspired by the whole river community.




Flood Risk Management

Communities in London and elsewhere in the Thames Estuary benefit from world class flood defences. The last serious loss of life here was in 1953. Partly as a consequence of this disaster, the entire Thames flood plain, 1.25 million people, and £200 billion worth of property are now protected by an integrated system of warnings, defences, and locally formulated flood plans.
Pressures on land use combined with rising sea levels mean that flood risk is increasing (Due to isostatic rebound – after the melting of the ice cap following the last ice age land in the south of Britain is sinking by about 1-2mm a year). This, with the addition of the uncertain contribution in sea levels resulting from climate change, means that processes of protection against flooding can never be static.
The TE2100 Project
The Thames Estuary 2100 project (TE2100), led by the Environment Agency, was formed in 2002 to develop a comprehensive action plan to manage flood risk for the Tidal Thames from Teddington in West London, through to Sheerness and Shoeburyness in Kent and Essex. This was the first government action plan to explicitly deal with climate change.
In November 2012, the Environment Agency were able to announce that the Plan had been approved by Defra and is now downloadable, in it’s entirety from their website:
Download the TE2100 Plan
The plan is based on current guidance on climate change, but is adaptable to updated predictions for sea-level rise and climate change over the remainder of this century. Estimates predict a relative sea level rise of 90 cm by 2100 but the TE2100 Plan is adaptable to differing rates of sea level rise up to 2.7m, and an increase of 40% in peak river flood flows.
The TE2100 plan is now internationally recognised as a leading example of climate change adaptation and the management flood risk to people and wildlife.
Climate Change Research and the Thames Estuary
The Environment Agency funded major new research on changes to fluvial flows, sea storm surges, and sea level rise due to thermal expansion and polar ice melt. In total, the modelling took up one year’s capacity of the Met Office supercomputer.
The project also undertook over 300 studies and investigations to look at how tidal flood risk is increasing in the Thames Estuary due to ageing flood defence structures as well as in recognition that increasingly more people live and work in the floodplain.
These investigations showed that we are unlikely to need major changes to the existing flood defence system and structures for the next 25 years. From 2035, however we may well need to upgrade the current tidal defence system.
This might provide several benefits when the Thames Estuary is considered at the landscape-scale:
• There could be opportunities to landscape the riverside in readiness for the impacts of climate change – These works could also incorporate improvements in amenities and access for riverside communities
• There is evidence that riverside communities have lost their ‘connection to the river’ – It is possible to redevelop these links through work with all stakeholders
• Up to 1,000 hectares of internationally important inter-tidal habitat (salt-marsh and mud-flats) is likely to be loss due to ‘coastal squeeze’ – There are opportunities to reverse this trend through habitat protection and creation
• In some cases, parts of Thames tributaries have been isolated from tidal flow for safety reasons – It might be possible to restore tidal habitat to some parts of these streams.
Working with others
Collaboration with partners and communities was vital in developing a plan that will help people make the right flood management decisions for the future.
The Environment Agency are now looking at the most cost-effective way to implement the recommendations in the TE2100 Plan, starting with the first 10 years.  They will be working with partners and communities to find the best way to meet the future demands
TEP Involvement in TE2100
In 2008 TEP arranged a series of evening talks and weekend open days with the Environment Agency – in conjunction with local partners – to update communities and organisations across North Kent and Essex. These discussions informed the TE2100 consultation process:
See the TE2100 consultation documents.
Results of these meetings were also incorporated in the final (November 2012) TE2100 Plan. TEP are now working closely with the Environment Agency to discuss the TE2100 implementation work.
Questions raised by the TE2100 Plan
Do we continue to build floodwalls higher or try to make space for water? How do we ensure the diverse needs of communities are reflected in future planning?
In addition to these immediate questions are other, larger issues that will almost certainly need to be addressed later in this century, the ‘end of the century’ option.
Do we need a new Thames Barrier? Where might that be placed? Would a barrage be more appropriate?
These questions, possible answers and consideration of all the known options are the issues at the heart of the Environment Agency’s Thames Estuary 2100 Plan. Options are clearly laid out, the territory is indicated by function and location, and three time horizons are identified for implementation of the plan.
A Basic TE2100 Timetable
First 25 Years (2010 – 2035)
• Continue to maintain the current flood defence system – including planned improvements
• Ensure that effective floodplain management (emergency and spatial planning) is in place across the estuary
• Safeguard areas that will be required for future changes to the flood defences
• Monitor change indicators including sea level rise and climate change (to continue through to end of century) and review the plan as required.
Middle 15 years (2035-2050)
• Raise, refurbish or replace many of the existing walls, embankments and smaller barriers
• These major projects provide an opportunity to reshape our riverside environment through working with spatial planners, developers, designers, environmental groups and those who live and work in the estuary area.
Final 50 Years (2050 – 2100)
• Decide on the ‘end of the century’ option at the start of this period. Plan and prepare for implementation of that option.
• Implement the agreed ‘end of century’ option – which may include the construction of a new Thames Barrier at Long Reach to be operational by c2070.
• Raise and adapt defences, where required, to keep any eventual new Barrier closures within operational constraints.
For more information, see the Environment Agency Flood pages.

The River Thames has some of the best flood defences in the world, protecting communities by an integrated system of warnings, defences, and local flood plans. The last serious loss of life was in 1953. Climate is changing however, so the Environment Agency has funded major new research on how the river functions and how it may change in the future.  This research included changes to fluvial flows, sea storm surges, sea level rise, functionality of flood defence structures, and the consequences of more people living and working in the floodplain. Two new flood risk management strategies for the River Thames are needed to take us through the 21st Century – one for the tidal reaches and one for the freshwater river.


The TE2100 Project


The Thames Estuary 2100 project (TE2100), led by the Environment Agency, was formed to develop a comprehensive action plan to manage flood risk for the Tidal Thames from Teddington in West London, through to Sheerness and Shoeburyness in Kent and Essex.


The Thames Landscape Strategy played a key role in our area during the development of the scheme, linking the Environment Agency with partners and communities to ensure that the plan made the right flood management decisions for the future. Studies have showed that we are unlikely to need major changes to the existing flood defence system and structures for the next 25 years across the estuary.  In the TLS area however, the combined risks of fluvial and tidal flooding will have an impact on how we use and manage the floodplain.  What gets wet now is likely to get a lot wetter in the future.

 Download TE2100 Plan

The River Thames Scheme


The floodplain between Datchet and Teddington, is the largest area of undefended floodplain in England.  The River Thames scheme will meet the recommendations set out in the Lower Thames flood risk management strategy to reduce the consequences of a flood event.

The floodplain between Datchet and Teddington, is the largest area of undefended floodplain in England.

The scheme  consists  of  three new flood channels,  improvements to three of the existing Thames weirs, installation of property level products (to make them more resistant to floods) and improved flood incident response plans. The flood channels (all upstream of Weybridge), will be between 30 and 60 metres wide and 17 kilometres long, built in 3 sections.

In the TLS region it is planned to modify weirs to allow water to move through quicker during flood events and to increase the resilience of properties and landscapes located in the floodplain.  Find out more by clicking below.

River Thames Scheme A Summary


TLS Restoration of the Lost Floodplain Project

‘To work in partnership to re-create, conserve, connect and enhance the natural character of the floodplain in response to climate change for people, wildlife and occasionally water’.

                                                                                           richmond flooded



Our climate is changing and these changes are anticipated to affect the way that we use and manage the Thames floodplain as we move through the 20th Century.

In 2009, Sir David Attenborough Patron of the TLS launched the ‘Restoration of the Lost Floodplain’ project setting out a way forward to adapt our fragile habitats along the Arcadian Thames in response to anticipated changes in the world’s climate, prioritising ways that strategic projects such as the emerging TE2100, River Thames Scheme and WFD could be implemented on the ground.

The goals and aspirations of the Restoration of the Lost Floodplain have been fully integrated into the Review of the Thames Landscape Strategy and the All London Green Grid Area 9 Framework for the Arcadian Thames. Current and on-going elements of the Restoration of the Lost Floodplain project can be found in the current TLS Action Plan (2017-2020)


Increasing Flood Risk and Climate Change


It is now commonly agreed that flood risk will increase over the next century in the Thames Landscape Strategy area.  Studies carried out for the Environment Agency predict, for example, that peak flow fluvial flooding at Teddington could increase, over the next 100 years by up to 40%.  The floodplain of the Thames narrows as the river enters the TLS region with little scope for formal enhancements to the flood defenses (such as new walls and flood relief channels).  Some weirs are being modified to allow water to pass downstream easier.  It is anticipated that the best form of defence will be preparation for a flood – increasing resilience to our properties and open spaces.

In the tidal section, between Teddington and Kew, the flood defenses are often set back a considerable distance from the riverbank – often being a contour line running through the landscape.  All the land in-between these lines is within the functioning floodplain.  Studies predict that as flood risk increases, together with anticipated changes in the way that the Thames Barrier is operated, inundation of these open spaces will be far more common.  At present these places are managed largely as a ‘dry’ landscape and are not suitable for the predicted flood risk changes.


Why Act Now?


As London’s temperature rises, rainfall and storm intensity increases and the likelihood of summer droughts intensifies there will be an inevitable affect on riparian wildlife and human use of the floodplain. Established habitats will begin to decline and species will need ever larger areas of linked natural open space to adapt and move about in if they are to survive. The increased likelihood of flooding will bring extra pressure on emergency services and local emergency planning to ensure that people and property remain safe. Established recreational patterns will be blocked by rising waters putting the long-term viability of wider sustainable transport and visitor initiatives at risk.


The Restoration of the Lost Floodplain


The Restoration of the Lost Floodplain proposes the re-creation, restoration and re-connection of a naturally functioning floodplain to sustain a mosaic of different habitat types implemented at a landscape scale. By restoring the natural functions of the floodplain, spaces can be made for wildlife to flourish whilst allowing water to be stored during floods and slowly released as river levels drop. Making space for water in a managed and controlled way we can keep people and property safe.

New footpaths, cycle routes and informal trails are being put in place including the provision of signage and, dry (and safe) routes for use during a flood event. These will be set within a framework of a restored historic landscape of formal parks, creeks, ponds, avenues, woodland, grazed wet meadows and native hedges. By restoring our lost floodplains we can conserve the character of ‘the countryside in the city’ that makes the Arcadian Thames so special – spaces that work for people, for wildlife and for water whilst adapting to climate change and re-creating more naturally functioning floodplains.


 Project Aims


To restore and adapt those open spaces that are situated within the floodplain so that their essential character is conserved whilst allowing them to function as a floodplain both in times of inundation and in drought.  This would include habitat enhancement, historic conservation, recreational improvements and naturalisation of the river corridor.

Areas that have been identified include:

  • Desborough Island
  • Hurst Park
  • Home Park Water Meadows (Phase One and Two of the scheme now completed)
  • Seething Wells
  • Canbury Gardens
  • Ham Lands and Towpath
  • Petersham Meadows
  • Old Deer Park
  • Kew
  • To work with communities and authorities to propose and promote resilience to increase readiness for a flood event. To work with the Environment Agency and local authorities to act as conduit for WFD and flood risk management strategies to be presented to communities along the river corridor


ham towpath

Hammertons’ Ferry Dry Route

It is proposed that the ‘Restoration of the Lost Floodplain’ will:

•           Optimise the use of the floodplain for water to go to during a flood event.

•           Identify ways to restore and re-connect the natural rhythms of the river corridor to create a ‘living landscape’ – a mosaic of habitats (created at a landscape scale) allowing wildlife to flourish and move about in as climate changes.

•           Create a network of sluices, controls and channels linked to a real time flood forecasting model to enable flooding to be carefully controlled across a large area reducing the risk and disruption to people.

•           Put in place a network of sustainable footpaths, cycle routes, informal trails, signage and dry routes to allow visitors and locals to navigate through the landscape even in times of flood and drought.

•           Restore the historic landscape framework of fields, avenues, creeks, ponds, woodland, grazed wet meadows and native hedges.

•           Put in place a long term management plan to carry out the day-to-day maintenance of the riverside that will include an active volunteer programme

•           Establish an education and outreach programme to connect people with their environment


natural floodplain


At the core of the project is the principle that the floodplain is our most important asset in managing increased flood risk that results from climate change. Places for people to enjoy, for wildlife to flourish and, when needed, for water to go. By restoring our lost floodplain we can conserve the character of the countryside in the city that makes the Arcadian Thames so special for future generations to enjoy and use.


To download the complete document

Restoration of the Lost Floodplain final document


Environment Agency Information:

Flood pages

Flood warning

Sign up to Floodline Warnings Direct: 0845 988 1198


The North Sea Flood 1953 BBC Website


Useful Information


Flooding can affect river use.  To check out the latest conditions click below:

Thames River Conditions


See current river levels simply by clicking below:



Trowlock Island



See current flood warnings:

Flood warnings