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.

 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.


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 TLS community. The plan links with the TLS Restoration of the Lost Floodplain vision with enhancements proposed in the On the Edge project launched in June 2019. 




Flood Risk Management

Communities in London and elsewhere in the Thames Estuary benefit from world class flood defences communities by an integrated system of warnings, defences, and local flood plans. . 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.

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.

For more information, see the Environment Agency Flood pages.


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.

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.

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.  The Arcadian Thames is particularly well suited for fluvial wetland creation being at the top of the Tideway that could be used to off-set loss of this habitat downstream. 


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 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. 

Stage One of the project saw just under £500k of habitat enhancements to the Home Park Water Meadows.  For a project summary please click here: Home Park Water Meadows – a Summary

On the Edge

Areas that have been identified for inclusion in the next stage in the roll out of the Restorationof the Lost Floodplain project are included in the On the Edge proposal including:

  • Desborough Island
  • Hurst Park
  • Home Park Water Meadows (Phase One and Two of the scheme now completed)
  • Canbury Gardens
  • Ham Lands and Towpath
  • Petersham Meadows
  • Old Deer Park
  • Kew Towpath and Backwaters
  • 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 On the Edge 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 floodplain


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.

For more information download the following documents:

Restoration of the Lost Floodplain final document

TLS On the Edge

Ham and Petersham: Where Thames First Rural Grows


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