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What is the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan?
The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan sets out how the Environment Agency and our partners can work together to manage tidal flood risk in the Thames Estuary. The climate emergency is the biggest challenge of our time. Temperatures are increasing and sea levels are rising faster than ever before. Now more than ever, we need to plan and act if we are going to adapt to these changes and create resilient communities in the Thames Estuary.
Climate change, ageing flood defences and population growth mean tidal flood risk will increase over time, unless this risk is carefully managed. The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan will ensure we continue to protect 1.3 million people and £275 billion worth of property and infrastructure from increasing tidal flood risk.
The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan aims to do more than manage flood risk. The flood walls and embankments are an intrinsic part of the Thames landscape. As we carry out flood defence works there will be opportunities to create better access for communities to the river, create habitat and enhance the social, economic and commercial benefits the river provides.
The Plan aims to:
- manage the risk of flooding to people, property and the environment
- adapt to the challenges of climate change
- ensure sustainable and resilient development in the floodplain
- protect the social, cultural and commercial value of the tidal Thames, tributaries and floodplain
- enhance and restore ecosystems and maximise benefits of natural floods
Sources of flooding from the Thames Estuary
The Thames Estuary’s most significant flood risk is from a tidal surge event. A world-class system of flood risk management defences (or structures) currently reduces the risk of tidal flooding. This system includes:
- the Thames Barrier and 8 other flood barriers
- over 350km of walls and embankments
- over 400 other structures such as flood gates, outfalls and pumps
These structures work together to protect London, Essex and Kent from regular flooding from the sea.
What’s at tidal flood risk?
Central and local government
The central government district of Whitehall is wholly within the natural Thames floodplain. The Houses of Parliament and the Greater London Authority’s City Hall are too.
Heritage and Culture
There are over 3100 hectares of sites across the estuary floodplain with heritage value. These bring in around £15 billion annual revenue from tourism. This would be highly sensitive to flooding.
Located within the Thames tidal flood plain are critical energy, transport and water infrastructure, supporting the needs of communities and businesses in London and the South East.
The London Underground
The “tube” fulfils nearly 1 billion passenger journeys each year. One day of flooding in 2002 incurred a cost in delays alone of £0.74 million.
There are many protected ecological sites at risk of flooding. Flood water can contain pollutants and debris which can damage natural habitats. It can interrupt hibernation patterns and deprive animals of food sources.
1.3 million people living in the floodplain are vulnerable if current defences were to fail. 16 hospitals, as well as numerous fire and police stations are also at risk. This means response and recovery could be unavailable to those affected.
London contributes £250 billion to the UK economy annually. The economic costs of flooding to London’s financial and business services sectors would be losses to the nation as a whole.
The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan sets out recommendations for managing tidal flood risk in the Thames Estuary, from Teddington in the West to Sheerness and Shoeburyness in the East.
Phases of the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan
Actions within the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan will happen over 3 phases.
Phase 1: 2012 until 2035:
- maintain and improve current flood risk management assets including walls gates, embankments and pumps
- protect land needed for future improvements to flood defences
- monitor how the estuary is changing
Phase 2: 2035 to 2050:
- raise existing flood walls, embankments and smaller barriers
- reshape the riverside through development, to improve flood defences, create habitat and improve access to the river
Phase 3: 2050 to 2100:
- decide and construct the best option for the future of the Thames Barrier
- adapt other flood risk management assets to work alongside this to protect the estuary
The Thames Barrier is expected to continue to protect London to its current standard up until 2070. The plan identifies different options for improving or replacing the Thames Barrier. Because it is an adaptive plan, the final option is unlikely to be made until 2050.
10-Year Review Timeline
The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan was designed to be adaptable to different rates of sea level rise and changes affecting the estuary. The Environment Agency therefore need to monitor how the estuary is changing. We review the Plan regularly to ensure the recommendations are still suitable. To do this, we monitor 10 indicators of change, completing a review every 5 years and a full review and update of the Plan every 10 years.
An adaptive plan for a changing climate
The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan is internationally recognised as a leading example of climate change adaptation. It is designed to be adaptable to different projections for climate change and sea level rise.
When the Environment Agency developed the Plan in 2009 it used the latest climate change guidance available at the time. It also made use of independent research on changes to fluvial flows, tidal storm surges, and sea-level rise.
We recognised at the time of developing the Plan that there was significant uncertainty surrounding future climate change. We addressed these uncertainties by ensuring actions within the Plan can be adjusted as the climate changes and we develop our understanding of the impacts of climate change.
10- year review begins
We are now starting to work on the first full review and update of the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan since it was published in 2012. The review will use the latest evidence and data, expertise and knowledge to update the recommendations in the current plan. Our collaboration with councils, communities, businesses and NGOs is vital in how we manage flood risk in the future and they will be involved in the review. We are also keen to explore with our partners where we can improve the environment further for local communities by supporting local and national regeneration ambitions for the Thames riverside.
We will also be looking at how much investment is needed in the Thames Estuary flood defences as our current programme of work, TEAM2100, is due to complete in 2024. A business case detailing what work is needed and how much it will cost will be presented to government for approval once the review is completed.
Phase 1: 2019 - 2020
Gathering data on how the estuary is changing and reviewing the first 10 years of the Plan’s implementation against the original recommendations. This includes reviewing tide measurement records to understand how sea level rise is affecting the estuary.
Phase 2: 2020 - 2021
Using monitoring data to update the costs and benefits of the Plan and review the requirements for an updated Plan. This includes:
- using new projections of sea level rise (UKCP18) to update predictions of future extreme sea level scenarios
- reviewing how much habitat will need to be compensated for and monitoring changes in designated biodiversity-protected sites
- reviewing how development along the riverfront has contributed to delivering improved flood defences and wider environmental and social benefits
- using outputs of the monitoring review to review the flood risk management policies in the Plan
- workshops with stakeholders to understand which outcomes our partners would like the updated Plan to deliver
Phase 3: 2020 - 2022
Using the outcomes of the reviews to update the recommendations in the Plan and producing the updated Plan. This includes:
- gaining approval to implement a new programme of improvement work to flood defences in the estuary
- reviewing and updating recommendations for the Plan based on the outcomes of the monitoring and economic reviews
- holding a public consultation on the recommendations in the Plan
For more information, or if you would like to get involved in the 10-Year Review of the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan, please contact the team at email@example.com.
How much will recommendations within the Plan cost? How will flood risk management works be funded?
When the Plan was developed, it was expected to cost £3.3 billion to maintain and improve the current flood risk management defences in the Thames Estuary, so they continue to protect areas at risk of tidal flooding. These costs will be updated through the 10-Year Review.
Recommendations within the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan will be funded according to the partnership funding principles. A key source of the funding will be from central government grant-in-aid. However contributions from beneficiaries and riparian owners will need to make up the remaining funding.
Read more about flood and coastal resilience partnership funding.
The Environment Agency will explore opportunities to secure any outstanding funding contributions through collaboration and delivering wider benefits. This will also help meet the wider aims of the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan.
Working with partners and communities to manage future tidal flood risk
The Environment Agency has been leading the development of the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan through our role as regulator and statutory advisor to councils in the planning process. The content of the Plan has been shaped and refined by our partners and communities in the Thames Estuary.
We recognise that our collaboration needs to be strengthened with riparian owners, flood risk management authorities and planning authorities to deliver the actions in the Plan. It is vital for all authorities to understand their role in the Plan and to incorporate the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan into their day-to-day work.
In particular, we rely on councils, who have the power to influence future development on the riverside through spatial planning. They can ensure the future riverside can continue to manage tidal flood risk whilst providing wider social, environmental and economic benefits.
The role of councils
The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan divides the estuary into 23 policy units which share similar flooding characteristics. Each unit is given a flood risk management policy, which describes the recommended approach for that area. These approaches range from:
- maintain existing flood risk management defence crest levels
- accepting flood risk will increase in the future due to climate change
- take action now to keep up with climate change and reduce flood risk further
Each council has a set of objectives which will help them deliver the recommended approach for their policy unit. These objectives include:
- updating strategic planning documents, such as local plans and strategic flood risk assessments, to include Thames Estuary 2100 messages
- requiring developers to improve flood risk management structures through development.
- safeguarding land for future flood management
- agreeing riverside habitat enhancements through development
A riverside strategy approach to riverside development
The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan introduces the riverside strategy approach. This integrates improvements to flood risk management defences into wider redevelopment, enhancing the social, environmental and commercial aspects of the riverside.
The Environment Agency is encouraging councils and strategic planning authorities to use this approach to:
- improve flood risk management in the vicinity of the river
- create better access to and along the riverside
- improve the riverside environment
Thames Estuary Asset Management 2100 programme (TEAM2100)
TEAM2100 is the single largest flood risk management programme and covers flood defence assets on the River Thames between Teddington and the Essex and Kent coasts.
The programme is refurbishing, repairing and replacing the most at-risk assets in the Thames Estuary, as part of the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan. It is helping to protect 1.3 million people and over £275bn worth of property across the Thames Estuary.
The Environment Agency and its contractors are pioneering a new asset management approach through TEAM2100.
Worth over £300m in total, TEAM2100 is one of the UK government’s top 40 major infrastructure projects. Its scope of works includes completing detailed engineering investigations of tidal structures to understand what their current condition is, and when they might need to be repaired or replaced.
Since inception in 2014, the TEAM2100 programme has investigated and assessed over 350 structures and has intervened over 200 times to either refurbish or replace an asset. To date, the programme has also delivered over £35 million in efficiencies.
TEAM2100 is being delivered in partnership with Jacobs, Balfour Beatty and several other suppliers.
Contact the team
For more information or to find out how you can get involved in Thames Estuary 2100, contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.