Thames flood defences must be raised 15 years earlier than planned, says EA

Due to climate change, plans to safeguard the Thames Estuary from tidal flooding will need to be brought forward by 15 years, according to the Environment Agency (EA).

In 2012, the government launched its Thames Estuary 2100 plan, which set out how the government will protect the 1.4 million people who will be impacted by tidal flooding from the Thames Estuary.

In an update given last week, the EA recognised that some of the “key milestones” for action will need to be brought forward due to accelerating sea level rises.

This includes raising defences upstream of the Thames Barrier in inner London by 2050, which is 15 years earlier than in the original plan. 

The agency has also said riverside strategies, which are to be developed by local councils, must be embedded into local planning frameworks by 2030. This is to make sure that any new developments factor in future flood defence requirements.

This news comes in the same week that the tender process for a  £50 million scheme to provide homes in England with flood defences by autumn was ‘discontinued’, according to the Guardian

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The news caused outrage from businesses involved in the scheme which told the paper they have spent tens of thousands of pounds preparing their bids.

However, the Environment Agency has said it intends to invite tenders for a new procurement shortly and said it is “currently developing a new framework for suppliers which we aim to have awarded by the end of this year”. 

An Environment Agency spokesperson said:“As part of that process, we are focused on options to encourage more suppliers to submit bids, to drive competition and maximise value for money for the public.”

Floods minister Rebecca Pow said: “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.”

She described the Thames Estuary 2100 plan as a “perfect example of this”. 

Julie Foley, the EA’s director of flood risk strategy and natural adaptation, said it was “essential that we act now to respond to the changing climate” in order to deliver the plans ambitions.

She also noted that the plan requires “greater investment in habitats and natural flood management to support nature recovery”, and said the EA is working with partners to “deliver a green and resilient estuary”.

The plan is the largest single programme of flood risk management work in the UK and is valued at over £468m in total.