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Thames Estuary: Flood Control

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL12324, tabled on 19 January 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have (1) to manage, and (2) to mitigate, the risk of increased tidal flooding in the Thames Estuary; and what plans they have to build further flood barriers in that Estuary.

Answered on

2 February 2021

The Environment Agency (EA) is working with its partners, including councils, to deliver the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan. The Plan was published in 2012 and sets out a strategy for managing increasing tidal flood risk in the estuary until the end of the century.

The Thames Estuary is at significant risk from tidal flooding. A complex network of defences, including 8 major barriers, 330km of walls and embankments, and over 900 flood gates, outfalls and pumps, work together to protect 1.3 million people and £275 billion worth of property from tidal flooding. Climate change, population growth and ageing flood defences mean that tidal flood risk will increase over time, unless this risk is carefully managed.

The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan (approved by the Government in 2012) is internationally recognised as a leading example of a climate change adaptation strategy. It is designed to be adaptable to different projections for climate change and sea level rise. The EA is now working on the 10-Year Review of the Plan, using the latest climate evidence and data to revise the strategy for managing tidal flood risk, ensuring we can continue to protect the Thames Estuary from rising sea levels into the future.

The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan identifies various options for replacing or improving the Thames Barrier, when the current Barrier reaches the end of its life. Latest data indicates that a new barrier will need to be operational by 2070.

The EA is currently holding three potential sites for a new barrier, either at the current site, in Long Reach or Tilbury. The locations are determined mainly by navigational requirements on the river. The team are working on securing land at all of these sites to ensure that they will be available if we need them.

A decision on the location is planned for around 2040, to allow enough time for planning, approval and construction by 2070. The preferred option will depend upon how the climate changes between now and 2040, as well as future projections.