The articles raising the issue of flooding in London and the Thames Gateway (AJ 02.03.06) fail to address how flood risk is currently managed, and our options for the future.
Development within the Thames tidal floodplain will always have risks. It is how we manage those risks that determines whether or not we will face floods in the future.
The defences protecting London and the Thames Gateway are of a higher standard than anywhere else in the country, and the likelihood of flooding in London is very small.
Flood risk is increasing however, and as a result the Environment Agency is developing a flood-risk-management plan - Thames Estuary 2100 - for the tidal Thames for the next 100 years. The assumption that a new barrier at Tilbury would solve flood risk does not take into account the many impacts that such a barrier might have and, more importantly, whether or not it will actually decrease flood risk effectively. Thames Estuary 2100 will examine those issues and produce a draft plan in 2008.
Reducing the consequences of flooding can be addressed now by using spatial planning to direct development to the areas of lowest risk and ensuring any development in higher-risk areas manages the flood risk appropriately. The strategic flood-risk assessments, backed by the government, which are completed or under way in key areas of the Thames Gateway are an essential element of this approach.
The Thames Gateway regeneration allows us to integrate flood-risk management as a central tenet of masterplanning, delivering safer housing and green space compatible with flooding.
Dave Wardle, Thames Estuary programme executive