River Thames Scheme launches feedback campaign on final project design

By Emily Dalton

16th Jan 2024 | Local Features

River Thames Scheme. (Photo: Supplied)
River Thames Scheme. (Photo: Supplied)

Local communities and stakeholders are being encouraged to feedback on the final project design of the River Thames Scheme (RTS) which has been devised to enhance future flood management. 

Led by Surrey County Council (SCC) and the Environment Agency (EA), the scheme has been designed to reduce future risks of flooding to an area enjoyed by thousands of residents, tourists and businesses every day. 

The vision for RTS by the partners is said to: "Reduce flood risk and increase resilience to climate change whilst enhancing biodiversity, supporting nature recovery and contributing to local economic vibrancy."  

Following a public consultation in 2022, SCC has launched a Communications Campaign called 'Your View Matters' on Monday 15 January 2024 to ensure the final project design is "informed and influenced by those who live, work, and use the area".   

The government's River Thames Scheme includes a planned upgrade for Teddington Weir, pictured from the Lock footbridge (Image: Maxwell Hamilton via Wikimedia Commons)

Context to the River Thames Scheme

According to the BBC, the River Thames between Egham and Teddington is one of the largest areas of undefended, developed floodplain in England and in the past has been subject to serious floods. In 2014, over 900 homes flooded, with major impacts on families, roads and supply of services. 

The scheme will see the creation of a new river channel in two sections through Runnymede and Spelthorne, totalling over 5 miles (8.5km) long which is said will act as new flow routes for excess water when water levels in the River Thames rise too high. 

The scheme has been split into three sections consisting of flood aviation, community spaces and habitat creation areas to increase biodiversity. 

Details on the RTS website state: "The channels will flow through lakes, intersect existing watercourses such as streams, and cross under major roads. Additionally, improvements will be made to the weirs at Sunbury, Molesey, and Teddington." 

Improvements will also be made to the Sunbury, Molesey, and Teddington weirs which will include installing more gates that could be opened when river levels rise. 

Information on the website noted: "At Sunbury there will be three extra gates built on the lock island. At Molesey there will be two extra gates replacing the current fixed weir between Ash Island and Hampton Court Road. 

"At Teddington there will be five new gates built on the lock island. The new gates will only be used during high flows when the channel sections are operating." 

A map overview of the scheme (Credit: River Thames Scheme).

Flood modelling

According to Surrey County Council, flood modelling has been used over several years, to assess scheme's impact on fluvial flood risk. Fluvial flooding is flooding that originates from high flows in the River Thames and its tributaries.  

Specialist expertise and computer software has been used to generate flood levels from predicted river flows and tidal levels combined with topographic data. The flood model has been used to test hundreds of variants of the Scheme design. This is to help the Scheme work more efficiently and reduce construction costs. The flood modelling is vital, to make sure RTS functions as intended and to maximise flood risk reductions.  

The flood modelling shows that the River Thames Scheme will reduce fluvial flood risk from Windsor to Teddington, although the reduction in flood levels from the Scheme varies by location and flood magnitude.  

Downstream of Teddington, towards Twickenham and Richmond lock, the flood level reductions are very small at 0.03 metres or less; effectively there is no change in flood risk.  

Surrey County Council said: "There is no increase in flood risk predicted at any location in any flood conditions. The RTS will not make flooding worse for anyone."  

Flood modelling work is said to be ongoing as SCC and EA are still testing further refinements to the Scheme design, such as changes to the landscaping.  

Once complete, reporting of the additional flood modelling will be included in future updates to this Flood Modelling Non-Technical Summary Report.  

Green spaces and habitat creation

Plans for the RST also include "opportunities" to create recreational spaces for the community such as new foot and cycle paths, and play and picnic areas. There are also plans for new ways to access the river and take part in activities such as fishing, canoeing and boating. 

In the 2022 public consultation, residents were asked to rank their preferences for access to green spaces, connection to wildlife and a more sustainable travel network. Most respondents viewed access to new green spaces as most important, with connection to wildlife second. 

More than 80% of respondents revealed a strong interest in access-related matters. Respondents were particularly interested in maintaining access to both the river and to new green spaces for activities such as walking, cycling and water-based recreation. 

The scheme also promises improvements to current and creating new high quality natural habitats to help preserve and encourage wildlife in the area. 

Through an integrated approach that uses green and blue infrastructure, the scheme is driven by both national and local policy frameworks.  

Green infrastructure is a strategically planned network of natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features. It designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services such as water purification, air quality, space for recreation and climate mitigation and adaptation.  

With the increase of wetter and warmer weather, the risk of flooding between Egham and Teddington is likely to become a more frequent occurrence. Wherever possible, RTS' aim is for the two sections of the channel to look as much like the natural landscape as possible, provide better access to green open spaces and deliver a more sustainable travel network and, to link both sides of the river with additional bridges. 

New and enhanced wildlife habitats and areas for nature recovery will be established as part of the scheme, connecting with existing nature sites and wildlife corridors to create a connected ecological corridor. 

The scheme aims to create an extensive nature recovery network spanning the length of the channel and beyond, supporting diverse habitats and biodiversity and to support health and wellbeing benefits by improving access to nature. 

The designs being developed include planting along sections of the flood channel, tree planting and enhancing the environment for wildlife such as hedgerows and other existing habitats. A central route for active travel of around five and a half miles is proposed, stretching the length of the scheme. The route will be fully segregated between cyclist and pedestrian users. 

Who foots the bill?

Funding is made up of national and local government investment provided through partners. The majority of the funding has been committed by central government and Surrey County Council. 

Additional funding is being contributed by partner organisations. This includes local authorities in the area such as Surrey borough councils, also including Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, Thames Water and two Local Enterprise Partnerships: Surrey Enterprise M3 & Thames Valley Berkshire. 

The London boroughs of Richmond upon Thames and Kingston upon Thames are partners but are not responsible for funding the scheme. 

Scheme proposals: 

The Scheme includes the following proposals: 

  • The creation of a new flood channel in two sections through the boroughs of Runnymede and Spelthorne, totalling over 5 miles (8.5km) long; 
  • Capacity improvements to the River Thames through lowering the middle part of the bed of the River Thames downstream of Desborough Cut; 
  • Capacity improvements to the Sunbury, Molesey, and Teddington weirs to increase the amount of water that can flow through them. This would involve installing more gates that can be opened when river levels rise; 
  • New green open spaces associated with the flood channel, with access for local communities and facilities such as sports fields, accessible pathway network, nature play spaces and associated new landscape features; 
  • Priority areas for habitat creation, enhancement and mitigation, which link existing and new wildlife corridors, improve fish passage and build upon the network of existing wildlife sites; 
  • New or improved active travel provision associated with the flood channel corridor in areas of enhanced public connection, linking to the existing network and two new pedestrian and cycle bridges across the River Thames at Chertsey and Desborough Island; 
  • Changes to the road layout and utilities, including temporary diversions during construction; 
  • Temporary construction features such as site compounds and materials processing and storage sites; and 
  • Temporary car parking for construction workers. 

 The notice is a legal requirement and it shares information on the in-person and virtual events that will be taking place over the six-week Statutory Consultation period from 12.01am on Monday 22 January to 11.59pm on Monday 4 March. 

  • In-person and virtual events happening from late January and throughout the month of February. 
  • Come and view documents including maps of the scheme plans, there are also pop-up banner displays, a walk-through of the detail of the design of the scheme to date. 
  • Speak to and ask questions to specialists who work on the scheme. 
  • Pick up consultation brochures at various pick-up points. 
  • Pick-up points also will have on display the non-technical summaries of the Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR), flood modelling report, other environmental documents, and map books available for inspection free of charge. 
  • View documentation and fill in feedback form online. You can do this from the official launch date on Monday 22 January 2024.

 In-person events:

Teddington, St Mary with Saint Alban, Ferry Rd, Teddington TW11 9NN, Tuesday 13 February, 1pm to 7pm 

Kingston upon Thames, Everyday Conferencing, 46 Union St, Kingston upon Thames KT1 1RP, Thursday 15 February, 1pm to 7pm 

(Photo: RST website)

For those who cannot attend an event, physical copies of the brochure and consultation materials will be available at different venues in the community from the 22 January. 

Kingston Library, Fairfield Road, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2PS 

Richmond Library, Little Green, Richmond TW9 1QL 

Surbiton Library, Ewell Road, Surbiton KT6 6AG 

Teddington Library, Waldegrave Road, Teddington TW11 8NY 


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