Onboard Thamesbank's flagship approaching Tower Bridge

Thamesbank brings together local communities, river users and organizations with a common vision for the ThamesW as a unique, sustainable, habitat for wildlife and people.

Vision[edit | edit source]

Our vision is simple: To make the most of the River Thames for all.

Sailing on the river in summer

Mission[edit | edit source]

Unifying communities to maximise the potential of the Tidal Thames, it's tributaries and related waterways, Thamesbank aims to create a marine example of sustainable management and regeneration using the principles laid down in Agenda 21.

Sunset near the Thames estuary in Kent

Strategies[edit | edit source]

Thamesbank works with communities and is supported by a number of organizations including receiving legal assistance from the Environmental Law Foundation [1], ELF.

Dido Berkeley, representing Thamesbank believes there were too many different authorities managing different aspects of the Thames. "Thamesbank wants to make sure the river is protected forever by seeking a single co-ordinated body," she said. Dido Berkeley listed five functions of the river:

"Functions of the River Thames", taken from the Strategic Planning Guidance RPG3B/9B: River Thames (1997) & adopted by Thamesbank:


  • The Thames is part of a major mature river complex draining the London River Basin.
  • A considerable part of the London is low-lying and potentially subject to flooding, and extensive flood alleviation works, including the Thames Barrier, are necessary to prevent this.
  • Below Teddington the twice-daily rise and fall of the tide is a fundamental part of the River's character, exploited by shipping from early times, and is in part responsible for the location of London as a port so far inland.
  • The Thames is also a source of water for drinking and other purposes.
  • The natural Thames ecosystem provides resilience by soaking up rainfall and releasing it slowly. Any drainage scheme in the London basin must reflect this ecosystem as closely as possible. By using the latest available knowledge, not entailing excessive costs (BATNEEC) we are convinced this is not just fesible, but vital in London.
  1. SETTING FOR DEVELOPMENT [NB. Development is NOT a function of the River]
  • The River is the most important major linear open structural feature in the urban fabric of London and London's biggest open space, its banks provide a distinctive setting for development.
  • The significance of the setting is emphasised by the number of buildings of historic and national importance located along it in both rural and urban stretches, and associated historic landscapes.
  • The skyline views and vistas the River offers also make and important contribution to London's unique character and international image.
  • As a major linear open space, the River provides an important ecological corridor across London and beyond.
  • The improved quality of water is reflected in the increasing numbers of species of fish now found in the River (over 100 types), and also the invertebrates and birdlife associated with the mud flats and shingle exposed at low tide.
  • The London Ecology Unit has identified it throughout London as an Area of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.
  • Further downstream, the wetlands, mud flats and marshes provide and almost unbroken chain of estuarine habitats of international significance for birds and other wildlife.
  • The River remains an important transport artery.
  • In its lower reaches the Port of London handles over 50 million tonnes of trade a year covering a wide range of goods including containerised cargo, fuel oil, aggregates, timber and paper.
  • Further up-river, the tidal Thames is still a major transport route, particularly for aggregates and waste, although the scale of movement is well below its potential.
  • Passenger traffic on the Thames includes extensive tourist traffic, particularly in central London and to a more limited extent in the west of London.
  • There is an increasing number of visiting cruise liners on the River below London Bridge.
  • The River and riverside provide the backbone of London's open-space structure, and important recreational and leisure facilities.
  • These range from walking and cycling along its banks to activities on the water such as boating and rowing.
  • It is also the location of many of the region's most important cultural facilities and historic sites.
  • The River is an attraction in its own right, for both residents and tourists.
  • It can provide an accessible and spectacular setting for major public events.
  • There is substantial scope on many stretches for further development of the recreational function of the River. "

Too many agencies were involved with insufficient legal responsibilities and inadequate funding. Thamesbank originated the concept of designating the Thames a Blue Ribbon zone with legal protection covering 50 metres and a policy for sustainable regeneration over a 500-metre width.

History[edit | edit source]

Since 1996 Thamesbank has been forming an alliance of Londoners and others, across London and beyond, concerned with the long- term needs to sustain not only the river and its vital functions for itself, but to sustain these functions as an invaluable dynamic and natural resource for all Londoners. This alliance is independent and well qualified: London-wide and across the Thames basin, it is a cross-sector alliance able to provide practical and academic knowledge and advice for the future of the River Thames and its related waterways. This alliance (The Sustainable Thames Alliance (STA)) held monthly meetings at the old GLA building, formed an agreed working party with the GLA until the Stakeholders Forum was formed as a part of the Mayor's Thames & Waterways Steering Group. Thamesbank, represented by Dido Berkeley, secured the greatest numbers of votes and was therefore one of 2 people voted onto the Mayor's Steering Group. On Thamesbank's insistence, 2 more representatives were later voted for - "to balance out the top-heavy imbalance on the Steering Group".

Thamesbank has boats covering the London tidal Thames, and therefore has a first hand working knowledge of river issues. It is a coalition of community support across London committed to promoting the health and vitality of the River Thames. It also aims to ensure that the principles of sustainable development are met in relation to the river, in particular ensuring that the river meets the needs of all the local community and that it is accessible for everyone to enjoy and benefit from. Thamesbank is the only independent organisation that truly represents the voice of people who live and work in and around the River Thames and acknowledge its role in contributing to the achievement of sustainable development in London and the UK.

External links[edit | edit source]

You can contact Thamesbank at: river@thamesbank.org.uk

See also:

The Thamesbank Blog [2]





Case studies of Thamesbank at work[edit | edit source]

November 2009

Thamesbank's cooperation with the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF)[edit | edit source]

Thamesbank have been fighting for a long time to strengthen the Blue Ribbon Network policies in the London Plan.

The following is a copy of the ELF submission to the mayor of London in July 2009:

Environmental Law Foundation

A new plan for London - Proposals for the Mayor's London Plan Response by the Environmental Law Foundation

1. Introduction[edit | edit source]

This document sets out in summary form comments on the Mayor's Proposals for a new London Plan (LP) with specific reference to proposals for the River Thames.

The contents represent concerns expressed to the Environmental Law Foundation by several river based user groups over current policy and practice adopted by local authorities towards the River Thames.

In particular this document reflects concerns expressed by Thamesbank.

Thamesbank is a voluntary group that campaigns for the protection and enhancement of the River Thames and its environment. Its director is Lady Berkeley. Thamesbank undertakes its campaigning and lobbying work in the context of a wider community of voluntary groups who have special interest in the river Thames and London's other waterways. These include the London Forum, the West London River Group, and the River Thames Society. Thamesbank submitted representations to the draft Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London (draft London Plan) and was represented at the subsequent Examination-in-Public.

2 Context and background[edit | edit source]

The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) welcomes the Mayor's vision for the London Plan (LP) to develop London as a city that excels among global cities and one which achieves the highest environmental standards and quality of life. However, ELF notes that the six objectives (para 65) fail to acknowledge the iconic, dynamic and historic role the river Thames could play in helping to achieve this vision.

The River Thames and its hinterland is London's major linear open space, and along with its connected tributaries and canals it forms the backbone to London's open space framework. The river Thames is the unique, dynamic, unifying natural force across London. The River is the central part of London's green infrastructure, the most connected, multi-functional open space giving life to the heart of the city that provides multiple benefits for people and wildlife. It is therefore crucial that strategic policy respects the river environment, and recognises the key role it will play to ensure the delivery of essential climate change policies, quality of life and open spaces, leisure, education and jobs for the benefit of all communities across London.

The latest UK climate projections produced by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs demonstrate that the future development of the River Thames will be vital to how London responds to climate change impacts. The DEFRA projections indicate the serious nature of climate change if society does not begin to carry out adaptation and mitigation with some urgency. The potential impacts for London are set out in the new LP at para 153.

It is clear that a co-ordinated and strategic plan for the river Thames will enable this unique open space to provide essential adaptation and mitigation to flood risk, efficient transportation, health and comfort through better planned recreational use of the River Thames, its tributary rivers, streams and canals, reservoirs and lakes. However,insufficient emphasis on the strategic importance of the River Thames is provided throughout the LP.

3 Objectives[edit | edit source]

ELF considers that any new London Plan needs to achieve at least three objectives: (i) Greater priority afforded to the protection of the Blue Ribbon Network (BRN) through new legal measures and/or supplementary planning guidance; (ii) Equal protection given to open spaces to apply to London's waterway network through the use of terminology such as 'blue field sites' leading to the preservation, enhancement and promotion of river access and river uses; (iii) Use of targets or indicators for the river in line with any agreed River Basin Management Plans for the River Thames;

4. Blue Ribbon Network[edit | edit source]

The new LP says the Mayor proposes to:

  • Promote the active use of the waterways for water specific purposes;
  • Promote, in particular, the use of waterways for transport purposes, continuing to safeguard a limited number of sites for river cargo purposes;
  • Ensure that the environment and setting of the Blue Ribbon Network is protected and improved and promotes a good quality of life; and
  • Continue to support the three Thames Strategies and other appraisals of the Thames and other waterways (para 198).

ELF broadly welcomes these proposals. However, past evidence indicates that the strategic importance of the Blue Ribbon Network when considering planning applications is not given sufficient weight during the grant of planning permission. This has led to a 'creep' factor in relation to highly prized river side developments with a commensurate loss in river uses, leading to a much poorer river environment for socially disadvantaged communities in terms of river recreation and leisure uses and potential river employment. In fact, little has changed since the Planning and Spatial Development Committee's (PSDC) report to the London Assembly (Jan 2006) where waterways campaigners expressed frustration that, in their view, water-related users were often edged out of new developments in planning decisions (para 5.5). Meanwhile, planning authorities expressed fears that a different approach could lead to legal challenge against planning refusals (para 5.6).

The PSDC reported a clear divergence of views as to the success or otherwise of the Blue Ribbon Network in achieving protection and enhancement of the River Thames for river related activities. However, the GLA's own Planning Decisions Unit found that the attention given to the Blue Riboon Network varied considerably between each local authority (para 5.25).

British Waterways provided certain incontrovertible facts which showed river uses in decline. Their data demonstrated that there were at least 30 cruise ships each year arriving on the Thames with a lack of suitable facilities for their berthing. They reported 'a pressing' lack of boatyard facilities with boatyards closing down each year.

ELF is aware that today there is little change to this depressing picture. Despite the benefits obtained by waterfront developers from the premium of riverside apartments there is a lack of recognition that this diminishes both the value and use for others of the riverside and river uses. For instance, there is a lack of facilities such as boatyards, cranes and operational wharves. There are 5 non-operational wharves from Kew to Teddington alone and only 6 working wharves between Hammersmith and Fulham and Wandsworth.

There has been a growth in leisure boating and a growing demand for club facilities has been expressed by recreational users of the Thames. These users utilise local family run businesses for minor boats repairs due to redevelopment and change in land uses, repairs to larger leisure are now carried out at marinas further upstream in Shepperton and Chertsey.

5. Thames Policy and Appraisals[edit | edit source]

The importance of river uses for protecting both natural and human heritage and for quality of life/health issues is well recognised by the existing LP. One important tool for the protection and promotion of the River Thames used by the Blue Ribbon Network is the use of the Thames Policy Area (TPA) and Appraisals (Policy 4C.18).

However, this mechanism has not avoided local authorities giving greater priority to other policies, such as the need for increased housing or waterside development, when granting planning permissions. This has led to a system of development along the River Thames that has little strategic coherence. It is essential therefore that the River and its environment is prioritised effectively throughout the new LP.

In contrast, previous regional guidance (RPG3b/9b) recognised the River Thames as 'one of the major natural assets of South East England.' It provided guidance for riparian planning authorities, and other agencies involved in management of the River and its environs, that they should:

  • recognise the strategic importance of the Thames and the functions it serves for the region as a whole;
  • reflect these in development and other plans, and in land-use decisions affecting the River and its hinterland; and
  • collaborate to ensure a co-ordinated and cohesive approach to land use planning for and along the River. (Ref: RPG3b/9b, 2.10).

The clear intention of policy 4C.18 LP is to assist local authorities to deliver co-ordinated policy and actions within their Thames Policy Area taking into account the strategic function that the River plays.

Appraisals also require local authorities to take positive action to improve deficiencies such as facilities for water-based passenger, tourism and freight transport or water-based sport and leisure. However, evidence from river user groups is that many of these facilities have not been improved, enhanced or protected. Drawdocks are tidal wharves, sometimes a paved slope at right-angles to the River with vertical walls on both sides (for example as at Chiswick), and sometimes a paved slope parallel to the River and built against the River-wall (for example as at Putney). They allow boats to berth alongside the wall and remain accessible by vehicles from the land when the tide goes out. One of the few Drawdocks still working is the one at Putney where lorries off-load food and drink for the tripper-boats into motorised barges. All the other Drawdocks are believed to be usable at the user's discretion at all states of the tide, given care and a suitable vehicle-train, River-borne rubbish permitting, unless otherwise noted. The Thames Strategy - Kew to Chelsea includes Policy Recommendation RC 11 (page 3.14): "Historic slipways, hards, wharves and drawdocks should be protected. Possible mechanisms to achieve this include seeking funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other public/private sector sources to ensure the rehabilitation and long-term survival of these important River structures." It is inaccurate to describe any of the existing drawdocks as "disused" except the blocked-off Fulham Crabtree. Many are seldom used, and some are relatively difficult to use because of flood-boards to remove. But all are valuable to those who use the River, both for getting in, and for getting out, whether deliberately, or in an emergency. The Thames Strategy - Kew to Chelsea recommendation that drawdocks should be protected is timely, in view of the current tendency to barricade or lock off, or even privatise them completely, which is all too prevalent because they are not often used. Draw-docks are an essential part of a viable water transport system, and therefore should be protected, for functional reasons, for health and safety reasons, and for sustainability and heritage reasons.

6. The Lots Road case[edit | edit source]

Difficulties encountered with the application of the Blue Ribbon Network policies is underscored by the Court of Appeal (CA) in an appeal brought against a decision by the Secretary of State granting planning permission to Circadian Limited at the former Lots Road Power Station site (see: The Queen on the application of Lady Berkeley and First Secretary of State & Ors [2007] EWCA Civ. 1026).

The appeal was brought against the LP prior to further alteration by the Mayor. The planning permission sought concerned a major housing development overlooking the River Thames. It was argued that riverside developments require active appraisals to show how their proposals have had full regard to the Blue Ribbon Network policies.

Emphasis was placed on the old unrevised LP, policy 4C.12, that required priority to be given to the uses of the Blue Ribbon Network when granting planning permission on land with a waterside location. Ultimately, the CA considered that despite the lack of assessments for marinas, moorings and other river use facilities by the developer, which the CA found surprising, it did not amount to an unlawful failure.

Nevertheless, the CA did state by way of observation that these policies are important ones and that they should be 'seriously considered by all those concerned in development along the network: by developers, local authorities and the Mayoralty of London.' (para 30, per Lord Justice Rix).

In the event, further amendments made to the BRN by the Mayor substantially weakened his vision that the Network had an 'essential role to play' and that the River Thames should be treated as a 'valuable and scarce asset within London' with it use 'set within sustainable limits.'

7. Securing greater levels of protection for the River Thames[edit | edit source]

The Mayor seeks specific feedback in reviewing the LP on the following questions:

  • Should the London Plan policy protection be strengthened for local open spaces outside the strategic spaces that are designated Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land? Or should the current position be maintained of asking Boroughs to designate locally important spaces through their LDD?
  • The London Plan sets the benchmarks for the provision of public open space through Borough Opens Space Strategies. Should this position be maintained or should the London Plan seek to establish minimum standards.

ELF's preferred option is a strengthening of local open spaces including the River Thames, the canals, tributary rivers and streams, the docks, reservoirs and lakes. This can be done in two ways. First a general strengthening of Green Belt and MOL land by designating new areas for protection.

Second, by requiring planners to give significant priority and weight in planning decisions to mixed river uses whenever there is waterfront development.

8. Blue Grid Framework for the River Thames[edit | edit source]

ELF suggests the Mayor adopts a 'Blue Grid Framework' and supported by Supplementary Planning Guidance if necessary.

Any new LP needs to ensure that planners understand that waterways are complex and need a specialist approach to their planning. Whilst some appraisals have been carried out by local authorities there are significant problems in planning terms on how much priority and significance is given to such strategies when balanced against developments that bring economic benefits to the tune of £5m, as demonstrated by the Lots Road case.

A Blue Grid Framework would establish a strong blue infrastructure throughout the River Thames and its tributaries interlinked with an open space network on the waterside. The Framework would identify the water as not merely a setting for development. Rather, the Framework would prioritise the use of the water-related spaces. Types of sustainable use are many and varied but include water transport, water recreation, waterside open space, natural habitats and flood storage or protection.

In addition, a Blue Grid Framework could ensure that the River is preserved, enhanced and promoted and that local authorities act on a positive duty to regenerate and recycle derelict and dormant riverside land to include river-related uses.

It would ensure that development is 'appropriate' in the same way as required for Green Belt and MOL land designations. In other words, inappropriate development would, by definition, include development harmful to the principles established by the Blue Grid Framework and therefore should not be allowed, save in exceptional circumstances. As with the East London Green Grid Framework the Blue Grid Framework should be explicitly defined and embedded in local strategies and LDD's by the riparian boroughs.

Partnership working will ensure that proper Blue Area Frameworks are encouraged and include all the multi-users of the River Thames, including community related users and those who depend upon the river for their livelihoods.

It is worth recalling that the Thames was defined as a "major linear open space of strategic importance" in RPG3B/9B and its open space area is considerably greater than any of the London parks - regional, metropolitan, district or local.

For instance, enhanced river-related uses might require LDDs to dedicate mooring eyes, eg, triple clusters of mooring eyes every 100 metres or for riparian owners to provide access from the river by way of blue rights of way.

9 Targets[edit | edit source]

A Blue Grid Framework might also set targets or indicators for the river so that sufficient monitoring can be provided for in the LP. There is no agreed advisory group for the River Thames, its tributaries, the linking canals and other waterways. These targets can be linked to measures and targets set out in any final Thames River Basin Management Plan thereby assisting in the achievement of good water quality and enhanced biodiversity.

10 Blue Field Sites[edit | edit source]

Finally, the current designation system for development of land uses terminology such as 'urban brownfield sites'. Many so called 'brownfield sites' have riverside locations. The term 'brownfield site' tends to signify blanket and unqualified presumption in favour of development regardless of a riverside location which has obvious financial benefits for a developer.

The "blue" riverside land space of London's waterways has great importance in linking green chains, providing life-sustaining water for many of London's species, contributing to bio-diversity, increasing the public realm, as well as providing economic, leisure and sporting facilities.

Most developed areas along the river are encroached river not land. "Bluefield" sites would be essential areas to protect particularly in the light of climate change as water levels are likely to rise along rivers and their tributaries. Blue field sites could therefore stand as particularly important areas for future climate change adaptation throughout the flood plains of the River Thames, its tributaries, the Estuary and the Thames Gateway.

11. Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Now more than ever before there is a need for the River Thames to be treated as a valuable and scarce asset and for development to take place within a strategic framework. However, it is also evident that the priority afforded river uses in strategic planning terms is in decline.

It is essential that the slow decline of river uses allowed for in both policy and planning decisions is rapidly halted. Without cessation the River Thames will be unable to fulfil the Mayor's vision and provide the kind of response to climate change urgently required by his strategies.

ELF urges a review of the BRN and a robust response from the Mayor, strengthening his powers to ensure adequate protection for the future of the River Thames. The DEFRA Climate Change Projections demonstrate that the South East is at particular risk of serious climate change impacts unless action is taken.

It is for decision makers to ensure that adequate frameworks are put in place now to help adaptation to dangerous climate change thereby protecting the health of Londoners. On any sensible view, the River Thames will have to play an important role in the quality of life of Londoners over the long term. For that reason alone ELF recommends that the Mayor ensures that it is given sufficient priority in policy terms to allow it to fulfil such a critical future role.

Deborah Tripley Chief Executive Environmental Law Foundation 16 Baldwins Gardens Suite 309 London EC1N 7RJ www.elflaw.org

10 July 2009

Threat to the Blue Ribbon Network[edit | edit source]


ELF was contacted by Thamesbank, a group campaigning to protect and improve the River Thames. Thamesbank was particularly concerned about proposed changes in river policy (the 'Blue Ribbon Network') in London's regional spatial strategy, the London Plan, with fears over rising water levels and climate change and inappropriate development along the river. The case was handled by ELF's new advice service for London cases, ELF Plus. Assistance from ELF barrister, Robert McCracken QC, of the Chambers of Robin Purchas QC, was obtained and Thamesbank were able to submit a response to the consultation.

Thamesbank subsequently received advice from another ELF solicitor, Kate Harrison of Harrison Grant, which ensured it would be able to participate in the Examination in Public (EiP), a hearing in front of a Panel of inspectors to consider the proposals. ELF Plus arranged further assistance from a second ELF barrister, Alex Goodman of Atlas Chambers, for Thamesbank and other civic and amenity groups concerned to protect the quality of London's waterways, prior to the EiP. ELF Plus attended the EiP with Thamesbank and Mr Goodman who acted as Thamesbank's spokesperson. The Panel's report is due at the end of September.

Lots Road Chelsea — Lots for the developers

Lots Road, Chelsea.
Lots Road, Chelsea. Lost to developers.

Thamesbank together with the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) and supported by a plethora of river groups fought for the inclusion of the BRN to support London's rivers in the draft London Plan. Thamesbank won the battle, thanks for ELF and assumed the Thames would be protected.

It was not to be. The Lots Road power station site seemed the perfect proving ground for the BRN, but the site was lost to the river on a technicality. And no appraisal. The Blue Ribbon Network also covers only the water space and not the vital buffer-zone land along side – a fundamental flaw.

Thamesbank and ELF primarily argued that the public inquiry inspector, and therefore the Secretary of State (the Deputy Prime Minister) who adopted the inspector's reasoning on this issue, failed to understand, and therefore to apply properly, two central policies from the Blue Ribbon Network section of the 2004 London Plan. These are policies 4C.12 and 4C.20 - that water-requiring uses should be given priority along the riverside in new developments beside the Thames, and that riverside designs should include water-requiring uses as part of the mix.

The inspector concluded (without support for this in the policy) that 4C.12 could only apply if there were firm proposals for water-requiring uses already in place; that the requirement to include water-requiring uses in policy 4C.20 could be ignored because this is only a 'design' policy; and that in effect the only choice was between water-requiring uses and residential use for the development as as whole. In his mind it had to be one or the other, and it was wrong to give up the existing plans for a predominantly residential development, so water uses were largely inappropriate here.

The inspector, and the Secretary of State, therefore completely ignored the obvious possibility of a mixed-used development, with appropriate water-requiring uses given priority over other uses along the riverside, but incorporated harmoniously into a predominantly residential development. A development which reflects and incorporates the character of the River Thames should be the result - but permission has been given here for an 'alien' development which could, apart from some shoreline water plant 'window-dressing', really be located anywhere in London.

River groups were shocked. Lady Berkeley stated: "The tide of concrete sweeping along the Thames is a blight to the London landscape, killing off every opportunity to bring London's working river back to life. Adding another towering monstrosity along a small creek, and ignoring the wharf, the safe harbour and the locked water basin as a much needed new riverside village, is a mistake future generations would have to live with."

Angela Dixon chairperson of the Historic Buildings Group stated before the decision "Along with many other local groups including The Lot's Road Action Group, The Chelsea Society and the River Thames Society we support Dido Berkeley in her public spirited action. We just hope this overblown and damaging scheme can be quashed and then we can all look for a better scheme, more suited to its splendid Riverside site and the local area."

Roger Weston, chairman of The West London River Group [4]added "The Mayor's London Plan contains Blue Ribbon Network policies, but they're not being enforced. The Blue Ribbon policies must form the starting point in any riverside development. In this development they don't."

Even Hammersmith & Fulham Council backed the campaign. Councilor Frances Stainton stated after the verdict, "The Inspector recommended refusal but disastrously was overturned by the Secretary of State who rode rough-shod over both the views of local people and his own Inspector, even omitting the River Thames. This is an issue that just won't lie down. This whole mess needs to be looked at openly and independently." The case demonstrated the weakness of the London Plan in not implementing the BRN but instead favouring economic development. The developers may have got permission, but they lost a lot of time and money in the process. Sir Terry Farrell, who was involved with the developers Circadian on the project complained to Dido Berkeley that he had lost out due to Thamesbank's objections, but the real issue lay with a lack of clarity about how to develop riverside sites. This view was recently supported by Piers Gough who stated that the biggest challenge facing the Gateway was clear guidance on the developments relating to the river. Clearly no one is advising, or in a position to advise developers as there is no strategic overview of the river's needs.

Meanwhile the London Plan is being subjected to further alterations by the mayor. The BRN, already weakened is to be watered down to homeopathic levels. Barry Edwards, champion of the river users on the Thames is appalled.

So where does this all leave us? There is no overall responsibility, coordination or management of the river environment. There is also no genuine or effective stakeholder engagement. This is resulting in the incremental loss of unique river land for non-river related purposes and a free for all grab along the river, especially along the tidal Thames and now specifically the Thames Gateway as the government realizes it's plans to build 160,000 homes by 2016.

At a recent New London Architecture exhibition of riverside architecture at the Building Centre in London, the quote of "Must Try Harder" appeared in their brochure. It stated that "our contemporary contribution" for the River Thames is now flawed... Recent contributions to the riverside pale besides other cities in the world." It went on:

"The modern housing development, which forms much of the new building on the river, is a selfish thing: its form is defined by the desire for maximum river views, not urban context, and it turns its back on the city behind... Tall buildings invade the sky, waterfront buildings impose themselves on the public open space of the river and frequently occupy significant vistas."

Thamesbank is calling for the formation of a unified body for the Thames. This idea and project has broad support in principle among all stakeholders along the Thames. Support and join in the growing number of people across London in our work to make this become a reality. Visit us at the Thames Gateway Forum to find out more about the project and how you can get involved.

Faversham Creek[edit | edit source]

Faversham Creek in Kent

The Faversham case was taken forward by ELF pupil barrister Richard Honey (who lives in Kent and was involved in the EEDA Regional plan), 2 Harcourt Buildings, under ELF barrister Greg Jones.

Richard brought out a number of excellent hidden qualities about the heritage and wider implications for ignoring these and the long term damage to the River Thames as a whole that losing a boat yard which was used by most Thames barges and other vessels.

Richard worked with the council and persuaded them that the best way forward was to maximise Faversham's potential and this helped to bring together many key boat people and others concerned about the creek and development.

Iron Wharf at Faversham Kent

Justin Ford was instrumental in moving everything forward.

What they have done needs to be taken forward as best practice for every creek and tribuatary along the Thames Rivers.

Fulham Football Ground[edit | edit source]


In a landmark judgment, the Law Lords have confirmed that major planning decisions cannot be taken without a proper EIA (Environmental impact assessment) understandable to the public.

The decision will have a far-reaching impact on planning law and public consultation for the future, and will ensure that developers and local authorities carry out the legal requirement to produce a full and comprehensive document relating to the environment when considering an application for development proposals.

The case was brought by Dido Berkeley over proposals to develop Fulham Football Ground, which included encroachment on the Thames. Dido Berkeley, green campaigner for the river and founder of Thamesbank, challenged the decision to allow planning permission on the grounds there had been no EIA as required by European directive.

Lords Bingham of Cornhill, Hoffman, Hope of Craighead, Hutton and Millett were unanimous in their judgment in favour of Dido Berkeley, thus quashing the planning permission consent granted by the Secretary of State.

The Lords also condemned the assertion that various other documents in the file constituted an environmental assessment, declaring that the public could not be expected to follow a paperchase but could fairly expect a single, relevant document. They also refuted as groundless the argument that an EIA would not have made any difference to the outcome of the planning process and that the decision to grant permission would have been given either way.

"It would, I think, be strange if the Secretary of State could lawfully achieve by inadvertence a result which he could not lawfully achieve if acting deliberately," stated Lord Bingham of Cornhill.

Lord Hoffman reiterated the European Directive that states the best environmental policy consists in preventing the creation of pollution or nuisance at source rather than subsequently trying to counteract their effects, and affirms the need to take effects on the environment into account at the earliest possible stage in all technical planning and decision-making process.

He also confirmed that the assessment must be conducted on the basis of appropriate information supplied by the developer, supplemented by the authorities and by the people concerned by the project. No environmental assessment was carried out on the application, even though concern about its impacts was expressed by the London Ecology Unit, the National Rivers Authority and many individuals at the time the proposal was submitted in 1994.

The local authority, Hammersmith and Fulham, recommended planning permission be granted and in August 1995 it was called in by the Secretary of State, who did not require the applicant to produce an environmental statement. Dido Berkeley challenged the absence of the document through the courts and there was no disagreement about the size and extent of the project nor its relation to the River Thames upon which it was likely to have significant effects.

"In those circumstances, individuals affected had a directly enforceable right to have the need for an EIA considered before the grant of planning permission," continued Lord Hoffman, emphasising the requirement for full information and public debate which could only be obtained through an EIA. One of the aims of a good environmental statement should be to enable readers to understand for themselves how its conclusions have been reached and to form their own judgments on the significance of the environmental issues raised by the project. Nothing less than substantial compliance with the European Directive could enable planning permission to be upheld.

Lord Hoffman was not happy with an assertion that an environmental statement of case was incorporated with the reports to the local authority committees by virtue of cross-referencing background papers, letters and proofs.

"My Lords, I do not accept that this paper chase can be treated as the equivalent of an environmental statement," he said.

All five Lords were in concurrence and all allowed Dido Berkeley's appeal. "I can't believe it," she said, following her victory. "I haven't come back down to earth yet."

[End of Current Threats to the Blue Ribbon Network.]

Thamesbank and the Thames Tideway Tunnel[edit | edit source]

24th October 2014: Judicial Review of Government Decision launched[edit | edit source]


23 October 2014

Thames Blue-Green Economy has lodged a Judicial Review in the Royal Courts of Justice.

The Challenge concerns the Government's unlawful Decision to grant a DCO (Development Consent Order) for the Thames Tideway Tunnel ("TTT").

The Decision is unlawful because the Government was in breach of the public participation requirements under the EIA Directive and British Law.

The Thames Blue-Green Economy is a broad group of independent experts - including engineers, politicians, lawyers, economists, financiers, journalists, architects, landscape architects, Climate Change scientists, Public Health advisors and environmentalists – whose objective is to halt the TTT project, so that a cheaper, quicker, lower risk, and more sustainable solution to dealing with London's excess rainwater can be implemented and effective immediately without waiting another 10 years, an option which has been fiercely opposed by Government to date.

The multi-benefits of Blue-Greening, i.e. capturing rainwater locally, are now being prioritized around the

World and could transform the environment, local economy and health of communities across London, while reducing air pollution, flooding and drought.

The TTT project will turn fresh rainwater into sewage at vast public expense and environmental damage.

Please email river at thamesbank dot org dot uk for more info

4th November 2013 update[edit | edit source]

The fight to promote better approaches to the challenge facing London continues apace. Thamesbank have teamed up with numerous specialists to promote the Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI). These include Prof Darren Woolf, Building Physics Principal, Hoare Lea & Visiting Professor of Building Engineering Physics, Loughborough University, (email: darren@woolfcs.com) who has kindly set up a website here [5] which includes all the documents relevant to the BGI.

7th November 2012 update[edit | edit source]

Proposals for the Thames Tunnel are coming under an increasing tide of criticism as the realisation dawns on us all that this expensive and disruptive scheme may well create more problems than it solves.

A distinguished line-up of experts are now proposing a radically different approach to urban drainage which addresses the increasing issues of drought and flooding as the climate changes. The approach being put forward, and successfully being implemented in Philadelphia and other pioneering cities is known as the Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI), which involves retaining storm water by the combination of green roofs, rainwater harvesting and upgrading hard, impervious areas to become porous therefore allowing them to soak up the rain, instead of letting it wash down the drain.

So would this alternative be quicker and cheaper than the Thames Tunnel? This is clearly the case, especially when you consider that the BGI addresses many more issues than simply claiming to reduce the amount of raw sewage entering the Thames when it rains.

Thames Water have been lobbying hard for the Tunnel for years, claiming that there is no other choice. Holding a gun at the public in this way is morally corrupt when you consider how this privatised water utility has handled its finances, providing huge shareholder dividends while reducing their ability to invest in infrastructure themselves.

The Tunnel proposal will also do nothing to tackle the problem of raw sewage until completion in 2023 at the earliest, by which time it is likely that Britain will have amounted huge fines for breaching European directives on urban waste water. The BGI multi-benefit approach on the other hand could start immediately, help reduce infraction fines, give many jobs to local people for a long time, boosting the economy and keep our money in our country.

The tide on the Thames is turning again. This time it is rising up to embrace green approaches rather than large and expensive construction projects, which will only drain our pockets, mess up our cities and leave us with no money for implementing better long-term sustainable green solutions.

The choice is still ours to make: Blue/Green, or concrete. You decide.

Initial statement 14 January 2011[edit | edit source]

Thamesbank response to Thames Water's Thames Tideway Tunnel initial proposals

Thamesbank welcomes and generally supports the sewage tunnel as a solution to the problem – and we would like to remind you about our European Commission case that arguably started it all off! Admirable as the resolution of an environmental problem is, however, if it also creates a disproportionately large number of (albeit individually smaller) environmental problems, it cannot be justified.

Thamesbank's submission will take a 'strategic' approach at this stage – there will be further opportunities for detailed points as we have had a comparatively limited time with many issues and complicated facts to understand and absorb.

Suggestions for the Thames Tunnel to be coordinated with other works At present there is no overarching body acting on behalf of the River Thames and all its communities both along the River and across London to ensure that the River itself benefits from development in ALL its key functions:

  • Water supply and drainage
  • Ecological green corridor for wildlife
  • Riverscape and landscaping
  • Transport, both public and private
  • Leisure, recreation, tourism, education and sport.

Thamesbank understands and has experienced that all the statutory bodies, agencies, local authorities and groups etc that have a say in Thames consultation have different legal remits or have vested interests in areas which are uncoordinated and do not collectively protect or maximise opportunities to benefit the River and its ecosystem for its own sake and beyond or for Londoners as a whole.

It is essential that the River Thames will have grown into a thriving functioning working river, fully adapted to climate change, by the end of all the major developments along the Thames, such as Thames Gateway, the Olympics and Crossrail as well as the Thames Tunnel ------ A River we can proudly hand over to the next generation in a better state and with better protection and status than it has now.

The River Thames and the land alongside is priceless

Thamesbank, along with a growing weight of opinion, and after a great deal of consultation, especially before and during the EIP of the London Plan, realise that it is now time to address these serious issues above and come together to give our world famous, world class River Thames the world protective status it deserves. With four World Heritage Sites in London, this would surely be an obvious way forward. We have much support from Natural England, the Environment Agency, the PLA, the London Forum and many others.

Thamesbank, with this public support, has started putting together a Tidal Thames Waterways Regeneration Masterplan as an essential beginning to ensure there is a coordinated, comprehensive and cohesive approach to all the developments planned for and along the River Thames. This may include something like a 'Blue Belt' for the Tideway and other London waterways. We are merely taking forward the ideas and thoughts of many others who will all be a part of this River Regeneration Masterplan. Thames Water will, of course, be a key player.

Thamesbank's initial general strategic response to the Thames Water's Thames Tideway Tunnel.

  • Reasonable and realistic alternatives must be considered, that include technically viable sites, alternative policy options (such as the excellent improvement and cleaning up at Mogden) and doing less (so, a less severely impacting tunnel, which may avoid the need to dig in on some sites at all).
  • Building on brownfield sites must be paramount – cost and finances should not stop the most appropriate route, which is of major importance and will be used for maybe another 150 years. The River and its riverside land, again, is beyond price – alternative sites must be found.
  • The proposals of 'preferred ' sites often encroach unacceptably onto the foreshore, Metropolitan Open Land, open space, recreational land and the Blue Ribbon Network, both in its construction and operational stages. This cannot be justified where alternative access arrangements exist or alternative sites can be found.
  • Serious consideration needs to be given to protecting London's water spaces in the construction, design and route of the proposal. It is a project of strategic importance that will form part of the framework for planning and development decisions along the river Thames and its tributaries for decades to come. The proposal's impact on this wider context must be taken into account.
  • Local environmental impacts from construction of the proposal are in places unacceptable and cannot be justified.
  • There are many reasonable alternatives that must be considered alongside the proposals, including a less extensive sewage tunnel and alternative sewage control improvements, such as upgrading existing treatment facilities. Alternatives considered should be broad in scope and real, rather than detailed variations on the same theme.
  • The environmental information available at this stage of the proposals is seriously deficient; there needs to be an appropriate understanding of environmental impacts at the earliest stage and before decisions are taken which will determine aspects of the proposed solution. Construction impacts in particular are likely to last for many years, but do not seem to be properly set out or understood. This is potentially unlawful.
  • A team of appropriate independent experts for barge towage and movements needs to be brought in now to ensure maximum use of the river and minimum road haulage, and this should not be left to ad hoc opinions of less qualified people.
  • The consultation has been woefully inadequate, all the more so given the scale and impact of the proposal. The concerned public are a very large group of London citizens who have not been adequately engaged. It is vital that public participation is not only early, but is effective. This requires Thames Water to provide adequate information to the public before it progresses though stages of the application. The only way to do this is to improve the process at the outset.
  • The effect on local residents and local communities, families and children would benefit from a proper independent scientific social survey being carried out (Kings College?). Thames Water takes considerable weight on this matter for the reasoning of some sites being turned down. However the social impact on transient second homes (often empty for example or with no children or families) is not the same as on cohesive communities with many families and children who have lived all their lives near 'preferred sites'.

Quality of living is a factor of health impact assessment, which will be needed as part of the EIA. The stress on young families will be greater than on adults, who perhaps won't be there in the day or who have money and choice to move away especially during the intense development times.

Thamesbank will clarify any points and will be working on the sites in more detail. We look forward to working with Thames Water and others in this project, and also to our meeting with Thames Water to take some of these matters forward.

Dido Berkeley

Thamesbank director

14th January 2011

Contact[edit | edit source]

We can be reached anytime by email at: river@thamesbank.org.uk

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Created November 25, 2008 by Gary Evans
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