Thames Gateway





London, Essex, Kent

Conflict cases

Barking Riverside

Lower Thames Crossing


MAP_Thames_GatewayThames Gateway stretches some 70 kilometres along the Thames Estuary from Isle of Dogs and London Docklands, near the centre of London, to Southend in Essex (north) and Sheerness in Kent (south). It cuts across the boundaries of 18 local government areas. The Thames Gateway region was established under National Regional Planning Policy Guidance as a regional framework for development of housing and economic activities. It is intended to accommodate much of the development pressures in the relatively congested south eastern region of the UK. It is therefore the principal development ‘hot spot’ in the UK. An average of more than 6,000 new homes have been built annually since 2000, mainly on brownfield land that was previously dominated by derelict industrial and commercial land.

In environmental terms, Thames Gateway covers part of the tidal Thames. About 1.45 million people live in the Thames Gateway, occupying about 111,247 ha of mainly low-lying floodplains. The majority of these are heavily protected against tidal and river floods, although the defences vary across the region. The coast is largely characterised by shallow water abutting low-lying and flat land above mean high water. It has been significantly modified over time by human activities, which have modified sediment budget through flood and coastal defence works, controlled river drainage/flows and dredged the main river channel. The development of sea defences has led to a steady reduction in the area of mudflat and saltmarsh in Thames Gateway.

There are intense debates as to the future of sea defences, including the need to build a new Thames barrier in anticipation of rising sea levels. These popular and policy debates are particularly acute as a large proportion of housing land is built on flood plains. At the same time, the region is under pressure to accommodate new public and private sector investments, population growth, inward migration, and increasingly long distance commuting.