The City of London has opened a consultation on plans to raise the height of the riverside embankment along the Thames to protect the City from sea level rises caused by Climate Change.

As we all know, the earth is warming, and while people can quibble over the reasons, there’s no denying that the planet is warmer today than it used to be in the past. One of the many side effects of a warmer climate is that sea levels rise, not just because melting ice from the Antarctic and Greenland will add to the volume of water, but because like all things, water expands as it gets warmer.

Hence sea levels will rise, and that has implications for all areas connected to the sea — such as London via the River Thames. Although the Thames Barrier can hold back high tides, to hold back a perpetually higher tide would be unsustainable, so river embankments need to be raised as well.

Within the City area, to meet the expected sea level in 2100, they will need to increase the embankment by up to a metre in places, although some sections are ready at the required height.

The City of London is looking at how it can achieve this, mainly by outlining a planning policy that will affect all future riverside developments, leaving the City government to fill in road gaps, such as along the Victoria Embankment.

What they are consulting on is how they can not just raise the height of the embankment, but also do so in a way that makes the embankment more appealing to people to walk along. After all, if all you want to do is raise the wall along the riverside by a metre, that’s comparatively easy to achieve, but does rather spoil the view.

The plan covers a timeframe for smaller upgrades along the riverside due to property developments until 2035, with major interventions along the rest of the river expected between 2035 and 2060, and the whole riverside embankment completed by 2065 — ahead of current projections for sea-level rise.

Ideally, humanity will find a way of slowing climate change, or maybe even stopping it, so that the River Thames never reaches such heights. And if so, the money spent on raising the embankment is not wasted as future Londoners still end up with a much more pleasant embankment to walk along.

The consultation is open until 16th August and can be found here. Feedback on the strategy can be sent to [email protected]


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  1. mark edwards says:

    it is forgotten that the Themes is tidal and that any barrier like what we have now is designed for storm surge will have to be permanently up to combat a permanently higher sea level so a bit pointless rising the embankment walls how far do you keep going a better solution would be a bigger barrier down stream near Dartford with locks to allow traffic to pass up stream. that would then turn from tidal to freshwater the excess which is not pumped out as fresh water for London (after treatment) would have to be pumped passed the barrier .

    • ianVisits says:

      I doubt anyone involved in flood defence design along the Thames has forgotten that the Thames is tidal.

    • Peter says:

      As Ian says it’s very unlikely anyone’s forgotten that the Thames is tidal. A successor to the Thames Barrier is indeed needed, but that almost certainly would still require this work to be done as it’s likely any TB successor would function similarly, and be used to control levels in the case of storm surge, heavy rainfall etc, just larger and closer to the mouth of the Thames, so higher embankments are needed for the higher high tides.

    • mark edwards says:

      the Afsluitdijk, in the Netherlands is a good example of what is needed not some half way measure

  2. Helmckie says:

    Once a time dredging all rivers in the UK help prevent flooding but due to EU laws & cut backs these were stopped its about time DREDGING WAS BROUGHT BACK AS A DEFENSIVE MESSURE the quicker the better

  3. JP says:

    At some point in the hopefully far far distant future, Mark Edwards permanent gate/wall and lock system would have to be built as sea level rise isn’t predicted to stop unfortunately.

    As a one-time houseboat dweller on the Thames, it was certainly noticeable when the barrier was shut ~ looking down on the cars on the embankment was a novelty and it did get close to overtopping a couple of times a year.

    The only logical conclusion is to do whatever we can now and onwards to slow and then stop sea-level rise. Not just for the lucky denizens of Chelsea Reach but more for the Tongans and Fijians.

  4. PZ says:

    An interesting article, but many hard facts have not been mentioned. The Thames is increasing in level by about 1 metre per 100 years. This increase is due to receding ice from the last ice age that ended about 20,000 years ago. Britain is now like a see-saw, with the northing half of our land mass rising, and the southern half sinking. Because we, in the south, are sinking, this makes water levels appear to rise. We are leaving an ice age, the Earth’s temperatures will be increasing for about another 30,000 years based on previous ice ages. As for slowing, or reversing climate change, not a hope!

    • ianVisits says:

      It’s an article that omits many facts because it’s an article, not a 60-page thesis.

      I, and almost every scientist, also disagrees with your summary that leaving an ice age will in of itself cause temperature rises, we are actually in what is known as an interglacial, and temperature rises/declines are caused by “something”, and at this moment in time, the bulk of that something is man-made.

  5. PZ says:

    I obviously don’t agree with you, but the “something” you mention is likwly to be sunspot activity.

    • ianVisits says:

      Sunspot activity has an 11-year cycle – if it were causing the sort of global warming we’re seeing at the moment, it would wax and wane in line with the solar cycle as well – and it doesn’t.

      This theory has been so widely disproved by scientists studying the issue that is amazes me that people still tout it as a reason for the planet getting warmer.

  6. Jim Ford says:

    Prior to the Thames Barrier being built concern about higher river levels resulted in a 9 to 12 inch high stone being added to the top of the riverside parapet. I recall piles of sandbags outside the Embankment and Temple Undersground stations and a lunch time walk to find the water level above the bottom of the stones which were removed after the barrier was built!
    I recall an insurance company asking if my property was within 90 feet of high tide level.

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