Thames Vision Progress Review 2016-2020
We first started consulting on the long-term Vision for the tidal Thames in spring 2015. The resulting Thames Vison 2035 was published in summer 2016. Since then we have seen marked progress in many areas of river use. It has also been a time of change for the UK and the world, with Brexit, an accelerating pace in the response to climate change and the shock of the COVID pandemic.
With the vaccine roll out and a ‘new normal’ now hopefully in sight, the time is right to pause, review progress and look again to ensure the Thames is ready to play a full role in the recovery and transition towards a vibrant Net Zero economy.
This publication is the first part of that endeavour: a review tracking progress over the last five years. It provides the starting point for consultation on a new Thames Vision 2050.
It is important to recall that the Vision was the first river-wide development framework. It was developed with stakeholders and took the broadest view of the river across trade, travel, sport, environment and culture.
There were elements where we at the PLA led, others where we worked closely with partners including terminal operators and vessel owners, the Greater London Authority, Transport for London, riparian boroughs, non-governmental organisations and latterly the newly-created Thames Estuary Growth Board.
Beyond the detail of the six goals, what impact has the Vision had? The biggest benefit has been turning people’s eyes to the river and getting the potential of the river ‘back on the map’. Five years on, use of the river features in the London Plan, mayoral strategies and borough planning guidance. The restrictions of last year mean that the practical benefits of the Vision in terms of river use were masked. Taking 2019 as a reference point though, we can see strong and continued progress across the port, inland freight and sports participation.
As a Trust Port we are uniquely placed to bring people together to debate and frame the river’s future. The strategic view we take means we have scope to invest in support of greater river use and improving amenity. Over the five years covered by this Progress Review, the PLA has invested more than £20 million acquiring and bringing safeguarded wharves back into use, and improving habitats in south Essex and north Kent, in partnership with the RSPB.
The tidal Thames in 2050 will be a very different place as we collectively work towards a safe and sustainable future shaped by new technologies, changing cities, emissions reduction and climate resilience.