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Time to Have Your Say on the Thames' Future

The Port of London Authority (PLA) is today (Wednesday, 25 March) calling on anyone with an interest in the tidal River Thames to get in touch as it embarks on a project to develop a Vision for the future of the 95 miles of river that runs from Teddington Lock through the heart of London to the North Sea.

The Thames is one of the world’s most famous rivers, enjoyed by many millions every year as they work on it, travel on it, row on it or simply walk along the river banks. Less well known is the vital role the river plays handling cargo. It is home to the UK’s second biggest port, keeping London and the south east supplied with food, fuel and life’s essentials. And as the busiest inland waterway in the country, it keeps over five million tonnes of freight (more than 250,000 lorry loads) a year off congested roads.

Now the PLA has launched a ‘call for evidence’, inviting anyone with an interest in the river to contribute as it embarks on a 12-month programme to develop a long-term Vision for the Thames. PLA chief executive, Robin Mortimer, explains:

“The Thames is one of the UK’s greatest natural assets. It plays a vital role in everyone’s lives, much of it unseen. We’re confident that we’re sitting on untapped potential here – for trade, travel, leisure and sport. Working with stakeholders will enable us to develop a Vision for the Thames for the next 20 years.

“That’s why the first stage – today’s call for evidence – is so important. Over the next six weeks we want to hear from anyone who has an interest in the Thames as we start to shape a plan that makes the most of all the river’s attributes, as a trade hub, a low-carbon super highway, a natural ‘outdoor gym’ and a haven for wildlife.”

The initial evidence gathering phase of the project is set to last until Wednesday, 6 May. The feedback will shape the agenda for a series of public meetings that the PLA will run through May and June. People who want to contribute can complete an online feedback ‘Have Your Say’ form on the dedicated section of the PLA website: www.pla.co.uk/ThamesVision. The views gathered will be combined with a range of other data including an updated economic impact study, river amenity value study, river capacity study (commissioned jointly with Transport for London), economic growth forecasts and futures scoping work.

The move to develop the tidal Thames Vision has been welcomed by leading figures in the Thames and wider communities.

Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “The recent news that passenger numbers on the Thames have hit almost 10 million a year shows that our River Action Plan is working and demonstrates what can be achieved with a clear and shared vision for the future. This exciting new project, which will apply a similar approach to the whole of the tidal Thames, is an important step in boosting the profile of the river and looking beyond our current strategy. I look forward to contributing to this important piece of work and working with the PLA to implement its recommendations.”

Perry Glading chief operating officer of Forth Ports, which owns the Port of Tilbury: "As Tilbury approaches 130 years of cargo handling and passenger operations, I welcome this opportunity to shape a clear plan for the whole river. I’m really keen that we properly embed the concept of sustainability into the Vision, making the most of the river as a low-carbon route to get goods into and out of the city.”

Simon Moore, chief executive of DP World London Gateway, the first new build UK container port in over 30 years: “With careful consideration for the environment and those living alongside the Thames, we’ve developed the most modern container terminal in the world adjacent to Europe’s largest logistics park - a game-changing development for the UK, strategically located on the Thames, closer to the country’s key consumer markets. Since the Roman times, the river has been crucial to the prosperity of the UK. We welcome and support this PLA initiative to ensure the river continues to thrive, both as a habitat and as a waterway of key economic and social value.”

Martin Humphrys, chairman of the Thames Regional Rowing Council: “The Thames is a vibrant centre for rowing and other sports. Anything that brings more people to the river has to be good.”

RSPB chief executive, Mike Clarke: “We’re really looking forward to getting involved with the development of the Vision for the tidal Thames. The river is a vital haven for nature, alongside one of the UK’s busiest ports and waterways. We’re going to be looking to make sure that aspect is embedded and protected in the Vision, consistent with the principles of our Futurescapes programme.”

Gravesham Borough Council leader, councillor John Burden: “The river is a key part of the Gravesham economy. I encourage everyone to get involved now and help shape the agenda for the project.”

The PLA is a self-financing organisation, set-up by an Act of Parliament in 1909 to run the tidal River Thames in trust for future generations. Its 350-strong workforce oversees safe navigation, protects the marine environment and promotes the use of the river. The PLA has no shareholders and any financial surpluses are reinvested in stewardship of the river and improving the efficiency of PLA operations.

Robin Mortimer concluded: “We’re really lucky to look after the tidal Thames. At the end of the project, the Vision will: clarify the collective ambitions of stakeholders and the PLA; set out the opportunities and constraints; and inform the wider community and interested stakeholders about the river’s true potential and what the plans are for its long-term future. That all means that more people will enjoy and benefit from the tidal Thames.”

To kick off the project and prompt people’s thinking, the PLA has launched a short film in which seventeen people explain what the river means to them. It can be found at: https://youtu.be/rLDZRZLuuRQ


• The PLA oversees navigational safety and river operations on 95 miles of the tidal Thames from Teddington Lock, through the capital, and out to the sea.

• More information on the Thames Vision project can be found at: www.pla.co.uk/ThamesVision


Alistair Gale, Port of London Authority, Mob: 07711-440736