Work on the Lower Thames Flood Relief Scheme, along the river between Datchet and Teddington, is due to start in 2019. The announcement on 2 December by Phillip Hammond, including an extra £60 million to help fund the work, may be met with mixed views in Weybridge.
The plans include digging three flood channels to relieve flooding upstream of Weybridge – with the third of these discharging its flood flow into the Thames right on our doorstep, opposite D’Oyly Carte Island and Desborough Island. To stop Weybridge being flooded by the excess water, the Environment Agency plans to widen the Desborough Channel, by cutting into the riverside next to the Thames Path (and, in some places, beneath the current path).
We do not know what the riverside and the Thames Path will look like when the work is finished, or how many months of closure it will involve. Local concerns over these plans have been shared at all the public consultations – where we were told that dredging the Desborough Channel to increase flow had been rejected because it would ‘disturb the habitat of bottom-feeding fish’, and would have to be repeated as the river silted up again.
PP&DRA is seeking detail of the latest plans.
You can view a policy paper outlining the proposed scheme here. The paper was updated on 11 November 2014. View a map of the proposed Lower Thames Flood Relief Scheme here.
Work on the downstream stretches will start first, with dredging around the weirs at Sunbury, Molesey and Teddington, presumably followed soon after by widening the Desborough Channel, before work starts on the upstream flood relief channels.
In theory, relief channels should extend the floodplain, help absorb peak flows and (up to a point) release them relatively slowly.
The Environment Agency has maintained that increased flooding in recent years between Datchet and Chertsey has not been caused by the Jubilee River. This is a seven mile long flood relief channel which starts at Maidenhead and discharges at Datchet, and has proved effective in helping reduce flooding in Maidenhead, Eton and Windsor.
Meanwhile, Datchet, along with its downstream neighbours Wraysbury, Egham, Staines and Chertsey, has suffered increased flooding. Perhaps this is just an unhappy coincidence.
Residents of these towns will understandably welcome new flood relief channels to divert floodwater and discharge it downstream (at Weybridge). “It’s fantastically good news, it means the scheme will now go ahead,” said Mr Hammond, announcing the extra funding.