Agenda item


Purpose of the report: Scrutiny of policy


The report supports a verbal presentation to the Committee on the River Thames Scheme from the Environment Agency. It provides an overview of the scheme as the basis for discussion.



Declarations of interest: None.




Jason Russell, Assistant Director for Highways

Lesley Harding, Sustainability Group Manager

David Murphy, Programme Manager, Environment Agency


Key points raised during the discussion:


1.    The report was briefly introduced by the Sustainability Group Manager who explained that a report on water issues was presented to the Committee in the autumn of 2013. The report on the River Thames Scheme included a general overview of the scheme, engineering measures in place, governance arrangements and costs associated with the scheme.


2.    A presentation was given to the Committee by David Murphy, Programme Manager for the Environment Agency. The Programme Manager explained the key locations affected by the flooding, focusing on households and the impacts on the local economy and infrastructure. The key features along with the cost of the scheme were explained in detail. The whole life cost of the scheme would total £538 million with the Government setting aside 53% of funds for this project. Work was being done with consultants to look at possible funding streams for this scheme. The scheme would be delivered in two phases with phase one having already begun.


3.    It was explained that the scheme was a working partnership between the EA, Surrey County Council and the other local authorities in the lower Thames area. Governance arrangements had been put in place with officers from SCC sitting on both the Sponsoring Group and Programme Board.


4.    Members queried why there was no relief channel planned for Egham and Staines. Officers responded that this was not possible because it would require the demolition of a large number of homes; however the other relief channels included in the scheme would reduce the overall water level and provide protection for Egham and Staines.       


5.    It was explained that phase one of the scheme would start at Molesey weir as the EA already had work underway there.


6.    Concerns were raised around the impact of the Jubilee River on flooding in the area. The Programme Manager for the EA explained that the Jubilee River had done what it was required to do and protected over 3000 homes during the floods. Significant modeling work had been done for flood diversions on the river. Three independent reports concluded that there was no significant impact on flooding due to the Jubilee River.             


7.    A Member of the Committee asked whether dredging would be included as part of the scheme. The Programme Manager for the Environment Agency explained that the EA did not have an obligation to carry out dredging on the river. It was further explained that dredging might be counterproductive as that part of the river Thames is a self-scouring river with a well- established bed which would probably be damaged by dredging with unclear results. The benefit of making the river deeper would not be great and would not be economically justifiable to carry out. It was also stated that locks and weirs were more effective means of controlling water levels.


8.    Members of the Committee raised concerns around funding for the project and asked whether the Government could be approached again to make a greater contribution. It was explained that one avenue was to look for funding from partners but there would also be another opportunity to ask government for funding. The Cabinet Member for Transport, Highways and Environment explained that the Leader of the Council had written a letter to David Cameron explaining the necessity of the scheme and the economic impact flooding had on Surrey and its residents.


9.    It was explained that possible funding streams included the Local Growth Fund and approaching Europe through MEPs for funding.


10.  A Member of the Committee asked for a cost and benefit analysis of each phase of the scheme. It was explained by the Programme Manager for the Environment Agency that most of the benefit derived from full completion of the scheme and the construction of channels. However the completed scheme would have a benefit/cost ratio of approximately 6.4:1.


11.  Members of the Committee asked whether there was any value to carrying out a public enquiry before the work on the scheme started. The Programme Manager for the Environment Agency explained that discussions around this would be raised at the project board meetings. The current approach would be to contact town and county planning authorities to generate consensus for the scheme.


12.  A Member of the Committee asked if it would be possible to include the River Thames Alliance in the governance arrangements for the scheme. Officers agreed to consider this outside of the meeting.     




That the Committee supports the need for central government to review current funding arrangements and recognise the national significance.


Actions/further information to be provided:


For the presentation on the River Thames Scheme to be sent to Members of the Committee.


Committee Next Steps: None.


Supporting documents: