Spending cuts could challenge plans to restore London’s rivers

Posted: Tuesday 22nd February 2011

A target to restore sections of London’s rivers by 2015 could be a challenge to deliver because of public sector spending cuts, the London Assembly heard recently.

Mayor Boris Johnson has proposed to work with partner agencies to restore 15km of London’s rivers by freeing them from concrete structures and allowing natural processes such as seasonal flooding to occur. He aims to achieve this target, set out in the London Rivers Action Plan, by 2015.

However when asked about the 15km target at a meeting of the Assembly’s Environment Committee today, Peter Quarmby, Thames Flood Risk Manager at the Environment Agency, said this may be difficult in the current financial climate.

“I think that is probably going to be more of a challenge because a lot of organisations in the public sector - local authorities, ourselves - are being squeezed and so the ability to bring some of these forward and deliver all of those aspirations, I suspect, may be challenging,” he said.

He did however reassure the Committee that during the Environment Agency’s current restructuring, it intends to continue to support and resource the London Rivers Action Plan.

Chair of the Environment Committee, Darren Johnson AM, said: “The public sector is facing significant spending cuts and so priorities have to be juggled. However restoring rivers can bring long term benefits to London, in particular by protecting people’s homes and businesses from the risk of flooding.

“We hope that, even in the current financial climate, the Mayor and organisations such as the Environment Agency can find a way to deliver on the target to restore London’s rivers.”

The Committee is investigating surface water and river flooding in the capital; it is estimated that around 100,000 properties in London are at risk from river flooding and up to 680,000 at risk from surface water flooding. Information obtained during the investigation will form the basis of a report which is due to be published in spring 2011.

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