Bexley kickstarts Tidal Thames Masterplan
Bexley is the first subject of a borough-by-borough analysis by the Port of London Authority (PLA), highlighting strategic opportunities to increase use of the tidal Thames for communities, businesses and recreation, and enhance its natural environment.
Supporting the PLA’s delivery of the Thames Vision 2050, the Tidal Thames Masterplan will detail the potential to boost trade, travel, sport and the environment along the 95-mile course of the river, between Teddington in west London and the North Sea.
Following a six-week public consultation it launched in July 2023, the PLA has today (6 December) unveiled the first instalment of the Tidal Thames Masterplan, covering the outer-London borough of Bexley.
Among the opportunities identified is the introduction of Bexley's first River Bus station, connecting the borough with central London.
Spanning the Thames-side towns of Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green, the borough’s large river front includes seven safeguarded wharves, used for the annual transportation of around two million tonnes of cargo on the river. This is a number set to be increased through the re-activation of vacant and under-used wharves such as Standard Wharf, Erith, which recently received planning permission to restart the transportation of construction materials and other cargos.
Housing growth in the borough is set to increase Bexley’s population from 246,500 in 2021 to approximately 267,800 by 2041. At least 10,800 jobs are also expected to be created locally over this period. If adequate infrastructure is provided, the Bexley Growth Strategy (2017) indicates that a further 10,000 homes and 6,700 jobs could be added by 2050.
Key areas of focus identified in the PLA's first Masterplan are:
- Maximising use of the borough’s safeguarded wharves, including at Middleton Jetty in Belvedere, which forms part of Cory’s Decarbonisation Project.
- Erith Town Centre, home to the longest pier in greater London, which has the potential to become the borough’s first river bus station.
- Promotion of existing riverside sporting facilities, such as Erith Yacht Club and Erith Rowing Club.
- Highlighting the importance of the Tidal Thames and its local tributaries and other water courses, such as the River Darent and Dartford Creek, along with Erith & Crayford Marshes, which all provide valuable habitats for wildlife.
The potential for environmental improvements, such as living walls, litter reduction and saltmarsh restoration is outlined in the Masterplan too. Such initiatives are potential beneficiaries of the Biodiversity Net Gain scheme, to be introduced by the Environment Bill 2021 which comes into force next year. This requires developers to boost the local environment when planning construction works.
Investment to tackle the risk of flooding in the borough, associated with rising sea levels, is also highlighted. The Environment Agency’s Thames Estuary 2100 plan sets out how organisations and communities can work together to manage this.
James Trimmer, PLA Planning & Development Director, explained:
“Aligned with the Thames Vision’s three central themes – Trading Thames, Destination Thames and Natural Thames – we’ve collated the feedback we received during the Bexley consultation to document the scope for maximising the economic, environmental and social potential of the river locally.
“As we expand the process to other boroughs, the Tidal Thames Masterplan, will become an essential guide for investment across all the 22 local authority areas along the river’s banks.”
The Leader of the London Borough of Bexley, Cllr Baroness O’Neill of Bexley, said:
“The publication of the draft Tidal Thames Masterplan is a really positive and welcome contribution to how we look at the future improvement and management of the Thames in our borough.
“We know the value of the waterfront and how much more could be done to utilise this important riverbank asset.
“The option of Bexley’s first River Bus station and the potential use of the existing facilities is brilliant news for the borough.”
Richard Wilkinson, who is leading Cory’s development of a second energy-from-waste plant at Belvedere, said:
“For a river-based business such as Cory, the Tidal Thames Masterplan for Bexley is an incredibly useful resource, with lots of relevant information and signposting.
“As the Tidal Thames Masterplan is developed, it has great potential to demonstrate the strength and breadth of the tidal River Thames, how it is used now and opportunities for the future.
“We are particularly interested in how the masterplan will build on the current data to show river connections between sites and show how river access points, including safeguarded wharves, relate to the strategic road and rail network, particularly where there are likely to be opportunities to develop intermodal freight transfers.”
Later this month, the PLA is due to launch an eight-week public consultation to inform its further development of the Tidal Thames Masterplan, covering the boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets in east London.