River Thames Society
- Dr. Jake Piper (Department of Planning), project manager OISD:IAU
- Elizabeth Wilson (Department of Planning), OISD:IAU
- Professor John Glasson (Department of Planning), OISD:IAU
- total grant value: £35,000
- time duration: 13 months, April 2001 to May 2002
Aims and Approach:
The non-tidal River Thames, running from the Cotswolds to the outskirts of London, is a natural corridor offering tranquil landscapes, habitats for wildlife, and opportunities for messing about on the river, as well as its vital water supply and drainage functions. The river flows through valuable land which is important for both farming and for controlling floods but this land is under increasing development pressure and the consequences of climate change.
Many government and local government bodies are involved in the planning and management of the Thames (the Environment Agency, the local authorities at county and district or unitary levels). Other central government and regional bodies also have responsibilities for particular features, such as the Countryside Agency and the Thames Path National Trail. Until 2003 no forum brought these bodies together to act in the best interests of maintaining what is valued about the river.
In 2001-2 the River Thames Society, working with Oxford Brookes University, undertook a study of why a new approach is needed to conserve and maintain what is valued and enhance other areas in need of rehabilitation or improvements. Organisations with an interest in the river (local authorities, government agencies, interest and amenity groups, and commercial interests) were approached over the year for their views as a basis for the present initiative A workshop was held at Oxford Brookes and a conference was held by the River Thames Society in Henley on this topic; questionnaire surveys and a programme of interviews also contributed.
A Strategy document, consisting of an evaluation of options and recommendations for action was submitted to the client. this included a draft vision statement and draft strategic principles for the non-tidal Thames corridor. Proposals were made for a partnership and a secretariat which were adopted by the River Thames Society.
In line with the Strategy document recommendations, at completion of the project the River Thames Society proposed that, in order to meet the objectives and wishes of stakeholders, that a new body should be formed to act as a forum of partners interested in the river. The partnership should consist of all the counties and districts through which the Thames flows on its way to London, as well as central government and regional bodies with responsibilities for the river’s resources (including the Countryside Agency, English Heritage, and English Nature, plus the array of voluntary organisations with local interests for recreation (rowing, yachting, fishing, rambling) or for places (civic societies and amenity groups).
The River Thames Society proposed that Environment Agency, which has responsibilities for water quality, water resources, and boating on the Thames and which has already undertaken action for promoting the Thames and its stewardship, should spearhead this new Strategic Partnership.
The Society also proposed that the idea of a Regional Park should be explored, to cover the river and its immediate floodplain would raise awareness of this major feature of southern England and all its components: landscapes, great houses and parks, sports events and regattas, its historic towns and wildlife sites. A Park would have a structure which would enable it to seek funding from private and public sources for new enhancements such as better access, new footbridges, landscaping work and education and skills projects.
The Strategic Partnership plus the Park structure would provide a focus for activity and for information collection and dissemination for those with responsibilities for the river, and it would be a way of promoting better use of the amenities whilst preventing conflicts.
Working with the Thames Valley local authorities, the statutory agencies and the River Thames Society, the Environment Agency set up the River Thames Alliance in 2003, to take this initiative further,. the alliance was launched by the Hon. Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead, in Westminster Hall.
Report to client: River Thames Strategy: evaluation of options and recommendations for action
Piper, J.M. (2005 in press) Partnership and participation in planning and management of river corridors, Planning Practice and Research
Dr. Jake Piper
tel: +44 (0) 1865 483 422