Category Archives: Our Voice

Marine Aggregates

Catherine Quinn



The Crown Estate has recently published an assessment of the marine aggregate industry in the UK which is the largest in the World – “Marine Aggregates Capability and Portfolio 2016”. This industry is important to the UK economy as onshore aggregate supplies are becoming increasingly constrained and now meets around 25% of the demand in England and Wales.


A total of 1.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel was extracted from the Thames Estuary and neighbouring sea bed in the calendar year 2015. By contrast, London used three times as much, at 4.6 million tonnes, of marine aggregate in the year, which is only in second place in the UK to the South East at 6.2 million tonnes. 


The report has a graphical assessment of the industry in the Thames Estuary region.


The marine sand and gravel are being used for some key projects in the region. These include:

  • Transport Infrastructure such as Canary Wharf underground station, and London City Airport;
  • Commercial development and regeneration in Canary Wharf and Rochester;
  • Coastal and Flood defences – the Thames Barrier, and
  • Energy and Utilities – London Array Wind Farm


The Crown Estate owns the UK’s seabed and has contracted TEP member, Royal HaskoningDHV, as managing agents offshore. It has a commitment to being a responsible landlord, which includes minimising the impact that marine aggregate dredging has on the natural environment, helping local communities and preserving archaeological finds. One initiative during 2016 was to focus on project level delivery of Sandscaping with Royal HaskoningDHV and other partners.


The report states that Sandscaping is inherently green infrastructure. “It makes use of natural mineral resources and coastal processes and can be designed to enhance the ecological value of an area by creating habitat.” PLA commented that the sandbank network in the Thames Estuary means there is already a natural equivalent in place. It has potential use eastwards from Southend.



PDF copies of the report are available on The Crown Estate website:


Further information about marine aggregates can also be found on the Marine Aggregates information Centre website:

Going Dutch

Peter Yates


So – quiz question for you: when was the last time this country was successfully invaded? Don’t know? Answer: 1667. By whom? The Dutch.



Fully armed warships from Holland sailed up the Thames, into the Medway, and along to Chatham dockyard where they set fire to and sank several mothballed English warships capturing and towing away a couple of navy vessels into the bargain – HMS Unity and, the flagship of the English fleet, HMS Royal Charles. A tad humiliating to say the least and it precipitated the end of the second Anglo-Dutch war via a peace treaty that gave very favourable terms to our neighbours from The Low Countries.


2017, then, will be the 350th anniversary of this momentous incident – one, perhaps, we wouldn’t want to be reminded of…? Not a bit of it. June 8th – 18th will see a high profile event on the Medway and in the Chatham dockyard with Royalty participating, modern warships on view, exhibitions, activities and a spectacular firework display – Medway in Flames.


Will the Dutch be welcome? Of course – but they will be asked to leave their cutlasses at the door.



Further info @:

Wind Power

Peter Yates



There aren’t many more exhilarating sights than a Tall Ship, fully rigged, sailing majestically down the Thames. So what about 35 of them creating a striking and stately flotilla?


Yes, the Tall Ships Race is back and the precursor, at the Greenwich Yacht Club, is the Tall Ships Regatta when on the 16th April Thames-siders can view the majestic Parade of Sail at approx.1700


This highly anticipated event will offer a priceless opportunity for visitors to step aboard many beautiful tall ships from across the world before they depart on the first leg of the race to Portugal, prior to crossing the Atlantic to Bermuda.


But what about the Bermuda Triangle? – I hear you ask. Believe me, if you can sail one of these beauties you can take on anything! Come and find out on April 16th.



Further info @:

Cleaner Air

Peter Yates


With the central London Low Emissions Zone now well-established – targeting diesel engines in particular (and not wood-burners after all, apparently) and the advent of Heathrow’s third runway causing major air-pollution concerns, one might well be excused for thinking that ships on the Thames had slipped under the radar, so to speak.


That has now changed. The Port of London Authority is to offer a discount on port charges for vessels with lower emissions that meet an Environmental Shipping Index (ESI) score of 30, or above. That is good news for those Thames-side dwellers increasingly worried about the quality of London’s air and demonstrates that the PLA is taking its environmental responsibilities very seriously.


This new initiative sees the Authority keen to recognise those ship owners committed to improving their environmental performance as well as showing that the port’s environmental impact is high on the agenda. And that’s a breath of fresh air for all those hoping for a greener London.


Further info @:

Surface Water Flooding – CIWEM Policy Recommendations.

Stephen Bradley


Surface water flooding in Birmingham

Due to changes in weather patterns and increased urbanization, surface water flooding is a growing threat across England to businesses, infrastructure and people. CIWEM, the Chartered Institute of Water Engineering and Management, has published new evidence on the growing threat of surface water flooding and the quality of sustainable drainage in England.

The report makes policy recommendations to simplify approaches to natural flood resilience through sustainable drainage and make its uptake and upkeep more affordable, in relation to the major drive to construct new housing spurred by the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

Noting that 1 in 6 homes in England are at risk of flooding, the report warns we must take care not to increase risk by building without sustainable drainage solutions.

Based on evidence from a major independent survey, it shows if properly planned, Sustainable Drainage Solutions (SuDS) can not only address surface water flood risk but quickly, affordably and holistically enhance local water balance, pollution control, wildlife support and community open space.

The survey report shows that reasons for inadequate take-up of SuDS are “political and institutional rather than technical or financial”. As a consequence many developments are missing out on these benefits and planning authorities lack the capacity to adequately judge the merits of applications in respect to sustainable drainage. It urges the government, through its pending review of law and policy on drainage in new developments, to systematically address the scale and extent of SuDS implementation and monitoring.


Full report available here

Source: Grant, L., Chisholm, A., and Benwell, R. 2017. A Place for SuDS? Chartered Institute of Water Engineering and Management, London.


The Rose Theatre – survivor of 400 years – is set to rise from the Thames

Hilaire Gomer


The 1592-built Rose Playhouse, residing at 56 Park St, Thames Bankside is close by its sister theatre, The Globe.

But don’t expect a round building lit from the skies with a pit for groundlings, when you visit, for The Rose is subterranean, in the basement of an office block. It’s dark, low, cavernous shape is atmospheric, an archaeological site of water, brick and stone, barely describable as a building – yet.

Perched beside the theatre’s as yet unexcavated portion, there in the semi-darkness, by a shallow pond of rain water, is an ‘intimate’ make-shift stage with 50 seats. Here plays like Shakespeare’s Henry VI part 1, Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet, are produced. These dramas are shortened to just 90 minutes long because the tiny theatre has no lavatories and no heating – yet.

Suzanne performing at The Rose

The Rose site was first excavated by Museum of London archaeologists in 1988 when a 1950’s office block was demolished. The Rose was partially revealed in the foundations and it inspired The Save the Rose campaign, notably headed by actor Sir Ian McKellen, to prevent further damage to the site.

Today, the Rose Revealed project needs to raise £8 million to complete the archaeological dig and to conserve the theatre which will provide a cultural centre with drama and learning resources.

What is so special about The Rose is that it will involve a rebuild/refurbishment of what remains of the original structure, rather than a new build, as with The Globe.

The Rose has a good fairy in Suzanne Marie Taylor, its honorary artistic associate, who has given 16 years as a volunteer promoting the theatre.

She says, “The Rose was the first theatre to be built by the Thames in 1592 – pulled down in 1605. It was built on over the centuries, the last development was office block Rose Court, which houses the Rose in its basement.

Says Suzanne Marie: “We need lots of funding. There is so much we can achieve with The Rose’s special status as an archaeological and cultural centre by the Thames.”


For more on the Rose Theatre: visitor times, donating and volunteering:

There is a short film about the Rose on The Londonist,

Livett’s – the Thames has a strong supporter in this long established enterprise

Hilaire Gomer


Chris Livett, CEO of the thriving, eponymous Thames boat and marine business, dating from the 1700’s, likes his name to be pronounced with the accent on the last syllable – Livett. He says it doesn’t happen enough.


Perhaps it’s because he can live with his name pronounced with a clipped second syllable that he has a fairly calm, relaxed approach to a non stop-life. Given his and his wife Belinda’s extensive on and off shore interests, running a staff of 70 at Butler’s Wharf, just east of Tower Bridge, he certainly gives the impression Livett’s keeps things shipshape.


Chris’s son Edward and sister Charlotte are the sixth generation to be members of the Company of Watermen. Impressive. The family own pleasure cruisers moored at Butler’s Wharf. They also run a fleet of tugs and barges. They are civil engineers and movers of waste, aggregate, structures and cargo. Livett’s have a contract with Tideway, builder of London’s new sewer running from Acton to Beckton, to shift spoil from the tunnel excavations. “Our barges will be moving 3,500 tons of spoil up the estuary a day. That’s a lot,” Chris says with a grin.


Edward handles projects and the well-established marine filming – the glamorous side of the business. He says it would be hard to beat the interest and variety of the job. Bond movies with scenes on the Thames are synonymous with Livett’s. Edward has recently sorted filming an episode of East Enders, with a new film about Paddington Bear soon, along with the latest film of the Transformers.


Chis Livett is a renaissance man of the water, you might say the Thames runs in his veins. His dad gave him a boat to skipper on the Thames aged 14, he has been a merchant seamen, he can captain all Livett’s different vessels. He has been a proud Waterman to H M the Queen since 2001.


Chris Livett


He is keen that the Thames thrives and keeps up with a harsh commercial world. He hopes that soon there might be a new shipbuilding centre on the Thames, situated at Albert Island, because having his vessels serviced quickly is becoming a problem.


He says, “Every shipyard on the estuary is oversubscribed – Turks at Chatham, Thamescraft Dry Docking at Greenwich, Denton Slipway at Gravesend.”


He is concerned about access to the Thames becoming more restricted because of development along its banks. He says it’s a pity that the river has been developed piecemeal with no overall plan: “We need to be sure we protect aspects, so we don’t lose the character of the Thames. So many of these new developments: Rotherhithe, Surrey Quays – heading down to Deptford, so many have no soul, empty, just new build flats.”


For the benefit of all, Chris Livett wants the Thames and its estuary to be a vibrant, busy place: “We had some visitors from the Kiel Canal the other day, showing them the Thames and they commented, goodness, in Germany this would be full of water sports, boats of every kind – so much more would be happening.”



More information about the Livett’s can be found here.

Interview with engineer Mark Thurston, CH2M

Mark Thurston


Mark Thurston, regional managing director for Europe at engineering firm CH2M, has played a key role in many of London’s boldest infrastructure projects.

He joined the Denver, Colorado-based firm in 2008 to prepare the site for the London Olympics and later spent three years working on Crossrail.

Prior to joining CH2M, Thurston worked at Metronet, which was responsible for upgrading two-thirds of the London Underground. Indeed, the capital’s infrastructure has been a focus of his career right from the beginning. Born in South London, his first job was an apprenticeship with the London Underground network.

Today, Thurston’s remit has widened but London remains a key focus for his firm. CH2M are the programme manager for the Thames Tideway Tunnel scheme and delivery partner for the Thames Estuary Asset Management 2100 (TEAM 2100) flood defence programme, which will involve a major refit for the now 32-year-old Thames Barrier.

Below, Thurston talks to TEP about next steps for Tideway, project aims for TEAM 2100 and how drones are helping to safeguard the estuary’s future

What’s the current status of the Tideway Tunnel project?
The Thames Tideway is in the mobilization phase. We’ve split the tunnel up into three geographic areas and three separate contracts: east, west and central. Those contractors are appointed, they’ve agreed their costs and their schedule with the client, and they are now actively taking possession of sites around London where they are going to need to build shafts and sink tunnel-boring machines. So it’s an exciting time. After Crossrail, this is the next big infrastructure project for London.

What have been the main challenges of the Tideway project so far?
Getting the DCO – the statutory consent order – sanctioned was really the big-ticket item. That required an enormous amount of work consulting with all stakeholders. In many respects, the size of the order and the timing in which it got approved was unprecedented. Of course, when you get a consent order it comes with a number of conditions, so that’s what the contractors are going to have to wrestle with: issues around noise, issues around truck movements, issues around the spoil from tunnelling – most of that will go on to barges onto the river.

Some of the relief shafts for the tunnel are going in places along the river where you have some pretty affluent people living. Various famous people have made their voices felt on this issue. This tunnel is going to take millions of tonnes of sewage out of the Thames, so there is a greater good here.

What work is CH2M doing for the TEAM 2100 project?
This is a 10-year programme, the client is the Environment Agency, and we’ve been appointed to enhance and renew the assets on the estuary. The focus area starts on the western end of the estuary and goes right out to the mouth. The biggest asset in that area is the Thames Barrier. We have people there right now with the Environment Agency looking at areas like mechanical and electrical assets and the fire system. But right along that section on both the north and south shores, the Environment Agency owns a significant number of assets that are more than overdue some intervention. There are floodgates, mooring points, walkways and areas of habitat.

We’re using drones to survey the assets. Some of these places are very remote and are very hard to get to by foot. You can use the river but then you have issues of access. These drones allow us to fly right over the top to take photographs and video of the condition of the assets in a level of clarity that would otherwise be quite risky from a safety point of view.

Tideway awards funding for 2 year community archaeologist post at MOLA

Tideway has awarded Museum of London Archaeology  – MOLA – a two year grant to fund a full time community archaeologist for MOLA’s award-winning Thames Discovery Programme (TDP).

Tideway’s charities committee receives numerous funding requests, but MOLA has come up trumps. It hopes to build the cultural and heritage legacy of the TDP project and forge new connections with the community and the River Thames.

John Sage, corporate responsibility manager at Tideway, shared his insights (edited) on how archaeology is helping Tideway, one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects to liaise with the people of the area. The project, due to complete in 2023, is building the 16-mile ‘super sewer’ tunnel from Acton in west London, to Beckton in the Estuary) to provide a modern sewage system costing £4 billion.

John Sage said, “We need to engage with the public about the heritage of the Thames during the project and the Thames Discovery Programme’s work with communities fits very well with that. Also, MOLA knew Tideway well, as a result of its work .. on the archaeological aspects of our original planning application and now, as the project’s main provider of archaeological services – MOLA Headland Infrastructure. We knew that there was a natural ‘fit’ between us. Tideway’s support is effectively an investment that should allow TDP to develop further its capability to generate future funding through a strengthened educational service.

“Major infrastructure projects like ours need to talk to communities……so that we can be a “good neighbour”. However, our desire to engage is about much more than that – we want to leave a lasting legacy for London, to deliver benefits beyond simply constructing the tunnel.

“We select our community partnerships so that we can see a long-term benefit and can help to realise our vision of “reconnecting London with the River Thames.

“Our funding will allow the extension of its current volunteer programme to create a new group of under 18 volunteers and this will ensure that children who are interested in archaeological discovery and recording have an outlet to pursue that passion.

“Archaeology provides a tremendous combination of local, historical, educational and physical well being factors that work together to connect people to the river..

“We think it is important that the younger generations are educated about the rich history of the river so that, in addition to the skills they acquire through archaeological study, they also gain an appreciation of how the river has been at the heart of London life through the centuries.

“We have made more than 50 individual commitments to demonstrate our desire to leave a lasting legacy for London – under the themes of Environment, Health and Safety, Economy, People and Place.

“We also have a specific commitment to develop community investments in order to leave a Legacy, and our pan-London investment in the Thames Discovery Programme complements our local community investments very well.

“The Tideway partnerships, said John Sage, “Have led me to train as a leader of foreshore litter clean-ups, mentor London teenagers creating a community improvement programme in their local area, even learning paddle boarding. They say variety is the spice of life, and I certainly get that at Tideway!”

Meet London’s firefighters on the Thames

Meet London’s firefighters on the Thames

The London Fire Brigade has 103 stations – but only one of them is based on the river. Lambeth River Fire Station, located at Albert Embankment, is responsible for fire and rescue along 42 miles of the Thames, a route stretching from Hampton Court Palace to the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.

Compared to their land-based colleagues, the Lambeth River crew deal with a unique set of call outs. Incidents range from boat rescues to saving stranded animals and even pulling beach-goers out of the Thames mud. ‘We get some real interesting incidents,’ says David Hill, who took over as temporary station manager in April.

A recent situation highlights the skills and equipment the station brings to the river. A man went over the edge of a London bridge but caught his jacket on the railings as he fell. The material ripped but didn’t break entirely, leaving him dangling halfway to the water. Firefighters dropped down from the bridge to secure him and positioned a fireboat underneath to act as a lowering platform. ‘Other rescue services couldn’t pull off that operation,’ says Hill.

Thankfully, boat fires are a rare occurrence on the Thames today. But when they do take place, no one is better equipped to deal with them. You could describe the station’s two fireboats – named Fire Dart and Fire Flash – as the river’s heavy cavalry. They may not be as nimble as lifeboats, but they come equipped with hoses, breaking-in tools and other vital gear.

Work is currently underway to specify the next generation of fireboats for the Thames: the London Fire Brigade plans to replace the existing fleet with two new and enhanced vessels in 2017.

Visitors to the station receive a taste of its dramatic history. Just inside the entrance, a wall is covered with newspaper cuttings that recall the crew’s most famous rescues. Chief among them is the story of the Massey Shaw, a fireboat which made three trips to Dunkirk to evacuate British soldiers in 1940. That story will be among those retold and celebrated this year as the London Fire Brigade holds a series of events to mark its 150th anniversary.