The most famous flood barrier in the UK is the Thames Barrier, protecting London since 1974. London sits on a flood plain, and the Thames barrier is designed to protect the capital city from high tideas and storm surges coming from the North Sea. The Thames Barrier is one of hte largest movable barriers in the world, and is located East of Canary Wharf, the financial centre of London. The southern bank of is situated in New Charlton, near Greenwich, with the north bank situated in Silvertown in Newham. The barrier was built by Costain, and has a height of 20.1m and a length of 520m. The total cost to build was £534m.

When is the Thames Barrier closed?

The Environment Agency are responsible for the operation of the Thames Barrier. The barrier is closed when forecasts indicate high tides in the North Sea combined with high river flows at the Teddington Weir. There are three major factors for closing the barrier:

  1. the height of the estuary
  2. the height of the tidal surge
  3. the river flow entering the tidal Thames, measured as it passes over Teddinginton weir.

The limit for high river flows is 4.87m in central London. The barrier has been closed 183 up until October 2017. The barrier also has schedule closes, which can be found on the Thames Barrier website.

The barrier will remain closed until the water level downstream of the Thames Barrier has reduced to the same level as upstream.

How does the Thames Barrier work?

The barrier comprises of 10 steel gates, each weighing 3,300 tonnes. The closing of the barrier can take about 5 hours, as the steel gates are raised to a height of a 5-storey building. In normal conditions the barriers are housed in the riverbed floor, and then raised only when need. You can watch a video here on the barrier in operation.

Could London flood?

The Environment Agency has iconic landmarks such as The Houses of Parliament, City Hall and Canary Wharf as at risk flood areas. In addition, the vast Underground network and 3.3million homes are at risk. Key flood risk areas include, Fulham, Wandsworth, Barking, Newham and Southwark. There is also key infrastructure and utility, mostly managed by Thames Waters, which is at flood risk.

The UK government has released the Thames Estuary 2100 plan to manage the flood risks and protect Londoners from a rising tide. However, this may not be sufficient if climate change causes sea levels to continue to rise.

In fact, localised flooding in London is on the rise, especailly in boroughs of Kingston, Barnet, Waltham Forest.

Given the current rate of climate change, and severity of weather events, London is increasingly at risk of flooding.

Can I protect my house from flooding in London?

There are a range of flood contorl measures to consider to protect your home in London. We would recommend the following steps:

1. Check your flood risk using the Environment Agency website

2. Review the type of flood control products available

3. Speak to an expert about the range a measures available

Things to consider when protecting your home:

  • Can the property be flooded from backflow in the drainage system?
  • Can I located the inspection chamber or manhole where my soil pipe enters the main drainage system? If so, a drainage non return valve is required.
  • Can I install a flood barrier on my door? If so, you have the option of an aluminim flood barrier or a composite flood barrier.
  • Do you have any air bricks or vents around the outside of your property? If so, you may consider¬†air brick flood covers.
  • Do you have a basement? If so, you may consider a sump pump.

If you would like to speak to us further about protecting your home from flooding, please contact us on or 01484 505509.