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Green blueprint

Flood protection - Thames Gateway

Sutcliffe Park in south-east London could become the blueprint for the Thames Gateway green grid.

Here the Environment Agency has transformed a flat, featureless park into a rolling environment of streams, boardwalks and viewing platforms, as well as incorporating a host of new habitats for local wildlife. It also provides a greater level of flood protection, by allowing water to pond in low areas. In theory, this should provide enough holding capacity to keep higher areas dry until the flood peak passes and water levels start to recede.

Sutcliffe Park's dual role will help to protect 600 homes and businesses and over 4,000 people living and working in the London boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham.

Central to the £3.8M scheme has been taking the River Quaggy out of culvert. The river has suffered considerable flooding over the years, caused primarily by development on its natural floodplain.

According to Environment Agency project manager Phil Stephens, the project is a prime example of how flood alleviation can contribute to the community as a whole - helping to regenerate an area at the same time as protecting residents from flooding.

'The main function of the park is flood defence, but a huge amount of thought has gone into its design, ensuring that it really does provide local people with a haven in which to get away from it all.'

Work at the park began in April 2003. The Environment Agency and consultant Halcrow designed the scheme, with contractor Alfred McAlpine responsible for construction. So far it has included restoring the river to its original 19th century position, and the construction of a flood retention area that can hold up to 85,000m 3, or 35 Olympic swimming pools worth, of floodwater.

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