Urban Strategy for the River Thames


Greater London Authority


In many places along its length, the benefits of proximity to the river are under-exploited. The river has massive potential as a connector and source of pleasure. Our urban strategy puts forward a 'Pier Strategy' that identifies multiple opportunities to improve both visual and physical access to London's waterways. Individually, they change the nature, potential and quality of place in each location; collectively, they transform the relationship between the city and its waterways.

City Strategy

To understand the potential, it is important to grasp the potency blue and green infrastructure working together. These are powerful tools to shape places, and our strategy is aimed to channel this power to create beauty, civic richness and commercial opportunity. If properly designed and placed strategically to connect with existing infrastructure, desire-lines and areas of intensity, piers, jetties and promenades, while reaching out into the Thames can also be rooted in place, acting as a conductor, to channel the energy on which urban vitality and viability depends.
The strategy envisages a hierarchy of uses, berthing for international cruise terminals down to micro uses, facilitating the movement of water taxis, motorised ‘gondolas’ and private licenced vessels. Moreover, using a co-production model with the local community, structures will be designed to respond to the needs of place, for example fl oating markets, fi shing, the activation of tidal beaches and promenading. While stretching out into the water, the impact of these structures on land will be a ripple effect, generating opportunity and value for resident communities, the local business community and visitors to the area. 

A Hierarchy of Approaches

Pier opportunities range in scale, type and timeframe. A hierarchical appraoch to the strategy acknowledges the complexity in implementation at the city scale. Planning for long term change and at the same time delivering small scale interventions ensures a steady improvement in a variety of contexts, underpins the political dimension and gathers public confidence. 
  • People's Pier provides a model for local scale interventions into Public Realm and urban fabric that facilitate communities accessing the water. The piers would be strategically placed to exploit the existing urban context
  • Landmark piers perform a regenerative role creating a trigger for activity within a wider strategy area and could be co-ordinated with master-planned areas with river frontage/access. The pier would allow engagement with the water resulting a greater mix of uses on adjacent land 
  • Shop Window Pier exploits the commercial opportunity of water front locations and create destinations to coincide with shore side activity
  • Mirco Piers create a low-key implementation of meanwhile and temporary installations designed to delight and create interest as people access and get acquainted with the water.