MD2116 The Thames and London Waterways Forum

Type of decision: 
Mayoral decision
Date signed: 
09 May 2017
Decision by: 
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Executive summary

This Mayoral Decision sets out the proposed new arrangements for advising the Mayor on waterways by establishing a new group entitled the Thames and London Waterways Forum. 

Two existing groups, the Mayor’s River Concordat and London Waterways Commission, will be merged to centralise all river transport and waterways discussions and bring all key stakeholders together in one forum. 

The new group will support the relevant goals set out in the forthcoming Mayor’s Transport Strategy, London Plan and London Environment Strategy, as well as the Port of London Authority’s Thames Vision, which the Mayor supports.


The Mayor approves:

•    The establishment of a new Thames and London Waterways Forum to advise the Mayor on river transport and waterways issues
•    The replacement of the River Concordat and London Waterways Commission with this Forum 


Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

1.1.    The London Waterways Commission was established as a forum in 2006 to discuss and advise the Mayor on the wide range of waterways issues and to share good practice. The Waterways Commission also advised the Mayor on the implementation of planning policies for the Blue Ribbon Network of waterways in the capital (this includes rivers, canals and other bodies of water). Its members included the Canal and River Trust, Environment Agency, Port of London Authority (PLA), Transport for London (TfL), London Councils and various water amenity groups including River Thames Society and Inland Waterways Association. 

1.2.    In 2009 the then Mayor set up the River Concordat. The key objective of the Concordat was to unlock the potential of the Thames for passenger transport. Members included TfL, London boroughs, pier owners, boat operators and the PLA. 

1.3.    It is now proposed that the two groups should merge to centralise all river transport and waterways discussions and bring all key stakeholders together in one forum.  The new group will support the relevant goals set out in the forthcoming Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS), London Plan and London Environment Strategy (LES), as well as the Port of London Authority’s Thames Vision, which the Mayor supports.

Objectives and expected outcomes

2.1.    The objective of creating a new single group is to bring all waterways issues together to be considered by one integrated group. The new group will consider and coordinate future strategic issues and activities on the river and London’s waterways. It will bring together the key stakeholders to support and deliver the implementation of the MTS, LES and London Plan. Individual members will implement the proposals that are specific to them to achieve policy objectives.

2.2.    The new group will reflect the multifunctional nature of the waterways. In terms of transport, there will be a particular focus on the role the waterways can play in terms of supporting a reduction in road-based freight and how the River Thames can support a shift away from car use, growth (particularly in East London) and tourism. Beyond transport, work may address the recreational use/appreciation of the waterways (e.g. moorings, paths, cultural facilities/events) and its enhancement/protection (e.g. river restoration, appropriate development into/alongside, heritage, pollution).  

2.3.    The new group can help support and deliver key aspects of the PLA’s ‘Vision for the Thames 2035’ which outlines its long term priorities for the Thames. As custodians of the river, the PLA is keen to adopt a collaborative approach, working with TfL and the GLA to achieve key objectives in terms of increased use of the river. These include increasing passenger and freight transport on the Thames and promoting sustainable development and uses along the Thames.

2.4.    A three tier structure is proposed and would comprise:
•    A Steering Group. This senior-level group, chaired by the Deputy Mayor for Transport, would oversee progress and prioritise waterways issues for action. This group would meet twice a year and have up to 10 members including representatives from the GLA, TfL, PLA, the Canal and River Trust, the Environment Agency and London Councils. Further members which may include representatives from a freight operator, a boat operator and a waterways amenity group will be appointed by invitation from the chair.
•    Thematic sub-groups. Groups will initially cover a) passenger transport, b) freight transport and c) development, use and protection (covering strategic non-transport issues) would meet two to four times a year and oversee implementation of the activities agreed at the Steering Group. The Steering Group will determine the thematic sub-groups required, which may include additional groups on cross-cutting issues (such as river transport emissions) if required in future. The Steering Group will nominate members to attend each sub group.
•    An annual event for all relevant waterways stakeholders. At this interactive annual event, achievements would be shared and key issues discussed. It would also allow members to agree objectives to be taken forward. This would be a half day event with approximately 100-150 stakeholders.
2.5.    GLA and TfL with the assistance of the PLA will act as secretariat for the Thames and London Waterways Forum and the Deputy Mayor for Transport will chair the meetings. The secretariat meetings will plan the annual event and the steering group meetings.

Equality comments

3.1.    Under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (‘the Equality Act’), as a public authority, the Mayor must have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. Protected characteristics under the Equality Act are age, disability, gender re-assignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, and marriage or civil partnership status (the duty in respect of this last characteristic is to eliminate unlawful discrimination only).
3.2.    The new group will allow a platform to consider equalities issues as set out in the Equality Act and seek to remove barriers from those with protected characteristics, such as physical or hidden disabilities, older persons or those that are pregnant using the river for transport, recreation, cultural activities and sports. Many of the recommendations that are made by the forum will be subject to an equalities impact assessment at the point at which they are decided upon by the Mayor or other relevant decision making body. 
3.3.    When considering the needs of the existing community and those that will be directly affected by activity on the river Thames and London waterways, any resulting activity and development must minimise disadvantages to all protected characteristic groups within society.

Other considerations

a)    key risks and issues 

Risk: Potential concern by stakeholders about loss of two functioning groups
Mitigation: Combining the benefits of both groups and using a consistent, more effective structure 

Risk: Not all of the members of the two previous groups will be able to participate directly in the new arrangement
Mitigation: Ensuring that many members of both existing groups can participate, in particular in the new sub–groups, and ensuring that each sector and perspective that is strategically relevant is able to be engaged 

b)    links to Mayoral strategies and priorities
The Thames and London Waterways Forum will seek to support and deliver Mayoral commitments, policies and targets as set out in the following forthcoming strategies:

The London Plan 
•    The new London Plan will identify a range of strategic development related policies for the Thames and London’s waterways. Their multifunctional nature will be highlighted. Key themes will be river transport, the recreational use, enhancement and protection of London’s waterways. 

Mayor’s Transport Strategy
•    The Mayor’s Transport Strategy will set out an approach to increasing the use of the river for passenger and freight transport. It will also set out a strategic policy for new river crossings in east London.

London Environment Strategy
•    The London Environment Strategy will include a range of relevant environmental policies, including river restoration, air quality improvements and reduction of emissions from vessels on the Thames and London’s waterways.

c)    impact assessments and consultations.

The changes have been discussed in outline with members of both existing groups. Although it is understood that some members may be concerned that the new arrangement does not mirror the structure of the two existing groups, the new arrangement is intended to be better-aligned with current priorities, allowing members pursue strategic objectives more effectively. 

Once the arrangements are confirmed formal notification will be sent to all those that will be involved in the new arrangement.

Financial comments

5.1    There are no direct financial implications to the Greater London Authority arising from this decision. The new forum will support the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, London Plan and London Environment Strategy, as well as the Port of London Authority’s Thames Vision.


Planned delivery approach and next steps




May 2017

Delivery Start Date

May 2017


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