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New riverside space designed to reconnect Londoners with the Thames given the green light in Tower Hamlets

A new section of park designed to help Londoners reconnect with the River Thames has been given the green light in Tower Hamlets.

As part of work to build the new super sewer in east London, King Edward Memorial Park (KEMP) will be extended by eight per cent - or 2600 square metres - with new areas allowing visitors to get closer to the River Thames.

On 6 January, Tower Hamlet’s Development Committee approved aspects of the design, which will include a sequence of riverside terraces descending towards the water, a new public square and areas of planting to encourage new habitats and increase biodiversity.

Annie Lennox, Architecture and Landscape Lead for the east section of the Tideway project, said: “In gaining planning approval, the team has passed a crucial milestone and we now look forward to building a scheme that genuinely reconnects London with the River Thames.”

The new piece of land at King Edward Memorial Park sits atop of the massive below-ground structures that are being built to help stop sewage overflowing into the River Thames from the Victorian sewers. 

King Edward Memorial Park is the location of one of the most polluting sewer overflows into the river in London, which currently overflows the equivalent of more than 300 Olympic sized swimming pools into the Thames each year.

Bob Bennett, the Tideway Project Manager for Tower Hamlets Council, said: "The Council has been working closely with Tideway for the last couple of years to achieve the best possible design for the park extension. In granting permission, the Council is satisfied that design will both respect and complement the historic heritage of the park, and provide real benefits to the local community."

The engineering works at King Edward Memorial Park divert the sewage into the new super sewer tunnel as it passes 60m below, via a shaft some 20m in diameter, which on completion will be located beneath the new extension to the park.

The tunnel will then carry the sewage to Abbey Mills Pumping Station in Newham, and on via the Lee Tunnel to the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works to be treated before being returned to the river.

The east section of the project is being built by a joint venture of Costain Vinci and Bachy Soletanche, with the new area designed by architects Weston Williamson + Partners. The area will also include a trail of artworks by renowned artist Hew Locke.

Construction of the super sewer, from west to east London, will leave behind seven new areas of land along the Thames. Work is due to be completed in 2025.

Aerial shot of King Edward Memorial Park, December 2021