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Harnessing Nature's Wealth: The Thames Estuary's Blue and Green Goldmine

News / Investment

20th December 2023

In the wake of a revealing report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), it’s becoming increasingly clear that our blue and green spaces are not just scenic backdrops but pivotal assets in public health and economic vitality. The Thames Estuary, encompassing East London, South Essex, and North Kent, stands as a prime example of untapped potential in this regard. 

This sprawling Estuary, with its verdant landscapes and winding waterways, is more than just a geographic feature. It’s a lifeline for the c.650,000 Thames Estuary residents who are within a half-mile catchment of the Thames Estuary Path which is made up of parts of both, the Thames Path and the King Charles III England Coastal Path. These residents stand to gain significantly from the health and wellbeing opportunities these natural spaces provide. 

The ONS’s report, highlighting a decline in nature-linked health benefits since 2020 in the UK, sends a crucial message: reinvesting in natural spaces is imperative. The Thames Estuary, with its rich blue and green infrastructure, is an ideal starting point.  

The post-pandemic education in outdoor recreation visits has had a tangible impact, translating to an estimated £390 million in lost health benefits nationally. Yet, in regions like the Thames Estuary, there’s a silver lining. These spaces offer a broad canvas for initiatives that not only restore lost connections with nature but also propel socio-economic growth.  

Existing individual initiatives already help local enhancement of natural assets, but it is recognised that the most significant impact is achievable if those projects are joined up, aligned and create an ecosystem through a portfolio of projects. Like the Thames, they should not stop at a local authority boundaries. The Thames Estuary Growth Board’s ambition is to connect those existing projects and create new ones for the benefit of local communities, businesses and for our planet. 

The recent Biodiversity Net Gain regulation presents a unique opportunity in this context. By incentivizing developments that positively impact biodiversity, it opens doors for commercialisation that aligns with environmental enhancement. Projects that weave together the Estuary’s natural beauty with accessible, sustainable development will set a precedent for nationwide urban planning. 

Embracing these blue and green spaces is not just about conservation and restoration—it’s about recognizing their role in mental and physical well-being. As Dom Higgins from The Wildlife Trusts articulates, the relationship with nature is deeply rooted in our psyche, essential for combating modern stresses. He highlights that “There are also structural barriers, such as access to public transport, as well as social inequity, which means that some people from ethnic minority groups, for example, are less likely to access nature.” This finding of the report makes it even more important to focus on our natural assets in a way that is fair and creates access and to these assets for everyone. 

The Thames Estuary’s potential is immense. From boosting mental health to creating new revenue streams through nature-based projects, it represents a convergence of ecological richness and economic opportunity. The key lies in collaborative, innovative approaches that prioritize accessibility and sustainability. As the UK, and indeed the world, grapples with the aftermath of the pandemic and the ongoing challenges of climate change, initiatives like this are not just beneficial—they are essential. 

As we stand at the crossroads of environmental revitalization and economic innovation, your voice and involvement are crucial. If you share our vision of transforming the Thames Estuary into a thriving hub of blue and green assets, we invite you to be a part of this ground-breaking journey.

Our Portfolio Director Gyula Torzsok is at the forefront of this initiative, actively collaborating with key organizations dedicated to this cause.

Be part of this journey and contact Gyula for more details. (gyula.torzsok@thamesestuary.org.uk) 

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