2014 – Upgrading Dams in the Heart of London

Dr Andy Hughes, Tom Wanner and Ben Jones

Hampstead Heath is one of London’s most popular open spaces, situated just 6 kilometres north of Trafalgar Square. ‘The Heath’ covers over 300 hectares and contains open countryside, an abundance of wildlife, sporting facilities and two chains of ornamental and fresh water swimming lakes, which date back to the 18th Century. The Heath is covered by its own Act of Parliament, of 1871, which protects its historic and environmental importance for the City of London.
In 2011 it was assessed that failure of one or more of the earthfill dams, that retain the ornamental and swimming lakes, could cause failure of downstream dams and subsequent release of floodwaters into the London Borough of Camden and the London Underground, with the potential for a high loss of life. As a result a study was carried out to better understand the scale of the works required to upgrade the dams to prevent their failure, and the associated environmental, social and political impacts.

This paper will present the ideas formulated to safely pass the design floods for ten dams within this sensitive environment, which include the installation of new spillways and/or the raising of dam crests, whilst taking in to account the site constraints and the age of the dams, some of which are up to 300 years old. The risk assessment carried out to quantify the overall risk of the dam failures will also be discussed including the breach inundation flood modelling of central London.
The paper will focus on the engineering and environmental constraints of the project in relation to the highly urbanised area, and the challenges faced when trying to accommodate the needs of many government and high profile stakeholder bodies, and pieces of legislation, in one of the most politically sensitive parts of the country

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