The major milestone for the flood alleviation scheme unlocks the first £60m of funding so that detailed design and planning work can begin.
The Environment Agency and Surrey County Council are leading the partnership which will deliver the project to reduce the flood risk for 11,000 homes and 1,600 businesses along the river.
Floods Minister Rebecca Pow said: “As a vital part of the government’s record investment in flood risk management schemes across the country, the River Thames Scheme will provide better protection for thousands of properties, including many which suffered the devastation of flooding in 2014.
“In addition to providing £285m in funding, by treating the scheme as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project we aim to streamline the planning and authorisation process and ensure that communities along the river can get the protection they need as quickly as possible.”
The scheme will see two new flood relief channels constructed at Runnymede and Spelthorne, together with capacity increases at Sunbury, Molesey and Teddington weirs and the Desborough Cut.
The scheme’s wider benefits will include new walking and cycle paths, parks and wildlife habitats.
Surrey County Council is supporting the scheme through the £270m Surrey Flood Alleviation Programme alongside other local authorities.
Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council, said: “This is great news for Surrey and its neighbours.
“The scheme means communities along the River Thames can look forward to a brighter future knowing that Surrey County Council, the Environment Agency, their partners and the project’s team of expert engineers are working hard to reduce the likelihood of their homes and businesses flooding.”
Detailed planning and design work is starting and a development consent order must be granted before full funding is approved and construction can begin.