Highways England has announced its recommendation for a crossing east of Gravesend for the Lower Thames Crossing. A consultation is set to start today (26th January), with Highways England believing the Gravesend crossing, or “Option C” provides “double the economic benefit” compared to an additional crossing at Dartford.
The proposed option would see a bored tunnel built to the east of Chalk which is east of Gravesend, with a new road being built from junction 1 of the M2. It would join the M25 between junctions 29 and 30.
We recently (Jan 12) set out our policy on options for a new Lower Thames Crossing, in which we called for a wider, more resilient solution, including investment in ports north of the Thames to disperse the cross channel movement of freight.
We have also highlighted the effects of option C on Gravesham. We fear this will destroy ancient woodland, destroy important wildlife habitats which are home to protected species and destroy productive farmland, needed to feed our growing population. It will ruin the beautiful landscapes and panoramic views which make Gravesham so special. And it would have a devastating impact on Shorne Country Park, one of the area’s most important educational, environmental and recreational assets, used by so many people, including horse riders, walkers, cyclists, runners and families or those who just seek the tranquillity and peace so vital to our busy lives.
The crossing itself would not cause all the damage. It is the approach road and the new transport corridor it would create that would be so environmentally damaging. Option C could mean the loss of all the open land between Gravesham and Medway changing the character of Gravesham for ever.
We strongly believe that any new crossing will not solve the congestion problem because it has been proven that building new roads leads to increased traffic. We are calling for a sustainable transport strategy.
A major justification of the need for a new crossing is the volume of road freight traffic – up 80% in the last 20 years to over 3.7 million trucks per year travelling through the M20 ‘Channel corridor’ in Kent along the foot of the Kent Downs AONB. Continued growth at this rate would lead to further congestion and wasted expenditure on additional road infrastructure. Overdependence on the ostensibly low-cost fast channel crossing at Dover by sea and Folkestone by tunnel led to Operation Stack in place for 32 days in the summer of 2015, at an estimated cost of £750,000 a day to the haulage industry and £250 million a day to UK industry.
We need a better solution, including investment in ports north of the Thames to disperse the cross channel movement of freight. What is not sensible is for the residents of Dartford to campaign for the Gravesham crossing or vice versa – both communities need to be protected from the environmental burden of a huge new bridge which would not solve the problem it set out to.
For our policy statement click here.
For details of the consultation click here.
January 26th 2016.