Disappointment at Thames crossing announcement

CPRE Kent has said it is disappointed at the Government’s decision to press ahead with a hugely damaging new Thames crossing east of Gravesend.

Artist's impression of the bored tunnels

Artist’s impression of the bored tunnels

“This will devastate the countryside and the environment and will not solve the terrible congestion problem at Dartford,” said CPRE Kent Director Hilary Newport.

“We have long argued that simply building new roads does not result in less traffic – in fact it often has the opposite effect.”

Dartford crossing, photo: Highways England

Dartford crossing, photo: Highways England

A CPRE report out only last month (Monday 20th March), following the largest ever independent review of completed road schemes in England, reveals that road-building is failing to provide the congestion relief and economic boost promised, while devastating the environment. (1)

We believe that spending up to £3 billion on a new crossing is the wrong answer. It has instead called for a wider, more resilient solution, including investment in ports north of the Thames to disperse the cross-channel movement of freight. We need a sustainable transport strategy.

The option for the new crossing chosen, two bored tunnels east of Gravesend, 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 will 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.

Shorne Woods, photo KCC

Shorne Woods, photo KCC

shorne-wood, Visit kent

Shorne Wood, photo Visit Kent

The crossing itself will not cause all the damage. It is the approach road and the new transport corridor it will create that will be so environmentally damaging. This option will mean the loss of all the open land between Gravesham and Medway changing the character of Gravesham for ever.

A major justification of the need for the 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. 60% of all UK freight travels on HGVs via the channel crossings: most of this is travelling to or from places north of the Thames, some of it even crosses at Dover to travel on to Scotland or even Ireland. Clearly this overdependence needs to be addressed. The huge volume of freight traffic also significantly affects air quality, particularly in Dartford and Dover.

We want other options considered – as well as diverting more freight to alternative ports, there should be more use of rail for freight, the use of smart technology to manage freight through our motorway networks, measures to promote cycling and walking for local journeys and better public transport.

Meanwhile, we continue to argue that any new housebuilding should be sited in sustainable locations, close to employment and services and with public transport links – this would also help regenerate our urban centres. Too many developments are being built in greenfield locations only accessible by car.

(1) http://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/transport/roads/item/4543-the-end-of-the-road-challenging-the-road-building-consensus

12th April 2017

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