The next round of public consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing begins on Wednesday, July 14, and runs for eight weeks until Wednesday, September 8. Highways England says: “This Community Impacts Consultation will give people the opportunity to review and comment on our plans to build and operate the Lower Thames Crossing, and how we propose to reduce our impact on the local community and environment. “Topics include changes to traffic, air quality, noise and vibration, as well as the impact of the new crossing on the environment and landscape. “The consultation will also include some changes made to the project since the previous consultation in 2020. This includes a reduction in the area needed to build and operate the scheme, a smaller impact on local properties and woodland, and new public spaces on both sides of the River Thames. “We have also summarised how the feedback provided during earlier consultations has been used in the development of the project.” CPRE Kent believes a new crossing is not an acceptable option. Speaking before a previous round of consultation on the project, Alex Hills, CPRE Kent’s Gravesham district chairman, said: “Cities in this country and around the world have become aware that, due to the dreadful Covid-19 disease, more needs to be done to boost active travel (walking and cycling). “This is partly to enable social distancing and partly to reduce air pollution. The Climate Change Committee has called for proposed spending on roads to be spent on measures that offer better value for money and at the same time reduce congestion and air pollution. “Increasing investment in active travel, sustainable transport and broadband all offer better value for money. The KenEx tramline (see here) could take up to 10 per cent of traffic using the Dartford crossing for £600 million as opposed to a new crossing costing at least £6.8 billion and increasing congestion.” Highways England plans to submit a new application for a Development Consent Order this year, starting an 18-month examination process. If it wins consent, HE aims to begin construction in 2024, with the new road opening in 2029 or 2030.
The consultation materials are due to be released at one minute past midnight on July 14; they will be available here
The future of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing was highlighted this week (Tuesday and Wednesday, June 29-30) when a legal challenge against the government’s roadbuilding programme was heard in the High Court. The challenge was brought by the Transport Action Network and targeted the Department for Transport’s £27.4 billion roadbuilding scheme (labelled Road Investment Strategy 2, or RIS2), saying it breached climate and air quality laws. TAN claims the government has failing to consider fully the Paris Agreement, which commits the UK to tackling climate change by limiting global warming to less than 2°C. Indeed, the group says the transport secretary pulled plans to cut CO2 emissions for a tranche of upgrades and new schemes. RIS2 includes 50 schemes, the largest of which is the £8.2bn Lower Thames Crossing. TAN said it expected the DfT to contest its challenge, saying commitments to climate change were not “obviously material” to roadbuilding schemes. However, Chris Todd, TAN director, said: “Trying to argue climate change isn’t ‘obviously material’ to approving the largest-ever roads programme is like saying public health is not relevant to reform of smoking rules. “In an audacious attempt to protect his addiction to asphalt, [Transport Secretary Grant ] Shapps is now seeking a legal precedent that decision-makers can ignore climate targets. “This puts ministers on a collision course with the Climate Change Committee, which [has] called on the government to adopt a Net Zero Test for all policy decisions.” Laura Blake, chairman of the Thames Crossing Action Group, said: “We know that the proposed Lower Thames Crossing would create over five million tonnes of carbon emissions, along with all the other negative impacts which we would suffer if the LTC were to go ahead. “We have many serious concerns about the impacts of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing and feel it is essential that all the negative impacts of the scheme should be taken into account. “We are grateful to TAN for bringing this legal challenge on climate grounds against the government’s £27bn roadbuilding programme, which of course includes the £8.2bn Lower Thames Crossing. “We wholeheartedly support this legal challenge and appreciate all the hard work by TAN and the legal team.”
Consultation on Dartford Borough Council’s pre-submission version of its Local Plan closed today (Friday, April 9, 2021) and CPRE Kent feels this has been largely a positive example of Plan-making within the constraints of the planning system. By focusing development on well-connected brownfield sites within the town of Dartford and at Ebbsfleet Garden City, the Plan is essentially a genuine example of a brownfield-first strategy. Coupled with strong Green Belt protection policies and policies responding to the climate-change emergency, there is a lot to commend. Of course, there remains areas where things could be better. We have taken exception to the continued support of roadbuilding within a borough that has some the worst air quality in the South East and the council’s continued support for the Lower Thames Crossing. We have called on the authority to be bolder with measures to truly respond to our biodiversity crisis, along with further strengthening of active-travel measures. We were disappointed not to see a policy protecting intrinsically dark landscapes. We have reminded it about the implications of Natural England’s designation of Swanscombe Marshes and land to the south as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Overall, though, there was certainly as much good as there was bad. We now must just hope that this good work is not undone should the proposed London Resort theme park be consented.
The developer behind plans to build the country’s largest theme park in north Kent has applied to the government for consent to proceed. London Resort Company Holdings submitted its application for a Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate on New Year’s Eve (Thursday, January 31, 2020). The scheme has been designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the first ‘business or commercial project’ to be accepted as such by the government under the Planning Act 2008. The theme park is targeted for the Swanscombe peninsula, between Greenhithe and Northfleet, with opening anticipated for 2024 after a 2022 start date. It would cover more than 1,160 acres and LRCH says it would create “48,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs” by 2038. The project website states: “Sustainability is at the core of our vision. We are exploring new and innovative ways of integrating sustainable and low-carbon principles into every area of design and operation of the London Resort. Our aim is to create one of the most sustainable theme park destinations in the world.” It adds: “Our designs will integrate local public rights of way and a green network, with improved access to the river for visitors and local communities. The London Resort will showcase the natural features of the site, seamlessly integrating them into our designs. A large proportion of the peninsula landscape will remain undeveloped and will be enhanced.” However, there are widespread concerns both for people employed on the peninsula who might see their workplaces lost and for the area’s wildlife. Buglife has joined with other environmental campaigners to set up the Save Swanscombe Marshes campaign. To understand why the peninsula is so special, we will indeed turn to Buglife, which states: “The Swanscombe peninsula in north Kent is home to a remarkable mosaic of grasslands, coastal habitats, brownfield features, scrub and intricate wetlands. However, the proposed London Resort theme park threatens the future of this urban wilderness. “Known as Swanscombe Marshes, this urban wilderness is home to thousands of invertebrate species, including over 250 species of conservation concern. This outstanding assemblage is of national importance, ranking with our best invertebrate brownfield sites. “It is one of just two places in the UK for the Critically Endangered distinguished jumping spider (Attulus distinguendus), among the host of rare bees, beetles, moths and other invertebrates recorded there… the mixture of natural coastal features and human interference has created a brownfield of the highest quality for wildlife, as well as a valued community space for walking, birdwatching, angling and escaping the hustle and bustle of north Kent.” CPRE Kent intends to take part in the examination should it happen. It is too early to comment extensively, but an initial observation relates to the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, which does not appear to have been factored into plans – how would the two dovetail? The Planning Inspectorate now has until Thursday, January 28, to determine if the application is satisfactory and the project can proceed to examination. Should it get that far, the Secretary of State would then decide whether London Resort should be built.