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.”
It is all too familiar a scenario: a local authority proposing to build thousands of houses in areas wholly unsuitable for such levels of development. When one council in north Kent targeted sites in the Green Belt, an impressive operation to challenge the potential environmental destruction was launched. Here, Alex Hills, chairman of CPRE Kent’s Gravesham committee, gathers some of the leading players to explain how they rallied residents to the cause.
At the end of last year without warning, and with rising numbers of Covid-19 cases making people worry whether they were going to have a Christmas or a job, Gravesham Borough Council began a Regulation 18 Stage 2 consultation. The proposal was for 3,790 houses within the Green Belt envelope over 21 sites, all being highly damaging to the rural area. The consultation was a perfect example of how not to run a such a process during pandemic restrictions and in the run-up to Christmas. GBC appeared to put every possible barrier in the way of people responding – the irony of it complaining about the way Highways England carried out the Lower Thames Crossing consultation was not lost on residents. As chairman of the CPRE Kent’s Gravesham committee, I am blessed to have an experienced hard-working committee who make me look good – they of course rose to this massive challenge. At the start of the campaign, we held a large Zoom meeting. The campaign slogan Stop the Green Belt Grab was created by local resident Peers MS Carter. Peers was a creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi, so we really have drawn on excellence from the talent in our borough. If you can inspire people to act, it is amazing the talents you find and we were lucky to find many such people during the campaign. I will let the committee members say in their own words what they did during the consultation process…
Pat Luxford: We were able to bring together all our contacts and residents’ groups from previous campaigns. This enabled CPRE Kent to ensure the campaigners worked together with one message. It could so easily have become various groups saying ‘Not in my backyard’ as the proposed sites were spread over various Green Belt areas of Gravesham. Despite our inability to sit around a table to make decisions or to hold public meetings, the residents’ response was extraordinary. By pulling together a group of dedicated volunteers whom we called foot soldiers, we were able to get door to door with updated information and easy-to-follow draft objection letters to GBC, making us so much more effective. By reaching out and working with like-minded groups and individuals, we were able to beat lockdown.
James Ferrin: My input into the campaign was dealing with social media. We used two main avenues, organic posting and sharing, and then paid for advertising. We used the CPRE Kent page as the main vehicle for this. We wrote the posts and then David Mairs posted them. The organic side was simple. Once the posts were up, we shared them across all the community groups in the area. There are some 30 or so that cover Gravesham. Comments were monitored and those asking for more information were helped. The paid-for element helped us reach those harder-to-reach people who were not members of groups. We set the targeting of location, interests and age and then put £50 behind the activity and set it live. We did a couple of posts, the first giving general information and the second providing wording for a standard letter that GBC had agreed would count. The results from the paid activity were a total reach of 18,315 people and a total of 3,029 engagements that equated to £0.016 per engagement. Pretty good-going!
Noel Clark: The committee decided we needed a website to quickly post reactions to the changing consultation as GBC changed the consultation documentation during the process. We used a website as the central repository of information to avoid having to walk revised notes around to our supporters. We used justgiving.com for fundraising as our costs were relatively small and several locals had expressed interest in contributing. Over the course of the campaign, we raised £570, which was used largely on printing and banners. We found the need to be local and reflect issues that affected us directly was important, but ultimately the outcome will be determined by national policy.
Jackie Luckhurst and Sue Gofton: During the first phase, thousands of leaflets informing communities of the threat to the Green Belt were delivered. The second phase entailed the delivery of printed objection letters; these had to be distributed in the shortest time possible to meet the GBC deadline of December 31, 2020. This was coupled with banners and placards placed in prime locations and attached to householders’ properties. The volunteers had been sourced through social media and community associations and support groups. Time was of the essence as we were in lockdown and the deadline was looming. The postal service was under pressure as it was the Christmas period and Covid-19 had taken its toll, so help was given by shops that were happy to have sealed drop-boxes where people could post their objection letters for free with their personal data secured. This worked incredibly well. Frequent updates were given on social media until the deadline was met and the letters from the drop-boxes were hand-delivered before the deadline. In terms of the Covid-19 difficulties and the deadline, it was deemed a success, based on communities pulling together and forging great camaraderie.
And back to Alex Hills for the final word… The Gravesham committee is an equal partnership (as chairman I do not have a casting vote) of six very different individuals with different skills, but we all respect and trust each other, which means we can debate openly. This was a vital asset as we had to set up a campaign structure from scratch, working with the hard-working Higham, Shorne and Cobham parish councils. We also had to respond quickly as the campaign developed, so weekly Zoom meetings were important. Covid-19 prevented us from such options as public meetings, while media disinterest meant that leaflets, the website (www.cpregravesham.org) and social media were our main tools in the campaign. Seeing local groups as an asset and working with them was another key part. My role was very much that of coordinator and making sure everyone was kept informed about what was happening– this included local councillors. The fact we were able to keep the campaign non-political and have so many saying very clearly to GBC that the Green Belt is not for building on is a great compliment to the committee.
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.
If you care about the quality of life of your family, it is important that you make your voice heard in the Local Plan consultation currently taking place. If you don’t know what to say or how to respond, then you could use this standard wording, so long as you include your name and address, and send it to:
STOP THE GREEN BELT GRAB! The message from the Gravesham CPRE committee could not be clearer as it launches a website in the battle to save the district’s Green Belt. Urging people to get involved, the website warns us: “Our beautiful fields could be turned into housing estates under proposals by Gravesham Borough Council. “Across Gravesham a staggering 3,790 houses are proposed which would swallow up 21 areas of precious Green Belt. These include:
1,705 houses in Meopham and Sole Street across NINE green sites
1,810 houses in Higham across SEVEN green sites
275 houses in Istead Rise across FIVE green sites
“These proposed homes are set to house an extra 9,000 people in this borough alone. “WE MUST OBJECT TO THESE PROPOSALS NOW” It continues: “Gravesham Borough Council claims these extra 3,790 homes are needed to house a population that’s expected to burgeon over the next few years. However, the projected figures they base this on are highly debatable. “There are also several brownfield sites in the borough that could be developed, saving our farmland and open spaces from destruction. “Even though we are in lockdown and in the middle of a global pandemic, Gravesham Borough Council are continuing with this consultation. Even though many in the rural area are not online. “This consultation is threatening the fabric of our villages and way of life. We are already set to lose so much to the Lower Thames Crossing. We need to draw the line NOW!” Regulation 18 (Stage 2) consultation on the Local Plan closes at 5pm on December 31, 2020. That might sound a little jargon-heavy and potentially complex, but the process is important and the Gravesham CPRE website will help you contribute to it… and indeed the future of the district. It really isn’t that daunting – and you don’t need to respond to every element of the consultation – so do please spend just a little time to make your views known if you cherish the countryside of north-west Kent.
A group has been formed to fight proposals for 2,405 houses and commercial development in the Gravesham Green Belt. Operating under the banner of the CPRE Kent Gravesham district committee, the Greenbelt Campaign Group is bringing together people from across the borough who understand how important the Green Belt is. The more people who help, the stronger we will be: WE NEED YOU! Please get in touch if you can assist with:
Delivering leaflets in the Sole Street area
In this sort of campaign, local knowledge is vital. Do you know of planning applications for any of the sites under threat that have been refused? If so, please get in contact. Some of the threatened sites are rich in wildlife, so do you have proof of flora and fauna present? Again, if you do, please get in contact.
To join the Greenbelt Campaign Group, or to help out in any way, please email email@example.com
You can also help by joining CPRE Kent, who are supporting the group. Just log on here
Local people are being urged to fight for the Green Belt in Gravesham. Below is a list of the sites under threat and Alex Hills, Gravesham chairman of CPRE Kent, is making clear what is at stake. “Many of these sites are on prime farmland, which is much needed for food supply,” he said. “The proposals will result in villages merging, while no account has been taken of the impact of the new Thames crossing or the planned theme park. “Many of the locations have poor public-transport links and the infrastructure is not there to support the developments. “The sites in Meopham and Istead Rise will increase traffic on the A227, which is already facing at least a 10 per cent increase in traffic from the new Thames crossing. “Further, these developments would destroy important wildlife habitat. “Please, if you want to protect the Gravesham countryside, write to your MP and your ward councillor.” Proposals in the Gravesham Local Plan Regulation 18 (Stage 2) Consultation could see 425 new homes in Higham, 275 in Istead Rise and 1,705 in Meopham, plus commercial development.
Sites under threat:
Land west of Wrotham Road (Site B), next to Helen Alison school, Hook Green, Meopham. Meopham North: 120 dwellings
Land at Longfield Avenue, New Barn, Istead Rise: 25 dwellings
Highways England has submitted its application for a Development Consent Order for the Lower Thames Crossing. The submission was made on Friday, October 23, to the Planning Inspectorate, which will decide, within 28 days, if it is accepted for examination. HE expects the Planning Inspectorate to make its decision on acceptance by Friday, November 20. If the application is accepted for examination, the following process will unfold: Pre-examination period: probably between late November and March 2021 Examination: anticipated from March to September 2021 Recommendation period: anticipated autumn 2021 to spring 2022 HE says: “Only after the recommendation period in 2022 would the application be formally presented to the Secretary of State for Transport for them to decide if the application is approved or not – and only if it is approved, could we start building the Lower Thames Crossing.” Learn more about the application process, including how and at what stage you can get involved, here
For more on the Lower Thames Crossing, see here, here and here
Time is almost up! You have until 11.59pm tomorrow (Wednesday, August 12) to take part in Highways England’s consultation on further design revisions to the proposed Lower Thames Crossing. CPRE Kent has made a response running to more than 5,000 words and, while you might not wish to go to quite such lengths, it would be useful to make your voice heard. There are many issues with the project – not least regarding air pollution and climate change – but did you also know the following? The A2 was widened both ways at great expense to four lanes. With the proposed refinements, the A2 coastbound would reduce from four lanes to two just east of the Gravesend East junction and also London-bound from four lanes to two before the Thong Lane bridge. It’s not easy to find the detail in the consultation document, but it’s there! These pinch points would cause serious congestion – and should be reconsidered in the light of the recent decision permitting the operation of Manston airport, which will result in large vehicles carrying air-freight containers along the A2. Any congestion on the A2 will result in vehicles rat-running at speed through the narrow lanes of surrounding areas such as Meopham, Sole Street and Cobham. This, we suggest, would appear contrary to the LTC Project Objective to “improve safety”. There is very much more that can be said about a scheme likely to bring little benefit to Kent, but you can learn more here
You can join the Highways England consultationhere
Highways England is consulting on further revisions to the design of the Lower Thames Crossing. Details are available online or at Rochester Library and consultation closes on Wednesday, August 12. If you would like to see copies of the Design Refinement Guide and Maps, they will be available tomorrow (Friday, July 31) from 10am-6pm at Meopham Cricket Pavilion, Meopham Green (opposite the windmill). Members of CPRE Kent will be at the cricket pavilion tomorrow and all are welcome to come and speak with them. The proposed location of the new tunnel and the drastic reduction in width of the A2 increases the risk of vehicles using the A227 and surrounding lanes as rat-runs. The project involves the loss of two lanes on the coastbound A2 after the Gravesend East junction, and the Highways England map suggests that the A2 westbound reduces to two lanes before the Thong Lane green bridge. This is to accommodate the new crossing, yet it is not that long ago it was widened to avoid tailbacks. These pinch points will greatly increase the risk of congestion on the A2, especially at peak time. Further, traffic is likely to increase on roads in Higham, Cobham, Istead Rise, Luddesdown, Riverview and Sole Street, as well as on A-roads like the A226 and A227 through Meopham. The new crossing has been predicted to cost £8 billion, but this does not include a long list of essential mitigation that will be needed on places like the Tollgate interchange, A227, A228, A229 and A249. Many are questioning why Kent County Council should have to pay for works that are effectively part of the project. One last thing, for now at least: the proposed crossing will destroy Green Belt countryside, wrecking parts of Jeskyns and Shorne Wood parks. There will of course be no benefit to local residents. The consultation documents are not easy to read online, so we suggest you request a copy of them. This can be done by calling 0300 123 5000 or emailing Highways England at firstname.lastname@example.org You only have till until 23.59 on Wednesday, August 12, to contribute to the consultation, so please go to the Highways England consultation website here Make your voice heard!
The next phase of consultation on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing begins this month. Highways England is launching the four-week consultation on proposed design refinements to the planned road on Tuesday, July 14. It comes after 2018’s statutory consultation in 2018 and the supplementary consultation, which was completed this year. From July 14, we will all be able to comment on the proposed refinements, which include:
Minor refinements to elements of the highways design
Updated paths for walkers, cyclists and horse riders
Proposals for redirecting and upgrading utilities
More detailed landscaping proposals
Further developed ecological mitigation measures
The consultation is a digital-first event, meaning that from July 14 to Wednesday, August 12, all materials, including an online feedback form, will be accessible here You can also order printed copies of the consultation materials by emailing email@example.com The digital-first approach reflects social-distancing restrictions imposed by the government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Highways England says it is, though, setting up additional measures to ensure the public can engage in the consultation. These include:
Leaflets distributed to 135,000 properties within two kilometres of the route, giving residents notice of the consultation
From now, people can register their interest in the consultation and order hard copies of the consultation packs to arrive from the July 14 launch
Extensive media and social-media campaigns to raise awareness of the consultation
Highways England says that during the consultation period, July 14-August 12, it will provide:
Freephone consultation and call-back service for people to find out more and give their feedback on the proposals
Online public information exhibition, including videos, displays and documents library
Webinars to explain the key changes open to all members of the public
Updated and newly-interactive website
Alex Hills, CPRE Kent’s Gravesham district chairman, said: “This could be the last consultation before a planning application is put in, so it is important that as many people as possible take part in this very short consultation. “CPRE Kent is calling on people and organisations to order hard copies of the consultation for those who are not comfortable doing everything online.”
For more on the Lower Thames Crossing, see here and here
Alex Hills, CPRE Kent’s Gravesham district chairman, stresses the importance of working together in preparation for the next phase of consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing
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. As we gear up for the next phase of the Lower Thames Crossing consultation process later this year, it is important that we work together with as many people as possible. CPRE Kent’s Gravesham committee has been working with the Dartford and Gravesham Cycling Forum and the Thames Crossing Action Group in Essex (see here). Linking up with the excellent group in Essex sends out a clear message from both sides of the river that the new crossing should not be an option.
TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER
To read the CPRE Kent response to the most recent consultation, click here
We are indebted to Alex Hills for today’s Kent, Our Kent contribution. Alex is CPRE Kent’s Gravesham district chairman and also a keen cyclist…
Today’s ride was to test my legs after a week off the bike and to test it out after the wheel was repaired. From home it was a short run down the A227 and out along the cycle path to Thong. Then it was a drop down to Lower Higham Road, which is a bleak but beautiful area on the Gravesend-Higham border. This area is always winding, being next to the River Thames, but the light means the colours are always changing. Then there were some big breaths before a lung-busting climb back up to the Cobham war memorial, which is one of my key local markers. The views from Cobhambury Road always recharge my soul and, with less air pollution, the views are better than ever. I never tire of the beauty of the views despite my tendency to hit high speeds on this downhill section, which has no sharp bends or potholes so is very much cycling heaven.
Next is a short run along the valley floor, stopping off to check on a local badger sett. Checking on setts while on rides is something I try to do as often as I can as it means someone else does not have to make a special trip out and gives me a focus to the ride. When I get to the now-quiet Golden Lion pub, it is down through the gears for the long climb up Henley Street, going past the very good beer pub The Cock Inn. At the top of the hill a few lanes take me to Whitepost Lane, which leads into Nurstead Church Lane. This wonderful road covered over in trees looks different each time I go down it. Even though this is a few minutes from my house and I cycle down it at least twice a week, I always look forward to cycling along this road. Near the top is the old Nurstead Church – I am pagan so have never been in it but the outside has a medieval feel about it. After the church it was a dash across the A227 before a test of nerve down the steep, twisting Park Pale Road and then down through the gears for the climb back up the other side.
Heart pounding, lungs heaving at Stony Corner, I was rewarded with a great view. From there is a short drop down the very dangerous Walnut Hill Road before another short run and a final climb home. Living on top of a hill means tired legs always have one more climb before a welcome brew and rest. People say you take for granted the beauty on your doorstep, but I never have, which is probably why I fight so hard to protect it. Since the lockdown the speed of cars has increased – please, please keep your speed down. Driving in the countryside, you must never go faster than you can stop and around every bend you must assume there will be a horse, cyclist or walker.