Revised Lower Thames Crossing plans miss Easter target date

‘It’s been a really busy time for the project,’ according to a Highways England statement

Highways England has failed to hit its own target in resubmitting plans for the Lower Thames Crossing.
In November, the government agency withdrew its application for a Development Consent Order to build the Lower Thames Crossing, saying it would put in revised plans to the Planning Inspectorate by Easter.
However, they have yet to appear, Highways England just offering the following statement:
“It’s been a really busy time for the project as we continue to work hard to submit our revised planning application later this year.
“We’re absolutely determined to bring you these benefits as soon as possible, so it’s essential we continue to maintain momentum on the project.
“We initially submitted our planning application back in October, which we then withdrew following some feedback from the Planning Inspectorate.
“They have asked us to provide some more information on some technical elements of our application.
“We’re busy bringing this information together, but we also see this as a great opportunity to strengthen our application as we continue to work with key stakeholders to make the Lower Thames Crossing the best it can possibly be.”

For more on this story, click here

Friday, April 16, 2021

Credit to Dartford council as it prepares a genuine brownfield-first strategy

Let’s hope Dartford Borough Council’s good work is not undone on the Swanscombe peninsula, which is threatened by the proposed London Resort theme park (pic Paul Buckley)

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. 

  • You can read our comments here

Friday, April 9, 2021

Does Transport Secretary revelation scupper plans for Lower Thames Crossing?

Lower Thames Crossing… where do we go now?

Campaigners against the building of the Lower Thames Crossing between Kent and Essex have been encouraged by the news that the Secretary of State for Transport ignored the advice of his own officers in refusing to review the government’s road policy.   
The Guardian’s front-page story revealed how Grant Shapps had dismissed the advice from civil servants that the policy should have been reviewed on environmental grounds.
The newspaper says: “It has been a legal requirement to take into account the environmental impact of such [road] projects since 2014. Shapps appears to have pressed ahead despite the advice of civil servants in his own department.”
It suggests that the £27 billion expansion of England’s road network – described by Chancellor Rishi Sunak a year ago as the country’s “largest ever” roadbuilding programme – “has been thrown into doubt” by the revelation.
It came as Transport Action Network sought a judicial review of the strategy to develop such road projects as the Lower Thames Crossing, the Stonehenge tunnel and the A46 Newark bypass.
The Guardian says evidence that Mr Shapps had overridden Whitehall advice was disclosed only “at the 11th hour to the claimants” in the High Court case. That advice had been to review the 2014 National Policy Statement on national networks.
The TAN claim centres on the decision not to review all or part of the NPS and has now been amended to introduce Shapps’s decision to dismiss the civil servants’ advice; this runs alongside the original grounds that the roadbuilding policy was not compatible with commitments to the environment and air quality.
David Wolfe QC states in his submission: “On the day before the limitation period for issuing this challenge was due to expire, the defendant [Mr Shapps] provided the claimant [Transport Action Network] with the advice of his officials, which was that it was appropriate to review the NPS.”
He adds: “The claimants have been presented, on the one hand, with official reasoning in support of a review, and on the other, with a decision by the defendant not to review the NPS, with no explanation of why, or on the basis of what information or considerations, he chose to depart from his officials’ advice.”
Government lawyers, however, claim Mr Shapps has no duty to give reasons for his decision and that the claim is baseless.
Chris Todd, Transport Action Network director, said: “The largest-ever roads programme and world-leading emissions cuts were always the strangest of bedfellows.
“Far from ‘building back better’, the government’s £27bn roads plan would pollute communities, tear through treasured green spaces and turn up the heat on the planet, while making congestion worse. Our legal challenge seeks to end this nightmare and prioritise what’s important to people.”

  • To read about the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, see here

Monday, March 8, 2021

Environmental mitigation, impact on traffic and approach to consultation among Lower Thames Crossing DCO issues

Lower Thames Crossing… the saga rumbles on

We reported last week that Highways England had withdrawn its application for a Development Consent Order to build the Lower Thames Crossing.
Now we have been updated by HE on the issues relating to the Planning Inspectorate and the likely way forward.
A message to  stakeholders said: “… we’ve now had further dialogue with the Planning Inspectorate about their expectations around our application.
“The fundamentals of the Lower Thames Crossing, including its objectives and location, will remain the same but we will further develop some technical information related to some elements of the scheme before we resubmit our application next year.
“The feedback from the Planning Inspectorate includes requests for:
“Further information on the impact of the project on traffic during the construction phase. We recognise that stakeholders are keen to find out more information about our construction traffic appraisals and will be engaging with them on these issues.
“Further assessments about how an existing jetty on the River Thames near the northern tunnel entrance construction site could potentially be used during the construction phase. The operation of the jetty could, if used, impact river traffic. We will be developing Navigational Impact Assessment and engaging with stakeholders on this topic.
“More details on our approach for managing materials and waste, including how the different contractors will coordinate the reusing, recycling or disposal of waste.  
“An enhanced Habitats Regulations Assessment to provide a more detailed explanation of our approach to assessment of potential effects on European designated sites where we have indicated there would be no likely significant effects as a result of the construction and operation of the new road alone, or in combination with other projects.
“More detail on our approach to the long-term management of the project’s proposed environmental mitigation.
“The Planning Inspectorate has also shared some feedback from Local Authorities on our approach to consultation. We will consider this feedback carefully as we refine key areas of our submission ahead of resubmitting our application for a Development Consent Order.
“For a project of the size and complexity of the Lower Thames Crossing, it is reasonable for the Planning Inspectorate to ask for further information, and we are doing everything we can to resubmit our application at the earliest opportunity.”

Friday, November 27, 2020

Lower Thames Crossing: bid for planning consent delayed

Plans to build the Lower Thames Crossing have been delayed with Highways England’s withdrawal of its application for a Development Consent Order.
“We’ve withdrawn the Development Consent Order application for the Lower Thames Crossing based on early feedback we’ve had from the Planning Inspectorate,” said a spokesman for HE.
“We will take time to collate the information required for the specific points raised and will be resubmitting the application early in the new year.”
Alex Hills, Gravesham chairman of CPRE Kent, said: “We would be happier if the application was completely withdrawn as it is an ill-thought-out scheme that will be massively damaging for Kent without solving the problems at the Dartford Crossing.”
For the scheme to progress, HE needs to be granted a DCO by the Planning Inspectorate, government’s planning agency.

Planning Inspectorate ‘feedback’ has resulted in the DCO application being withdrawn

Monday, November 23, 2020

Lower Thames Crossing: Highways England submits application for Development Consent Order

An impression of what could be coming our way

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

Monday, October 26, 2020

Lower Thames Crossing consultation: time (really is!) running out to make your voice heard

At a minute to midnight on Wednesday, August 12, the consultation clock stops!

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 consultation here

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Truth about impact of the Lower Thames Crossing on local roads revealed at public meeting

Consultation on LTC design revisions is ending on Wednesday (August 12)

There was a healthy turn-out to a meeting from people keen to see copies of the latest Lower Thames Crossing design consultation.
The event, organised by the Gravesham committee of CPRE Kent and Meopham residents, gave all the chance to ask questions about the revised design proposals. It had been set up in view of Highways England’s belief that the documents being displayed only in Rochester Library was sufficient south of the river.
None of the many visitors at the meeting, held at Meopham Cricket Pavilion on Friday, July 31, realised that the junction of the tunnel access road and A2 would result in the A2 being reduced to two lanes in each direction at this point.
This pinch point is likely to cause huge congestion on the A2 and as a result greatly increase traffic on local roads such as the A227.

  • You can read more on the latest consultation here

Monday, August 10, 2020

Come and speak to us at Lower Thames Crossing display in Meopham

There’s little over a fortnight left to join the consultation

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 info@lowerthamescrossing.co.uk
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!

  • For more on the Lower Thames Crossing, click here

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Lower Thames Crossing: rallying call to take part in next phase of consultation

Four-week consultation starts on Tuesday, July 14

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 info@lowerthamescrossing.co.uk
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
  • Social-media updates

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

Friday, July 3, 2020

Lower Thames Crossing: an option that is neither healthy nor cost-effective

Lower Thames Crossing… is it really acceptable?

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

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Thames Crossing consultation extended to April 2

More time to have your say…

Public consultation on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing has been extended until Thursday, April 2.
A spokesman for Highways England said: “As a result of cancelling our last public information event and our remaining three mobile information centres, we recognise that some people may have not yet had the opportunity to speak to the team at an event.
“We are also conscious that the attentions of people and organisations will have been focused elsewhere over the past few days. Therefore we have taken the decision to extend the consultation until 23.59 on Thursday 2 April. 
“This is to give people additional time to complete their consultation response and to enable organisations to complete their governance processes, which may have been disrupted.
“Until that time people can continue to share their views online here, (www.lowerthamescrossing.co.uk/consultation-2020) by submitting a paper response form to Freepost LTC CONSULTATION or by emailing ltc.consultation@traverse.ltd”
Highways England is also opening a phone service for those who had planned to go to the remaining consultation events. Sessions will run from 2pm-8pm on Monday, March 23, and Wednesday, March 25; call 020 3787 4300.
CPRE Kent has already put together a substantive response to the consultation, which had been due to end on Wednesday, March 25.

  • To read more from Highways England on the project and the consultation extension, click here

Lower Thames Crossing public events cancelled but consultation remains open

You can still have your say on the LTC project

Given the government’s updated guidelines on tackling coronavirus, Highways England has taken the decision to cancel its remaining four supplementary consultation events.
However, the consultation remains open and people can continue to share their views online at www.lowerthamescrossing.co.uk/consultation-2020, by submitting a paper response form to Freepost LTC CONSULTATION or by emailing ltc.consultation@traverse.ltd

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Lower Thames Crossing: you can join renewed consultation on giant road scheme

The Lower Thames Crossing: changes are afoot

Consultation on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing reopens today (Wednesday, January 29) after a series of alterations to the scheme made by Highways England.
Almost 29,000 responses during the second tranche of public consultation caused HE to announce a delay in its planning application for the £6.8 billion road scheme.
Chris Taylor, HE director of complex infrastructure, wrote at the time: “We’re now considering the consultation responses in detail as we continue to improve the design of the project.
“We’ll also be using the information gathered from our ground investigations programme to ensure that our project is delivered in a way that has the smallest possible impact on the nearby communities and environment.
“To do this effectively, we will need more time to develop our planning application (Development Consent Order application), which we now plan to submit in summer 2020.
“This, however, does not impact the target road-opening in 2027 as we’ve done more work to our schedule to speed up the construction programme.”
The eight-week consultation ends on Wednesday, March 25. If you would like to take part, visit one of 20 public or mobile information events in north Kent and south Essex to speak to members of the HE team – they are listed below.
There is also the opportunity to respond online, via Freepost, or by email.
You can read consultation documents at locations across both counties: click here for details

Key changes to the road scheme:

  • The southern (Kent) entrance has been moved 350 metres (0.2 miles) to the south to reduce impact on the Thames Estuary and Marshes Ramsar site [wetland of international environmental importance]
  • There will be a direct link between Gravesend and the M2/A2 eastbound
  • The Gravesend East junction and link roads are being redesigned to improve journey times
  • There will be a narrowed width of construction work through the Kent Downs AONB
  • The plan for a service area at Tilbury has been dropped
  • The proposed maintenance depot at Tilbury will be placed at an existing Highways England site
  • The idea for a Tilbury junction has been dropped
  • The route in Essex has been moved some 60 metres north-north-east to reduce the need for pylon realignment
  • Some slip roads at the junction between the Lower Thames Crossing, A13, A1089 and A1013 are being redesigned to lessen visual impact, move roads away from properties and improve safety
  • One lane southbound between the M25 and A13 junction is being cut, reducing that section to two lanes
  • Structures over the Mardyke River, Golden Bridge Sewer and Orsett Fen Sewer have been altered to reduce both visual impact and the amount of flood compensation required
  • The Essex route is being moved some 200 metres south-west to reduce the work required to move a gas main and limit impact on a landfill site
  • The southbound link from the M25 to the Lower Thames Crossing is being changed to avoid demolishing and rebuilding the Ockendon Road bridge over the M25

Public information events

  • Cascades Leisure Centre, Thong Lane, Gravesend DA12 4LG
    Thursday, February 27, 2pm-8pm
  • Gravesham Civic Centre, Windmill Street, Gravesend DA12 1AU
    Saturday, March 14, midday-6pm
  • Thurrock Civic Centre, Blackshots Lane, Grays RM16 2JU
    Friday, February 21, 2pm-8pm
  • New Windmill Hall, St Mary’s Lane, Upminster RM14 2QH
    Saturday, February 22, midday-6pm
  • East Tilbury Village Hall, Princess Margaret Road, East Tilbury, Essex RM18 8RB
    Tuesday, March 3, 2pm-8pm
  • Orsett Hall Hotel, Prince Charles Avenue, Orsett RM16 3HS
    Monday, March 9, 2pm-8pm
  • Linford Methodist Church, East Tilbury Road, Linford SS17 0QS
    Wednesday, March 11, 2pm-8pm
  • Brandon Groves Community Club, Brandon Groves Avenue, South Ockendon RM15 6TD
    Tuesday, March 17, 2pm-8pm

Mobile information events

  • Chalk Parish Hall, Pirrip Close, Gravesend DA12 2ND
    Wednesday, March 4, 10am-7pm
  • Higham Library car park, 8 Forge Lane ME3 7AS
    Friday, March 6, 10am-3pm
  • Higham train station car park ME3 7JQ
    Friday, March 6, 4pm-7pm
  • Gravesend town centre, King Street DA12 2XX
    Saturday, March 7, 10am-5pm
  • Shorne Woods Country Park, Brewers Road, Shorne, Gravesend DA12 3HX
    Sunday, March 8, 11am-4pm
  • Meadow Rooms, The Street, Cobham DA12 3BZ
    Thursday, March 12, 10am-3pm
  • Sole Street station car park, Cobham DA13 0XY
    Thursday, March 12, 4pm-7pm
  • Shorne Village Hall car park, 16 The Street, Shorne DA12 3EA
    Wednesday, March 18, 10am-7pm
  • Defoe Parade, Grays (Chadwell St Mary) RM16 4QR
    Wednesday, February 26, 10am-7pm
  • Thames Chase Forest Centre, Broadfields, Pike Lane, Upminster RM14 3NS
    Friday, February 28, midday-5pm
  • Upminster Library, 26 Corbets Tey Road, Upminster RM14 2BB
    Thursday, March 19, 10am-7pm
  • Grays town centre, High Street RM17 6NP
    Saturday, March 21, 10am-5pm
  • To learn more about the project, click here 
  • To take part in the consultation, click here