We reported last week that Highways England had withdrawn its application for a Development Consent Order to build the Lower Thames Crossing.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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org” 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, clickhere
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 email@example.com
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
Travelling could be grim on the A227 if a range of development proposals comes to pass (pic Google Earth)
The Lower Thames Crossing, should it be built, would merely exacerbate traffic congestion in north-west Kent, says Alex Hills, chairman of Dartford and Gravesham CPRE.
“The A227 section that runs from the A20 to the A2 and that paces through Vigo, Culverstone, Meopham and Istead Rise is facing a massive increase in traffic,” he said.
“Work by the Gravesham Rural Residents Group (GRRG) has proved that lorries are already using this road as a cut-through.
“With 3,000 houses planned for Borough Green and Gravesham Borough Council pressing to build on Green Belt in the area, this road already faces a huge hike in traffic. A new Thames crossing would drastically increase it yet further.
“The road has pinch-points at Wrotham Hill, near Culverstone Green primary school, Meopham Green, the listed George Inn and the shops near Meopham station.
“These pinch-points make it unsuitable for large HGVs, which is why we are calling for a weight restriction to be put on the road, along with other traffic measures.
“The safety of the children attending the two schools and residents’ health and well-being on the road must take priority. To put things in perspective, it can take minutes to cross the road now, so any increase in traffic is going to really impact on people’s lives.”
Given the potential effect on the area, Alex wants to see Highways England provide the appropriate mitigation if the new crossing becomes a reality.
“Highways England has admitted that the new crossing will increase the traffic using the A227, yet it is reportedly not going to pay for the required mitigation measures.”
CPRE Kent is requesting clarity on the issue of mitigation and wants to see a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis as part of that process.
Alex concluded: “It is not right that Kent County Council should be forced to pay for problems caused by a Highways England project that will not solve the problems at the Dartford crossing, will increase traffic congestion and will increase air pollution.”
The proposed KenEx tram service could cut congestion significantly (pic KenEx, Thames Gateway Tramlink)
With the prospect of the Lower Thames Crossing between Kent and Essex threatening swathes of countryside on both sides of the river, Alex Hills, chairman of Dartford and Gravesham CPRE, says we should be demanding a better transport system
Since the 1950s, successive governments have pursued a transport policy that has had the car as the main form of transport on the basis that building new roads reduces congestion.
This policy has proved to have no basis in fact, with the truth being that building new roads increases congestion and proves more environmentally damaging than suggested while failing to provide the claimed economic benefits.
Other countries did not need the CPRE report The end of the road: Challenging the Road Building Consensus to tell them that an integrated green transport system is needed.
Locally, we have seen the Dartford tunnel built, which would apparently end congestion, then another tunnel and then a bridge – and now a new, very damaging, crossing that would increase both congestion and air pollution in the area.
CPRE is not anti-car – far from it – but to have a sustainable green transport system that does not destroy people’s health there needs to be more investment in other forms of transport.
Gravesend is a hostile environment for cyclists, with existing cycle routes like the ones on the Wrotham and Rochester roads being dangerous for them.
In the town centre, cyclists are banned while in other places there are signs saying ‘Responsible cyclists welcome’.
The bus service in our rural areas is appalling, while train services are struggling to cope with demand.
Green travel plans are not just about infrastructure – they are also about ensuring that trains, trams and buses connect properly so people do not have excessively long waits. They are also about ensuring our transport systems are more disabled- and senior citizen-friendly.
There is some good work being done in this area, with cycling plans being developed for Dartford town centre, Stone Parish Council developing its own cycling plan and Ebbsfleet garden city working extremely hard to develop a green travel plan, while the proposed KenEx tram line would help tackle congestion in the area, reducing traffic at the Dartford crossings by 10 per cent.
Even with other walking and cycling projects, all these projects comprise just a small amount of what is needed.
Rural areas cannot be accessed by non-road transport. For example, there is no pedestrian or cycle path between Istead Rise and Meopham. The goal for district councils, the county council and the government should be to make the car the transport option of last resort.
To get people to use public transport, it needs to be reliable, affordable and able to reach destinations in reasonable time.
Currently, it takes two hours to get from Gravesend to Maidstone by bus and 25 minutes by car – given the choice, no one is going to choose the bus.
To get more journeys completed by walking and cycling, these options need to be made safer, with separate walking and cycling paths away from roads.
It is time we demanded a better transport system.
The proposed Lower Thames Crossing will add further strain to Gravesham’s environment
With the prospect of the Lower Thames Crossing between Kent and Essex threatening swathes of countryside on both sides of the river, Alex Hills, chairman of Gravesham CPRE, offers his view on government roads policy while also asking if we’re all doing our bit to tackle air pollution
By continuing to build poorly planned new roads, the government is assisting a deadly force that slaughters 40,000 to 50,000 people a year. This serial killer preys on everyone, especially the young and old – and it is air pollution.
The World Health Organisation is calling for drastic action. It is estimated that up to one-third of asthma-related hospital admissions are caused by air pollution.
This year has seen many new studies on other harmful effects, including damage to unborn children, brain damage and even obesity.
The physical cost to the nation runs into many millions of pounds, aside from the mental suffering, which cannot be priced.
Yet, despite this, the government continues to plan schemes such as the Lower Thames Crossing between Gravesham in Kent and Thurrock in Essex, knowing it will not remove the problems of congestion at Dartford.
The new crossing will increase traffic congestion on both sides of the river and on all north-south routes through Kent, resulting in many more deaths through increased air pollution.
There has been much talk about zero-emission electric cars, but there is no such thing as zero-emission.
Electric cars produce pollution through their tyres, the manufacture and disposal of components (especially the battery, which uses rare metals that are open-cast-mined), building the infrastructure required to support them and the production of the electricity to charge the batteries.
We, of course, are part of the problem and also part of the solution.
Government could do so much more – solar panels on industrial buildings, heat-pump installations in new housing estates and improved building standards including better insulation.
There urgently needs to be a sustainable green transport plan.
There are small things we can all do:
Ensure our vehicles are well maintained
Make one less car journey per week
Use energy-efficient products
Walk or cycle to school, work or shops
There is no one simple solution to our air quality crisis, but are you at least playing your own small part?