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.”
The developer behind the proposed London Resort theme park has been accused of failing to provide enough information about the impact of increased traffic on road and rail in north Kent and London. In damning submissions from leading transport organisations to the Planning Inspectorate, it is suggested that transport infrastructure could be overwhelmed by traffic from the development, on the Swanscombe peninsula. Highways England says there has been “insufficient information” to allow conclusive statements on traffic impact, citing junctions 2 and 30 of the M25, the A13/A1089 junction and the A2/M2 east of the M25 as potential problem spots. Transport for London, meanwhile, has slammed London Resort Holding Company’s lack of an “appropriate assessment methodology”, saying it could mask “significant impacts that must be mitigated”. It said: “The failure to use appropriate modelling means that impacts on the rail and Underground network have not been assessed with any degree of certainty. “The arbitrary assumptions about the scale of traffic that will use the north Kent lines risks ignoring potential impacts at their central London termini and on interchange flows at Abbey Wood (to the Elizabeth line).” It also warned that the development could cause congestion on north Kent roads and lead to problems at east London road tunnels. For its part, Network Rail was concerned about impact on stations close to the planned development as well as the effect on the Ebbsfleet Southern Link and HS1. As if all that were not enough, the C2E Partnership feared that the scheme could take up land earmarked for a potential Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet. A list of Relevant Representations was published on Planning Inspectorate website in April after its deadline for comments had passed.
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.”
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.
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
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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