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.”
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
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
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
CPRE, the countryside charity, has given a decidedly hostile response to the prime minister’s post-coronavirus recovery plan in which he promised to “build, build, build”. Boris Johnson’s announcement of a ‘new deal’, delivered in Dudley yesterday (Tuesday, June 30), pledged £5 billion to build homes and infrastructure and vowed to speed up and intensify plans set out in the Tory election manifesto. The UK economy has reportedly shrunk faster between January and March this year than at any time since 1979 and the government proposals are intended to halt that decline. Key features of Johnson’s ‘new deal’, some of which had already been announced, include:
£100 million for 29 road projects
£12 billion to help build 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next eight years
£1.5 billion for hospitals, the removal of mental-health dormitories and improving A&E capacity
More than £1 billion for new school buildings
Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at CPRE, made a blistering attack on the prime minister’s scheme: “With road-building at its heart, the PM’s ‘new deal’ makes a mockery of the government’s so-called green recovery. “At this historic moment, the government must show real ambition and build back better, not worse, and in doing so balance our health and well-being, nature and countryside and the economic recovery. “The government cannot continue to ignore the surge in appreciation for green spaces and the public appetite to reduce our carbon emissions. “We must not even begin down this path with plans for £27 billion spending on roads. That money could be much better spent connecting towns and villages with low-carbon public transport, shoring up rural economies and businesses hard hit by the coronavirus and investing in genuinely affordable and well-designed housing. “Furthermore, the PM has pledged to ‘build at the pace that this moment requires’, which strikes fear in the hearts of those who understand the benefits of a plan-led system. “Rushing through potentially poor-quality development is the very antithesis of building back better. We already know, from painful experience, a rush for development trades off quality homes and infrastructure for quick and easy economic growth. “This trade-off isn’t necessary. It’s already far too easy to build poor-quality homes and therefore any plans to deregulate our democratic, locally accountable planning system will take decision-making powers from communities and local councils and hand it to short-sighted developers. “The government can only seriously claim to be pursuing the levelling-up agenda after scrapping planned spend on roads and refocusing planning reforms to deliver for people rather than developers. “Until then, it’s the same old deal.”
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
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?
In the week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report telling us we need to take immediate action to curb catastrophic climate change, we learn of the opening of the next stage of consultation on plans for the new Lower Thames Crossing (LTC).
The consultation website bills it as the solution to “unlocking opportunities and economic growth for the region and the country… offering new connections and better journeys”.
Earlier stages of consultation promised that the new LTC was essential to solve congestion and air pollution at the existing, undoubtedly over-stretched, Dartford crossings.
Even so, scrutiny of those documents showed that, on opening, a new crossing would reduce traffic flows at Dartford by a pitifully low 14 per cent.
This is a tiny benefit compared with the environmental and community harm that would be caused by the biggest UK road project since construction of the M25.
It is now clear that a new crossing will not be about achieving environmental and public benefits. Rather, it is about creating more vehicle journeys, about intensifying the housing crisis in the South East and about opening up ever more green spaces for development.
Last year, colleagues in CPRE’s national team published research showing unequivocally that increasing road capacity simply resulted in more vehicle journeys: we can’t build our way out of congestion. There’s a good little video summarising the report here.
At a time when we need to radically rethink how we use energy to move ourselves and our stuff around, the government’s focus on new road capacity is out of date.
Instead of investing solely in new roads, we want government to focus on better public transport links, to rationalise the over-reliance on road-based freight movement and to support planning policies that reduce the need to travel by car and support walking and cycling.
Don’t miss your chance to have your say on the proposals: the consultation closes on Thursday, December 20, and the documents can be found here.
CPRE Kent has raised its concerns at the roads investment package – worth £1.4billion across the South East – announced by the Government, warning that road building can create traffic and damage countryside. We make the point that past experience has shown that more roads lead to increased traffic which in turn leads to more congestion.
However, we also highlight some positive elements of the announcement – the A21 dualling between Tonbridge and Pembury, although contentious, is a model of how road building should be done, with sensitivity to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The designers listened to campaigners from CPRE Kent and the scheme will include good non-motorised local access running closely parallel separated from the dual carriageway with properly designed crossing points.
CPRE Kent also welcomes the fact that improvements to Junction 5 of the M2 (A249), a notorious congestion hot-spot, are to be carried out and looks forward to finding out more detail of what is planned.
CPRE Kent has argued since 2005 for the introduction of high speed tolls at the Dartford crossing – this is finally happening, but the charity wants the Government to wait to see the full effect of the tolls on improving traffic flow before committing to building any further crossings at Dartford or east of Gravesend which would not only damage the countryside but also increase traffic.