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

‘Decision on Ebbsfleet tunnels offers a sustainable future’

The KenEx project is winning wide support

The KenEx cross-river project is being promoted by Thames Gateway Tramlink Ltd, which is working with local stakeholders for “a clean, sustainable, economically generative step-change in local transport”. The KenEx team comprises transport, construction and business management professionals. The project has just completed its first successful funding round. Here is its latest press release.


After months of hard work and technical appraisal, councillors at Kent County Council considered safeguards for the future of a garden-city public transport route which could be used by the cross-river KenEx tram. 
In a show of support for sustainable future development, councillors agreed to the construction of a new tunnel and not to infill an existing tunnel but consider alternatives safeguarding future transportation options utilising this existing asset.
Gordon Pratt, KenEx managing director, said: “We welcome that Kent County Council councillors have voted through crucial infrastructure to create the key public transport link between the new Ebbsfleet developments and Bluewater shopping centre.
“This connection is crucial to significantly reduce journey times by public transport. Furthermore, planners stated that the dimensions of the new tunnel will mean that it will, in the future, be able to take trams as well as buses, which is key to Kent County Council’s stated aim of carrying up to 30 million passengers a year, equivalent to the London Tramlink network.
“A local tram network has broad support by local residents, which has been recognised by councillors who voted unanimously to request consideration of retaining an older tunnel and that the planners look ‘not to infill’ but to consider alternative options safeguarding the future.
Gavin Cleary, Locate in Kent chief executive, said: “With millions being spent on improved public transport and infrastructure, Kent is set to reap the rewards over the next decade in attracting jobs, opportunities and growth.
“These projects will add to that sense of momentum, with improved links for communities on either side of the river a key part of plans to unlock the potential of the Thames estuary region as a major hub for growth industries in the UK.”
Tony Young, director of TravelWatch NorthWest and tramway consultant, added: “Having been heavily involved in the planning for Manchester’s Metrolink tram system, this has now become the largest and most successful tramway in Britain.
“Subsequently working as a tramway consultant for Kent County Council, in 1995 a tramway was planned linking Bluewater with Ebbsfleet, Dartford and Gravesend.
“There is now a great opportunity to safeguard the future option of developing a new tramway using part of the Fastrack busway linked to a new Thames crossing in a tunnel which will create routes directly linking Kent with Essex.
“Maintaining the old north tunnel within the Eastern Quarry development will enable the growth in capacity to be retained for future generations.
“I am confident that the exciting and imaginative KenEx tram plans will dramatically enhance the local economy and environment of Thames Gateway.”

Friday, June 12, 2020

The transport deserts leaving our rural communities high and dry

There’s a train coming… or is there?

CPRE, the countryside charity, has highlighted the issue of people in rural areas being increasingly cut off from society by a lack of effective public transport.
More than half of small towns in south-west and north-east England have such bad transport connectivity that they are considered to be living in ‘transport deserts’ or areas that are at imminent risk of becoming one, research shows.
The results are presented in Transport Deserts: The absence of transport choice in England’s small towns. Although the survey focused on just two areas of England, the problem occurs countrywide.
Almost a million people (975,227) who live in these towns have no option for convenient and affordable public transport and risk being cut off from basic services if they don’t have access to a car.
A ‘transport desert’ occurs when a community lacks the public transport options for residents to be able to travel conveniently on a day-to-day basis without driving.
The research was conducted by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) for CPRE, the countryside charity. It was the first attempt to develop a scoring system to rank the public transport options available to rural communities.
Public transport services, including bus, train and community transport options, were scored in more than 160 locations in the South West and North East against their accessibility and frequency.
The analysis showed that in 56 per cent of the cases, residents who can’t drive or are unable to afford a car are at risk of being cut off from basic services.
Crispin Truman, chief executive at CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “A thriving countryside depends on well-connected small towns and villages serviced by low-carbon public transport that fit into people’s everyday lives.
“But it is clear that, outside of England’s major cities, communities are being left high and dry in ever-widening ‘transport deserts’ with completely inadequate bus and train connections.
“And this is having dramatic effect on rural communities – young people are compelled to move away, older people are left isolated and lonely, while less affluent families can be sucked into a cycle of debt and poverty.
“CPRE is calling on the government to act now to reconnect everyone with proper public transport options. That means establishing a dedicated rural transport fund.
“But recent government funding to reopen some railway lines across the country does not go nearly far enough – especially in the shadow of the £28.8 billion planned spend on roads.
“If the prime minister and this government are serious about ‘spreading opportunity to every corner of the UK’ we need decisive action to stop the march of ‘transport deserts’.”

Wednesday, February 19, 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 

Manston DCO examination starts in Margate

Manston… are we finally on the way to some kind of resolution over its future?

The next phase in deciding the fate of the Manston airport site began this week.
The Planning Inspectorate’s examination into RiverOak Strategic Partners’ application for a Development Consent Order was marked by the preliminary meeting held at Margate Winter Gardens on Wednesday (January 9).
The meeting, which was open to the public, comprised discussion of procedural matters only – this was not an event for debate on the merits or otherwise of the application.
Three representatives of CPRE Kent (director Hilary Newport, Thanet chairman David Morrish and environment committee member Chris Lowe) were present as the four-strong Examining Authority clarified issues and some of those who had made Relevant Representations (known as Interested Parties) made themselves known.
The examination, which will take six months, will determine whether the RSP plan to reopen the site as an aviation freight hub should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.
If it does, the Secretary of State for Transport (currently Chris Grayling) can grant seizure of the site.
During the period of the examination, Interested Parties will be asked to give further written details of their views, while there will also be public hearings.
When the examination is concluded, the Planning Inspectorate has three months to prepare a report and recommendation for the Secretary of State, who then himself has three months to decide on the application.
Finally, there is a six-month period when that decision can be challenged in the High Court.
At Wednesday’s preliminary meeting, chaired by lead examiner Kelvin MacDonald, CPRE Kent asked that an Issue Specific Hearing be scheduled for climate-change considerations.
Among the 2,052 Relevant Representations posted on the examination website (“an almost unprecedented number for a national infrastructure application,” according to Mr MacDonald), site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd, which has plans for some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities at Manston, has prepared a 668-page document laying out its principal objections to the application – primarily that the planned operation was not nationally significant and there were doubts about viability and national need.
CPRE Kent’s next involvement with the examination will be the presentation of an expanded written representation by Friday, February 15 (revised from February 8).

  • To listen to Wednesday’s preliminary meeting, click here
  • For more on Manston, see here, here,here and here
  • For CPRE Kent’s response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Friday, January 11, 2019

Thousands respond to Manston airport inquiry

Manston… so many questions

A four-strong Examining Authority will be considering more than 2,000 representations made in response to the bid to reopen the Manston airport site as a freight hub.
Following the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to consider RiverOak Strategic Partners’ case for reopening the airport through a Development Consent Order, the latest stage in one of the most contentious – and long-running – planning issues in Kent has drawn a predictably strong response.
If the panel determines that Manston should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, the Secretary of State for Transport can grant seizure of the site.
One of the respondents is site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd, which has contrasting plans to build some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities there.
Those who have registered with the Planning Inspectorate are known as Interested Parties and will be asked to a meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority.
This part of the process is expected to last about three months, after which the Planning Inspectorate has six months to carry out its examination.
Interested Parties will be asked to give further written details of their views during this time, while there might be public hearings.
When all that is concluded, within the next three months the Planning Inspectorate must prepare a report and recommendation for the Secretary of State, who then himself has three months to decide on the application.
Finally, there is a six-month period when that decision can be challenged in the High Court.
Meanwhile, a question to the leader of Thanet District Council about whether the local authority had produced either a Statement of Common Ground, detailing agreements and disagreements pertinent to the case, or a local impact report drew a non-committal answer.
The leader said only that the council “was engaging” with RiverOak Strategic Partners.
Thanet CPRE has chosen not to give a view on the airport as feelings on the subject are so mixed.

  • For more on Manston, see here, here and here
  • For CPRE Kent’s response to RSP’s Manston Consultation last year, see here

Monday, December 24, 2018

We can’t rely solely on the car forever

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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Thanet: a draft Local Plan could soon be upon us

Manston: at the core of the Thanet debate

So, after all the political game-playing and the sometimes shambolic manner in which Thanet’s planning process has been tackled, it is believed tonight (Monday, July 2) will see the adoption of the district council’s draft Local Plan.
Members of the Thanet District Council cabinet are expected to approve the isle’s planning blueprint for the next 20 years, the most high-profile element seeing the Manston airport site retained for aviation use, which apparently necessitates a further 2,500 homes being built elsewhere on the isle rather than at Manston.
The cabinet’s recommendations will be reviewed by the executive, policy and community safety scrutiny panel before going to full council on Thursday, July 19, for a final verdict.
In January, councillors rejected the draft Local Plan put forward by the UKIP administration, which subsequently lost control of the council. The main bone of contention was a proposed change of status for Manston from aviation-only to ‘mixed use’, including 2,500 homes, while there was also concern over proposed housing numbers.
Following the rejection of that draft, Sajid Javid, then-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – frustrated with the local authority’s “persistent failure” to produce its Plan – wrote to council leader Bob Bayford, announcing he would be sending Chief Planner Steve Quartermain to intervene.
A fresh call for housing sites was made by the district council. Now ‘in intervention’, it must publish a new Local Plan or face possible further intervention by government.
Council officers have reportedly presented two options for consideration by the cabinet: the draft that was rejected in January and another that keeps an aviation-only policy for Manston and reallocates the 2,500 homes from there elsewhere on the isle.
The local authority says this will allow an application by potential airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) for a Development Consent Order to proceed.
This was submitted in April but withdrawn the following month because of Planning Inspectorate concerns. RSP says it will be resubmitted in due course.
If the second option is accepted by cabinet, the extra homes – which are in addition to the numbers already proposed for those areas – are expected to be targeted for:
Westgate-on-Sea (1,000)
Birchington (600)
Westwood (500)
Hartsdown (300)
Tothill Street, Minster (100)

The isle already faces a target of 17,140 new homes by 2031, but revised government methodology suggests this figure could rise to 20,200.
It is a monstrous figure that would entail the loss of a vast amount of greenfield land (Thanet is already the second most urbanised district in Kent), while it is anybody’s guess what the incoming thousands will be expected to do for employment.
Perhaps best not think about it…

Monday, July 2, 2018

To read more on this lengthy tale, click here and here

Operation Stack: the CPRE Kent view and the chance for you to have a say

Operation Stack in summer 2015, when the M20 was effectively turned into a lorry park for more than 30 days

A fresh round of consultation opens today (Monday, June 11) on tackling the congestion caused by freight traffic held up when trying to cross the English Channel.
Or, in other words, what can we all do about Operation Stack?
CPRE Kent has made regular contributions to the debate on Stack (the process used by police and the Port of Dover to park lorries on the M20 when ferry or Eurotunnel services are disrupted by industrial action or bad weather; the organisation’s view is summed up by director Dr Hilary Newport:
“We are pleased that the flawed plan for a single huge lorry park – the size of Disneyland – just off junction 11 of the M20 were dropped.
“We, along with the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, did not believe that this could be a viable solution to keeping the M20 flowing freely, and there is no doubt that it would have been a huge blight on Kent’s countryside.”
Some two years ago, when there was also a round of public consultation, Dr Newport said: “We do not think that a single huge lorry park, which may only be called into use for a few days – if at all – in any year is the answer.
“A better solution would offer real resilience to the logistics industry now and into the future and help not just Kent but the whole country cope with disruption, strikes or emergency, such as extreme weather, fire or security threats.”
Other problems that need addressing include roadside parking of HGVs with the associated litter and noise; noise and air pollution caused by engines running in slow-moving traffic jams or when stationary to keep refrigeration units running; and disproportionate wear and tear on Kent’s roads.
CPRE Kent contends that instead of the expensive and damaging construction of a single lorry park, investment should be made to:

  • Support a network of dispersed, serviced truck stops that operate on a commercial basis and have some degree of overflow capacity in the event of disruption to Channel crossings. Many shippers prohibit trucks stopping within 120 kilometres of Calais. Similar measures should be employed to hold vehicles outside the Channel Corridor until called forward.
  • Incentivise the use of alternative ports of entry and exit (such as Newhaven, Ramsgate, Sheerness, Dartford, Portsmouth and Purfleet), as well as modal shift away from road-based freight – this would also have the additional benefit of reducing reliance on the Dartford crossings.
  • Incentivise shippers to return to unaccompanied trailer operations across the Channel, which would also boost UK employment of HGV drivers and reduce emissions.
  • Work with the logistics industry, fleet operators and drivers to implement ‘smart queuing’ – smartphones, GPS and communications technology should remove the need for drivers to be nearest the front of any physical queue in Kent when they could be called forward from dispersed locations further afield and guaranteed timely passage across the Channel.
  • Implement ‘quick wins’ – CPRE Kent supports expansion of the existing Stop24 truck facility south of the M20 at junction 11; this could quickly provide a partial solution.

Dr Newport said: “With modern technology and sophisticated international business operations, we are sure there is a better solution than allowing all the lorries to build up in Kent with no other way of reaching Europe than the Dover/Folkestone to Calais crossings.”

  • To read CPRE Kent’s full position paper, click here
  • If you would like to contribute to the consultation, click here

Infrastructure consultation: CPRE gives its views

What will infrastructure development do to Kent? (pic SOS Kent)

“A distributed network of consolidation hubs offers a very different vision of modernity to the vast Operation Stack lorry park currently proposed to service channel freight at the foot of the Kent Downs AONB.
“The development of smaller consolidation hubs should not be seen as an alternative to the use of rail for transporting freight.
“Globally, important trading partners are now making increasing use of rail, with China launching direct rail freight services to Europe and France now using scanning equipment that can more easily identify stowaways on freight entering the Channel Tunnel, thus alleviating security concerns.”
We feature the above passage as a Kent hook to pull you into CPRE’s response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) interim consultation on a National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA).
At almost 6,700 words, the document might need a couple of sittings, but it includes plenty to give food us for thought.
The consultation, entitled Congestion, Capacity and Carbon, spanned many issues, with CPRE electing to focus its response on 10 questions, ranging from Brexit to water policy, autonomous vehicles and land capture.
CPRE will be consulting with the commission further before publication of the final NIA this year.
You can read our response to the interim consultation here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018