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.”
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.”
Proposals to reopen Manston airport as a freight hub have hit yet another stumbling block. No sooner had the granting of a Development Consent Order allowing developer RiverOak Strategic Partners to progress its plans been quashed than it has now learnt it must also resubmit documents relating to air space. February’s High Court quashing of the DCO was down to the approval letter from Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State for Transport, not containing enough detail on why he had effectively dismissed the conclusions of the Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority. The court verdict meant the DCO process had to be restarted, but RSP has also fallen short in convincing the Civil Aviation Authority to approve its Airspace Change Proposal. For that change to be backed by the CAA, RSP needed to complete seven stages and 14 steps; it also had to win approval for four ‘gateways’. Sadly for RSP, however, the CAA concluded that RSP’s ‘develop and assess gateway’ included in the second stage of the process was unacceptable. Last week’s CAA pronouncement cited “errors and inconsistencies” in RSP’s submission, which failed to meet two necessary criteria. It said: “The Civil Aviation Authority has informed the change sponsor [RSP] of this decision. “The change sponsor is now able to reconsider its submission before resubmitting it for further review by the Civil Aviation Authority at a future develop & assess gateway. “It is important to note that whether an airspace change proposal passes a gateway successfully or not does not predetermine the CAA’s later final decision on whether to approve the airspace change proposal. “This decision is not an explicit or implicit comment on the merits or otherwise of this Airspace Change Proposal (ACP). This will come at the decision-making stage.” Responding, RSP said: “In order for the CAA to allow an ACP to pass through a gateway, the change sponsor must satisfy the CAA that it has followed the process correctly before it can move to the next stage in the process. “The purpose is to minimise any work having to be repeated, particularly in getting the supporting documentation for consultation right. “Following advice from the CAA, RSP will re-evaluate the supporting documentation with a view to submitting the documents to the CAA for a further Stage 2 Gateway Assessment in the near future and progressing the ACP to the next stage which will involve a full public consultation.”
• The government will need to invest five times the amount it pledged last week for buses to provide everyone with ‘cheap, reliable and fast’ bus journeys
The government’s National Bus Strategy is woefully unambitious and will continue to deliver “wholly inadequate” bus services, especially in rural areas, according to a report from CPRE, the countryside charity. The report, Every Village, Every Hour, outlines how the government could reach its own ambition of delivering radically improved bus services across the country by investing £2.7 billion a year. This is five times more than the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary pledged last week when launching new funding of £3bn over five years in the National Bus Strategy. The announcement is a one-off splurge when what we need is continuous, year-on-year funding to connect every community with “cheap, reliable and fast” bus journeys. CPRE’s modelling shows that, with the right investment, the government can deliver a world-leading bus network capable of matching Swiss standards where every village of 200-300 people is guaranteed at least an hourly bus service from 6am to midnight, seven days a week. One way of achieving this would be to redirect just a portion of the funding for the government’s legally embattled and widely criticised £27 billion roadbuilding schemes to instead properly fund buses. This could provide more than enough money to pay for CPRE’s vision, with enough left over to make fares free across these services. Crispin Truman, chief executive of the countryside charity, said: “Rural communities up and down the country know from painful first-hand experience the impacts of underfunding our bus services. Too many have been languishing in so-called transport deserts where those who do not have access to a car are left high and dry with no practical way to get to work, school or doctors. Public transport for rural communities has been wholly inadequate for long enough. “Our new research shows that the Prime Minister’s recently announced investment in buses, while seemingly impressive, is a fraction of what’s actually needed to realise the vision espoused by ministers. “To avoid another situation where rhetoric doesn’t meet delivery, we’re calling on the government to significantly raise the level of investment in our ailing bus services and recognise a universal basic right to public transport. Our research shows this investment will pay dividends – that’s why bigger bucks for buses is an absolute no-brainer.” This report builds upon previous research from CPRE, which found that more than a million people in the South West and North East live in ‘transport deserts’ or areas where the only practical form of transport is the private car. While the Transport Minister rightly stated that “everyone deserves to have access to cheap, reliable and quick bus journeys”, our analysis shows the amount invested by the government will fall woefully short of what is needed to reach every part of the country with decent public transport. It is often overlooked that bus services provide numerous public goods and are essential for the many people across England who do not have access to a car. Improved bus services in rural areas have the potential to change lives – we know that this kind of investment will disproportionately benefit low-income families, the elderly and the young. By providing an alternative to private car travel, local bus services can reduce traffic and air pollution while boosting high street spending, employment, social mobility and equality. CPRE is calling on the government to recognise a universal basic right to public transport to provide Swiss-style service standards to villages and towns that must be legally enforced.
Sometimes a planning decision leaves you struggling for words – and that by Kent County Council’s planning committee to approve a parkway station that will increase journey times from Thanet to London certainly hits the spot. Councillors decided by eight votes to five to approve the £34 million Thanet Parkway project, choosing to put aside a Department for Transport statement from 2018 that its panel was “concerned that accommodating an additional stop at Thanet Parkway would add two minutes to the journey on the line between Ashford and Ramsgate”. The county council argument has been that the station will in fact cut journey times to London by three minutes – yes, you read that correctly: three minutes – although it is by no means clear how even that laughably small reductionwill be achieved. Extraordinarily, Thanet now has eight railway stations. The committee made its decision in a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, September 2. It is telling that committee members representing Thanet all voted against the scheme regardless of their party affiliation – but what do they know? Clearly the statement by Sharon Thompson, the county council’s head of planning applications, that “We are confident the business case is robust” carried more weight, despite a lack of supporting evidence. KentOnline reported how committee vice-chairman Dick Pascoe dismissed the idea that Thanet would be oversupplied with train stations by talking about Chinese restaurants: “A Chinese restaurant wanted to open in a Kent area where there were several Chinese restaurants and we did not say no,” he apparently said. How £34 million for a scheme that will increase journey times represents a robust business case is something you might like to ponder over your evening Horlicks. As for the Chinese restaurants thing, perhaps it’s best not to think about it. For more on this baffling decision, click here
CPRE, the countryside charity, has said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s ‘mini-Budget’ missed the mark on transport and housing. The Chancellor had been aiming to revive the economy through his A Plan for Jobs mini-Budget, announced earlier this month, but Tom Fyans, CPRE campaigns and policy director, said: “While we have seen promising starts on energy efficiency and shoring up rural hospitality businesses, the Chancellor has missed major opportunities to begin building back better when it comes to transport and housing investment.” Mr Fyans addressed several issues in the mini-Budget: On existing homes: “The £3 billion announced on energy efficiency is a good start but must be swiftly followed by a National Retrofit Strategy that CPRE has been calling for in our new report Greener, Better, Faster and a plan for longer-term investment. Decarbonising our homes and buildings is essential to preventing runaway climate change. We expect to see further investment in reducing emissions from our existing homes via the £9bn for energy-efficiency schemes promised by Boris Johnson in the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto at the end of last year.” On new homes: “We understand the Chancellor wants to reboot the construction sector, but he’s pulling the wrong lever with a Stamp Duty holiday. By investing in social and genuinely affordable housing instead, he could drive up build rates and provide the homes that are so desperately needed, especially in rural areas. We cannot accept that private rentals in nine out of 10 rural areas are unaffordable for care workers. We urge the government to begin investing in homes for our heroes and tackling the housing crisis.” On transport: “Any serious claims to a green recovery are being completely undermined by the out-of-touch £27bn road-building plans that will drive up emissions and will likely not be needed with homeworking on the rise. In the mini-Budget we did not hear one mention of public transport, the low-carbon alternative to the private car that is so desperately needed, especially in disconnected rural areas. We are urging the government to scrap the planned road spending and put this money to much better use. Diverting some of this funding to a dedicated rural transport fund would have a dramatic impact connecting up towns and villages with affordable, convenient and low-carbon public transport.” On rural economies: “The Chancellor was absolutely right to highlight hard-hit rural businesses in the hospitality industry and we welcome the ‘eat out to help out’ vouchers. We can all play our part in supporting local businesses as we emerge from lockdown. Our hope is that these vouchers will help get small rural restaurants, pubs and cafes back on their feet as lockdown eases and holiday season begins, with many of us choosing to go on a staycation here in the UK rather than venturing abroad.”
A developer has been granted consent to reopen Manston airport as a freight hub – a move described as shocking by the director of CPRE Kent. After two postponements of the decision, in January and May, the Department for Transport finally announced today (Thursday, July 9) that the RiverOak Strategic Partners scheme to reopen the airport six years after it closed was being granted a Development Consent Order. RSP says it will be investing £300 million in the scheme, which it claims will create up to 6,000 jobs at Manston. The developer predicts the reopened airport will be operational from 2023 and able to handle at least 10,000 freight movements a year. The decision effectively dismisses the conclusions of the four-man Planning Inspectorate’s Examining Authority, which had been clear that the DCO should not be granted. Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “It is shocking that four inspectors spent some nine months preparing a report and concluded very strongly that the DCO should be refused. “The developer was not able to demonstrate need, there were adverse impacts on traffic and transport and there were concerns over noise pollution. “Most importantly, though, the Examining Authority recommended the Secretary of State refuse the DCO due to conservation of habitats and species regulations. “In short, the inspectors’ conclusions were ignored. “This decision flies in the face of the Heathrow third-runway judgement where the Court of Appeal ruled that proposals had failed to consider this country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.” Although by law the Manston decision had to be made in the name of Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, the DfT said Mr Shapps had “not personally been involved in this decision because of a conflict of interest, following previous statements of support made prior to his appointment as the Secretary of State for Transport” and the decision had “in practice been allocated to and taken by the Minister of State for Transport, Andrew Stephenson”. Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North, told the BBC’s South East Today: “The new airport, when it opens, will be the most environmentally-friendly airport in the world – it will beat Helsinki by a country mile. It’s going to be net-zero carbon – we’re going to be proud of it.” The same programme reported that RSP had said there would be five flights an hour – but no night flights.
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
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.”
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’.”
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
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
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.
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.
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)
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