MORE than a 100 residents packed into the council chamber in Grays to have their say on the government’s consultation options for a new crossing in the borough.
The government is running a consultation until 16 July on three options for a new lower thames crossing. All the options land in Thurrock. A special scrutiny committee meeting was held for experts, residents and community leaders as part of a campaign that started last December with cross-party commitment to no new crossings in Thurrock.
This pioneering approach to scrutiny meetings at the council included two afternoon sessions at which representations were made from the Department for Transport, South East Local Economic Partnership, Thurrock business, Environmental groups, the Leader of Thurrock Council and the borough’s two MPs.
The evening session was a public meeting for residents led by the scrutiny committee and facilitated by local boy and BBC Essex broadcaster, Stuart Smith.
There was clear concensus about the way forward:
Thurrock needs investment now to reflect the growth agenda already happening in the borough.
There needs to be time to consider the impact of freeflow tolling and full investment in junction 30 and 31 of the M25 before any consideration of a new crossing
Other options east of Thurrock, considered in 2009, have been too readily discounted from this consultation and should be put back on the table
The three options do not offer value for money and are considerably lower compared to other national infrastructure projects
The options, particularly option C create an environmental disaster in the borough, one of the most interesting and diverse bioversity locations in the country.
Cllr Gerard Rice, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, said: “I was delighted to see so many people get involved in a different style of scrutiny meeting, giving experts, residents and community leaders the opportunity to have their say.
Cllr Rice, added: “There is a clear lack of evidence to support the options presented and no evidence that they are in the best interests of the borough. There needs to be evaluation of the impact of freeflow tolling and improvements to junction 30 and 31 before consideration to any new crossing is needed. What’s more, there are better options than the ones being presented. The government needs to think more strategically about the issue and include consideration of options further east of Thurrock – that has been said by nearly everyone who has spoken today.”
Cllr Garry Hague, Vice-Chair of the Committee, said: “At the session, over 100 residents made it quite clear they are opposed to the three options that are being consulted on for a new crossing in Thurrock. Notwithstanding the potential environmental impacts on Thurrock communities related to these schemes, the cost-benefit analysis shows that all of the options offer only marginal value for money. I urge all residents to make their views known through the consultation. There is a genuine opportunity to influence this decision, but only by speaking up now can residents show Government that these are not good options for a new Thames crossing.”
Cllr Rice, reinforced that point with a rally cry to every resident and business in the borough: “It is important that everyone completes the questionnaire before the 16 July deadline. If every household and every business in Thurrock sends in the completed questionnaire to the Department for Transport, then they will have to sit up and listen.
All views will be included in the council’s response which goes to Cabinet on 10 July.