Thurrock Council leader calls for halt to consultation on Thames crossing

THE LEADER of Thurrock Council. cllr John Kent has called for a halt to the consultation for a Lower Thames Crossing.

Speaking at the full meeting of Thurrock Council, Cllr Kent said:

"I know we have a question and a motion later tonight on issues around the Lower Thames Crossing, but I believe it is important we reiterate some important points.

This council is implacably opposed to any extra Thames crossing in Thurrock – it doesn’t matter whether that’s at C or even A – and I’ll come to that in a minute. It doesn’t matter whether it’s route 1, 2, 3, or 4. None of these is good for Thurrock and all of these put the work we are doing under threat.

Last week it became absolutely clear that the government and Highways England are thoroughly confused about what they want – except it seems they all want to dump on the people of Thurrock.

When Highways England eventually launched their consultation – on 26 January, and just 12 hours after our first public meeting was held – it was perfectly clear. Option A had been dropped.

There can be absolutely no doubt about that. Whatever Highways England may say now their lords and masters at Westminster have changed their minds, Option A was dead.

And I can prove it. I have here a Question and Answer document their staff had and Question 2 asks: Why are you not consulting on a route option at Location A?

Considering the present position, the answer is interesting. It says: “In summary, Highways England’s assessment has shown that a crossing at location A would not solve the traffic problems at Dartford and would do little for the economy.

“In light of these findings Highways England have concluded that a route option at Location A will not be taken forward and therefore this option is not included in the public consultation.”

That’s pretty specific isn’t it? Option A is not included in the consultation.

A couple of weeks ago we – Cllr Gledhill, Cllr Snell, Cllr Little and I – wrote to the Secretary of State asking that he extend the consultation period. He has not replied.

I think we should get together again and write to demand the consultation is stopped, now, today, this minute. If ministers are saying Option A is on the table and the agency says it isn’t, how are ordinary people supposed to respond sensibly.

If Option A is being considered despite Highways England’s belief it “would not solve the traffic problems at Dartford and would do little for the economy” then we want to see options at Canvey, Pitsea and Southend properly investigated and considered.

If a minister can instantly get Option A back on the agenda – even if against the advice of Highways England – it’s clear that, just as quickly, he could get option D put back for consideration; now’s the time to do that.

Both the government and Highways England should consider what we’ve been saying for the best part of six years now. Sort out Junction 31 as well as Junction 30. Design an admittedly multi-million pound scheme to tackle the congestion. That’s got to be better than a six-BILLION pound scheme that allegedly will create one job for every million spent … and then find out it won’t work anyway.

Now is the time for government to grasp the nettle; to say “we got it wrong, we’re sorry, but we’re going to get it right now”.

If a full and modern investigation of all the options from Southend to Rainham comes up with the same answer so be it. If a full modern investigation takes into consideration the effect of all of Transport for London’s river crossing plans; and if a full modern investigation includes new congestion mitigation such as sorting out Junction 31 and the approach to the twin Dartford tunnels, so be it.

It’s not that we are NIMBYs, we simply believe that at the moment a fourth Thurrock crossing is not properly thought through; a fourth Thurrock crossing plan is based on old and inaccurate information; a fourth Thurrock crossing will not solve the problems; cheaper and simpler options should be investigated first; and if necessary, all options should be looked at again.

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