By Local Democracy Reporter
PLANS to build a new multi-billion-pound road tunnel beneath the Thames could prevent Thurrock Council from properly planning the borough’s future.
A council report published ahead of an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday states that plans for the Lower Thames Crossing will “significantly undermine” efforts to meet Thurrock’s housing needs and support economic growth.
The borough’s Local Plan, which outlines where thousands of homes will be built over the next 20 years, is expected to be delayed until 2021 when the Secretary of State has approved the construction of the crossing.
The report states: “It is clear that the current alignment and design of the Lower Thames Crossing Scheme is failing to maximise the opportunities to support future housing and economic growth in both Thurrock and across the wider South Essex area and will instead have an adverse impact on the ability of the Council to plan to meet its development needs in a sustainable and deliverable manner.”
Consequently, councillors will need to consider amending the local development scheme, which sets out the timeline for the plan’s development.
Thurrock currently needs to find space for 31,463 homes in their Local Plan but the central government regularly reviews planning policies and targets can rise if a plan is not in place.
This delay is expected to also impact the construction of more affordable homes. Currently the borough has a significant need for affordable housing and a 2016 report entitled South Essex Strategic Housing Market Assessment stated that the council would need to build 472 homes per year for the next five years to meet the demand. The need would then increase to 663 per year.
But if the Local Plan is adopted between 2021 and 2022 the council is unlikely to be able to address this problem until two or three years later because a significant portion of land would need to be allocated on Green Belt sites currently in private ownership.
Thurrock council did not respond to requests for comment on the delays or on the potential impact for residents.
Last week, the leader of Thurrock Council, Rob Gledhill, said that “all Councillors remain unanimously opposed to the Lower Thames Crossing” and it poses and “unacceptable impact on Thurrock”.