By Local Democracy Reporter
A £1billion plan to revitalise Purfleet that has courted controversy and criticism may now be facing collapse.
The scheme, which proposes 3,000 new homes, a new town centre and film and television studios and which has been roundly condemned by borough MP Jackie Doyle-Price as badly planned, is now reported to be in jeopardy because of an objection from Highways England.
Ms Doyle-Price – who has previously slammed the ‘staggering ineptitude of Thurrock Council in putting the plans together – has warned that Highways England, the government agency responsible for maintaining motorways and A roads, has lodged an objection against the scheme due to the strain it could put on the A13.
She claims Highways England will object to any development that proposes more than 250 homes, despite the council having awarded the scheme outline planning permission in April.
At the time permission was granted, planning officers acknowledged that Highways England had written to the council to express concerns over the plans and had said permission should not be granted until a suitable traffic reduction plan had been agreed.
Speaking in the House of Commons Ms Doyle-Price complained that while Highways England has raised concerns about Purfleet and the pressure on the A13, the agency is still pressing ahead with the controversial Lower Thames Crossing.
She said: “Plans to deliver 3,000 new homes in Purfleet in my constituency have ground to a halt following Highways England’s decision to reject any planning application for more than 250 houses due to pressure on the A13.
“I find it difficult to explain to my constituents why Highways England is putting a new motorway through Thurrock while preventing us from planning and delivering new homes.”
Norfolk MP George Freeman, who is a minister for the Department for Transport, said it was due to the Secretary of State for Local Government Robert Jenrick “working on the much closer integration of housing and transport”.
Mr Freeman added that he would be willing to meet Ms Doyle-Price to discuss it further.
In response the Thurrock MP said: “It is ridiculous that the Government has awarded over £60m to allow for the purchase of land to build new homes in Purfleet only to be thwarted by Highways England due to extra pressures on the A13.
“It is even more ridiculous when the new Lower Thames crossing will add far more pressure than the plans for Purfleet.
“There is no way that Thurrock can meet its future housing demand if Highways England is going to behave in this way. If Highways England wants to reduce the future pressures on the A13 it should reconsider the route for the Lower Thames crossing and join it up with the A127.
“This is the preferred route of people who live in Thurrock and which removes fewer sites for new homes. If the Government is serious about delivering new homes, it really does need to get Highways England to change its behaviour.”
Labour councillor Victoria Holloway, who represents Purfleet, said that she had not seen the objection but said she believed it would leave many councillors and residents frustrated as it had widespread support within the community.
She added: “The government is truly not helping Thurrock in any way shape or form, it is really frustrating.”