Thurrock Council boss expresses “significant concerns” over Lower Thames Crossing

THURROCK Council is poised to give its formal response to a consultation on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing and has questioned the scheme’s viability in letter to the treasury.

The council has written to Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury saying it has “significant concerns” about the scheme. In the letter Rob Gledhill, leader of the council, said: “The Council believes the current project is no longer achieving its stated aims and that the basis for the project needs to be re-examined.

“This is due to significant and exceptional domestic and international challenges and events over the preceding three years. The council’s concerns are exacerbated by poor engagement by National Highways, especially in relation to sharing key information about local impacts.

Mr Gledhill added: “The council contests that insufficient evidence has been presented to demonstrate that there are scheme benefits that outweigh these impacts, or that alternatives could not be identified that would deliver a better balance between local impact and strategic benefit.

“There is substantial and growing evidence to suggest that the current scheme is at risk as it will fail to provide value for money in accordance with Government requirements.”

A 75-page document consultation response document will be presented to council next week before being sent for inclusion in the National Highways consultation on the the £8.2b new road, which will link Kent with Essex.

The document is yet to be published but the main points of concern were outlined to the council’s Lower Thames Crossing Task Force on Monday.

Chris Stratford, a senior consultant advising the taskforce said the consultation had been launched too soon. He said: “This consultation is premature when we have only just received the operation and construction traffic modelling. We haven’t analysed it properly yet.

“They haven’t completed their air quality and noise assessments yet. They haven’t completed their health assessments and there is a whole series of workshops coming up all of which may amount to further significant changes to the scheme and therefore going out to consultation now may mean that they have to go out again later.”

Mr Stratford added: “We’ve made a number of points about the actual consultation arrangements, particularly about the lack of venue at South Ockendon and Chadwell. About what was originally four weeks, is now five-and-a half weeks and should have been eight weeks in our view.”
The council will discuss the consultation response on June 29.

Mark Bottomley, Development Director, Lower Thames Crossing said: “There is an urgent need to address the challenges faced by tens of thousands of people at the Dartford Crossing every day. The Lower Thames Crossing will almost double road capacity across the Thames east of London to ease congestion at Dartford and create a reliable new connection that will improve journeys across the whole region. The design of the scheme has been shaped by the most comprehensive programme of consultation ever undertaken for a road project that has included around 100 hundred local events. The Community Impacts Consultation held last year contained comprehensive information on air quality and health broken down area by area. This most recent consultation sought feedback on a number of localised changes. Our assessment work is ongoing and will be fully presented in our application for Development Consent Order later this year.”

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