Highways England has today [Wednesday 23 June] announced details of a new round of public consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing, as it prepares to submit its application for a Development Consent Order later this year.
This Community Impacts Consultation will give people the opportunity to review and comment on Highways England’s plans to build and operate the Lower Thames Crossing, and how it proposes to reduce its impact on the local community and environment. Topics include changes to traffic, air quality, noise and vibration, as well as the impact of the new crossing on the environment and landscape.
The consultation will also include some changes made to the project since the previous consultation in 2020. This includes a reduction in the area needed to build and operate the scheme, a smaller impact on local properties and woodland, and new public spaces on both sides of the River Thames. The project has also summarised how the feedback provided during earlier consultations has been used in the development of the project.
The proposed crossing will almost double road capacity between Kent, Thurrock, Havering and Essex, and ease congestion and improve air quality on the Dartford Crossing by diverting over 13 million vehicles away every year. It will help level up regions across the southeast by creating an additional, reliable connection between people, jobs, homes and businesses, as well as support the region’s recovery from Covid by employing over 22,000 people during construction.
The ambitious proposals will also help the region build back better by creating over 500 hectares of improved habitats for wildlife and new greenspaces for local communities. Highways England recently announced the creation of a new community woodland in partnership with Forestry England, and this consultation includes details of two new public parks; Chalk Park to the East of Gravesend, and Tilbury Fields in Thurrock. These will be connected by seven green bridges and over 46km of new or improved public footpaths.
Matt Palmer, Executive Director for Lower Thames Crossing, said: “The Lower Thames Crossing is the most ambitious road scheme in a generation. It will improve journeys, drive long term economic growth by creating new opportunities for those living, working and doing business in the region, and play a key role in our recovery from Covid by supporting 22,000 jobs during construction.
“People’s feedback has been crucial in developing the project – not just to reduce the impact, but to find opportunities to enhance habitats for local wildlife, and create new public parks, woodland, and footpaths for the local community. This further consultation is another opportunity for you to have your say before we submit our planning application at the end of the year. I would like to thank people in advance for once again giving us their time and feedback.”
The eight-week consultation will run from Wednesday 14 July to 23:59 on Wednesday 8 September 2021. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic the project is providing a range of ways to access information including a dedicated consultation website, webinars and a telephone service. If government guidance permits the project will also host a series of in-person events at locations along the proposed route. A range of documents will be also published alongside new visualisations and flythrough videos giving an overview of the route before, during and after it is built.
Highways England submitted an application for a Development Consent Order in October 2020, but withdrew it following discussions with the Planning Inspectorate to provide more information. The organisation plans to submit a new application later this year to restart the consent process. If given the green light, construction is expected to start in 2024 and take around six years, leading to a revised road opening date between 2029 and 2030.