Thurrock councillors are ‘outraged’ by the Government’s plans for a new Lower Thames Crossing and have accused Highways England of keeping residents in the dark.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling today announced the route of the new crossing, which he said could create more than 6,000 jobs and boost the economy by more than £8bn.
The planned route will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross the A13 at Orsett before crossing under the Thames east of Tilbury and Gravesend. A new link road will then take traffic to the A2 near Shorne, close to where the route becomes the M2.
This route was identified by the majority of nearly 47,000 respondents to a consultation on a new Lower Thames Crossing as the best solution for reducing traffic and congestion at the Dartford Crossing and for boosting the economy by improving links to London and the Channel ports.
However, all three council leaders in Thurrock have responded that they are ‘outraged’ by what they see as a lack of consultation.
‘Despite our requests for meaningful engagement prior to any announcement, we see Highways England ploughing on regardless - announcing the next route before my scheduled telephone call with them at 10am this morning. This seems to be par for course,’ said leader of the Conservative group and Thurrock Council, Cllr Rob Gledhill.
‘But we have to ask - where are the consultation results from the first round they promised to send us? Where are the replies to the e-mails and letters we have sent Highways England sharing our concerns?
‘Where is the information on air quality and congestion we have asked for? Indeed, where is our reply to the 17 objections we presented them with more than a year ago? Residents across the borough are going to be affected by this and it appears Highways England just simply don’t care.
‘If we are going to put forward a further well-informed and factually accurate response outlining the impact on Thurrock, we need the information we’ve requested and been promised – all of which remains undelivered.’
Responding to the details of the Government’s announcement, Cllr Gledhill described the route as ‘truly the worst choice out of a terrible bunch’ because of its impact on heritage and ecological sites.
Leader of the Thurrock UKIP group, Cllr Graham Snell, was also annoyed by what he saw as Highways England pushing on with a ‘flawed proposal’.
‘We have all been waiting for Highways England to make the announcement – any announcement – for months but as always, they work to their own schedule regardless of how many people are in limbo waiting to know if a new crossing is going to destroy their homes and communities,’ he said.
‘I had a small hope that they would have come to their senses and relook at the information presented rather than push this fundamentally flawed proposal.’
‘Now is the time for Thurrock - its people, it’s businesses, and its council - to come together and fight as one,’ added Cllr John Kent, leader of the Thurrock Labour group.
‘We don't want our green belt destroyed and we don't want our homes destroyed. We don't want an ill-thought through scheme thrust upon us and the country as a whole.
‘And most of all, we don't want the queues, congestion, and pollution shifted five miles downstream as a new motorway cuts our borough in half.’
The new crossing announcement was, however, welcomed by the motor insurance company, the RAC.
‘Whilst it is motorists who account for the majority of the journeys at the Dartford Crossing, the need for another link across the Thames is being driven in large part by the rapid rise in freight traffic and the expansion of the Channel ports,’ said Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation.
‘The requirement for extra road capacity between Kent and Essex will already be well understood by long-suffering users of the existing crossing.
‘However, planners will also have had an eye on official figures which predict that traffic volumes on our motorways and major roads could increase by 60% by 2040.
‘Now that this long-awaited decision has been made, drivers will be keen to know when today’s promise of shovels in the ground will actually deliver the capacity needed to ensure safe and reliable journeys.’