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Highways England withdraws Lower Thames Crossing scheme

Words: Huw Morris

Highways England has withdrawn its application for the Lower Thames Crossing at the 11th hour.

The agency submitted a development consent order (DCO) last month, with the Planning Inspectorate due to rule on the application last Friday, when the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) was pulled. The scheme is aimed at easing congestion on the Dartford Crossing (pictured) by connecting Essex with Kent.

Highways England said the decision was based on early feedback from the Planning Inspectorate and that it “will take time to collate the information required for the specific points raised and will be resubmitting the application early in the new year”.

The NSIP includes a twin-bore tunnel crossing under the River Thames east of Gravesend and Tilbury, linked north of the river by a new road to the M25 between junctions 29 and 30. The new road south of the river will directly join the A2 at Thong.

Highways England had announced the start of procurement for design-and-build contracts earlier this month.

The scheme had attracted considerable criticism over its public consultation process, with Gravesham and Thurrock councils issuing a joint statement on the application’s withdrawal.

“The Lower Thames Crossing is one of the largest transport infrastructure projects we will see in our lifetimes,” according to the statement.

“While we are yet to understand the full reasons behind the withdrawal or what feedback Highways England has received from the Planning Inspectorate, the impact a project of this scale will have on our communities means it is only right that as much time as necessary is taken to ensure every last detail of the project is understood and has been assessed thoroughly.

“Together we had fundamental concerns over the adequacy of the public consultation conducted by Highways England.

“While it will impact Gravesham and Thurrock in different and specific ways, we feel the overall impact on our local communities will be such that full, genuine and meaningful consultation on the proposals is an absolute minimum requirement if we are to ensure the views of the people we represent are fully taken into account.

“It remains to be seen whether that is a view shared by the Planning Inspectorate and therefore is a contributing factor to the withdrawal of the DCO application.

“We urge Highways England to take this opportunity to bring forward improvements to this scheme that will be for the benefit of all those who live in our boroughs.”

Image credit | iStock