Council 'outraged' at Lower Thames Crossing plan

THURROCK Council's leaders have expressed "outrage" at the Government's announcement of the new Lower Thames Crossing route, claiming residents have been kept in the dark for months.

Council leader Cllr Rob Gledhill accused Highways England of "ploughing on regardless" despite repeated requests for talks prior to any announcement and described the preferred route as "truly the worst choice out of a terrible bunch".

The route will connect Essex and Kent, east of Tilbury and Gravesend, via a new crossing under the Thames.

The Department for Transport said the route, which will create a new link between the A2 and the M25 to reduce congestion on the Dartford Crossing, was identified by the majority of nearly 47,000 respondents to its consultation as the best option.

It added that the multi-billion pound crossing is expected to carry around 4.5m heavy goods vehicles in its first year, improving links between London and the Channel ports, and could create 6,000 jobs and boost the economy by £8bn a year.

But Cllr Gledhill said the route was announced before a scheduled telephone call with Highways England and the council is still waiting for key information - including the results from the first round of consultation and data on air quality and congestion - it has requested for its response.

He added that the council is still waiting for a response to 17 objections it presented to Highways England 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," he added.

"What more can I say - I have been continually outraged and disappointed at every stage of this process, it is obviously the wrong decision for Thurrock and we continue with our objections to this flawed plan."

Cllr Gledhill said he would request a meeting with transport secretary Chris Grayling to discuss how the decision was made.

Cllr Graham Snell, leader of Thurrock's UKIP group, described the DfT's plan as a "fundamentally flawed proposal" that will destroy homes and communities, while Labour group leader Cllr John Kent said residents do not want an "ill-thought through scheme" thrust upon them.

The planned crossing has also been criticised by the Campaign for Better Transport.

"Building a major new road through protected countryside is not the right way to address the longstanding problems of traffic, much of it HGVs, through Kent," said sustainable transport campaigner Bridget Fox.

"Instead of squandering billions on yet another expensive new road that will inevitably fill up with traffic, leading to more congestion, a better solution would be to expand port capacity north of the Thames, improve freight and passenger rail links to Kent and look at measures like distance-based HGV charging to better manage traffic."