Our response to 'flawed' Lower Thames Crossing consultation
Gravesham Borough Council has expressed its continuing anger and frustration at Highways England’s approach to public engagement in its response to the latest round of consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing proposals.
Reiterating its strong opposition to the proposals, Council Leader Cllr John Burden said the authority was being continually thwarted in its efforts to protect the interests of local people and businesses due to a lack of clear information and had been left confused by a number of changes made since the previous round of consultation.
“I am dismayed that there remain a considerable number of points which the council has raised in response to earlier consultations which have not been addressed in the documents provided by Highways England for this latest round of engagement,” said Cllr Burden.
“Where is the detail on Highway’s England’s aim to support sustainable local development? There is no evidence of that here in Gravesham.
“Where are the replacements for the leisure facilities that will be lost at Cascades leisure centre and our open spaces?
“Where are the details on a discounted charge for Gravesham users of the Lower Thames Crossing and the Dartford Crossing?
“Where are the details on the training and skills development programmes for Gravesham residents?
“The lack of information is unforgiveable, and that’s before we even start on the environmental issues we have raised previously and the new ones to arise out of this latest consultation.”
In its response, the council raises concerns over the inclusion of a number of noise barriers along the A2 in the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which imply Highways England has information about high levels of noise disturbance in the area.
It also highlights the inclusion of electrical sub and switching stations, access tracks, and noise barriers all adding to urban clutter along the route, which is all located in the Green Belt.
The council has serious concerns about the potential impact of loss or partial loss or problems accessing a range of formal and informal recreational areas at the same time including Jeskyns, Southern Valley Golf Course, Shorne Country Park, and Cascades.
It fears this will leave very few options for local dog walkers, for example, and will increase the attractiveness of areas such as Thames Marshes which are of international importance for birds.
Highways England’s proposed new parkland area (Chalk Park) won’t be available for many years because of the lengthy construction period and the need to deal with spoil from the tunnelling works.
Cllr Burden added: “We have submitted a detailed response to this latest consultation, which includes our demand for a comprehensive approach to environmental mitigation and compensation which is sadly currently lacking.
“Perhaps the most damning indictment and example of the huge holes in the information supplied for this consultation is that the climate emergency is not mentioned once in Highways England’s documentation.
“In June 2019 the Government set a legally binding target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the UK economy by 2050. In Gravesham we have set our own target of 2030.
“The construction of the largest infrastructure project our Borough has ever witnessed puts a huge question mark against our ability to achieve that.
“The fact it does not even warrant a mention in the consultation illustrates perfectly how fundamentally flawed the process is.
“It is simply unacceptable.”
Gravesham Borough Council’s full response to the latest Lower Thames Crossing consultation can be viewed via https://www.gravesham.gov.uk/ltc