Lower Thames Crossing Presentation
The Committee received a presentation on the ‘Lower Thames Crossing’by the Principal Transport and NSIP Project Manager.
The presentation can be viewed here:-
The Principal Transport and SCIP Project Manager highlighted the following:-
· the statutory consultation finished in December 2018 and the Council submitted its response which was agreed at the Full Council on 18 December 2018;
· the Council was currently waiting on more detailed information from Highways England on those responses that they had received from the residents of Gravesham. Broadly, the supportive comments were from further afield whilst the objections were clustered close to the alignment;
· if there were significant design changes over the statutory consultation scheme Highways England may carry out a further targeted consultation in due course;
· Geophysical investigations had commenced and data will also be used from the studies undertaken when the A2 was widened and HS1 built;
· the tunnels will be bored from Thurrock so much of the spoil will be removed from the North however there will still be a significant volume in Gravesham which continues to be a major concern;
· construction is due to take place between 2021-2027 with the completed scheme opening in 2027;
· the proposed road works include a variety of complex junctions. The primary purpose being to join A2/M2 with M25 in Essex. The Council had expressed concern regarding the impact of the proposed A2 junction on local flows at Marling Cross junction and lack of detail on the impact to traffic flow during construction;
· the red line on the map that formed part of the statutory consultation highlighted those properties that will be compulsory purchased. The Council was now required to declare any properties within 200m of the red line boundary when undertaking land searches;
· the Council expressed concern regarding Ramsar/Special Protection Areas and the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AoNB);
· there was a lack of information regarding the charging regime however the Council had requested that residents of Gravesham receive the same discount as those in Dartford and Thurrock which should apply to both crossings and start from commencement of construction; and
· the Principal Transport and NSIP Project Manager stated that the Council would need to give consideration to what measures will be required to mitigate the impact and what compensation will be required if those measures cannot be mitigated.
The Committee highlighted the following:-
· with regard to the targeted consultation, all Members will need to be involved and it would be beneficial for Members to receive a further briefing from Highways England;
· consideration needs to be given to accommodation for the construction workers on the project;
· as there will also be local skills and training opportunities, contact should be made with local schools, colleges etc. to offer safety advice and to explore the creation of apprenticeships. During the construction phase, Highways England should require its contractors to use local labour wherever possible;
· with regard to mitigation/compensation, consideration needs to be given to minimising the disruption to traffic flow i.e. limiting when construction activity will be undertaken possibly at night/during school holidays and advance warning of alternative routes will need to be advertised from the onset. Concern was expressed regarding the disruption that had been caused from recent weekend works which was insignificant compared with the scale that will be happening during the construction phase;
· concern was expressed regarding air quality during the construction phase. Highways England had proposed to plant rows of trees at the end of the construction period however opportunities should be explored to plant trees earlier in the construction process. In London, lung function tests were being undertaken on local residents and it was suggested that this approach should be undertaken in Gravesham pre, during and after the construction period. A collaboration could take place with local universities;
· consideration needs to be given to public transport particularly for schools and cross river links;
· the Council should give consideration to undertaking its own surveys/polls with local residents and businesses to ensure that its receives all relevant feedback to underpin the responses to Highways England.
The Committee agreed that, as Gravesham would be the most affected by theLower Thames Crossing, it was essential that the views of its residents and businesses were heard. All Members were responsible for representing their constituents therefore it was important that all three political parties work together to put the views of the residents and businesses at the 'heart of the Council’s thinking' as the project moves forward. The Council needs to become a strong unified voice to ensure that issues such as investment in improving the local road network, design of the A2 junction, protection of the environment and more research on the impact of the Crossing on people's health continues to be top priorities. The Council will endeavour to keep residents well informed on progress of the Lower Thames Crossing.
The Chair advised that he would inform the Leader and the Cabinet of the above discussions and would also liaise with the Communications Team to request that there be a press release on the Council becoming a strong unified voice regarding the Lower Thames Crossing.
The Committee thanked the Principal Transport and NSIP Project Manager for an informative and interesting presentation.