Lower Thames Crossing Planning Application Submitted
On 31st October 2022, National Highways submitted their application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Planning Inspectorate for permission to proceed with the construction of the Lower Thames Crossing.
Acceptance: The Inspectorate has 28 days to decide whether the application meets the required standards to proceed to examination.
Pre-Examination: If accepted, the process will move into the Pre-Examination stage, when the public will be able to register with the Planning Inspectorate to become an Interested Party by making a Relevant Representation. All Interested Parties will be invited to attend a Preliminary Meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority. Although there is no statutory timescale for the pre-examination stage, it usually takes approximately three months from notification of an accepted application.
Examination: The Planning Inspectorate has up to six months to carry out the examination. During this stage Interested Parties who have registered by making a Relevant Representation are invited to provide more details of their views in writing.
Recommendation: The Planning Inspectorate must prepare a report to the relevant Secretary of State, including a recommendation, within three months of the close of the six month Examination stage.
Decision: The Secretary of State then has a further three months to make the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.
Post decision: Once a decision has been issued by the Secretary of State, there is a six week period during which the decision may be challenged in the High Court. This process of legal challenge is known as Judicial Review.
2022 Lower Thames Crossing Local Refinement Consultation
Between 12th May 2022 and 20th June 2022, the Lower Thames Crossing embarked on its latest, and hopefully its last consultation before they submit their application for Development Consent Order later this year. Locally, the main changes are the newly-introduced proposals to acquire additional land for “nitrogen deposition” mitigation, including:
- Land south of Swillers Lane, east of Warren View, between The Warren, Court Wood, Cole Wood, and Starmore Wood. This is currently farmland;
- Land north of Shorne Woods Country Park, west of Woodlands Lane, between Shorne Woods Country Park and Fenn Wood. This is currently grazing land;
- Land west and east of Crutches Lane, Higham, currently part of Gads Hill Farm;
- Land west of Henhurst Road, opposite Jeskyns park, currently farmland.
There is also an extensive area of farmland south of the M2, east of Bluebell Hill. These areas of land are intended to be planted with trees to create wildlife habitats to offset the potentially adverse impacts of nitrogen deposition resulting from increased traffic.
Separately from nitrogen deposition, the remaining part of Southern Valley Golf Course (east of the tunnel entrance) will also be acquired to become an extension of Chalk Park open space. Previously designated mitigation land to the north of Shorne Ifield Road (west of Muggins Lane) has been removed from order limits, and will be replaced by land to the south of Shorne Ifield Road, to link up with Shorne Woods Country Park. This is to avoid disturbance to a mediaeval settlement archaeological site. In addition, the Thong Lane overbridge across the A2 will be widened by a further 10 metres to provide additional screening and to improve wildlife connectivity.
The footpath/cycle path at Hever Court Road at Gravesend East will be re-designated as a bridleway, as will footpath NG8 between NG7/NG9 and the A226 near Chalk Church. NS169 through Michael Gardens park will revert to a footpath/cycle track, and not a bridleway as previously proposed.
2021 Lower Thames Crossing Community Impacts Consultation
Highways England, now renamed National Highways, carried out a consultation on the community impacts of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing. The consultation ran from 14th July 2021 to 8th September 2021. Shorne Parish Council’s response can be found by clicking on the link below.
2020 Lower Thames Crossing Design Refinement Consultation
Highways England carried out a design refinement consultation from 14th July 2020 until Wednesday 12th August 2020. Shorne Parish Council’s response can be found by clicking on the box below:
2020 Lower Thames Crossing Supplementary Consultation
Highways England carried out a supplementary consultation on the latest changes to their plans for the proposed Lower Thames Crossing. The consultation ran from 29th January 2020 to 2nd April 2020.
Shorne Parish Council’s response can be found by clicking on the box below:
2019 Interim Consultation Report
In July 2019, Highways England embarked on a programme of ground condition surveys and published an interim executive summary consultation report. This can be accessed here:
Highways England announced that the detailed consultation will not be published until they apply for the Development Consent Order (DCO), now delayed until summer 2020.
2018 Statutory Consultation
Highways England published design changes, and held a statutory consultation between 10th October and 20th December 2018.
One of the main design changes south of the river was to extend the tunnel entrance by 600 metres to the south, which places it south of the A226 between Chalk Church and Castle Lane. The removal of the A226 junction was confirmed. The tunnel and the link road was widened to 3 lanes in each direction, and the A2 was widened to to 6 lanes in each direction from the M2 motorway to the new interchange between the Inn On The Lake hotel and Gravesend East. This widened section consists of 4 motorway lanes in each direction, with 2 non-motorway lanes either side. It is evident from this that the M2 will be extended to the crossing interchange.
As a consequence of this, there will be no direct access from Gravesend East to the A2 or M2 eastbound, and no direct access from Halfpence Lane to the A2 westbound. Vehicles wishing to access the A2 eastbound from Gravesend East, and vehicles wishing to access the A2 westbound from Shorne and Halfpence Lane, would need to use a new 2-way link road to be constructed between Halfpence Lane and Henhurst Road at Gravesend East.
Shorne Parish Council’s response to the consultation can be found here:
2018 Development Boundary Changes
For information on the July 2018 changes to the red line development boundary, click here:
A226 Junction Removed
Highways England’s latest thinking, announced on 1st November 2017, is to remove the proposed junction from the A226 between Chalk and Shorne, in order to reduce the traffic impact on local roads.
However, the new plan indicates that the link roads will now be 3 lanes in each direction, and entails the widening of the A2 from 4 to 5 lanes from the junction east of Gravesend all the way to the M2.
The removal of the junction on the A226 is of course good news, although it is still included in the redline development boundary plans. The changes to the redline development boundary in other areas need further explanation and clarification.
In any event, people should be under no illusion about the level of traffic, pollution, and environmental damage that the crossing east of Gravesend will bring to this area.
The removal of the A226 junction allows the tunnel portals to be moved further south, away from Chalk, and it is disappointing that Highways England has not made this decision yet.
Whilst it is encouraging that they are continuing their assessment about the length of the tunnel and where to locate the entrances, it is essential that the tunnels are extended as close to the A2 as possible to minimise the impact on the lives of people living in Thong and Shorne West.
Representatives from Shorne Parish Council met representatives from Highways England on 21st December 2017 to discuss their latest thinking on the Lower Thames Crossing. Whist we welcomed the removal of the A226 junction, we urged Highways England to extend the tunnel portals south of the A226, and to consider a cut & cover green bridge either side of Thong Lane. We also urged Highways England to undertake further work on the A2 junction to improve local access to and from the A2, but to avoid creating rat-runs or attracting additional traffic to existing local roads. We particularly expressed our concern about additional traffic using Thong Lane.
Highways England agreed to look at these and other topics addressed, and to meet again in the New Year.
Western Southern Link (WSL) Selected as Preferred Route
On 12th April 2017, the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling MP announced the Government’s decision to locate the Lower Thames Crossing east of Gravesend.
The Parish Council is very disappointed, although not entirely surprised by this decision, since variations of Option C were the only choices option offered during the consultation. Perhaps the only surprise is Highways England’s change in recommendation from the Eastern Southern Link (ESL) to the Western Southern Link (WSL), which has been accepted by the Government.
Highways England say that they have listened to concerns raised about impacts on communities and protected environmental areas, and have conducted further assessment of both routes south of the river. Their assessment showed there is very limited opportunity to reduce the community and environmental impacts of the eastern link, particularly on the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and ancient woodlands.
Additional assessment was also conducted for the junction between the western link and the A2 to understand the extent to which the traffic performance could be improved. Their assessment identified that by re-working the design for the junction, it could offer a 70mph route without significantly increasing environmental or community impacts.
As a result of their further assessments, they amended their recommendation to the Western Southern Link, connecting to the A2 between Thong Lane and Marling Cross.
Whilst this may come as some relief to parishioners who would have been severely and directly impacted by the eastern link, it is no comfort to our parishioners in Thong and Shorne West. It also makes little difference to our neighbours in Chalk.
No-one should underestimate the potential impact on traffic through all parts of the parish, especially if the proposed junction with the A226 Gravesend Road goes ahead. This would entail the re-routing of the A226 southwards across farmland between Thong Lane and the Shorne boundary, and would result in a significant increase in traffic on Gravesend Road, as well as the feeder roads to it.
The Parish Council maintains that a crossing east of Gravesend will do little to alleviate the problems at Dartford, and that another crossing will inevitably still be needed at Dartford.
Legal opinion received from our barrister advised that there were insufficient legal grounds for a successful challenge against the consultation process, and that a challenge on the consultation decision itself would be doubtful.
This is particularly frustrating, since it appears that the responses from 13,240 individuals opposed to the crossing (including 946 from Shorne) have been discounted from the responses from members of the public in the post-consultation reports. The post-consultation reports purport to show that the majority of respondents supported the proposal for a crossing east of Gravesend, when in fact the opposite is true.
In view of the legal advice received, the Parish Council has decided not to embark on a legal challenge itself. However, this does not preclude us from providing evidence and support for any other challenge which may be mounted which has a reasonable chance of success in overturning the decision.
Meetings have taken place with Highways England to obtain a better understanding of their plans, and we will continue to engage with Highways England to influence the development of the design, and to obtain maximum mitigation against the adverse impacts. This will include:
- There must be no junction on the A226. This would result in heavy traffic on the A226 through Chalk, Shorne, and Higham, and lead to villages and local roads becoming rat-runs, and it would expose the area to the unacceptable sprawl of development we have witnessed around the approaches to the Dartford Crossing over the past 30 years.
- We will demand to see the tunnel portal extended as far to the south of the A226 as is possible, and the remainder of the link road in cut-and-cover and deep cutting, using the natural landscape to shield it from view from properties in the area.
- We expect the project to carry out sympathetic landscaping and tree planting to replace and compensate for any losses to the natural environment.
- We consider that it would be appropriate for the project to contribute to improvements to the local road infrastructure, including traffic restrictions and traffic calming, to discourage through traffic from using local roads and entering villages.
- We will expect generous compensation arrangements for those residents directly and indirectly blighted by the link road and crossing. Properties in Shorne and Thong have been blighted by these proposals for at least 4 years and probably longer, with property values and saleability significantly depressed in comparison to nearby areas, such as Cobham and Sole Street. Property owners most directly impacted by WSL must be generously compensated.
- We require an urgent study into the impacts of increased traffic using the A226, A227, and A228, and travelling through villages such as Shorne, Higham, Cobham, and Meopham, as well as Chalk, Thong, Riverview Park, and east Gravesend.