Lower Thames Crossing Background
In January 2009, the Department for Transport proposed 3 major options to increase capacity east of London over the Thames to be built downstream of the existing Dartford Crossing. On 21 May 2013, the Secretary of State announced a consultation document inviting views on the relative merits of the 3 options for locating a new road based river crossing in the Lower Thames area and a variant of one of these 3 options.
The original 3 options were:
Option A: at the site of the existing A282 Dartford-Thurrock river crossing;
Option B: connecting the A2 at Swanscombe with the A1089 at Thurrock;
Option C: connecting the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30;
*There was also a variant for option C, which would additionally widen the A229 between the M2 and M20.
As part of the 2013 consultation, Kent County Council (KCC) supported Option C variant, connecting the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30, and additionally widening the A229 between the M2 and the M20. KCC’s support for Option C variant was on the condition that the connection to the M2 was moved westwards, thus connecting into the A2. This western alignment would connect in to the A2 between the East of Gravesend and Cobham junctions. KCC acknowledged that there will be some impact for local access options where insufficient merge/weave lengths on the A2 may require the closure of the Shorne/Cobham slip road.
A total of 5,776 responses were received to the consultation. Of these, 3,224 or 59% either did not enter an explicit response or expressed a preference for a new crossing at a location other than those consulted on. Of those who expressed a preference for one of the options consulted on, the preferred locations were as follows:
Option A (Dartford) – 1,159 (20% of total, or 45% of those who responded)
Option B (Swanscombe) – 302 (5% of total, or 12% of those who responded)
Option C (Gravesend) – 348 (6% of total, or 13.6% of those who responded)
Option C (Variant) – 629 (11% of total, or 24.6% of those who responded)
On 12 December 2013, based on feedback from the consultation and further advice obtained, the Secretary of State announced that there were sufficient grounds to discard option B and that Government should focus on the choice between options A and C.
Following the consultation, further work was commissioned to examine the KCC proposal to move the Option C junction further west, to the A2 between Shorne and Gravesend East.
In addition, further work was commissioned to examine further road widening and junction improvements on the A282 at Dartford and Thurrock.
On 15 July 2015, the Secretary of State for Transport announced that Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency) had been tasked with developing and assessing route options at each of the two remaining locations, Option A at Dartford and Option C east of Gravesend, before choosing the site of a new crossing. The work will show the possible routes at either location and identify their economic, environmental and social impacts, as well as costs. This would be followed by a full public consultation on the preferred route.
Highways England announced their preferred route and launched the consultation on 26th January 2016, with a deadline date of 24th March 2016.
Option A at Dartford had been discarded and was not included in the consultation. In addition, the A229 variant had been dismissed.
The only options consulted on were variations of Option C east of Gravesend. In all cases, the crossing location was fixed east of Gravesend, with the southern tunnel portals emerging near Lower Higham Road in Chalk, between Church Lane and Castle Lane.
South of the River Thames, there were 2 route options.
Highways England’s preferred route was the Eastern Southern Link (ESL), which ran parallel to the A226 before crossing over Forge Lane in Shorne, passing through a cutting at Pear Tree Lane, through Great Crabbles Wood, before joining the A2/M2 at junction 1.
The Western Southern Link (WSL) was similar to the route proposed by KCC in 2013, cutting through farmland and Southern Valley Golf Course, passing under Thong Lane near Hartshill nursery, before joining the A2 near the site of the former service station between the Inn On The Lake and Marling Cross.
Both options included a junction from the A226 to the link road, which would create a huge increase in traffic on the Gravesend Road and all the feeder roads.
Highways England invited 1.2 million people and organisations to participate in the consultation, including 950,000 Dart Charge customers.
The Consultation period finished on 24th March 2016. Shorne Parish Council submitted a formal response, strongly opposing any crossing east of Gravesend. A copy of the Parish Council’s response can be downloaded here: SPC Response to Consultation
In April 2016, the Parish Council engaged a barrister to provide an initial legal opinion on whether there is a case for mounting a legal challenge on the consultation process under the judicial review procedure. However, the barrister considered that a legal challenge at this stage, particularly one based on the consultation process, was unlikely to be successful. This was not the advice we wanted to hear, but clearly it would not be in anyone’s interest to embark on a lengthy and expensive legal challenge with little chance of a successful outcome.
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, with the Western Southern Link (WSL) south of the River Thames.