DESPITE a call from one councillor that Essex County Council should stand ‘shoulder to shoulder with thousands of residents in Thurrock’ a majority of his colleagues in the chamber have backed a motion approving the route of a new lower Thames crossing being driven through the borough – where he added the new £6bn route proposed by the government will create a “toxic triangle”.
The county council formally adopted a motion that “fully supports the Government’s announcement of its preferred Option C for the proposed new Lower Thames Crossing” after overwhelming support from Tory councillors.
The council said: “The route would enable sustainable local development and regional growth leading to a stronger economy as well as proving a safe and reliable road that will improve the resilience of the wider road network.
“It will also greatly improve the wider economy of UK PLC as well as Greater Essex and generate thousands of new jobs.
“It is now imperative that work on this option gets underway to ensure the future prosperity of the county and country.”
However the session of full council heard how the Option C plans for the Lower Thames Crossing – the most ambitious road project to be undertaken since the M25 – will seriously impact the environment destroying homes, green belt land, ancient forests and “have a serious impact on residents’ health”.
Lib Dem councillor David Kendall said: “I am disappointed this council is backing Option C I believe this council should be standing shoulder to shoulder with the thousands of residents in Thurrock who are against Option C.
“If this proposal goes ahead it will run a bulldozer through the green belt, it will increase air and noise pollution and it will have a major impact on many established communities.
“I am sure that all of us In the chamber will want to see more jobs and a stronger economy in Essex. But at what price?
“Serious consideration must be given to Option C’s impact on the environment and pollution level across Thurrock.
“Pollutions are high enough already with creating what will be known as the toxic triangle.
“This new road will have a very detrimental impact on many people’s lives.
“It will destroy homes, green belt land, ancient forests and have a serious impact on residents’ health and a quality of life.
“It will also cause planning blight for many years to come.”
The major new road linking Kent, Thurrock and Essex is said to nearly double road capacity across the river Thames and almost halve northbound journey times at Dartford.
This is the new message from the Highways Agency as updated plans are unveiled.
The multi-billion pound project has been in the planning stage for years, with most of its aim impending on reducing the Dartford Crossing’s daily traffic misery.
But Highways England has said the latest version of plans will create a new three-lane dual carriageway connecting the M2 near Rochester and the M25 in Essex between North and South Ockenden.
It will include a 2.4 mile tunnel under the Thames between Gravesend and Tilbury, making it the longest in the UK.
The project, set to be the biggest in 30 years since the 1970s, aims to be completed by 2027.
It will be more than 50ft wide, also making it the largest bored tunnel in the world.
The new crossing is expected to reduce traffic at Dartford by 22 per cent, with 14 million fewer vehicles using it every year.
But campaigners say a little heard of A14 route – proposed as a tunnel running between Junction 2 (M25 in Kent) and surfacing between junctions 29 and 30 (M25 in Essex) – bypassing the A282 completely – should be the option backed by the council.
Cllr Kendall added: “This council should be calling in Highways England to reconsider the A14 tunnel option.
“The A14 option would improve congestion at the current crossing, it will complete the M25 as an orbital motorway, it will cause far less environmental damage and it could take as much as 40 per cent of traffic from the existing crossing.”
Highways England says the proposed 14.5 mile route will connect Gravesham and Thurrock.
It also says the morning peak average journey times will almost halve between the M25 junctions 1b and 31 from nine minutes to five.
Despite a lack of information on the introduction of tolls, it is thought that drivers will need to pay for the privilege of passing through the tunnel.
Highways England has said the plans take into consideration the small communities these plans are set to affect.
Highways cabinet member Councillor Kevin Bentley said: “This is about the future of Britain and we have to prove to the world that Britain is open for business.
“This is a clear indication that Britain is for business.”