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Lower Thames Crossing: Battle plans at the ready to save their countryside

By Chris Hunter

It could tear up bluebell woodland, blight properties, cut off a medieval church off from its village, slice up fields with cuttings and send flyovers on stilts sprawling over ancient land …and it would ruin Gravesham MP Adam Holloway’s fitness regime.

Standing on a bank beside the A226 on a bitter morning, the former Grenadier Guards captain looks south to the Shorne Marshes and the River Thames beyond, surveying the field of battle – the proposed Option C site of the Lower Thames Crossing.

In his red shorts and trainers, he’s not dressed either for the weather or battle but this is a war that just got personal.

MP Adam Holloway looks at the route Option C would take

“That’s my running route!” he exclaims in shock.

If he had a headache this morning – he admits to having called an extended, successful ‘dry January’ to a halt the night before – this unexpected bombshell might just have made it worse.

Headache or not, this was a fight Mr Holloway would be backing whether it concerned his running route or not, which is why he’s here on a grim morning with a group residents eager to show him the impact Option C would have on their rural homes.

Among those joining him is Ruth Hensman, who has lived in Bowesden Lane in Shorne for the last 30 years, and watched the surrounding countryside progressively scarred by successive infrastructure schemes – the Wainscott bypass, the widening of the A2 and the High Speed 1 railway line.

Ruth Hensman of Bowesden Lane was among residents talking to MP Adam Holloway

The Thames crossing and its link to the M2 will blight her home more than anything which has come before.

“It’s going to come really close to my door,” she said.

“It’s just a quiet country lane. Our lane was shut off when they did the Wainscott bypass and now they’re going to put a great big motorway through there.

“It’s going through ancient woodland and bluebell woods; it’s devastating farmland, horse fields and stables; they’re going around the back of a school – it’s a 70mph motorway near a school with 5-11-year-olds.”

Mrs Hensman could go on, and she does, bemoaning how the village of Chalk will be cut off from its church and how marshland habitat will be lost.

“It’s not just about the road, it’s the knock-on effects,” she adds. “Once they build the road there will be more land built on for housing and industry. The infrastructure will be awful.

MP Adam Holloway talks to Andrew & Karen Moore about the potential impact of the Lower Thames Crossing

“It’s a tunnel down there, but over here it’s going to be like spaghetti junction. It’s really, really sad.

“I’m totally fed up. I could say stronger words but I won’t.”

If Mrs Hensman won’t, her MP will, and various stop-off points on this tour of ancient Kent countryside draw an Anglo-Saxon expletive from the ex-army man.

When Mr Holloway exclaims “there’s going to be a... great bridge here,” he doesn’t mean a bridge will be a good thing.

At Thong Lane, Andrew and Karen Moore show Mr Holloway how the potential link road will blight their home.

Adam Holloway taking a walk with residents opposed to the site of the new crossing

They moved to the lane 28 years ago, when the golf course over the road was just farmers’ fields, and Mr Moore recounts how shortly after they moved some Second World War explosives were found there.

“They had to blow them up,” he recalls, pointing out the remaining scars in the golf course.

“Back then Mr Moore probably thought those bombshells would be the only ones to threaten his home but that was until Highways England got in touch earlier this year.

“We came back from holiday on January 31 and found all these letters about it from the Highways agency,” he says.

“We bought this house 28 years ago and we planned to stay here all our lives; our two sons have been brought up here. They’re devastated as well.

"All the hard work we put into this home – it’s not a house, it’s a home – all that work is going to be blighted and maybe ruined forever.

“From a selfish point of view, it’s a huge impact. Look at the view, look how pretty that is.

Adam Holloway MP taking a walk around Shorne, the site of the proposed new crossing

“They just want to carve up another pretty bit of England.”

But this is more than a case of selfish Nimbyism, and Mr Moore believes improving the crossing at Dartford would be a more logical solution to easing congestion.

“They’re only talking about 14% of the traffic coming here,” he said. “That’s £5 billion they’re spending on only 14% of the traffic.”

Fortunately for him, his MP agrees.

“There’s a problem at Dartford so fix the problem at Dartford,” he says. “If they build a road here, I’m still going to be campaigning for a crossing a Dartford.

“Even if I thought C was a good idea, I would support my constituents, but you’ve got to address Dartford.”

A panoramic view of Shorne, which could have a large dual carriageway through it

In short it’s pretty clear Mr Holloway believes government planners should shift their focus somewhere to the west of Option C, to a place called... what was it again?

“By all means have a crossing,” he concludes, “but don’t create new problems for people without addressing the crossing at Dartford.”

Ah yes, Dartford. Perhaps the plan is to try to say Dartford so much that everyone involved forgets Shorne exists, which would probably suit some of the villagers and the abridge2far anti-crossing campaigners down to the ground.

Only time will tell if these heroes of Shorne are fated to meet the same failure as the heroes of the film they named themselves after, but in Adam Holloway they at least have a suitably battle-hardened leader.

For now it’s off to the Rose and Crown to find a cure for that headache – or maybe some Dutch courage for the fight ahead.

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