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Highways England confirms final plans and opens consultation for Lower Thames Crossing - but only on Option C Gravesend tunnel

By Lizzie Massey

Highways England has confirmed its plans for Lower Thames Crossing will be Option C at Gravesend, with a tunnel.

The government body is holding an eight week public consultation on the plans. Option A is not mentioned at all.

After earlier plans were exclusively revealed by the Gravesend Messenger, Highways England has now settled on a one-route recommendation - marked in red on the map below.

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Route of the proposed new Thames crossing at Gravesham, not Dartford

This morning Highways England announced the route it was recommending will mean a new road will be built to the east of Gravesend.

It will start from junction 1 of the M2 and go north west around Shorne, and meet up on the A226.

From that point a single road will then go north, over Lower Higham Road and under the river.

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said the option was "hugely welcomed in Dartford".

“In my opinion option C is the only credible route for the Lower Thames Crossing to take and this announcement makes option C now increasingly likely for the Lower Thames crossing. Dartford cannot accommodate another river crossing so locating it east of Gravesend would be the right decision.”

Leader of Dartford council Cllr Jeremy Kite (Con) said: "We have been lobbying hard that this is the option which makes the most sense for drivers, the economy and the general well-being of people in the area.

"It's great to see that they are looking at mitigating the effects through extensive tunnelling."

Once in Essex, the roads will cut around Orsett Heath and join up at the A13 before going north west by South Ockendon and creating a new junction on the M25.

Highways England senior project manager, Martin Potts said: “Deciding where the new crossing should go is a vitally important decision, and we’ve been working hard to identify solutions that strike the best balance between improving journeys, getting value for money and managing environmental impact.

"Our assessments have shown that Location C provides double the economic benefits of Location A as well as a clear alternative route to the Dartford Crossing, reducing congestion and improving resilience of the road network. And by choosing a tunnel rather than a bridge we can minimise the effects of the new road on the environment."

The QE2 Bridge, Dartford. Library picture

Kent County Council today welcomed Highways England’s consultation on a Lower Thames Crossing.

Leader Paul Carter said: “We have been lobbying government for more than a decade to promote a new Thames crossing and worked with Essex County Council to advance this much need infrastructure. We therefore welcome news that Highways England is consulting on it.

“A new Lower Thames Crossing is vital for the continued economic prosperity of not only the South East but the wider UK economy. In the right location, the new crossing has the potential to relieve congestion at the current crossing, create greater network resilience and most importantly, support economic growth.”

"As a Chamber representing more than 1,400 Kent businesses we are actively supporting Route C. It would improve our connectivity to Europe and competitiveness, and at the same time regenerate an overlooked part of southern England."- Jo James, The South East Local Enterprise Partnership

Jo James, who represents business on The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SE LEP) is calling on businesses throughout Kent and Essex to give their views on a new Lower Thames Crossing to help ministers make the right choice.

She said: “The Lower Thames Crossing is much more than just a new bridge or tunnel to relieve congestion.

“It represents a once in a generation opportunity to reinvigorate local development, create new jobs and stimulate investment by supporting nationally important industries. As a Chamber representing more than 1,400 Kent businesses we are actively supporting Route C.

“It would improve our connectivity to Europe and competitiveness, and at the same time regenerate an overlooked part of southern England.”

Mr Potts added: “There are important choices to be made. As well as inviting comments from the public about our recommendations, we have identified three routes for the new road to the north of the river and two routes south of the river. We welcome views on them all.

“This consultation is your chance to have your say on a once-in-a-generation, multi-billion pound investment that will have wide ranging effects for decades. I encourage anyone who would like to find out more to check out the consultation materials or come and see us at one of the public exhibitions we’ll be hosting.”

There will be 24 public exhibitions, held at venues across Kent and Essex. All responses will be taken into consideration before a final decision is made by the Government later this year.

They will be held locally in:

  • Cascades Leisure Centre, February 4, 11am - 7pm
  • Riverside Community hall, Dickens Road, February 5, 11am - 7pm
  • Shorne Village Hall, February 6, 10.30am - 4pm
  • Gravesham Civic Center, February 12, 11am - 7pm; and February 13, 10.30am - 4pm
  • Bluewater shopping centre, February 19, 12.30pm - 9pm; and February 20 10.30am - 4pm
  • Eastgate Events Venue, Northfleet, February 23, 11am - 7pm
  • Temple Hill Community Centre, Dartford, February 26, 11am - 7pm
  • Orchards Shopping Centre, February 27, 10.30am - 4pm
  • KCC offices, King Street, Maidsone, March 7, 11am - 7pm
  • Corn Exchange, Rochester, march 8 11am - 7pm

Option B, connecting the A2 Swanscombe Peninsula with the A1089 was written off in 2013, because of the impact on local development plans and the limited transport benefits.

For more information about the proposals (including a video summarising them) and the public exhibitions, and to provide your views, visit www.lower-thames-crossing.co.uk or follow@lowerthames on Twitter.

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