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Building a Lower Thames Crossing has to be balanced with our treasured Garden of England

Change is good, until it happens in your own back yard and then we’re not always so keen.

A crossing just outside Medway, east of Gravesend, will bring Essex so much closer. It will open up more job opportunities for us the other side of the river, and will make journeys to Stansted and Southend airports that much easier.

But it will also mean people from Essex are more likely to apply for jobs in Kent, and make more use of Ebbsfleet and Gatwick.

How the proposed Lower Thames Crossing will look, with a bored tunnel between the villages of Chalk and Shorne to Essex
How the proposed Lower Thames Crossing will look, with a bored tunnel between the villages of Chalk and Shorne to Essex

There’s few of us who haven’t sat in a traffic jam at the Dartford tunnel at some point in our lives but does that justify ripping up our countryside? Shouldn’t we all just suck it up and put up with it, or change our travel plans?

A few years ago, not far from where I live, they built a whacking great bypass through open fields.

It was “needed” because an estate, mixed with businesses and homes, hadn’t quite achieved the Utopia of people living and working in the same place.

Instead, the people with the skills needed for the businesses there drove in from somewhere else, while the people who had bought beautiful new homes drove off the estate to earn their wedge somewhere else.

Nobody had thought about the fact that very few of us want to live and work in the same place; we want to be able to switch off at the end of the day and have little reminder of our 9-5 outside of those hours.

For weeks on end, my husband and I walked the route of the bypass, watching as meadows and woodland gave way to great scars of dirt carved out by diggers which then turned into shiny tarmac, tall lampposts and bridges where footpaths had once been.

Everything was fine for a while, but as they say – build it and they will come. And they do. For a good hour or so every morning and evening, traffic is at a standstill as people battle to get on and off the estate.

On the plus side, most of the time it’s quicker to get around but we were quite happy with winding our way through country lanes.

So what should we do?

The Dartford Crossing
The Dartford Crossing

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against all development – one of my favourite views is of the QEII Bridge at Dartford, sweeping its way over the River Thames.

But my favourite views of all are the ones just a few minutes walk from my home where all the houses, traffic and factories are behind me and all I can see in front of me is fields and huge skies.

Mornings and evenings, I treasure the sunrises and sunsets. Those cannot be replaced and maybe our desire to keep on moving should be better balanced with a need to stop.

Grief, as I am discovering, has some plus points.

Of course, I’d do anything to swap those plus points for more time with Dad, but if that’s the hand I’ve been dealt, I’m making the most of it (it’s what he’d tell me).

So I’m enjoying the fact I seem to have dropped at least one dress size, although I haven’t rushed out to buy a new wardrobe just yet as I suspect any weight I’ve lost will probably all go back on in the coming weeks.

But the loveliest thing of all is the massive hug you feel, both in reality and beyond, not just from those closest to you but people you’ve never met.

Mum is still getting letters from people who knew Dad, some who worked with him and she had never met, passing on their memories and thoughts.

We continue to be humbled by people’s actions every day, and just want you to know that we send those hugs right back.

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