Published: 00:00, 01 August 2016
| Updated: 09:24, 01 August 2016
A new Lower Thames Crossing must be kept away from Dartford in order to tackle air pollution in the town, councillors have told government.
Last week, Dartford council urged Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to make an early decision on the crossing, primarily based on the town’s ongoing traffic and congestion problems.
However, Cllr Jonathon Hawkes (Lab) was keen to highlight the issue of poor air quality in Dartford and was successful in his bid to see the concern included in the final motion, which was approved at a council meeting last week.
He said: “The council’s original motion was successfully amended by Labour and was then passed unanimously by all councillors. Our amendments sought to highlight the particular issue we have in Dartford of poor air quality as a direct result of traffic congestion.
“We also amended the motion to ensure the council retained support for the use of legislative options to tackle congestion – for example, a change in the law to ensure that no waiting in yellow box junctions can be effectively enforced.”
The concern over air quality is one shared by council leader Cllr Jeremy Kite (Con).
Back in 2013, when urging people to comment on the proposals, he said: “Pretty much everyone in Dartford is affected by the river crossing. Motorists are stuck in queues, businesses are delayed, and almost everyone else is caught up in increased local traffic or has to live in the shadow of poor air quality.”
Dartford Labour also suggested that the council seeks assurances that air quality targets set out by the European Union would continue to be met in light of the Brexit vote, but withdrew the proposal due to a lack of unanimous support.
The final motion reads: “This council calls upon the Secretary of State for Transport to make an early decision to deliver a new Thames River Crossing east of Gravesend.
"Our amendments sought to highlight the particular issue we have in Dartford of poor air quality as a direct result of traffic congestion" Cllr Jonathon Hawkes
“It notes with increasing alarm the harm done to the families, businesses and well being of local people with a particular regard to air quality levels as result of frequent traffic congestion caused by the insufficiency of the current crossing and makes clear that only the provision of a new crossing away from Dartford can provide resilience and capacity for increasing levels of traffic.
“This council also makes clear that local aspirations for growth and community development are wholly dependent upon the provision of satisfactory infrastructure to enable local people, organisations and businesses to go about their daily activities without the disruptive, unhealthy and unacceptable burden of severe congestion on the local road network.
“Finally, this council asks for urgent consideration to be given to measures to improve local traffic conditions until such time as new strategic network capacity can be delivered east of Gravesend, including, but not limited to, support for resources and the use of legislative options to improve the operation of important local junctions during times of peak congestion.”
The Transport Secretary is expected to announce his preferred site for the project later this year, with Highways England having recommended a £6 billion tunnel system east of Gravesend.
If approved, it would not be completed until 2026.