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Lower Thames Crossing plan 'threat to ancient woodland and homes'

Councillors fear historic cottages and ancient woodland could be lost forever as part of new plans for the Lower Thames Crossing.

Highways England launched a fresh round of consultation on plans for the £6.8 billion tunnel road linking Kent and Essex at last month, but it has led to concerns the impact on countryside and communities east of Gravesend could be greater than previously envisaged.

KMTV with the latest on the Lower Thames crossing plan

Gravesham Rural Cllr Bryan Sweetland accused Highways England of making a "land-grab", saying the plans now had a "significantly greater impact on ancient woodland, AONBs, and SSSIs, in particular Claylane Woods, Shorne Woods, Shorne Country Park, and even potentially Ashenbank Woods"

"Everyone I've spoken to is extremely concerned about the creepage of this project," he said.

"There's more and more land they seem to want to identify that they want to do something with.

"I would hope KCC and Gravesham and everyone else will express a real concern when they give feedback - everyone I've spoken to seems concerned about the extra land-grab from Highways England."

Shorne, Cobham & Luddesdown Cllr Bob Lane noted three extra properties would be lost, including cottages originally built for First World War veterans, at the junction of Thong Lane and Shorne Ifield Road in Thong.

Cottages originally built for First World War heroes could be lost under the Lower Thames Crossing project. Picture: Google
Cottages originally built for First World War heroes could be lost under the Lower Thames Crossing project. Picture: Google

"It's people's homes and it's in a conservation area," he said.

It's a real shame that we'll lose them."

He fears it will be impossible to stop the plan going ahead and says everyone needs to pull together to limit the damage of the scheme.

"They've moved it 350 metres further to the south," he said. "At least it's further away from Chalk.

KMTV report on concerns for traffic in the local area

He said: "If the Government had stuck to that, the bridge would have been in operation by now, alleviating the problems at Dartford and costing less than £2bn.

"I've never been keen on it - my own view is I don't think we're going to stop it, I think the days of trying to stop it have gone.

"What we're trying to do is get the least worst outcome.

"What we've got to do it is we must make sure that people in Riverview Park, Thong, Shorne, and Cobham are not inundated with traffic trying to get to and from the crossing.

The updated planned route of the Lower Thames Crossing
The updated planned route of the Lower Thames Crossing

"It's going to carry 82,000 journeys every day.

"It's going to be a massive disturbance on everything in Gravesham."

A Highways England spokesperson said: “Minimising the impact on the local environment is an important priority for us as we develop our proposals for a new Lower Thames Crossing, particularly where protected habitats and species are impacted.

“We are proud of our track record of delivering vital infrastructure improvements in an environmentally responsible way, and are bringing this same approach to the Lower Thames Crossing. Our approach to designing the new crossing has been to avoid ancient woodland as far as possible, and the route for the road has been deliberately chosen to avoid going through woodlands such as Great Crabbles Wood and other ancient woodlands in Kent."

The Lower Thames Crossing was earlier branded "stupidly expensive".

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