Published: 16:45, 21 May 2021
| Updated: 16:49, 22 May 2021
Discarded plastic cable ties left strewn across fields by workers carrying out surveys for the proposed Lower Thames Crossing has sparked fury from residents.
Highways England (HE) has been forced to apologise after dozens were found following survey works in Chalk, near Gravesend last month.
Russell Palmer collected the black plastic ties during two litter-picking trips and blasted teams for leaving them behind and risking harm to wildlife and crops in the fields.
The ties had been used to hold together fenced off work areas from footpaths where archaeological surveys were being carried out for Highways England, which is managing the £8.2 billion project.
Planning permission is yet to be granted for the scheme after plans were withdrawn at the last minute in November following feedback from the Planning Inspectorate.
Two tunnels are set to be built under the River Thames as part of the 14-mile route connecting roads linking the A2 in Kent – between Medway and Gravesend – with the A13 and M25 in Essex.
Mr Palmer said: "I'm no eco-warrior but I hate laziness and fly-tipping and you'd think a company trying to promote themselves as friendly to the environment would take more care.
"You can't convince anyone you're doing the environment good if you leave evidence that contradicts the fact. When the crops are harvested who knows how many more thousands are in amongst the soil?"
Campaigners from the Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG) which is protesting against the project say they were left "disgusted by the irresponsible behaviour".
TCAG chairman Laura Blake said: "It is harmful to wildlife and the environment, not to mention the fact they have been left in the farmers fields where crops are now growing.
"It also shows a complete lack of respect not only to the wildlife and environment, but also to local farmers, residents and communities.
"How are we supposed to believe and trust Highways England/Lower Thames Crossing's claims about them caring for the environment, wildlife, our communities with things like this happening?"
The group raised its concerns with Highways England which apologised in a statement to residents for "a few cable ties being left on site".
Ms Blake said the reference was "infuriating" after pictures taken by Mr Palmer showed piles of ties he had collected during two trips instead of "a few".
HE, which says 22,000 people are expected to be employed by the project, has since returned to the site to further inspect the area and says it is taking steps to remind contractors about their responsibilities.
In the statement to TCAG, the authority said: "In efforts to ensure this does not happen again the site team have been briefed on a different method of removing the cable ties and are also looking into using different colour cable ties to make them more visible if they come astray when removing."
Ms Blake added: "We are of course grateful that there are residents like Russell in our communities that care and are taking the time to try and clean up things like this, but the point is they shouldn't have to.
"The proposed LTC is not fit for purpose and neither it seems are some of the procedures for staff working on the project, who appear to deem it acceptable to leave so many cable ties littering the local area."
Shaun Pidcock, programme director for the Lower Thames Crossing said: “The Lower Thames Crossing is committed to being a good neighbour and is one the most environmentally sustainable road projects ever proposed in the UK.
“Our contractors all sign up to our standards and environmental controls, however, on this occasion, one of them fell below the standards we expect.
"We have been on site to ensure no litter has been left behind and have reminded our contractors of the importance of respecting the environment and communities where they are working.”
The authority said the matter had been dealt with the land owner directly.
It has not been confirmed whether any further action has been taken against the contractors.