Published: 00:01, 14 July 2020
The latest proposals for the new multi-billion pound Lower Thames Crossing reveal less land will be used for the controversial project with a new park and woodland also being created.
A consultation opens today on the plans for the new tunnel under the River Thames east of Gravesend linking Kent and Essex.
Scroll down for full details about the changes and how to get involved in the consultation
Highways England, which is in charge of the project for the 14.3 mile road expected to cost £6 billion, is leading the consultation on refinements to the design over the next month.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the format of the consultation has been forced to change from usual public exhibitions.
Instead, the plans will be published in full online on a dedicated website with a series of webinars and telephone callbacks to discuss elements of the plans in further detail.
Anyone unable to view the plans online will be able to request paper copies from Highways England and have them sent out in the post.
The website will feature an interactive map, videos to explain aspects of the revised design and also allow residents to download documents, feedback forms, maps and environmental impact statements.
The Lower Thames Crossing is Britain's biggest roads project for a generation and will be the longest road tunnel in the UK.
Highways England says it will "almost double road capacity" between Kent and Essex to help link the counties, reduce delays and ensure "more reliable journeys".
All the amendments announced for the controversial crossing today have been the result of responses received by the design team from a previous consultation held earlier this year, discussions with councils and other community groups as well as new data.
Shaun Pidcock, project director for the crossing at Highways England, said: "Nationally significant infrastructure projects like the Lower Thames Crossing have an important role to play in supporting our future economic growth and it’s important we get all aspects of its the design, construction and operation right.
“People's views play a vital role in helping us to do this. This consultation is an important opportunity for people to let us know what they think of our design refinements to help shape the best solution."
Feedback from this consultation round "will be vital" for Highways England to complete an application for the Development Consent Order (DCO) it needs to apply for from the government to gain planning permission.
The consultation runs until 11.59pm on Wednesday, August 12.
What are the new changes being proposed?
The changes proposed for the Kent side of the tunnel include revisions to the green space on the Thong Lane bridge between the tunnel at the M2/A2 junction which are said to "improve species habitat, landscape and the ecology".
There are also new plans for diverting utilities from previous feedback to reduce the impact on surrounding ancient woodland and new landscaping for the southern entrance of the tunnel to "improve the visual impact" of an electricity substation being built.
Highways England says it has reduced the amount of land required to build the tunnel and the approach road from the A2/M2 claiming it will alleviate the impact on Shorne and Ashenbank Woods and other parts of the environment.
Properties within the development boundary has also been halved with 150 now within the confines instead of the earlier proposed 270 properties.
On the Essex side, excavated material from the tunnel will create a new public space to provide views across the Thames Estuary, planting two woodland areas open to the public and a new footbridge over the A127 linking existing paths.
How can I make my views known and respond to the consultation?
Further information about the full details of the plans are available via a new dedicated website for the Lower Thames Crossing project.
This will include the videos, interactive maps and full artworks showing the proposals.
Full details of the webinars will also be published on the website.
Once residents have viewed the plans and are ready to give their views the can respond in four ways:
Fill in an online survey via the website
Post comments or printed response forms to Freepost, LTC Consultation
Email comments to email@example.com
Call 0300 123 5000 to book an appointment to provide feedback over the phone
What if I don't have the internet?
For residents who do not have access to the internet, or are struggling to download the consultation material, Highways England will send one printed copy per household of the Guide to Consultation, a feedback form and freepost return envelope. Maps and other documents will also be sent upon request. Call 0300 123 5000 to have a pack sent out.
A telephone surgery hotline has been established to allow people to phone up and speak to the project team with any specific questions.
The surgery is open between July 14 and August 12 from 12pm to 7pm Monday to Friday.
Book an appointment time by calling 0300 123 5000 or visit www.lowerthamescrossing.co.uk/design-consultation
What if I want to review the plans at a library?
Due to social distancing rules and restrictions in place during the coronavirus pandemic, libraries and civic centres usually displaying copies of the plans will have very limited access.
Highways England says it is working with venues across the areas to ensure copies can be viewed safely.
Rochester Library will host reference copies of all documents available to review along with copies of the guide to consultation, large scale maps, response forms, and freepost envelope to take away
Five venues in Essex will be "information points" with copies of the consultation guide, large scale maps, response form and freepost envelope to take away available.
These will be at: Belhus Library, Grays Library, Brentwood Library, Corringham Library and East Tilbury Post Office
More venues might become available during the consultation period with updates posted on the website www.lowerthamescrossing.co.uk.