Published: 12:06, 27 March 2019
| Updated: 11:38, 29 March 2019
Highways bosses are to turn a lorry park near a popular cafe into a temporary base as they prepare to start work on a new tunnel linking Kent and Essex.
A two-metre high fence is expected to be put up some time next month at the Marling Cross site in Gravesend, near Nell's Cafe, as preparation gets underway for construction of the Lower Thames Crossing.
The £6.8 billion 14.5-mile route linking Kent and Essex is set to be up and running by 2027 and is billed as the solution to the traffic problems across north Kent and, in particular, the Dartford Crossing.
The erection of the Highways England site - with temporary offices, welfare facilities and staff parking - will give highways staff a chance to "understand the geology of the area".
A message that was sent to residents and councillors said: "These ground investigations will help us better understand the geology of the area and will be vital in reducing out impact on the environment and wildlife around your area.
"Knowing the ground conditions is also critical to developing our design for structures and construction methods - including the type of machine we will need to bore tunnels.
"We anticipate starting to use the Marling Cross site from the early summer and aim to complete our ground investigations works within one year.
"We're working closely with council officers on finalising details of the use of this site, including how we will store equipment and set up the temporary offices, welfare facilities and parking for staff.
"We'll be in touch again as soon as we have this information."
It is expected that the fencing will completed by the end of April and will be 'straightforward'.
Building for the project will start when the Government grants Highways England consent from their development consent order - which hasn't been sent yet.
Highways England spokesman Harry Bellew said: "We recently wrote to residents living near to the Marling Cross site to let them know about our plans to secure the site in the next few weeks.
What the Lower Thames Crossing could look like
"From late April, it will be used as a base for our staff members, who will carry out surveys and ground investigation work along the proposed Lower Thames Crossing route, as well as a site for storing equipment, temporary offices, welfare facilities and parking.
“We’ll continue to speak and work alongside residents as we build up to the beginning of this important programme of investigations.”