Published: 10:00, 29 January 2016
Dartford’s council leader was relieved but unsurprised by news that Highways England are recommending a tunnel to the east of Gravesham as the preferred Lower Thames Crossing.
However, the leader of Gravesham council John Cubitt has vowed not to stop fighting against it.
This week the government body unveiled its own recommendations ahead of an eight- week public consultation.
Exclusively revealed by the Gravesend and Dartford Messengers online on Monday, the plans are outlined for Option C only, a bored tunnel costing in the region of £5 billion. There is little mention of Option A – another crossing adjacent to the Dartford bridge.
"They’ve gone straight for the jugular... It really is Option C or nothing." Cllr Jeremy Kite
Dartford’s leader Cllr Jeremy Kite said: “It’s a no-brainer that Dartford can’t take any more. We’ve been saying that from the start and frankly Dartford should never have even been an option.
“Highways England’s report, though, is much more definite than I expected.
“They’ve gone straight for the jugular – having another crossing at Dartford doesn’t help the immediate problem, or the future. It really is Option C or nothing. Another crossing further into Kent will reduce the traffic into Dartford and get lorries coming over from Europe out of our county more quickly.
“I’m pleased to see they are recommending a tunnel as well, as that will minimise the effect on Gravesend’s vistas.
“Now we have to make sure we all work together to come up with the best solution for Kent and for the villages set to be affected, that they get the best possible deal.
“There may still be issues in Dartford and we have to keep fighting for improvements, but I see this as the beginning of the end of the battle.”
John Cubitt, leader of Gravesham council, said: “Much of the details given by Highways England is in direct contrast to their own report from 2013, so I’m surprised with some of the facts put forward, that they report to support their case.
“Whatever they look do with Option C, our road networks can’t cope with it.
“Everything east of Gravesend is protected, there’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest under European law, we’ve got ancient woodland and village life, which has to count for something. And it’s a much more expensive option.”
Of Highways England’s dealing with the report he said: “It’s certainly been shambolic. I think a government which is going to spend a lot of money on a solution needs to take a strategic view and that is that Kent cannot absorb a vast increase in traffic.
“If traffic needs to be north of the Thames, the freight should be deposited north of the Thames in the first place, with ports over in Essex, so traffic don’t have to cross the river.
“We are certainly going to motivate people to take part in the consultation and put their views forward. As a council we have a united view together with Labour – we are all against this proposal. It’s not good value for the tax payer and causes problems for people in Gravesham without providing a real solution in Dartford.”