Conservation coalition calls for immediate review of Lower Thames Crossing

Monday 7th November 2022

LTC branded ‘likely the most environmentally damaging road scheme in England’

A coalition of conservation organisations and groups have written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper, calling for an immediate review of the Lower Thames Crossing. The scheme has been discussed in different forms for a number years, but campaigners say that it should finally be scrapped on the basis of cost, environmental and climate impacts.

The planned road scheme under the Thames would destroy irreplaceable ancient woodland, veteran trees and other habitats, increase nitrogen pollution, damage landscapes and increase carbon emissions.

These impacts would likely make this England’s most damaging road scheme for a generation, which is in stark contrast to claims by National Highways that it will be the ‘greenest road ever built in the UK’.

A range of natural habitats and landscapes in Kent and Essex are under threat, such as ancient woodland, the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the mosaic of open habitats in the Thames Estuary. But conservation organisations and the public have been left to guess the scale of impact. In addition, National Highways has only reluctantly released information regarding the scheme’s huge carbon footprint.

National Highways has just resubmitted its Development Consent Order (DCO) application to the Planning Inspectorate. However, there are serious concerns that, the level of detail provided to the public through the various consultations has been entirely unacceptable. Without adequate information, there has been a severe lack of meaningful public engagement and consultation on this scheme.

Over the past few years, the UK Government has committed to address the ongoing climate and nature crises by setting targets in the Environment Act 2021 to halt species abundance decline, and committing to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a 78% reduction in emissions by 2035, and a 68% reduction by 2030. Yet, the scheme simply doesn’t match Government rhetoric towards how we should be treating the environment in modern times.

The coalition is calling on Mark Harper to commit to an immediate review of the proposals in light of the ongoing flaws in the consultation and its failure to meet the Government’s own environmental commitments.

Jack Taylor, Lead Campaigner, Woodland Trust:The loss of irreplaceable habitats and living legends is unacceptable. We’re fighting both a nature and climate crisis, and destruction of ancient woodland and veteran trees for a road scheme beggars belief. To make matters worse, we’re still waiting to find out just how much the scheme will impact our natural environment. National Highways has not disclosed details of which environmental features will be affected. Hiding these impacts from the public until the DCO stage is totally unacceptable.”

Craig Macadam, Conservation Director, Buglife: We’ve seen so many important habitats for insects and other wildlife lost in the Thames Estuary in recent decades and the Lower Thames Crossing is potentially the biggest and most impactful of them all. The nationally important invertebrate populations in the estuary are once again under threat and it simply cannot be right for a decision to be made without all of the information being available.

Hilary Newport, Director, CPRE Kent:CPRE Kent has been frustrated by the lack of key information provided every stage of the consultation process. The last statutory consultation was back in 2018 and since then there have been multiple design changes. It’s not reasonable to expect a project of this scale to go to examination without full detail of its impacts.

Chris Todd, Director, Transport Action Network: “The latest evidence is that the UK is widely off target in meeting its climate change ambitions to cut carbon emissions quickly enough. Road schemes like this simply are not an option in a climate emergency. They are making the problem worse and need to be scrapped.”

Laura Blake, Chair, Thames Crossing Action Group: “The proposed LTC is a hugely destructive and harmful project on so many levels; it fails to meet the scheme objectives, and would not solve the problems associated with the Dartford Crossing – it is simply not fit for purpose. We are strong believers that ‘together we are stronger’ and we are proud to unite with so many others to voice our serious concerns, and to call on Government for an immediate review of the project.”

Paul Hadaway, Director of Conservation for Kent Wildlife Trust said: “Kent Wildlife Trust share the concerns of other organisations that, given the lack of detailed information made publicly available, the LTC development will be harmful to wildlife, the environment and the population. 

“Ploughing ahead with the proposed LTC will result in the loss of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodlands and wetlands which are locking up significant levels of carbon, going against the government’s commitments to the environment.   

“At a time when Kent is increasingly facing the pressure of development, to proceed without the full impact of this project being made public is utterly unacceptable. It shows a disregard for the important role that the impacted habitats play in protecting Kent and its population from the worst impacts of climate change.”

Jeremy Dagley, Director of Conservation, Essex Wildlife Trust: “Essex Wildlife Trust is fundamentally opposed to the plans for Lower Thames Crossing. We have serious concerns about the significant impact of current proposals on the wildlife of Essex, with direct loss of habitats for species already under threat and damaging indirect impacts from fragmentation of sites, noise, light and air pollution. Such massive new road developments should be considered as a last resort and then only as part of a coherent sustainable transport strategy. This should be strategically planned and fully integrated with conservation objectives and the land use planning process. We need to be focusing on promoting less carbon-intensive forms of transport, reducing private vehicle use, and ensuring that nationally significant infrastructure projects result in no net loss to biodiversity. The proposal for Lower Thames Crossing is currently based on outdated thinking.”