On 15 November, we put up this post about Highways England starting the tendering process for the construction of the Lower Thames Crossing: Highways England jumping the gun. We did note they were being somewhat premature initiating this process when they had only just submitted the planning application. We also noted that given the past arrogant behaviour of Highways England, this didn’t really come as much of a surprise.
Well, we’ve just had a little bit of surprise – Highways England have withdrawn their Development Consent Order application for the crossing. This is how it was covered by Thurrock Nub News: Highways England withdraw Development Consent Order application for Lower Thames Crossing following initial feedback from Planning Inspectorate. This is the reaction from the Thames Crossing Action Group: LTC DCO Application WITHDRAWN.
Looking at the report on Thurrock Nub News, it would appear that the Planning Inspectorate gave the plans from Highways England a bit of a frosty reception so it’s back to the drawing board for them. The plans will be re-submitted at some point in the early part of 2021. Highways England will be back, there’s no doubt about that. However, having to go back to the drawing board indicates that it may not be a smooth a process as they hoped it would be to push through this destructive and largely unwanted road and river crossing scheme.
As we mentioned a few days ago, the plans of Highways England are based on forecasts of economic growth and the consequent increase in traffic that as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and the lockdowns, are pretty much redundant. Whether people like it or not, there will be no return to ‘business as normal’ when this crisis is over – if in fact, it’s ever allowed to be ‘over’. The crisis is being leveraged to bring in some pretty drastic changes to how society and the economy function – changes we’ve started to look at on our sister blog, Estuary Stirrings.
At the very least, this delay in submitting the application buys opponents of the scheme valuable time to marshal their forces and decide how to proceed. There’s still everything to play for in stopping this scheme to save our environment and health…