We read this piece about the creation of a new woodland with 150,000 new trees as part of the plans for the Lower Thames Crossing with great interest: New forest plans for Lower Thames Crossing. For a few fleeting seconds, we thought as a gesture of goodwill (a.k.a. a bribe) to the people of Thurrock, Highways England were going to do what they could to try and offset the damage environmental damage the Lower Thames Crossing will wreak by planting these trees alongside or as near as possible to the route. That frisson of excitement disappeared as soon as we started reading the article and noted that the woodland would be created alongside the M25 as it passed by Great Warley…which is up in neighbouring Brentwood!
Don’t get us wrong, we generally welcome tree planting anywhere that’s sustainable and where it can add to biodiversity and improve the aesthetics of a location. We’re pleased for the people of Brentwood who will be getting even more woodland to enjoy. It should be noted that much of the area to the south and west of Brentwood already has a pretty decent amount of tree cover, particularly when compared to Thurrock.
Apart from the bits of Westley Heights, One Tree Hill and Belhus Park that are in Thurrock, the rest of the borough is pretty low on trees. The ravages of Dutch Elm disease plus decades of sand and gravel extraction then subsequent landfill have all played their part in denuding Thurrock of any decent amount of tree cover. A situation that’s going to be exacerbated by the Lower Thames Crossing being pushed through Thurrock against the wishes of many of the residents.
A road crossing that will mean more noise, more pollution and will adversely impact the lives of many residents in Thurrock. Assuming that the project does go ahead, then at the very least, a significant amount of tree planting and associated landscaping along the route to reduce the noise, offset the pollution from the traffic and generally improve the aesthetics the area wouldn’t go amiss. What do we get instead? Grandstanding greenwashing from Highways England but sod all that will offset the environmental impact of the Lower Thames Crossing.
Because the proposed woodland is part of Highways England’s commitment to increase biodiversity (stop sniggering at the back!) along England’s Strategic Road Network by 2050, regardless of whether the Lower Thames Crossing goes ahead or not. Right…we’ll see about that… Great Warley will get the benefit of this new woodland regardless of what happens with the crossing – we’re pleased for them:) However, should Highways England finally get permission to smash the approach to the crossing through Thurrock, then at the very least, they owe us 150,000 trees along the route…
If they can’t even guarantee that, then they’re welcome to stick their proposed crossing where the sun doesn’t shine!