Agenda and minutes

Lower Thames Crossing Task Force - Monday, 18th December, 2017 6.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL. View directions

Contact: Lottie Raper, Democratic Services Officer  Email:

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 102 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Lower Thames Crossing Task Force meeting held on 20 November 2017.


The minutes of the Lower Thames Crossing Task Force meeting held on 20 November 2017 were approved as a correct record.


Items of Urgent Business

To receive additional items that the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency, in accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.


There were no items of urgent business.


Declaration of Interests


There were no declaration of interests.


Actions from Previous Meetings pdf icon PDF 371 KB


Councillor Little stated that the document was very useful.  He would raise further actions at the meeting of the Task Force to be held on 22 January 2018, after speaking to Highways England personally.


The Corporate Director of Place requested an indication from Highways England as to when the traffic model would be available, since actions from the first Task Force meeting were still outstanding.  Highways England were currently undertaking a review of the current model and hoped to share the data with Local Authorities around February 2018 but a more definite indication would be provided when available.  The Chair highlighted that this had previously been discussed at meetings of the Task Force, at which point Highways England representatives had indicated the data would be available in December 2017; he queried the delay.  The delay was due to major data regarding the movements of HGVs being fed into the model.


The Vice-Chair advised that there was currently a compound in place in Baker Street and questioned whether it was related to Highways England.  After some discussion Members advised the site in question was owned by O’Rourke’s and was likely the site of ground investigation, however Highways England would clarify outside of the meeting. 


Councillor Little reiterated the issue of Members, and residents, not having been consulted prior to commencement of works.  The Chair echoed that there seemed to be a consistent theme of poor communications from Highways England and delays in responses.  He wanted to see Highways England be more proactive and ensure that the Council, and Members, were kept informed.



Highways England Update pdf icon PDF 3 MB


The representatives from Highways England presented an update centred on engagement plans, outlining a brief summary of plans for the coming months.  Highways England were currently seeking advice regarding the appropriate level of engagement within the Purdah period.


The Thurrock Business Representative queried whether Thurrock Council would be given longer than the statutory minimum of 28 days.  Highways England were looking to extend the response period above the minimum.  The Thurrock Business Representative advised Highways England that it the earlier the better since Thurrock Council, as the host Authority, could feed into the process and give advice and contact suggestions.


Various Members of the Task Force expressed their wish to see sections of the route tunnelled, particularly in areas of high population.  Tunnelling would provide mitigation against noise pollution, light pollution, visual impact and increased air quality problems.  There was tunnelling proposed where the route re-joined the M25 and it had formed a huge part of the Crossrail scheme to protect London residents, so why not for the benefit of Thurrock Residents?  The Representative from Highways England advised there were any constraints around height and location.  They were currently in the process of obtaining feedback and would need to consider concerns not only from residents but also environmental specialists and engineers.  There were concerns such as flooding, air quality, noise pollution and the many factors would be taken into account as part of the design process.  Highways England would work to remove as many concerns as possible.


Councillor Little stressed that the Task Force should be a way of obtaining information and as such Highways England should regularly update Members as to what changes are being made to the design model.  If variations were being considered that would be viewed positively it would be beneficial to know and similarly if certain aspects would not change Members needed to be aware so they could pick their battles.  Highways England advised that they did not wish to be too early with their plans if they might still change, to which Councillor Little replied he would rather the Task Force receive minor updates at each meeting than an entirely new design after 6 months, to allow Members to understand how the design was progressing.


The Chair requested responses to the business case and the grounds upon which proposals for a crossing further East were dismissed.  Officers at Highways England were still digesting the information within the response from the Planning Inspectorate but would be able to say more at the next meeting of the Task Force.


Councillor Okunade sought clarification as to what Highways England hoped to consult with residents upon, since many residents were unsure.  The engagement plan was currently in the date-planning stage and as such precise details had not yet been established.  It was hoped that they would be able to provide more details around route alignment, environmental impact mitigation and similar topics but the mobile information events were about receiving information from residents.  These events would be an opportunity  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.


Council's Response to Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report; including Responses from Neighbouring Authorities pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Additional documents:


The Corporate Director of Place outlined that the Council’s final response to the Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report had been submitted at the end of November, with 269 comments from technical experts.  A lengthy response had been received from the Planning Inspectorate on the day the agenda was published, which officers were still digesting.  The response had not insisted that a full Health Impact Assessment would be required, however the request had been submitted by a number of authorities and so Officers should continue to press the point.  Members were also in receipt of a summary of comments by other Local Authorities, which offered the potential for collaboration.


The Interim Assistant Director of Lower Thames Crossing steered the Task Force through the key responses from neighbouring Local Authorities.  The Planning Inspectorate had supported the request for a full Transport Assessment, which was welcome, however did not require Highways England to undertake a full Health Impact Assessment.  Both Thurrock Council and Gravesham expressed the economic connotations and the Department for Transport had recently changed the rules within WebTAG regarding the wider economic impact which meant Highways England would be required to understand these impacts more thoroughly.  The Chair requested an item be added to the agenda to provide further information around these WebTAG changes.


Councillor Little queried whether there was an opportunity to appeal the Planning Inspectorate’s decision regarding the Health Impact Assessment.  The Task Force heard that appealing the decision was not the correct route, however the Planning Inspectorate reserved the right to ask Highways England for further information if necessary therefore Thurrock Council could make formal representation in collaboration with other Local Authorities that submitted the same request.


The Vice-Chair referred to the information on page 39 of the agenda and suggested the Task Force write to the local MP, Jackie Doyle-Price, to lobby on the borough’s behalf given that the Council had already demonstrated the level of poor health within the borough.  The Thames Crossing Action Group Representative urged caution as the health issues within Thurrock were based on more than just air quality and Jackie Doyle-Price had already highlighted the effect of life-choices.  It would be important to be more explicit around detail of air quality issues or the lack of detail would be detrimental.  The Director of Public Health agreed and continued that it was difficult to get explicit detail given the large number of causes, although it was generally understood that poor air quality was a contributing factor. 


The Thames Crossing Action Group Representative stressed the need to work with Highways England to reduce dispersion rates and continue to pursue mitigation such as tunnelling.



Thurrock Air Quality pdf icon PDF 2 MB


The Independent Technical Advisor on Environmental Issues gave a presentation around Air Quality and the details of particulate matter.


The Chair queried the World Health organisation’s acceptable level of Particulate Matter.  These levels were lower than the UK’s ‘acceptable’ figure but were very aspirational and at times were lower than natural levels.  The Interim Assistant Director of Lower Thames Crossing highlighted that DEFRA had published a report quoting the World Health Organisation as having said there were “no safe levels of Particulate Matter as it is carcinogenic”.  The Independent Technical Advisor on Environmental Issues clarified that PM10s also came from sea salt.  The issue was polycyclic hydrocarbons, which were carcinogens.


Councillor Little sought a percentage comparison of diesel emissions, brake dust and tyre residue.  Brake dust and particulates from tyres normally made up 5-10% but the precise figure would be circulated outside of the meeting.


The Vice-Chair outlined that the data showed with or without the Lower Thames Crossing air quality within the borough was poor and the Council should be lobbying for significant investment diverting from road networks into rail infrastructure as it was a cleaner way of transporting both freight and people.  The Thames Crossing Action Group Representative agreed that there should be more pressure for improved rail infrastructure as it was a more sustainable approach.  Brake and tyre dust generally ended up in watercourses and on farmland and would therefore get into the food chain.  He stressed that there needed to be a change of approach as it was not logical to keep tarmacking Green Belt land for increased road networks.  The Thurrock Business Representative stressed that there was a national capacity issue with rail, particularly given the interchanges around London which caused problems for rail freight.


Councillor Little had previously requested diffusion tubes at vulnerable points along the proposed route to provide baseline information and inform the Council’s commentary.  The Environmental Health Officer informed the Task Force that tubes had been installed in a number of places along the proposed route, including Station Road cottages, Heath Road, Baker Street and Stifford Road.  Councillor Little also stressed that he had made a commitment to monitoring air quality at local schools and urged for diffusion tubes to be installed there too.



Cabinet Update

Report to follow


The Chair advised members of the Task Force that a report would be presented to the Cabinet meeting scheduled for 10 January 2018 to provide an update on the work of the Task Force so far.  Within the Task Force’s remit it would report back to Cabinet quarterly.



Work Programme pdf icon PDF 64 KB


It was agreed that the Democratic Services Officer would request any additions Members wished to see, in addition to the suggestions made throughout the course of the meeting, and would then update the work programme and circulate for Members.