Agenda and draft minutes

Lower Thames Crossing Task Force - Monday, 15th February, 2021 6.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL. View directions

Contact: Lucy Tricker, Democratic Services Officer  Email: direct.democracy@thurrock.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

41.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillor Andrew Jefferies; Peter Ward, Thurrock Business Representative; and Anna Eastgate,Assistant Director LTC.

42.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 234 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Lower Thames Crossing Task Force meeting held on 18 January 2021.

Minutes:

The minutes of the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) Task Force meeting held on 18 January 2021 were approved as a true and correct record.

43.

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.

Minutes:

The Chair stated that he had agreed to one item of urgent business, and explained that Highways England (HE) would be giving a presentation on landscape design, green infrastructure, and walkers; cyclists; and horse-riders (WCH). The HE Lead Architect began the presentation and explained that it would cover the summary principles of the project; the landscape integration of the proposals; and the walking, cycling and equestrian proposals in Ockendon, the A13 junction, and the Chadwell Link. She stated that the proposals outlined in the presentation were those that had been submitted at the last iteration of the Development Consent Order (DCO) submission, and covered 2300 hectares both north and south of the river, including ancient woodland such as Rainbow Shaw in Chadwell St Mary. She explained that due to the current proposals part of Low Street Pit would be lost, including some invertebrates, but described how this would be mitigated against.

The HE Lead Architect then explained that habitats associated with arable land, and grassland could be impacted by the scheme, such as through direct loss, habitat degradation, and fragmentation. She stated that HE would create habitats to replace those which would be lost and the replacements would often be better than the current habitat. She stated that HE would be replacing arable land with species-rich grassland and woodland, which would strengthen the existing links and create new habitats. She added that HE would be following the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) guidance when moving flora and fauna to new habitats, and would create green corridors where necessary. The HE Lead Architect commented that there were approximately 100 species in Thurrock, including some bats, badgers and great crested newts, which were protected species whose habitats would need offsetting with specific mitigation. She explained that Thurrock would see a net overall gain of 15% in habitat, and double the woodland lost through the scheme would be newly created. She explained that approximately 400 hectares would be converted from arable farmland to natural habitats and hedgerows, as well as increasing the number of watercourses and wildlife ponds. The HE Lead Architect added that a new Benefits Steering Group had been created covering legacy, which included Thurrock Council and other local authorities, to discuss developing wildlife projects and habitat enforcement. She stated that HE and the LTC team were committed to developing £1million of project funding for wildlife, including £250,000 to the Essex Wildlife Trust to increase the water vole population through control of the mink population.

The HE Lead Architect then discussed tree planting and outlined that the tree palette would mostly be native, broad-leaf woodland in Thurrock, including beech, hornbeam and nurse species, which were faster growing to increase screening, whilst oak and other trees grew more slowly. She stated that the tree palette needed to be submitted at DCO within the Design Principles and provided a selection of potential trees and woodland that would be planted. She explained that the final mix and density would be decided  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.

44.

Declaration of Interests

Minutes:

No interests were declared.

45.

Summary of Energy White Paper, December 2020 pdf icon PDF 195 KB

Minutes:

The Senior Consultant introduced the report and stated that it summarised a government white paper, which was a tool for discussing future potential legislation, and was released on 14 December 2020. He explained that it outlined the Prime Minister’s plan for a green COVID-19 recovery, and was split into four parts: transforming energy supply; reforming energy supply; fairer deals for energy consumers; and a green pandemic recovery. He explained that the government wished to decrease carbon emissions by 230million tonnes, as well as increasing the number of green jobs available by 220,000. The Senior Consultant highlighted page two of the report which outlined what support would be available for the roll out of electric vehicle charging, including a £2.8billion government funding package, which could be used on the LTC. He stated that this was the only proposal which might directly affected the LTC, but other proposals could affect the development of Thurrock’s Local Plan. He gave the examples of all new homes built not using gas power by 2025; new homes having zero carbon emissions; and increasing the clean energy supply across the country.

The Chair highlighted that this White Paper did not directly affect the LTC, but questioned if new homes could be connected to hydrogen gas and if the LTC could affect future hydrogen grid connections. The Senior Consultant replied that the government was mainly focusing on nuclear and off-shore wind for the majority of its future clean energy supply, but hydrogen power was emission free and the government did want to develop approximately 5 gigawatts of hydrogen power by 2030. He stated that this was more likely to be used for housing infrastructure than for cars.

Councillor Spillman felt it was good to see the pace of change regarding environmental concerns, including the proposed removal of all gas boilers. The TCAG Representative questioned if the consultation which had been undertaken regarding the power plant in East Tilbury would have a conflict with the LTC. She added that electric vehicles still emitted PM2.5 from brakes and tyres, which she felt was dangerous for local residents as it could enter people’s bloodstreams. She added that the electricity needed to power electric vehicles was still largely produced from fossil fuels and asked the Task Force to advocate for the government adoption of WHO guidelines regarding PM2.5. Councillor Allen echoed the TCAG Representatives comments regarding PM2.5 and electric vehicles, as he agreed that they still had a carbon footprint. He felt that the government should focus on hydrogen energy, which had no emissions. The TCAG Representative added that she felt concerned regarding the Environmental Statement, which HE would submit and the air quality data which could be contained within the report. She highlighted the work of the Transport Action Network, who were currently undertaking a legal challenge regarding RIS2 and the National Policy Statement for National Networks (NPSNN), so that it was reviewed and updated. Councillor Muldowney questioned if the Transport Action Network could present to the Task Force. The Chair  ...  view the full minutes text for item 45.

46.

Mitigation/Legacy Benefits Prioritisation (Verbal Update)

Minutes:

The Senior Consultant began the verbal update and informed Members that this had been discussed at January’s Task Force meeting, and since then Thurrock officers had met with HE to discuss the 57 recommendations made in the Hatch report. He stated that officers had been challenging HE regarding mitigation which could be accepted, but felt that HE had been accommodating to some of the proposed mitigation. He highlighted that not all of the mitigation fell under HE’s remit, and Thurrock would be discussing these areas, such as with the Department for Transport, who might be responsible for some measures. The Senior Consultant gave the example of the hypothecation of toll money for use by Thurrock Council, which fell under the Department for Transport remit. He stated that a more detailed report would be brought before the Task Force in March, which would highlight which items had been agreed and how, and would seek Members guidance regarding the prioritisation of items that were still up for discussion. He stated that the list of accepted items from the Hatch report was still being finalised with officers and HE, but would be shared before the Task Force in March. He summarised and highlighted that written answers to questions to HE from the previous Task Force meeting, would be shared with Members next week.

Councillor Muldowney questioned what mitigation would be included at the Asda roundabout. The Senior Consultant stated that the Tilbury 2 development had proposed mitigation, as well as the London Resort, whose DCO had recently been accepted. He explained that the LTC would need to account for both of those schemes when proposing mitigation, and as it was a critical roundabout for HGV use during construction, and that any potential additional mitigation would hopefully happen in advance of any construction. The Resident Representative highlighted that air quality data had been promised to the Task Force at January’s meeting. He questioned whether this had been received yet, or if HE had updated their route visualisations. The Senior Consultant stated that the air quality data had been shared with Thurrock officers, who had not yet had time to analyse it in detail. He added that air quality data was also included in the Environmental Statement, which was part of the DCO documentation and was approximately 50,000 pages long. He then highlighted that visualisations, as seen in today’s presentation, would be necessary to be included for the next proposed public consultation covering design, structures, landscape, GI, and PRoW. He stated that he would make the point strongly to HE that Task Force Members had requested additional visualisations, including an updated fly-through. The Chair echoed this point and felt that the visualisations in the recent presentations had been much improved and needed to continue as they helped residents understand the size and look of the route. He welcomed the potential for more visualisations of a similar quality in the future.

The TCAG Representative stated that it was now public knowledge that the Assistant Director  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46.

47.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 128 KB

Minutes:

The Senior Consultant highlighted that March would be a busy meeting, with reports on CO2 emissions; an update on the Health and Equalities Impact Assessment and the Environmental Impact Assessment; and an update on the economic mitigation list.

Members did not wish to add any other items to the Work Programme.