Agenda item

Any Other Business

Minutes:

Referring to a letter (circulated to Task Force Members) to the Chair from HE which had received six unsatisfactory responses from the 19 questions asked, Chris Stratford highlighted six points to be included in the Chair’s response to HE:

 

  1. A reminder of the question asked by the Chair to have early sight of the consultation report and other DCO documents in advance of the DCO publication.

 

  1. Why reflective noise barriers were proposed for use instead of absorptive noise barriers.

 

  1. That HE confirm their current biodiversity score including a score for the North and South sides of the river.

 

  1. What the details of the Travel Plan were and the targets for achieving sustainable transport.

 

  1. Where the benefits of the LTC scheme were located.

 

  1. A copy of the closed meeting of the Design Council held back in June. Also for design slides and for HE to respond to Laura Blake’s query about false cutting.

 

The draft response would be provided to the Chair for sign off before it was sent to HE.

 

Councillor Allen questioned if the design of the LTC scheme would change over time. Anna Eastgate said that once the application was submitted, it would be difficult for matters of substance to change e.g. the red line boundary due to consultation notification requirements. There were certain elements that could still be influenced such as the CoCP (including hours of construction), requirements, local construction routes and protective provisions.

 

The Task Force discussed the control of the levels of noise construction, noise barriers, technical language in HE letters to residents, visual impacts of the LTC. There was also discussion regarding letters from HE to residents, who were not within the vicinity of the LTC scheme, which stated that residents’ homes were of interest. Officers explained that the service would monitor air quality and noise levels during the construction phase and would be questioning HE on the effectiveness of the noise barriers. The service would feedback to HE to avoid technical wording in letters to residents and to explain details in layman terms. HE had provided no details about visual impacts and the service would query this. For residents who had received letters from HE, Anna Eastgate explained that these were private law matters and advised individuals to seek legal advice. She went on to say that updates were provided from HE for anyone who had registered and that in November, the link for interested parties to register would open for 28 days but an interested party would require a written representation. She would provide key dates for the Task Force of when the link would open.

 

Councillor Allen questioned how the 50,000 – 60,000 pages of DCO documentation would be examined when published and if there were commercial assets set aside for the DCO. Anna Eastgate explained that the DCO would be examined by a group of consultees as in-house Officers were already under pressure from their current workload due to the pandemic. The DCO would not go to the High Court and the examination of it would be public and run by the Planning Inspectorate with specific hearings. Thurrock would need to review the DCO and submit its written representations. The examination process would take six months and at the end, the examining authority would have three months to submit its recommendation to the Secretary of State who would have another three months to determine the application.

 

The Task Force discussed what benefits would be gained if the Council moved from a position of opposition to conciliatory and accepting. Anna Eastgate explained that there was a presumption of favour for the LTC scheme (also hailed as a flagship scheme by the Government) as there was a need for public schemes to be brought forward and to develop infrastructure. There was a Council motion to judicially review HE but this could only be undertaken once a decision had been made on certain grounds of irregularity, illegality or impropriety which were narrow grounds for challenge and a Judicial Review (JR) did not stop a decision either. However, a JR was still in place although it would not be with HE, it would be with the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State as this was where the scheme was no progressing to. She went on to say that this was the opportunity for the Council to look at what benefits could be gained from the scheme in terms of social value and local economy. She stated that if the Council were to support the scheme, there would still be elements of the scheme that the Council was not happy with so would look to be strategic and endeavour to identify the ‘top 10-12 asks’ of HE in terms of mitigation to ensure the maximum benefit for Thurrock’s residents.

 

The Task Force questioned how its views would be heard. Anna Eastgate explained that the Task Force had received a greater detail of information than any other Committee on the LTC scheme and that the Chair provided a quarterly update of the Task Force’s work to Cabinet. The work of the Task Force was important and the next steps would need to be considered.