Agenda item

Verbal Update: Council's Position - Examination


The Director of Place updated the LTC Task Force and stated that he had started at Thurrock Council in July 2022, and had become Director of Place in October 2022, and therefore the LTC response fell under his remit. He stated that he begun his work by seeking clarity on the LTC, the cost to the council, and how the government intervention in September 2022, and subsequent S114 notice in December 2022, would affect the project. He explained that at no point had funding been withdrawn, but the Council had to understand the full cost of the project and confirm there was sufficient money in the budget under the S114 notice to progress a compliant response. He stated that some of the design team had paused some of their work in the meantime.

The Director of Place explained that the Planning Performance Agreement (PPA) technically stopped at DCO submission, so no formal funding structure had been in place and the current Council funding was not sufficient. He explained that therefore the team had sought a better deal from National Highways and had got this in writing, so work on the response was now progressing. He explained that as Thurrock Council was a host authority, it was automatically registered as an interested party, but the Council had confirmed with the Planning Inspectorate that they would be making representation at the examination phase. He stated that the team had asked the Planning Inspectorate to consider extending the pre-examination phase by three months to ensure all information is correctly considered, and the Council were currently waiting on a response to this request. The Director of Place explained that there had also been a change to project management staffing, as the planning and transport teams within the Council were now more engaged with the process, although consultancy experts remained involved. He thanked the consultants for their hard work throughout the process.

Councillor Ononaji questioned how much the project had cost the Council to date. The Director of Place explained that it was hard to find an exact figure due to the nature of the project, but estimated that consultancy cost and officer time had cost approximately £1.4-1.5m, although 40% of this had been covered by the PPA. He stated that more was now covered by the PPA, and this meant that cost would approximately be between £400,000 and £500,000. The TCAG Representative questioned if legal representation was covered by the PPA, and if the LTC administration team were still working and reviewing the DCO documents. The Director of Place explained that legal representation costs had been included in the Council’s budget, but were not covered by the PPA from National Highways. He added that administration had previously been supplied through an external team, with no oversight from council officers, but now additional Council administration officers would be used to support the external team, and would be tasked with processes such as checking invoices. He added that consultants engaged through Stantec still remained working with the Council, and work reviewing the DCO would begin before the end of March 2023.