Agenda item

Highways England Update on Consultation


The Highways England (HE) Development Director began by stating the consultation process was almost halfway through, with 4 events and 1 mobile event already held across the borough. He described how there were 3 more events in Thurrock those being: 14 November at the Linford Methodist Church; 16 November at the Brandon Groves Community Centre; and 7 December at Chadwell St Mary Village Hall. He also stated there were 8 more mobile events happening throughout November and December, the details of which were on the LTC website. The HE Development Director went on to discuss how responses to the consultation had been high, with over 500 responses per day. He then listed the main themes of consultation responses so far, which were:

·         Concern with the location of the proposed route, although residents recognised the need to relieve traffic at the Dartford Crossing and A13.

·         Concern with the A13 junction and the lack of West facing slip roads.

·         Discussion of the height of the route and how this could have visual impacts and impact on air quality.

·         The lack of the Tilbury link road and how this may affect businesses within the area.

·         How the LTC will help businesses within Thurrock.

·         The change to 3 lanes and how this may increase traffic noise and air pollution.

·         The removal of spoil and construction traffic on the local road network as building work will be happening on site for 6 years. The HE Development Director explained that in the New Year detailed traffic assessments would be taking place which would look at this issue.

·         Local issues such as the realignment of Rectory Road. The HE Development Director asked residents to include local issues in their consultation responses.

·         The proposed rest/service area and the impact this could have on residents. The HE Development Director discussed this issue and stated that the rest area would help stop the problem of HGVs parking on local roads, and would include charging points to promote good air quality in the borough.

The HE Development Director summarised by asking residents to continue to submit consultation responses, and asked them to encourage others to do the same.

The Chair began by stating that all panel members had attended at least one event and then opened the floor to questions. The Vice-Chair initiated discussion and raised concern that residents outside the redline boundary had been informed by their bank that Highways England had written to them regarding the LTC proposals. He asked if residents outside the redline boundary, who wanted to sell during the construction period, had lawful provision that Highways England would buy their homes. He stated that he felt worried residents would become ‘land locked’ by the scheme. The HE Development Director replied that compensation was available for those outside the redline boundary, and residents concerned should visit an event or go online to the LTC website. He stated that 350,000 leaflets had been dropped to affected inhabitants. The Vice-Chair asked if the Task Force could see the letter sent to banks by Highways England, as well as leaflets dropped. He felt it was important for people to be able to sell their homes if they chose and receive good guidance on how to claim for compensation.

The Resident Representative continued the discussion on compensation by stating that it did not solve the issue of people being able to sell their homes, as they would still be ‘land locked’, and felt Highways England needed to go further. She believed that if Highways England had contacted people’s banks, then it should be compulsory for them to buy the houses. The HE Development Director replied that a team of caseworkers were on hand to talk with landowners on a one to one basis. The Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG) Representative then discussed the issue that people were waiting up to 15 working days for a response from the Highways England property team and asked if this could be improved. The HE Development Director replied that he would take this away and look into it.

The TCAG Representative then asked what plans Highways England had to reduce carbon emissions during construction. The HE Development Director replied that Highways England would undertake traffic modelling to show carbon emissions and then work on ways to mitigate this. He continued by saying Highways England had to work to construction code to reduce issues such as dust, air and noise pollution. He added that Highways England were also looking into using electric vehicles during the construction period.

The Vice-Chair then questioned what Highways England were doing to protect communities such as Chadwell St Mary, Bulpan and Orsett along the route, such as cut and cover to protect people from the risks of COPD. He added that the proposed route fell within 500 yards of properties in Chadwell St Mary, and the depth of the route was still unclear. The HE Development Director replied that the project was being delivered through the National Policy Statement framework which means they have to mitigate social and economic effects of the route, and therefore protect local communities. He described how Highways England had explored cut and cover, and the reasons for rejecting the proposal had been discussed at the last Task Force meeting. He added that the route had been lowered after the November 2017 route announcement, and false cutting would be pursued which would include embankments on either side of the road to reduce visual and noise impacts.

The Resident Representative felt that Highways England were not meeting LTC objectives as set out in their Innovation, Technology and Research documents, and that health and environmental effects were not being mitigated against. She continued by stating the route lacked efficiency as people would have to drive to Stanford and back on themselves to access the route. She added that the route should be put under the railway line, and should include cut and cover, to improve the local road network. The HE Development Director replied that Highways England had to show the Planning Inspectorate they are mitigating effects of the route, and in addition two external bodies would be reviewing the route submission. He continued that everything was open to consultation, but that LTC would provide relief around the A13 and Stanford. 

The TCAG Representative questioned what would happen when an incident occurred at the Dartford Crossing, M25 or LTC, as traffic would back up along the A13 which may inhibit emergency vehicles. The HE Development Director responded that they were working with the police and fire authorities and they were involved in the design. He continued that the LTC would increase capacity across the river by 90%, as now when an incident occurred at the Dartford Crossing, it could be shut for between 3 and 5 hours. He also stated that Highways England were working on ways to inform people better when incidents were occurring which would use the latest technology. The Chair continued the debate by discussing how Highways England had recently objected to a planning application in the borough which would have placed additional load on Junction 30, as he felt the LTC would increase traffic at Junction 30 anyway. The HE Development Director answered that the LTC would provide between 30% and 70% relief at west bound Junction 30.