The Assistant Director LTC
began by stating that the statutory consultation had closed on 20
December 2018, and HE had received over 20,000 responses which they
were currently analysing. She commented that they were analysing
for potential changes they might have to make, and if changes were
identified, if any additional consultation would be needed. She
added that consultation responses would not be made public until
submitted as part of the DCO, but only main statutory consultation
responses would be published in full, with individual responses
being summarised and grouped. She stated that a number of technical
meetings had been set-up between HE and the Council up until April,
and although other local authorities met monthly, Thurrock Council
were meeting on a weekly basis. She stated that Thurrock would be
called upon by the Planning Inspectorate a month before DCO
submission to consult on the Adequacy of Response, and the Council
were currently also working on a Local Impact Report. She added
that a skeleton version of the Local Impact Report would be brought
before the Task Force before it was submitted. She explained that
the Council were also producing a Statement of Common Ground which
highlighted areas of agreement and dis-agreement between HE and the
Council, and explained that although this was not a statutory
document, it would help to shape the examination phase and which
topic-specific hearings would take place.
She then moved on to answer Councillor Allen’s question regarding how Thurrock Council could influence HE and listed the following points:
1. Through technical meetings by shaping HE’s approach to the scheme, although this was proving to be a struggle at the moment;
2. Through the local plan consultation, as if this is progressed then later technical meetings could consider this as committed development;
3. Through partnerships with other local authorities, as there are many areas of commonality, and many other local authorities also feel HE are providing inadequate data
4. Through higher level meetings, such as with MP’s, Ministers and the Department for Transport.
Councillor Spillman then asked which legal avenues were open to the Council, and if there were legal methodsto either stop the LTC being built; change the route; or force HE to cut and cover the whole route. The Assistant Director LTC replied that the route cannot change, although during the examination phase inspectors test all routes, and can find evidence to be flawed and the scheme to be wrong. She felt that Thurrock could help to prove this and ensure the right decisions are made. She stated that regarding cut and cover, Thurrock Council can try and force HE in particular areas. She also added that in legal terms there is a presumption in favour of development and the scheme will get consent, unless it is not policy compliant. She explained that any legal challenge only delays the process and does not stop it completely. She described how the process first goes to judicial review and if this is proven then goes on to a substantive review in front of a judge. She then described that the judge could only send the process back a stage and make HE reconsider their options again, and would be unlikely to stop the process.
Councillor Spillman then asked for clarification why the route was not being cut and covered, as he had heard it was due to the terrain. The Assistant Director LTC responded that as part of the route was in a flood plain, it would be difficult to cut and cover. She commented that the Council will have a chance to challenge at the examination phase, and if they could prove the route was wrong, DCO could be refused. She also highlighted that refusal of DCO happened in a very small percentage of cases, usually in the percentage region of single figures. Councillor Spillman then asked what would happen if the Council rejected the LTC in any form, and if there was a chance this would change the route. He also asked if any research had been undertaken into considering alternative options for the route. The Assistant Director LTC replied that HE had undertaken years of options testing for routes, and if the Council wanted to undertake their own route options testing it would take lots of time and money, with only a slim likelihood of success. She felt that the Council now needed to secure a good level of mitigation for the route and not follow the example of the Thames Tidalway Tunnel which had consistently refused the route and received no mitigation against the scheme. The Corporate Director Place added that Thurrock Council’s position remained against any new crossing in Thurrock, and that judicial review could stop the scheme indirectly as it could increase its cost outside the cost envelope. He also added that the Council needed more technical information from HE, and were working with businesses, partners and other local authorities to influence HE. He also commented that the views of members of the business community had changed because of this, as now many did not support the scheme in its current form. Councillor Allen raised the point that as the LTC would be a toll road, all the money HE put into the scheme would be returned to them.
The Thurrock Business Board Representative asked if any progress had been made on moving the Rest and Service Area. The Assistant Director LTC replied that there had been no meetings on the Rest and Service Area since Christmas, but would report back any updates in future Task Force meetings. The Thurrock Business Board Representative questioned if there was a chance of moving the Rest and Service Area. The Assistant Director LTC replied that HE hadn’t fully committed to the site being in Tilbury, and had only been originally proposed there, as there had been a 60 Watt surplus which could power plug-ins. She commented that she felt this could be an area for influence, as well as areas such as lowering structure heights, better design on the route, and cut and cover. Councillor Spillman then asked if funding could be made available to residents groups to help with their campaigns and action groups, such as was used in Heathrow. The Corporate Director Place replied that this was something which could be looked into.