Agenda item

Highways England Update


The Highways England (HE) Development Director began by stating that HE had visited the LTC Task Force at the end of 2018, and since then the consultation had ended and HE were currently individually analysing 28,000 responses. He stated that, of the responses that had been analysed so far, the main issues were the A13 connectivity; the proposed Rest and Service Area; the lack of the Tilbury Link Road; the vertical alignment of the road, particularly on the Mardyke Valley and Tilbury and Ockendon loop lines; the health impact of the road; and the air and noise pollution. He commented that once responses had been analysed, proposed changes to the plan would come back to the Task Force and the weekly meetings with Thurrock. The HE Development Director added that HE’s ambition was to submit the Development Consent Order (DCO) at the end of 2019, although this would be reliant on changes made to the LTC due to consultation responses. He mentioned that HE were aware that Thurrock was working on its Local Plan and felt that HE and Thurrock Council could collaborate on land parcels. He added that HE were planning on undertaking environmental surveys later on in the year, but assured the Task Force that they would stay fully informed. He finally stated that although the LTC was not near the procurement phase yet, last week HE had published their EU Hiring Notice which stated their intentions subject to contracts and got the supply chain ready. He added that HE wanted to work with the local supply chain and were in talks with SELEP, Invest Essex, as well as other partners.

The Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG) Representative opened the debate and asked about the agricultural surveys HE were planning on undertaking, and asked what protection would be given to residents as some of the proposed survey areas ran over historic land fill sites. The HE Development Director replied that the agricultural surveys would consist of shallow soil testing, the same as what was currently happening in Kent. He added that HE had not yet applied for consent from Thurrock Council, so the surveys would not begin for some time. The Assistant Director LTC confirmed that Thurrock Council had not granted any licences for agricultural surveys on council land, but could not comment on licences for private land.

The Vice-Chair commented on the on-going Health Impact Assessment (HIA) as Thurrock had an increased level of COPD compared to other boroughs. He asked HE if they could provide cut and cover across the route, particularly around urban areas such as Chadwell St Mary, Tilbury, Bulphan and Stifford Clays. He wanted to ensure that progress was not detrimental to resident’s health. The HE Development Director stated that the scheme had to meet the National Policy Statement National Framework which would give protection to residents by testing air quality and noise pollution. The Assistant Director LTC confirmed that Thurrock had shared all health data with HE and the Strategic Lead Public Health was attending health meetings with other local authorities that the scheme affected. She felt that that the Health Impact Assessment was progressing slowly, and had written formally to HE to share these concerns. She stated that as part of the scheme it was a statutory duty to produce a HIA which covered noise, vibration and provide mitigation. She added that the HIA was an ongoing piece of work, which would be available at DCO submission, and would be reviewed in examination phase. She stated that Thurrock were currently talking to HE regarding the methodology of the HIA, but felt concerned at the timescales and amount of work to do before DCO submission.

 The Vice-Chair stated that he wanted re-assurance from HE that adequate mitigation would be provided, as he felt it was not acceptable for residents to live so close to the LTC, without the LTC having cut and cover or being placed in an underground tunnel. He added that Thurrock Council would take HE to judicial review if it placed residents at risk. The Business Representative asked when consultation responses would be provided, as he had a number of concerns. The HE Development Director replied that the number of responses to consultation had been record-breaking and analysing them would take time. He added that HE would be sharing issues soon, but could not commit to changes that would be occurring to the scheme. He commented that changes made to the scheme following consultation may have to go through another round of consultation and engagement. He finally mentioned that HE were currently working on a legal agreement with Thurrock Council to be able to give access to the cordoned model for traffic modelling.

The Chair stated that the LTC Task Force had wanted to run a workshop regarding traffic modelling at the March meeting, but the software licence for the cordoned model had still not been given to officers. He felt that Thurrock Council needed facts and evidence to pursue ambitions for the Local Plan. He asked HE when officers would be able to see the licence for the software. The HE Development Director replied that it would be sent to officers by Friday 15 February. The Assistant Director LTC responded that if the software licence was received on Friday, it would still be too late to analyse all of the data in time for a workshop in the March meeting.

Councillor Jefferies stated that he felt concerned over HE’s responses to questions as he felt they were open-ended. He also felt concerned that officers were waiting for information and this was causing delays. He stated that he felt HE were letting the clock run until DCO submission at the end of the year. The HE Development Director replied that HE were sharing information with officers every week, but wanted to ensure that they had a tight grip on the scheme, so problems such as the Tilbury Link Road did not re-occur. The Assistant Director LTC confirmed that Thurrock Council had asked for access to the cordoned model 12 months ago, as they had needed a minimum of 3 months to analyse the data that arose from this. She stated that Thurrock Council had heard from HE at the end of 2018 that they would receive access to the cordoned model, but still had not received it. She felt that when it was received, there may not be enough time to analyse all data and felt that HE programme was unrealistic and would not result in meaningful engagement. The Chair commented that he felt HE’s ambition to submit DCO by the end of the year was looking doubtful as there was a lot for them to do.

The Business Representative stated that he agreed with the Assistant Director LTC as the Port of Tilbury were not receiving information from HE either, and added that if HE did not engage then they would be in a difficult position when it came to the examination phase. The HE Development Director answered that HE could not commit to any DCO submission date but their ambitions were to submit by the end of the year. He stated they would follow due process, but had to wait for data too. The TCAG Representative asked when HE would know if there would be another round of consultation, to which HE replied it would be by late spring.

Councillor Allen stated that he felt HE were pursuing the cheapest method and were not considering residents. The Assistant Director LTC commented that the Chief Executive had written a formal letter to the Chief Executive of Highways England voicing Thurrock’s concerns regarding the impact of the LTC on health and traffic, and the lack of HE engagement. The Chair commented that he felt it would be helpful if HE could increase their communications effort, as officers and Members would like to know what was happening, and be able to offer advice to residents.