‘The people of north Kent are being sold a pup’ - Gravesham council chiefs slam KCC over Lower Thames Crossing plans
12:00 19 September 2016
Councillors say KCC’s Local Transport Plan suggests it favours Option C but they remain strongly opposed
Council chiefs in Gravesham say they have been misrepresented and that “the people of north Kent are being sold a pup” in the county council’s Local Transport Plan as the row over a Lower Thames Crossing rumbles on.
The plan, which went to the Joint Transportation Board this week, they say fails to show that the borough council and local county members remain implacably opposed to plans for a river crossing east of Gravesend, known as Option C.
The crossing has been earmarked as a potential solution to ongoing congestion at the Dartford Crossing, but has been the subject of months of rowing between the neighbouring authorities, neither of which want such a crossing in their borough.
KCC’s report, which is going out to public consultation, lists what it describes as “district priorities” and shows the crossing on a map entitled Gravesham’s Transport Priorities, which has caused fury among local councillors.
While the authors had pre-consultation discussion with officers from Gravesham, and were consistently reminded of members’ stance on this matter, the document fails to reflect the fact that the council is totally against Option C and its proposed variations, politicians say.
Gravesham council leader John Cubitt said: “The impression it gives is that Gravesham agrees with KCC in favouring and promoting Option C.
“Nothing could be further from the truth and we want to reassure everyone that we remain firmly against a proposal which would have a devastating impact on local communities, important wildlife habitats, the environment and, most crucially, would not begin to resolve the problem of the Dartford crossing.
“Even on the best estimates from Highways England the most traffic a lower Thames crossing here would carry would be 14 per cent of the present volume using Dartford – almost identical to the projected increase in overall traffic by the time it could be open.
“Clearly, that doesn’t begin to address the problem and simply offers the prospect of the A2 becoming a car park in both directions.
“The people of north Kent are being sold a pup. “
On two occasions the full Gravesham council has voted unanimously to oppose the scheme which would cut a swathe through the villages of Chalk and Shorne and has already blighted a wide area along the eastern Gravesend riverside.
Former council leader John Burden said: “Under successive administrations members have been united in our opposition to this scheme which will solve nothing and lead to more chaos on our roads.
“The KCC plan needs to be re-worded to ensure people do not get even the hint that Gravesham councillors support this option or any of its variants in any way, whatsoever.”
Chairman of the Joint Transportation Board – a meeting of county and borough members and officers – is county councillor Bryan Sweetland, who quit his County Hall cabinet post in protest earlier this year and said of Highways England’s consultation into the plans: “I’ve never seen one that’s quite so biased as this one”.
He added this week: “I am extremely unhappy that the Kent Local Transport Plan seems to depict the lower Thames crossing on the map at Chalk as if it were not only a fait accompli but also lacking serious opposition.”
“There should be no doubt that we will continue to campaign tirelessly against this awful scheme.”
KCC has been approached for comment.