Campaigners accuse Highways England of manipulating consultation report as row continues over Lower Thames Crossing
PUBLISHED: 09:43 24 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:43 24 April 2017
The Lower Thames Crossing Association have written to transport secretary Chris Grayling, who visited north Kent earlier this month
Campaigners fighting the Lower Thames Crossing decision have written to the transport secretary, accusing Highways England of manipulating a report of consultation responses.
The Lower Thames Crossing Association (LTCA) claims results were skewed to favour Highways England’s preferred option to build the crossing east of Gravesend, known as Option C.
It is said the opinions of 946 Shorne residents opposed to the crossing have been “lumped together” and counted as a single organisation because they used similar wording in their consultation responses.
Bob Lane, chairman of LTCA, said: “Ipsos MORI [the market research company which carried out the report] and Highways England have discounted the opinions of over 13,000 people across north Kent and south Essex who opposed the scheme, and lumped them together into just 14 ‘organisations’.
“It is scandalous that the opinions of over 13,000 people whose lives will be devastated by the crossing can be cancelled out by just 14 individuals in favour of the scheme.
“In March last year, I presented a petition with 3,678 signatures to the KCC environment and transport cabinet committee, but the report says that it had only 11 signatures.”
In response, a Highways England spokesperson said: “The announcement of the preferred route follows an exhaustive review of options and extensive analysis of more than 47,000 responses to our 2016 public consultation.
“Of the 47,034 responses received, 13,284 were identified as being associated with an organised campaign, which are identically worded responses.
“We considered each response very carefully and carried out further assessment of the options before making our recommendation to government.
“Overall there was strong and widespread support for a new crossing at Option C, though we acknowledge that there was strong, mainly localised opposition.
“A new crossing at Option C offers the improved journeys, new connections, network reliability and economic benefits that only a new, alternative river crossing, away from Dartford, can provide.”