'Unacceptable' Autumn Statement slammed as government offer no update on Lower Thames Crossing
PUBLISHED: 14:08 23 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:34 23 November 2016
Chancellor Phillip Hammond made no mention of the multi-billion pound project
The future of a lower Thames crossing hangs in the balance, after the government failed to make any announcement at the Autumn Statement.
Residents have been waiting for a response from government after a consultation earlier this year.
Campaigners in Gravesham rallied against Highways England’s recommendation to build a bored tunnel east of Gravesend, while the possibility of a second crossing in Dartford remains on the table.
The consultation had promised a response either way by the autumn.
Today (Wednesday), the chancellor of the exchequer Phillip Hammond, told Parliament the Department for Transport will make announcements on projects ‘over the coming weeks’.
Labour leader in Dartford Jonathon Hawkes criticised the lack of information.
He said: “It’s unacceptable, people have had to live with this uncertainty for years.
“The latest consultation was in March and government experts have laid out a clear recommendation, but today they haven’t taken any decision, it’s really disappointing.”
A number of campaign groups fought against Highways Englands’ recommendations for a crossing in the Gravesham countryside, knows as option c.
Bob Lane, chairman of the Lower Thames Crossing Association, says he wasn’t expecting an announcement.
He said: “It’s a very difficult decision. I think the government are actually looking at the consultation more than Highways England expected them to, because there has been such a large reaction.
“From what I understand it could be in the coming weeks, if not then in the new year.
We called the Department for Transport to see if a date was set for any announcement, and were told the decision would be made ‘in due course’.
On the day the UK voted to leave the EU Dartford MP Gareth Johnson assured The Reporter that the £5.9billion Lower Thames Crossing project would still go ahead.
But as the wait goes on, Cllr Hawkes claimed Brexit still posed a risk to the crossing,
The Stone councillor said: “Until the government make a decision, that will always be a risk.
“Post Brexit with the pressures on building trades, that was something we flagged up in the summer.
“The government could have ended that uncertainty but they have chosen not to.”