Sent on Thursday 19th March 2020 at 11:19
To: Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, Highways England CEO, Jim O’Sullivan, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP*, firstname.lastname@example.org
CC: Stephen Metcalfe MP, Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Julia Lopez MP, Adam Holloway MP, LTC Planning Inspectorate, Local Authorities – Thurrock, Gravesham, Havering
* Mr Hancock can only be contacted officially in his role as Health Secretary via an online form which limits characters to 3000, so we have sent a link to this page to ensure he is provided access to the email.
Whilst we appreciate there is a lot of serious stuff going on in the country right now, that is the very reason for us sending the email as we did on March 16th, and we would appreciate a reply as a matter of urgency please. To date we have had no response from Highways England in response to our email dated March 16th (below).
We all know the scale and severity of Coronavirus, which is why we are asking that the Lower Thames Crossing Supplementary Consultation is postponed with immediate effect please.
If Highways England/the Government do not deem it necessary to postpone the consultation due to the current unprecedented issues that the country is currently facing and trying their best to deal with then we would like a full explanation as to why you do not deem it a necessary step to ensure that this consultation is fair and adequate.
People need and deserve to have the time to attend the info events that are rightly no longer being held as planned, before responding to the consultation.
People are quite rightly distracted and very concerned about the Coronavirus. As mentioned previously some are sick, some are trying to care for the sick, elderly, vulnerable, some are having to figure out childcare (taking into account that older relatives might not be able to assist as they usually do due to the risk it could have on their own health) especially with the announcement of schools being closed , some are trying to adjust to working from home, some are generally just dealing with the fallout of what is going on right now, trying to do things we once took for granted and did without any real thought, like buying food have become a mission and nightmare for many. People are understandably distracted with other issues, this is not a good time to be holding a consultation if you honestly want people’s comments. Not to mention the additional stress that you will be putting on people as we are extremely concerned about the proposed Lower Thames Crossing and want to have our say, but at the same time we are dealing with the very real issues that need to be dealt with right now due to Coronavirus. The additional pressure you are putting on people’s lives, health, and wellbeing is totally unacceptable.
Consultation Principles 2018 (a Government document)
- Consultations should take account of the groups being consulted Consult stakeholders in a way that suits them. Charities may need more time to respond than businesses, for example. When the consultation spans all or part of a holiday period, consider how this may affect consultation and take appropriate mitigating action, such as prior discussion with key interested parties or extension of the consultation deadline beyond the holiday period.
The World Health Organisation has declared Coronavirus (COVID19) a pandemic. Surely a world pandemic rates higher than concerns over holiday periods? This has to be taken into account, and Highways England need to announce that with immediate effect the Lower Thames Crossing Supplementary Consultation will be postponed until a later date when it can be held, along with at very least the cancelled info events, in a safe and adequate manner.
We would also draw your attention to the fact that info events that were cancelled due to severe weather in the A303 Stonehenge consultation in 2018 were rescheduled and the consultation extended – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/rescheduled-dates-are-announced-for-a303-stonehenge-consultation-events. With the way things are going with Coronavirus and the unknown duration that this may have effect on the country, we would consider it acceptable and beneficial to postpone the whole consultation until such time as the whole thing can be held safely and adequate, including the necessary info events.
Please can we have a response to this extremely important email and request as a matter of urgency, to relieve the additional pressure this is currently placing on the public during an already very difficult time.
Thanks and kind regards
Chair – Thames Crossing Action Group