Highways England (HE) have just released an update on the withdrawal of the LTC DCO application. On their website they have shared some of the main reasons they say the Planning Inspectorate were due to refuse the application, which resulted in HE choosing to withdraw the application rather than have it refused.
On 20 November 2020, we withdrew our application for a Development Consent Order based on early feedback we received from the Planning Inspectorate.
The fundamentals of the Lower Thames Crossing, including its objectives and location, will remain the same but we will further develop some technical information related to some elements of the scheme before we resubmit our application next year. Read more below.
The Lower Thames Crossing will improve the journeys for millions of road users, support tens of thousands of jobs, and create a new connection that will bring billions of pounds of economic benefit to build back the post-Brexit and post-Covid economy. We are committed to delivering the project as soon as possible, in a way that is open and transparent, to provide the greatest benefits to communities and road users.
Early feedback they were given from the Planning Inspectorate includes:
Managing construction traffic
The Planning Inspectorate requested further information on the impact of the project on traffic during the construction phase. HE say they recognise that Local Authorities are keen to find out more information about their construction traffic appraisals and that they will be engaging with them on these issues.
Using the river
HE’s plans identified that an existing jetty on the River Thames near the northern tunnel entrance construction site could potentially be used during the construction phase.
The Planning Inspectorate asked for further assessments about how the operation of the jetty could, if used, impact river traffic. HE say they will be developing Navigational Impact Assessment and engaging with stakeholders on this topic.
Site Waste Management
HE’s plans have set out their approach for managing materials and waste and include a commitment for their contractors to produce a Site Waste Management Plan to coordinate the reusing, recycling and disposal of waste. This includes an auditing process and controls to ensure that contractors will reduce waste across the construction sites at every step.
The Planning Inspectorate has requested that HE provide more details on this plan, including how the different contractors will coordinate the reusing, recycling or disposal of waste.
Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)
The Planning Inspectorate has requested HE enhance their assessment to provide a more detailed explanation of their approach to assessment of potential effects on European designated sites where HE have indicated there would be no likely significant effects as a result of the construction and operation of the new road alone, or in combination with other projects.
HE have said they will engage with Natural England to carry out this work.
Landscape and ecology management
The Planning Inspectorate has asked that HE provide more detail on their approach to the long-term management of the project’s proposed environmental mitigation.
As part of HE’s wider strategy to mitigate and compensate for impacts on wooded and grassland areas, they have proposed to construct green bridges and have identified areas for new woodland planting, grassland and hedgerows.
A number of documents within their application they say provide the framework for the management and maintenance of areas of landscaping and ecological mitigation. HE are exploring ways to produce a plan that outlines their overall approach to managing landscape and ecology ahead of resubmitting their application for a Development Consent Order early in the new year.
The Planning Inspectorate has shared some feedback from Local Authorities on HE’s approach to consultation.
HE say they have held a record-breaking programme of consultation, the most comprehensive ever undertaken for a UK road project with almost 300 days spent in consultation and nearly 90,000 responses received. HE say they provided a significant level of detail on all aspects of the project in a wide range of formats to aid peoples understanding of their proposals.
HE say they will consider this feedback carefully as they refine key areas of their submission ahead of resubmitting their application for a Development Consent Order next year.
Firstly we will still be keeping an eye on the Planning Inspectorate’s website for when they release further details, so that we can be sure to check out how they present the situation. We are expecting the Planning Inspectorate to update the S51 Advice tab on their website with further details.
We find HE’s statement of them being “committed to delivering the project as soon as possible, in a way that is open and transparent, to provide the greatest benefits to communities and road users.” ludicrous. They have constantly misled and withheld info from everyone throughout the whole process. The most recent example of this was the outcome of the recent Freedom of Information request Review that TCAG requested, where it was proven that HE wrongly withheld info that we had requested on Unexploded Ordnance (UXO), as detailed in our update here.
On the whole it seems to us that HE appear to be trying to play down the feedback they have been provided by the Planning Inspectorate. Let’s not forget that they were asked on more than one ocassion to provide information to the Planning Inspectorate and their attempts were not deemed adequate.
Local Authorities have been trying to obtain further info on Construction Traffic, and indeed many other topics for a long while now, and HE have been avoiding sharing the info. If HE truly mean it when they say they want to be open and transparent and they acknowledge Local Authorities want this kind of info, then why haven’t they been engaging with them until now when the Planning Inspectorate is forcing their hand?!
Under info they share under the title of Landscape and ecology management could lead you to believe that they have covered details in their application, but remember the Planning Inspectorate do not deem it adequate info.
And of the topic of Consultation, HE seem to beleive that bragging about how many days they have been in consultation and how many responses they have had is enough. They seem oblivious to the fact that quality is what counts, and that they have a legal obligation to ensure consultation materials are clear and informative. Criticism of the inadequacies of the consultations throughout the whole process has been provided to HE by so many, including us at TCAG (read our Inadequacies of LTC Consultation report here), and impacted Local Authorities. The simple fact is that regardless of how many days they have been in consultation, those consultations have not been adequate.
Whilst HE will be working towards their aim to resubmit their LTC DCO application early next year, we at TCAG will be waiting for any further information that the Planning Inspectorate will be sharing, and of course continuing our work to fight LTC!
Together we are stronger!
Updated 16:35 27th Nov 2020
The Planning Inspectorate have now released notes of their meeting with HE regarding the main points of why they were due to refuse the LTC DCO application, had HE not chosen to withdraw it. Compared to the few short points HE have been mentioning in their announcement, the Planning Inspectorate document is 49 pages long! We will comment further after we have had a chance to review it.
The document can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website here.