Sent on Monday 15th March 2020 at 22:12
To: Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, Highways England CEO, Jim O’Sullivan, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, email@example.com
CC: Stephen Metcalfe MP, Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Julia Lopez MP, Adam Holloway MP, LTC Planning Inspectorate, Local Authorities – Thurrock, Gravesham, Havering
We find ourselves emailing again, this time in response to Highways England’s reaction to the Prime Ministers announcement today regarding COVID19, which we have read on social media. https://www.facebook.com/lowerthames/posts/160949218697079:0
HEs response has been to cancel the remaining consultation information events, but to continue with consultation.
We would also point out that fact the remaining events have been cancelled has not been highlighted on the official website either, another inadequacy from HE that needs to be addressed please.
We are of course all very aware that the health impacts of LTC would hit those with existing health issues, and those most at risk from pollution related illnesses and conditions. They are of course the very same group of people who are most at risk from Coronavirus. If people have been staying away from the public events because of the virus, and now the remaining info events have been cancelled then we do have to consider the impact this will have on the validity/range of comments, and whether this is indeed an adequate consultation.
We feel very strongly that this LTC consultation should be postponed and re-run at a time when the threat from Coronavirus is no longer so great and can be held in an adequate manner, and that is of course an aside from all the other inadequacies of consultation that we feel there are.
We would also appreciate some consideration that there is a lot going on for people to be dealing with and worrying about right now in light of Coronavirus, to an extent that has not been experienced before. This is another factor that will of course impact the responses to the consultation. Some are sick, some are taking care of others, some are having to figure out childcare (especially where older relatives might not be able to assist as they usually do due to the risk it could have on their own health), some are now adjusting to working from home, some are generally just dealing with the fallout of what is going on right now. 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.
We know even those that who are doing their best to take part and have their say, are also concerned that the consultation materials are not adequate, and that there is a definite need to have the opportunity to be able to attend info events and ask questions. When we have quizzed HE staff at previous info events how people are meant to understand certain aspects due to the lack of clear information in the consultation materials they have stressed how important it is for people to attend the consultation info events to talk to staff and ask questions. This opportunity is obviously now no longer available due to the remaining info events being cancelled. Whilst we fully understand and support the cancelling of the remaining events due to the Coronavirus, we simply cannot accept that it is then acceptable to continue with the consultation after these events have been cancelled.
Highways England have a legal obligation to consult us all adequately, and cancelling the remaining info events but continuing with the consultation is simply not adequate or acceptable.
We would ask that this is given urgent attention, and look forward to your comments at your earliest convenience please.
Thanks and kind regards
Chair – Thames Crossing Action Group