Thoughts at the end of LTC DCO Examination

For so long we were told by National Highways (NH) that the info we’d been asking for for years would be available in the Development Consent Order (DCO) application.  Obviously their first attempt to submit the DCO application in 2020 didn’t go as they planned, and it ended up being withdrawn, without any of the application documents being published.  Take 2 at the end of October 2022, and as we know this application was accepted for examination, and the very many application documents were published!

Following pre-examination meetings and submissions the strictly 6 month examination period began on 20th June 2023.  In one way that feels like a long while ago, it’s been so full on participating in such a huge and complex project examination.  Yet on the other hand 6 months was really not long enough for the examination of such a huge and complex project.

We would like to take a moment to tip our hats to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) Case Team and Examining Authority (ExA) for planning and conducting the examination in such a tight timeframe, and for being so professional but also so friendly and welcoming and inclusive.

TCAG have attended meetings and hearings, and made written submissions throughout the examination, as have many other Interested Parties and major stakeholders.

There have been serious concerns about many different issues voiced by so many throughout the examination.  Even those who say they support the LTC have been raising issues and voicing concerns.  Just how they can say they support LTC whilst at the same time identifying so many issues and concerns is beyond us, but what it does show is that if those supporting the project have concerns it certainly isn’t as great as NH like to portray.  But we knew that already!

Many of us have been voicing frustration that there has not been adequate meaningful engagement from NH with so many different parties.  They have been failing to address comments made in written submissions, even those of Local Authorities.  They have been cherry picking what they do and don’t respond to.  Their general go to response on so many occasions has been that they’ve already responded or simply that what they say is right, with no attempt to genuinely listen or engage, and often failing to provide any evidence to back up their claims.

Whilst there is no way to force them to behave any differently, even in the examination, we don’t believe that it has or can do them any favours to be so arrogant, as the examination is supposed to be a process to try and get the best version of the application and DCO for the ExA to be able to consider and make their recommendation on, and for the Secretary of State to then make a decision.

The main host local authorities, Thurrock, Gravesham, and Havering have all been raising issues and concerns, as have the ports, Tilbury, DP World, Port of London Authority.

When you consider that the project is largely supposed to be about serving and benefiting the ports in the South East with a route through to the Midlands and beyond, the fact that in a joint statement from the ports they stated that they feel the guaranteed disbenefits outweigh the guaranteed benefits speaks volumes to us.

The Emergency Services Steering Group have not been happy that NH refuse to listen to them about concerns regarding Emergency Service Rendezvous Points (RVPs), going as far as stating, “If an acceptable RVP for the north of the Thames is not properly secured and delivered, then there is a real risk that the safety and security of the Project will be significantly undermined”.

The Health and Safety Executive have voiced concerns that NH cannot provide adequate wording in regard to policy on hyperbaric working conditions.  For a project that boasts about the tunnelling aspect of their project you’d think NH would be on top of the health and safety side of things for their workers, if the project goes ahead.

Natural England have voiced concerns about many different aspects, including concerns over the design and effectiveness of the proposed ‘green’ bridges.

The Examiners have been asking some great questions throughout the examination, and pushing NH for further info, as they’ve still been trying to withhold important info even during the examination, and pushing them for meaningful engagement (something so many have had issue with with NH for years).  There’s been focus on concerns about environmental impacts, impacts to the wider road network, how effective the project would be at meeting scheme objectives, and a lot of questions early on about whether the proposed LTC would be value for money.  You may remember from one of our earlier updates during the examination period that Examiners were not impressed when NH were pushed to reveal the inflation rate they had been using in their assessments.

Towards the end of the examination there have been many final position and closing comments.  Gravesham Borough Council remain strongly opposed to the LTC, and submitted great evidence of how the proposed LTC is not policy compliant.  Remember, whether permission is granted or not is largely to do with how policy compliant the DCO application is, so the points raised by Gravesham (and others) in regard to policy is very important.

As well as comments on issues, concerns, failure to be policy compliant Thurrock Council also included some graphics that we wanted to share, as we feel they highlight some of the main issues and concerns in a way that, amongst the very many technical documents, are likely to be so much easier for the majority to understand.

TCAG closing comments

As with all our submissions that we’ve made through the LTC DCO Examination, our final submission with our closing comments at the  end of LTC DCO Examination has been shared on our website, links in our DCO Updates Index.

As always we have done our best to try and represent the members and supporters of our group as best we can in what has been a full on and complex DCO application examination.

We welcome the fact that we have not been alone in voicing our concerns over so many issues relating to the proposed LTC.  With so many unresolved issues and major concerns we can only hope that the Examiners recommendation will be to refuse the proposed LTC, and that the Secretary of State for Transport will refuse permission.

Of course we recognise that there is a problem that so many (including many of us) suffer from due to the Dartford Crossing, but the simple fact is that the proposed £10bn+++ Lower Thames Crossing would not solve those problems.  It fails to meet scheme objectives, and would be hugely destructive and harmful.  It is not fit for purpose and would be a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.  We need and deserve better, and there are better and more sustainable alternatives that should be considered and progressed to ensure a better outcome for everyone.


So what happens next?

Well, now we’re at the end of LTC DCO Examination, the Examiners have 3 months from when the examination ends to consider and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport on whether the proposed LTC should be granted permission or not.

The Secretary of State then has a further 3 months to consider the recommendation and make a decision and announce whether the proposed LTC will be granted permission or not.

A few things to be aware of:

  • Firstly the recommendation report will not initially be published when it is presented to the Secretary of State
  • There may need to be post examination consultation, to assist the Secretary of State in their decision, this has happened on other projects
  • The Secretary of State doesn’t have to go with the recommendation that the Examiners make, despite their having spent so much time examining the project application.

Once the Secretary of State for Transport does make their announcement there is a 6 week window for legal challenges to be launched, if there is a case to be heard.



TCAGs LTC DCO Updates Index – click here