RAID press release: Autumn Statement and the Lower Thames Crossing - 22 Nov 2016
Campaign groups in South Essex fear that in tomorrow's Autumn Statement Philip Hammond will announce a Lower Thames Crossing decision geared towards unlocking housing development rather than fixing congestion problems at the Dartford crossing. The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission headed by Lord Heseltine will spearhead growth in the area by promoting the construction of at least 75,000 new homes across Thurrock, Basildon, Castle Point, Rochford and Southend, but local residents say it is over-development with no realistic prospect of the infrastructure that would be needed to support that many new homes. Dr Philip Gibbs, spokesman for the R.A.I.D campaign in South Essex (Residents Against Inappropriate Development) said "We recognise that more low-cost housing is needed in the area but it has to be sustainable. People here are fed up with Government statements that claim to protect the green belt and that talk of growth, prosperity and affordable housing. The reality is that this many new houses will inevitably mean an end to the green belt, and the economic growth they talk of is mostly just house building. The new government definition of "affordable housing" is anything but, and Infrastructure here is already strained well beyond its limits. Local roads such as the A127 are sub-standard and cannot cope with the number of cars in the area now. Air pollution is soaring above legal limits and hospitals are being put on critical alert because they frequently run out of beds. We often need to wait up to three weeks for a Doctor's appointment and commuter trains carrying workers into London are badly overcrowded. Nothing we have been told gives us reason to expect any of this infrastructure to be upgraded in line with the increasing demand. All we hear instead is further warnings of austerity measures targeting local government"
"The Thames Crossings at Dartford are broken and need to be fixed. The Dartford tunnels are too old and small. The entire north-bound orbital traffic has to be stopped many times a day to let wide or hazardous loads pass through safely. The south-bound bridge is not much better because it lacks the full wind protection it needs and has no hard shoulder. It is often closed when there are high winds or blocked when there is a breakdown. The obvious solution is a new set of bored tunnels meeting motorway standards and passing the full length under Dartford to bypass the substandard A282 link (option A14)."
"Instead Highways England consulted only on a new crossing further East (option C) This would divert only 14% of the growing M25 traffic away from the existing crossing leaving Dartford to live with its congestion and pollution problems for the next 30 years at least. The only justification for the longer route which will carve its way through the green belt of North Kent and South Essex is that it "unlocks" housing growth in the area. As the population grows the purposes of the green belt to protect people and the environment from over-development are more important than ever. There are enough brownfield sites in the country to support the housing growth the country needs if only the government will take the tough steps necessary to stop land-banking and bring forth housing at a price that is really affordable."
RAID website: http://raid.org.uk/