Lower Thames Crossing faces two-year delay even if it wins planning permission… is this the beginning of the end?

The proposed southern approach to the crossing

The beleaguered Lower Thames Crossing project has been delayed by two years… should it even be granted planning permission in the first place.
With the Planning Inspectorate only having accepted the National Highways application for a Development Consent Order in December, yesterday’s (Thursday, March 10) announcement by Mark Harper, Secretary of State for Transport, represents another blow to a project that has struggled to gain traction throughout.
Mr Harper said that the DCO examination will still go ahead but, should the scheme be granted permission, construction will be delayed by two years as it is moved into National Highways’ next five-year phase of roadbuilding.
In his statement, he said: “The Chancellor has announced over £40 billion of capital investment in transport across the next two financial years, which will drive significant improvements to rail and roads right across our country.
“Since agreeing this programme, we have seen headwinds from inflation, triggered by the impact of Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, as well as supply chain disruption as the global economy recovers from the effects of Covid-19.
“These headwinds have made it difficult to deliver on our capital programmes and we recognise that some schemes are going to take longer than expected.”
Referring to the LTC, he said: “To date we have spent over £800 million on planning the Lower Thames Crossing. It is one of the largest planning applications ever, and it is important we get this right.
“We remain committed to the Lower Thames Crossing, and the Development Consent Order process will be an important opportunity to consult further to ensure there is an effective and deliverable plan.
“In order to allow time for this process and, given wider pressures on RIS [Road Investment Strategy], we will look to rephase construction by two years.”
Responding to the news, Laura Blake, chairman of the Thames Crossing Action Group, said: “This is the beginning of the end for this troubled scheme. Rather than delay, the government should put the scheme out of its misery and cancel it for good, rather than continuing to blight people’s lives.
“The country cannot afford £10 billion-plus on a project that is not effective or fit for purpose, nor deliverable at a time of climate emergency.
“Whilst we welcome this news, we will continue to present our evidence to the Examining Authority as to why the proposed LTC fails to meet scheme objectives and should not be granted permission. Our fight continues!”

  • To learn more about the Lower Thames Crossing, click here