17 November 2018
Today, Saturday 17th November 2018, the Eastern Region Green Party, including Councillor James Abbott and members of the Essex Green Parties, voted unanimously to oppose the proposal for a new crossing of the Thames by road.
(The proposed route/s of the Lower Thames Crossing. ©Highways England)
The controversial £6BILLION Lower Thames Crossing (also called the third crossing,) is to be the "biggest road project since M25", consisting of a 23km long three-lane toll road connecting the M2 near Rochester and the M25 in Essex via a 3.8km tunnel between Gravesend and Tilbury.
Meeting in Norwich for the Eastern Region Green Party AGM, representatives from the Colchester & North Essex, Brentwood & Chelmsford, Witham & Braintree, and South East Essex Green Parties joined Essex Councillor James Abbott in condemning the proposals.
The meeting voted unanimously that the Eastern Region Green Party could not support the proposals in its current form due to the following three considerations which it believes are inexcusable:
Climate Change is the most important issue of our time.
It is no surprise to anyone that more traffic equals more CO2 emissions.
Some of the world's leading climate scientists all agree that our carbon-intensive ways and reliance on fossil fuels is leading to soaring global temperatures and more extreme weather events. It is now more than ever that we desperately need to be tackling our deep-rooted obsession with oil and gas, and building new roads is in no way going to help that issue.
Jenny Bates from the environmental group Friends of the Earth said:
"It's astonishing that in the week the UN is warning of the need for urgent action to avoid catastrophic climate change, the UK government is boasting about building more roads. This road development will only encourage more cars, vans, lorries and traffic, pumping more air pollution and climate-damaging emissions into our environment. Politicians need to take their foot off the accelerator in order to protect the planet."
As part of our Paris Climate Agreement commitments, the UK has to start taking drastic action with regard to our CO2 emissions if we are to adequately address the existential threat we face.
Building a new road across the Thames does not help that.
A recent study into Air Quality has already named four towns in South Essex as amongst the UK's worst for Air Pollution, exceeding the World Health Organisation limits;
Thurrock: 14 microgrammes per cubic metre.
Grays: 12 microgrammes per cubic metre.
Southend-On-Sea: 11 microgrammes per cubic metre.
Stanford-le-Hope: 10 microgrammes per cubic metre.
For reference, the World Health Organisation safe Air Pollution Limit is 10 microgrammes per cubic metre.
Beyond that 10 microgrammes per cubic metre limit, people are far more likely to develop long-lasting and pervasive health conditions. An estimated 4.2 million premature deaths globally are linked to Ambient Air Pollution, mainly from heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections in children.
Another congested Thames Crossing would only exacerbate the issue of Air Pollutants in South Essex and could lead to a large increase of pollution-related health issues in neighbouring towns.
With such a massive infrastructure project, many environmentalists have pointed to the irreparable damage the scheme would have to wildlife and surrounding natural areas.
The Highways England consultation documents admit that;
"Our proposed scheme would have an impact on local communities as well as cultural heritage and landscape. These include areas of greenbelt, the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and areas of ancient woodland”. They go on to say “All route options would potentially affect areas of ancient woodland and protected species such as water voles, great crested newts and birds.”
The destruction seen in such a project would be inexcusable. The loss of green belt land through five ancient woodlands, protected areas designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the permanent effect it would have on our natural world and its ecosystems and wildlife has not been considered.
There is no offset or impact-reduction measure that the road builders could employ that would stop the felling of large swathes of ancient woodland.
There is no route change that could possibly stop the complete destruction of thousands of separate ecosystems home to hundreds of species of wildlife.
The Campaign for Better Transport described the scheme as “bad value” and likely to shift Dartford’s congestion and pollution problems downstream, saying that “practical alternatives are available, at a fraction of the financial and environmental cost”.
Leaders of rival political groups on Thurrock Council have united to condemn the plans, with the Council Leader calling it "the worst choice out of a terrible bunch" while opposition leader Cllr John Kent summed up widely-shared views:
“We don’t want our green belt destroyed and we don’t want our homes destroyed. We don’t want an ill-thought through scheme thrust upon us and the country as a whole. And most of all, we don’t want the queues, congestion, and pollution shifted five miles downstream as a new motorway cuts our borough in half.”
The Woodland Trust said the scheme would cause "irreversable damage" to surrounding woodland.
Local Residents' Action Groups have formed to oppose the plans, and a significant amount of residents do not want to see the proposed crossing happen.
I think it's safe to say that it's not a popular proposal.
"The South East Essex Green Party are pleased to join other Essex Green Parties in securing this motion against the planned Lower Thames Crossing.
In our view the Lower Thames Crossing will cost us more in ecological destruction than could ever be gained elsewhere. The route will not alleviate congestion, rather, it will reroute it shifting the issue onto areas of Essex that did not, and do not ask for it.
The scheme would be an expensive and destructive blot on our landscape, and would worsen Air Quality and CO2 emissions, threatening the quality of life for most of South Essex's residents."