THE failure to make a decision on the location of the Lower Thames Crossing could blight business and homes in the borough.
These are the views of Thurrock Council leader John Kent, who reacted angrily to this morning’s news that Option B had been thrown out and a definitive decision on the new crossing’s location had not been made.
Councillor Kent said by delaying the decision, transport bosses are ‘showing that there are some very serious questions that still need answering’.
Mr Kent said: “Businesses are already telling us they are concerned by the uncertainty caused by the previous delays – now there are further delays.
“Business doesn’t know whether or where to invest, and home owners along both route corridors are also left not knowing the future – it’s not good enough.
The two remaining options are Option A, which would see another crossing built next to the current Dartford-Thurrock crossing and Option C, which would connect the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30 and would land between Coalhouse and Tilbury forts and travel north towards the Orsett Cock junction of the A13.
The announcement means Options A and C will be kept open until more environmental studies are carried out, which include studying potential further improvements on the M25 and A13.
The failure to make a decision has also been met with criticism from Essex County Council, with Rodney Bass, Cabinet Member for Highways & Transportation, describing the announcement as 'extremely disappointing'.
Mr Bass said: “The consultation on options for a new crossing closed in July, so there has been ample time for a decision to be taken. This delay will obviously impact on the programme for delivery of the new crossing, so we would urge the DfT to act quickly to reach a decision as swiftly as possible."
However, the county authority favours Option C, and option heavily criticised by Thurrock MPs, as it feels it would support economic growth and relieve congestion at the existing crossing, as well as deal with the 'air quality' at the existing crossing.
Mr Bass said: "We repeat that whatever is done to enhance capacity of Dartford Crossing will require appropriate action to be taken to address existing pinch points on our road network at the A13 and A12 with the M25, the A127 with the A130 and the A130 with the A12.”
Mr Kent added that although he was frustrated that the announcement failed to confirm the crossing would not affect Thurrock, he added the authority could now press their case further.
“While I’m happy the government has realised its original proposals are unworkable, I’m also saddened that they didn’t decide to look at options further to the east.
“Our Green Belt and villages are still under threat from Option C – along with the congestion and jams a bigger junction on the A13 and a new junction on the M25 will cause – and any increased crossing close to the present one will simply guarantee more pollution and more jams across the west of the borough.
“We will continue the fight for Thurrock jobs and Thurrock growth and we still do not believe a new river crossing in Thurrock is needed - there are better, quicker and cheaper options available.
He said with the end of Dartford toll booths and the proposed investment in the A13’s junction with the M25 then there is no need for a crossing.
“Not only will traffic flow more easily north to south along the motorway, it will also provide an extra boost for local businesses – the ones we have now and the ones we want to attract in the future.
“Thurrock is going to become the import-export engine of the country over the next few years as well as the creative heart of Britain and the UK’s entrepreneurial centre.
“Proper investment in the roads infrastructure – that’s the A13 where it’s just a two-lane dual carriageway, Junctions 30 and 31, and the Lakeside links – is needed quickly to support that private investment here."
Nigel Holdcroft, Leader of Southend on Sea Borough Council agreed not making a decision felt like a 'lost opportunity'.
He said: “I welcome the news that the government recognises the strategic importance of a new crossing, particularly for encouraging growth in the Thames Gateway South Essex area.
"We’ll now be reviewing the statement and report in more detail and looking forward to contributing to the next steps, whilst making a strong case for investment directly benefiting Southend.
"We’ll continue encouraging consideration of a more ambitious alternative further to the east linking to the M11 which gives better access to Southend and avoids the M25 altogether.”