Plans to build a new multi-million-pound road tunnel beneath the Thames could prevent Thurrock Council from properly planning the borough’s future.

A council report published ahead of an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday states plans for the Lower Thames Crossing will “significantly undermine” efforts to meet Thurrock’s housing needs and support economic growth.

The borough’s Local Plan, which outlines where thousands of homes will be built over the next 20 years, is expected to be delayed until 2021 when the Secretary of State has approved the construction of the crossing.

The report states: “It is clear that the current alignment and design of the Lower Thames Crossing Scheme is failing to maximise the opportunities to support future housing and economic growth in both Thurrock and across the wider south Essex area and will instead have an adverse impact on the ability of the council to plan to meet its development needs in a sustainable and deliverable manner.”

Consequently, councillors will need to consider amending the local development scheme, which sets out the timeline for the plan’s development.

Thurrock currently needs to find space for 31,463 homes in its Local Plan, but the central government regularly reviews planning policies and targets can rise if a plan is not in place.

This delay is expected to also impact the construction of more affordable homes. Currently the borough has a significant need for affordable housing and a 2016 report entitled South Essex Strategic Housing Market Assessment stated that the council would need to build 472 homes per year for the next five years to meet the demand. The need would then increase to 663 per year.

But if the Local Plan is adopted between 2021 and 2022 the council is unlikely to be able to address this problem until two or three years later because a significant portion of land would need to be allocated on Green Belt sites currently in private ownership.

Thurrock Council did not respond to requests for comment on the delays or on the potential impact for residents.

Last week, the leader of Thurrock Council, Rob Gledhill, said that “all Councillors remain unanimously opposed to the Lower Thames Crossing” and it poses and “unacceptable impact on Thurrock”.

He plans to put forward a motion at a full council meeting on October 31, which will ask the council to take the plans to court for a Judicial Review.

Councillor Mark Coxshall, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, said: "Revised local housing needs figures for all local authorities were published in September based on a national standard methodology. The revised local housing needs figures took in to account updated household projections which meant many local authorities, including Thurrock, saw a fall in the projected need for their areas.

"It has since been announced that an updated version of the standard methodology with new local housing needs figures for each authority is expected in December. At this stage it is not clear what the implications of these adjustments will mean for Thurrock.

"Residents and partners across Thurrock will have the opportunity to express views on the number and types of homes to be built in the Borough by responding to questions set out in the Issues and Options 2 Consultation once that has been agreed for the purposes of consultation by Full Council. These responses from our residents and partners will provide very important evidence in helping to determining how many new homes, of what type and where should be built in Thurrock. 

"Decisions on these and other key local plan issues will not be taken now. They are for the next stage of the Local Plan process which is expected to be in Autumn 2019."