Sunday, 20 March 2016

Kent Greens Objection to the Lower Thames Crossing

Kent Greens have lodged their objection to the Lower Thames Crossing proposed by Highways England stating to spend £6bn on a scheme that enables a 34% increase in traffic when the world's climate is at tipping should be regarded as a climate crime. They point out that air pollution in Kent is already responsible for a very high number of deaths and that economic growth is not needed in the South East.

Stuart Jeffery, Co-Chair of Kent Greens: "The Climate Change Act requires a reduction in CO2 emissions in direct contrast to the facilitation of a 34% increase in traffic that the new crossing will allow. Building the new crossing would constitute a climate crime.

"It is not just global impacts, currently there are at least 870 deaths each year in Kent as a result of PM2.5. Gravesend Town Centre town centre already exceeds safe pollution levels and Dartford has the highest level of average PM2.5 in Kent. Any scheme that increases emissions will increase the number of people dying as a result of them."

Mandy Rossi, Co-Chair of Kent Greens: "The consultation document highlights the importance of ' Stimulating economic growth – unlocking access to housing and job opportunities'. The South East does not require economic growth, it needs reductions in inequality. House prices in large areas of the South East are already unaffordable to most first time buyers.

"Government should focus on removing HGVs and LGVs from Kent’s roads and reducing traffic volumes as a whole. It should not be agreeing to the destruction of ever more Kent countryside and the blighting of ever more Kent lives. It should not accept the loss of more ancient woodland, another intrusion on the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and further degrading of the Thames Estuary Marches."

ENDS.

Notes: Full letter below sent to  ltcc@ipsos.com


No parts of the South East meet the standard for the ambient air quality directive.  Gravesend Town Centre town centre already exceeds safe pollution levels and Dartford has the highest level of average PM2.5 in Kent.  Research has proven that pollution can cause asthma, strokes and heart attacks.  Any choice involving the increase of road traffic will only increase the threat from increased air pollution.

Furthermore any increase in road capacity that facilitates an increase in CO2 emissions must be avoided. The Climate Change Act requires a reduction in CO2 emissions in direct contrast to the facilitation of a 34% increase in traffic that the LTC will allow. The LTC would therefore constitute a climate crime.

Around a quarter of the vehicles using the current crossing are HGVs and light vans. As a country we are far too reliant on road based freight.  This is currently set to increase by 8% a year and is in wilful ignorance of the consequences of our current overburdened road network and knock on effects on our environment and the health and wellbeing of our communities.

What is more obvious is that most of this traffic which is using the Thames crossing has origins from, or is destined for further parts of the country or even Ireland. The economics are currently in favour of using the cheap Channel crossing and long distances by road.

The consultation document highlights the importance of ' Stimulating economic growth – unlocking access to housing and job opportunities'. The South East does not require economic growth, it needs reductions in inequality. For example, house prices in large areas of the South East are already unaffordable to most first time buyers.

The consultation document conveniently rules out the use of rail in alleviating the situation.  This is not surprising as the Highways England is not concerned with rail.

As a country we need to consider using other points of entry and exit for our goods, London Gateway, Harwich, Felixstowe, Immingham and Hull are all looking for extra business.  All have rail connections and if the national rail infrastructure is weak at the moment, surely it is better to spend £5 billion (a conservative current estimate of this proposal) on rail upgrades.

A prime example of the shortfall of the current and proposed solutions occurred last summer when for 32 days, operation stack had to be implemented due to this over dependence on one route.  The cost was £250 million a day to the country as a whole.

The consultation states that it will facilitate the increase of traffic by 34%, presumably from the increases in economic growth. It does not mention the effect that this will have on the wider parts of Kent which will become even more gridlocked and polluted.

Currently there are at least 870 deaths each year in Kent as a result of PM2.5 according to Public Health England. Any scheme that increases emissions will increase the number of people dying as a result of them.

Government should focus on removing HGVs and LGVs from Kent’s roads and reducing traffic volumes as a whole. It should not be agreeing to the destruction of ever more Kent countryside and the blighting of ever more Kent lives. It should not accept the loss of more ancient woodland, another intrusion on the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and further degrading of the Thames Estuary Marches.

The concept of allowing increases in road traffic is therefore untenable and other solutions need to be sought which needs a change in overall government thinking. The investment of £4bn to £6bn should be made in schemes that reduce road traffic rather than increase it.


No comments: