Leader of Dartford Labour, Councillor Jonathon Hawkes today welcomed the decision to choose ‘Option C’ and build a new Lower Thames Crossing East of Gravesend.
Speaking in response to the announcement, Councillor Hawkes said
“It’s a welcome relief that the government have finally listened to people of Dartford and made the right decision on the site of a new crossing. However, the repeated delays and broken promises from the government in making this decision will not be quickly forgotten by Dartford. Our town has been treated appallingly by the government who have dithered and taken far too long – we should not have had to live with the uncertainly for as long as we did. The delay has had a terrible impact on business, public health and daily life in our town.”
Councillor Hawkes said while a decision on the new crossing was welcome, it was vital that funding for road improvements was brought forward now so that action can be taken to ease the congestion crisis in Dartford
“We desperate needed a decision on a new crossing as an essential first step to getting Dartford moving again but no-one should be under the illusion that is a magic bullet to our congestion nightmare – it isn’t. Dartford has suffered the consequence of years of underinvestment in our road networks and public transport. The government need to commit to immediate investment in our local road network. This government have not had a good record of delivering on their promises in Dartford - Labour will make sure the pressure is kept up so that the improvements promised are delivered.”
Dartford desperately needs a comprehensive traffic and transport plan taking in road improvement, connectivity and public transport provision. Since 2010, we’ve seen central government repeatedly fail to get to grips with traffic and transport infrastructure needs in Kent.
Dartford also needs urgent action to tackle air pollution. Dartford suffers from higher instances of respiratory diseases and asthma because of the crossing and also has higher lung cancer rates than other districts in Kent. For people in Dartford already suffering from poor air quality we need a commitment from government that there will be no weakening of air quality standards when we leave the EU and Labour will continue to press for that commitment as well as urging the Council to develop a local air quality importing plan.
We also understand that while there is a sense of relief in Dartford that will not be shared by many in Gravesham. Councillor Hawkes was keen to move forward in partnership with our neighbouring borough.
“This has been about making the right decision for Dartford, for Kent and for the country. Option C will deliver the economic benefits, the public health benefits and crucially deliver the additional capacity to help reduce congestion. However, no-one wants to see one town pitted against another. People in Gravesham are our friends and neighbours and I now want to see Dartford and Gravesham councils working together to ensure the new crossing is built without delay and people who are impacted by the route are treated with generosity and sensitivity.
“Today’s announcement needs to be the start of solving Dartford’s traffic nightmare. Labour will continue to argue for the action that is needed - a new traffic plan to get Dartford moving again - bringing together investment in our roads, renewed bus services and cycle and walking routes. The hard work needs to begin, not end, today.”