Longest Planning Application in British History: Lower Thames Crossing Project Raises Concerns about Planning System

Plans for the Lower Thames Crossing, a proposed road tunnel connecting Kent and Essex, have become the longest planning application in Britain’s history. With a staggering 350,000 pages spread across 2,838 documents, the application has raised concerns about the state of the country’s planning system.

The proposed £9 billion project aims to alleviate congestion at the Dartford Crossing and improve air quality in Dartford by diverting 13 million vehicles annually. However, the sheer volume of documentation has sparked criticism and prompted comparisons to other countries’ infrastructure projects.

According to a study by campaign group Britain Remade, if all the pages were laid end to end, they would stretch over 66 miles – the distance from Gravesend to Cambridge. And if printed, the documents would weigh a whopping 1,620kg, equivalent to a Volkswagen Beetle or three polar bears.

It would also take an estimated 328 days to read all 94,534,273 words in the planning portal, assuming a reading speed of 200 words per minute and reading 24 hours a day. This has raised concerns about the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning process.

Britain Remade also revealed that National Highways has spent a staggering £267 million on the planning application alone, more than what Norway spent on completing a 15.2 mile road tunnel in 2000. The project in Norway, which connects Oslo to Bergen, cost only £140 million and took three years to complete – less than half the time and cost of the Lower Thames Crossing plans.

Similarly, the Faroe Islands opened a 10.2km tunnel connecting their two main islands last month, costing only £99 million and taking four years to build. These comparisons highlight the excessive costs and timelines of the Lower Thames Crossing project.

Despite these criticisms, Britain Remade still supports the project, citing the need to address congestion and air quality issues in Dartford. However, they also note that the size and scope of the application is “insane” and indicative of the challenges faced in the country’s planning system.

The group’s founder and campaigner, Sam Richards, stated that the Lower Thames Crossing is symbolic of the flaws in the planning system, with projects facing unnecessary red tape and delays due to government regulations. He highlights the impact this has on vital growth and job-creating projects in the country.

With the planning application currently being assessed by the Planning Inspectorate, National Highways hopes to begin construction in 2026 and open the crossing to traffic by 2030. However, the record-breaking length and cost of the application raise concerns about the efficiency and effectiveness of the country’s planning process.

The text and images in this article are generated with the assistance of AI and may contain errors. Please verify any important information as we cannot accept any responsibility for incorrect information.

Scroll to Top