At 2.4-miles long the Lower Thames Crossing is set to be Britain’s longest road tunnel.
However, new analysis by pro-growth campaign group Britain Remade has revealed for the first time the true scale of the Lower Thames Crossing’s planning application and how it is breaking records for all the wrong reasons.
In an effort to secure the green light for the scheme, National Highways have been forced to produce a staggering 359,866 pages across 2,383 separate documents, making it the longest planning application since the introduction of the 2008 Planning Act and along with plans for Heathrow Terminal 5 one of the longest planning applications in British history.
If printed, it would weigh a staggering 1,620kg, as much as three polar bears, and stacked on top of each other the pages would be taller than eight double decker buses at 36 metres high or nearly double the height of the Angel of the North.
Laid end to end it would stretch 66 miles, almost five times as long as the road itself.
To read all 94,534,273 words produced by National Highways for the Development Consent Order, assuming an average reading speed of 200 words a minute, it would take a planning inspector 328 days to read every document, if they read for 24-hour a day.
Britain’s dysfunctional planning system and delays have caused costs to balloon. Initially expected to cost £5.3 billion it will now cost up to £9 billion.
Last year it was revealed that National Highways had already spent £267 million on the Lower Thames Crossing’s planning application alone.
And with more delays the eye-watering costs are likely to increase further. Just last year the Government announced a further 2 year delay, meaning spades won’t be in the ground by 2026 at the earliest.
The new road connecting Kent and Essex is not only needed to relieve pressure on the Dartford Crossing - one of the most congested roads in the country, it will also improve air quality by diverting over 13 million vehicles away from Dartford every year.
Across the world countries are able to build tunnels not just cheaper than in Britain, but for far less than it costs for projects here to go through planning.
Last month the Faroe Islands opened the 10.2 kilometre long Sandoy Tunnel. Costing £99 million and built in just over 4 years, the road tunnel links the main islands of Streymoy with Sandoy.
In 2000 Norway completed what was at the time the world's longest road tunnel on a road between Oslo and Bergen. Running for 15.2 miles the Laerdal Tunnel cost £140 million or £9.2 million per mile.
Not only was this record breaking road much cheaper than building in Britain, planning was far quicker with the project going from idea to construction starting in just 3 years. When the diggers did get moving the tunnel was completed in just 5 years.
Norway then built the 9.2 mile long Eiksund Undersea Tunnel in 2008, then the deepest undersea tunnel in the world. The Norwegians were able to complete this project for £109 million or £11.8 million per mile.
All of these projects were completed significantly cheaper than the £267 million spent alone on planning for the Lower Thames Crossing.
If ministers are serious about delivering growth then they need to get a move on and fix the problems with the planning system that are holding back Britain from building the infrastructure it needs.
Sam Richards, founder and campaign director at Britain Remade, said:
“There is an unquestionable need for the Lower Thames Crossing, not only will it cut congestion at the Dartford Crossing, it will also improve air quality. With 40% of traffic on the Dartford Crossing freight heading to our most important ports, the lack of capacity is strangling off economic growth.
“But the size of the application is simply insane and totally unjustifiable by any sensible person.
“The facts that we have uncovered are simply mind boggling and make the plan for the Crossing a record breaker for all the wrong reasons. The Lower Thames Crossing is symbolic of what is wrong with our planning system. From application’s that are taller than 8 double decker buses to having to go through multiple rounds of consultation over many years, currently it's simply far too difficult and takes far too long to get anything built in Britain.
“Across the country growth boosting, job creating projects face unnecessary planning red tape and delays at the hands of the government meaning we can’t build the new homes needed to bring down rents, build the new offshore wind farms to cut energy bills, and we can’t build the new roads needed to cut traffic jams and get Britain moving.”
Damian Green, Conservative MP for Ashford, said:
“I share the concerns about the sheer length of time and expense that the Lower Thames Crossing project is taking. It is a vital piece of infrastructure for Kent, and could lead to significantly greater resilience on the motorway network through the County, which is always under threat when there are problems at the border. I want to see it built as soon as possible.”