Lower Thames Crossing plans “damaging” to Brentwood’s economic growth

A major road planned to connect Kent with Essex via a 2.5 mile tunnel under the Thames threatens to “damage” Brentwood’s economic growth, councillors have heard.

Proposals for the Lower Thames Crossing – which would connect the M2/A2, A13 and M25 – involves major work at M25 junction 29 which Brentwood Borough Council say would constrain access to the planned Brentwood Enterprise Park.

Brentwood Enterprise Park, which is at Junction 29 on the M25, where the A127 meets it, is a massive modern industrial site that is anticipated to account for around 40 per cent of Brentwood’s employment land need for the next decade or more.

But the planned Lower Thames Crossing threatens to constrain the accessibility to the land throwing into doubt how viable the enterprise park would be if solutions are not found.

The junction of the new road with the M25 will be located just under two miles (3km) south of junction 29 on the M25, near Ockendon Road.

The junction will have slip roads for northbound Lower Thames Crossing traffic to join the M25 and southbound M25 traffic to join the Lower Thames Crossing.

Beyond the northern section of the Lower Thames Crossing, improvement and modification works will also be needed at junction 29 on the M25 and to the north of junction 29.

In a letter to Highways England, Brentwood Borough Council has set out its concerns over how the road will impact the council’s own local plan – including its economic growth.

It said: “On the basis of the above outstanding issues, noted in the Statement of Common Ground, the council continues to object to proposals at M25 junction 29 and surrounding land impacting the delivery of Brentwood Enterprise Park, such as constraining access to the site and constraints on the delivery of new employment development on site.

“Further engagement is requested from Highways England to help resolve these issues, providing alternative options that can ensure the delivery of necessary improvements at M25 junction 29 for the Lower Thames Crossing project, and the delivery of economic growth at Brentwood Enterprise Park.

“This includes working with Essex County Council as local highways authority with responsibility for nearby roads such as the A127 and B186.

“The proposals at M25 junction 29 risk undermining a key aim of the Lower Thames Crossing project, which is the stimulation of economic growth. The council requests that further engagement with Highways England take place to coordinate proposals for highways proposals.

“In terms of enabling wider economic growth, Lower Thames Crossing should take account of the cumulative growth proposed throughout Brentwood Borough and the wider South Essex area should be considered in the proposals to invest in M25 junction 29, where the A127 joins the London orbital road and connects to the wider strategic highway network.

“This would provide for a more holistic response to road infrastructure required rather than investment on an individual project basis. The Lower Thames Crossing proposals do not currently take account of proposed growth that has yet to be allocated, such as Brentwood Enterprise Park.

“However, the Lower Thames Crossing construction access required from the B186 utilises the work undertaken by those promoting growth at Brentwood Enterprise Park. This approach is inconsistent and unfairly uses proposed growth to the advantage of Highways England without any benefit to the efforts that the Council is making to deliver develop.

At a meeting on Wednesday (September 9), council leader Chris Hossack said: “Not only is it a hindrance and risk to our local development plan, while this massive infrastructure project is going on it is also risk to our economic development strategy.

“The intention is that the enterprise park is adopted into the LDP and be a key employment area for people who live in Brentwood and beyond.

“So with that in mind I did make my views known to Highways England in no uncertain terms that this is a real threat to what we are trying to progress.

“Then it is really important we reach a resolution and that between us, Essex County Council and Highways England they have got the message that this potentially damaging to us and we need a resolution.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter