Campaigners oppose major road schemes in the South East

  • ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw reports from the High Court.

A legal challenge against the Government's £27 billion road investment plan, which includes the Lower Thames Crossing and Stonehenge projects, is to be heard at the High Court today.

The Transport Action Network has brought the legal action against the DfT claiming the schemes breach climate and air quality laws.

  • Video from Highways England showing what the crossing could look like

The group has accused the Government of failing to take account of the Paris Agreement, which commits the UK to tackle climate change by limiting global warming to below 2 degrees celsius.

  • Chris Todd, Director at Transport Action Network

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that the strategy will "create a road network that is safe, reliable and efficient for everyone".

In a statement, the Department for Transport told us:

"Our road policy contains many elements - a plan for decarbonisation of vehicles, plans for public transport and active travel, and plans for road improvements that utilise low-carbon construction techniques. Together, these make a balanced package that is entirely consistent with net zero."

Highways England has said it is looking at ways to offset the environmental impact of the Thames Crossing and earlier this month launched plans for a community woodland adjacent to the route.

Hole Farm artists impression Credit: Highways England

Known as Hole Farm, the 100 hectare site would become home to nearly 150,000 trees and provide space for animals and insects to thrive.

Matt Palmer, Executive Director for the Lower Thames Crossing said:

“The plans for Hole Farm community woodland are part of our commitments to increase biodiversity alongside our major routes and I look forward to working with Forestry England to create a green space for the whole local community to enjoy for generations.”

Cars pass Stonehenge on the A303

Earlier this month the High Court heard a separate challenge from the group Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS), which brought its own action over the decision to green-light the #1.7 billion development to overhaul eight miles of the A303, including the two-mile tunnel near Stonehenge.

The go-ahead was given in November despite advice from Planning Inspectorate officials that it would cause "permanent, irreversible harm" to the Unesco World Heritage Site in Wiltshire.

The current challenge is expected to last two days, with judgement at a later date.

What is the Lower Thames Crossing?

An overview of the route

On the south side of the River Thames, the new road would link to the A2 and M2 in Kent. On the north side, it would link to the A13 in Thurrock and the M25 in Havering.

The tunnel crossing would be located to the east of Gravesend on the south side of the river, and to the west of East Tilbury on the north side.

The tunnel would be made up of two 2.6 mile (4.3km) tunnels crossing beneath the river, one for southbound traffic, one for northbound traffic.

Source: Highways England

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How this will affect roads in Kent

The A2 will remain as four lanes in both directions with hard shoulders throughout. The M2 will be widened from three lanes to four in both directions through junction 1.

Two one-way link roads will be provided north and south of the A2, connecting to the existing A289 and the old A2 at the eastern end.

Neither of these link roads will connect to the A2 at M2 junction 1, with these connections being made at the site of the new LTC junction instead.

The A2 will be kept at its existing height and the link roads will be at approximately the same height.

Highways England will need to rebuild a section of the M2/A2 immediately to the west of the new junction and for approximately 2 miles (3.5km) to the east, including junction 1 of the M2.

The route will pass under Thong Lane and approach a new junction with the A2, situated at the eastern edge of Gravesend. The road will be in a cutting approaching the tunnel.

Source: Highways England

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