A coalition of groups have called on the Transport Secretary to review “the most damaging road scheme for a generation” - a new tunnel under the River Thames. 

The Woodland Trust, Essex Wildlife Trust and the Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG) are among those to have written to Mark Harper, requesting he “look into” concerns raised about the LTC’s environmental impacts.

Under the plans, a three-lane carriageway, connecting the M25 near North Ockendon to the M2 near Rochester, would be constructed, with a tunnel to run under the River Thames. 

Its principal aim is to relieve pressure on the Dartford Crossing, and it will allegedly have the capability to double road capacity across the Thames east of London.

A Development Consent Order (DCO) was recently submitted by National Highways for the LTC. If approved by the Government, it would enable work to begin on the proposed scheme.

In a joint statement announcing the submission of the letter, the opposing groups claimed the project would “destroy irreplaceable ancient woodland, veteran trees and other habitats, increase nitrogen pollution, damage landscapes and increase carbon emissions”. 

“These impacts would likely make this England’s most damaging road scheme for a generation,” they said, “which is in stark contrast to claims by National Highways that it will be the ‘greenest road ever built in the UK’.” 

Romford Recorder: A proposed view of the A13/A1089 looking southA proposed view of the A13/A1089 looking south (Image: Highways England)

Jack Taylor, lead campaigner at Woodland Trust, described the potential impact of the project as “unacceptable”  

"We’re fighting both a nature and climate crisis, and destruction of ancient woodland and veteran trees for a road scheme beggars belief.”  

He added: “To make matters worse, we’re still waiting to find out just how much the scheme will impact our natural environment.  

“National Highways has not disclosed details of which environmental features will be affected. Hiding these impacts from the public until the DCO stage is totally unacceptable.” 

Laura Blake, chair of TCAG, meanwhile questioned whether the LTC would solve the problems associated with the Dartford Crossing. 

“We are strong believers that ‘together we are stronger’ and we are proud to unite with so many others to voice our serious concerns, and to call on government for an immediate review of the project,” she said. 

LTC deputy director Mark Bottomley said National Highways is “doing all [it] can to minimise the impact on the environment and local communities”. 

He added the LTC is being designed “to be the greenest road ever built in the UK, and following a comprehensive programme of consultation and engagement we have improved the design to reduce the impact on ancient woodland, avoid protected wetlands, and include new parks, woodland, and pathways for local communities”. 

A spokesperson for the department for transport confirmed it is aware of a letter being sent to the transport secretary, though as this is a live planning application, it deems it “inappropriate” to comment further. 

To get the latest news and features direct to your inbox, sign up for one of our newsletters here.