Ancient woods and trees threatened by Lower Thames Crossing
Important woods, trees and wildlife are at risk from Highways England proposals to build a new tunnel linking Essex and Kent under the River Thames.
Credit: Greg Hitchcock / WTML
We’ve been campaigning against proposals for a new tunnel linking Essex and Kent under the River Thames since 2016. Over 10,000 of you shared our concerns and joined our previous three campaigns on this scheme.
We’re still waiting to find out the full extent of the scheme’s impact on irreplaceable ancient woods and veteran trees. We understand that 10 veteran trees would be lost, with others within or close to the development boundary. It’s high time that National Highways (formerly Highways England) gave an honest appraisal of how much irreplaceable habitat could be damaged or destroyed by this project. It needs to commit to solutions that would save further areas of ancient woodland.
Many of the woods at risk form part of the large Shorne and Ashenbank ancient woodland complex. These areas of woodland are particularly valuable for their rare wildlife, including woodpeckers, great crested newts and dormice, and are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Nationally notable invertebrates also live here, along with over 300 species of fungi. These woods are part of a significant historical landscape, rich in archaeology and cultural importance.
The Lower Thames Crossing project team has held numerous meetings with environmental groups over the years. We believe its members are listening to us. Thanks to objections raised by our supporters, potential plans for a gas mains pipeline to be routed through our ancient Ashenbank Wood site are no longer on the table. But the level of damage and loss to ancient woodland and veteran trees remains unacceptable.
A number of consultations have already taken place on this scheme. Thank you to everyone that has joined our earlier campaigns.
National Highways’ initial Development Consent Order submission was rebuffed by the Planning Inspectorate in late 2020. It has since launched a new Community Impacts Consultation to address concerns raised at the time.
This new consultation did not appear to include a great deal of further information about the impacts on ancient woodland or our own Ashenbank Wood site, though it does state that 10 veteran trees would be lost. We have responded to the consultation as we remain deeply concerned about the potential impact on irreplaceable habitats, as well as our own site.
We continue to highlight to National Highways that it must:
- work better to prevent the loss of irreplaceable ancient woods and veteran trees. Explore alternative options to ensure avoidance of loss and damage.
- avoid any impacts on our Ashenbank Wood.
- make sure the scheme delivers Biodiversity Net Gain for the local area. This can only be achieved with no loss of irreplaceable habitat.
- recognise that transplanting ancient woodland soil cannot compensate for loss of ancient woodland. Nor can new woodland planting, however valuable in its own right. We have to protect the ancient woodland we have.
We anticipate that National Highways will be looking to approach the Planning Inspectorate for a resubmission of its project in late 2021/early 2022. We will keep you updated.
If you would like to express any further concerns please email email@example.com.