Seeking permission to build and operate the Lower Thames Crossing

Seeking permission to build and operate the Lower Thames Crossing

The Lower Thames Crossing is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), which are large, complex infrastructure projects that benefit the entire country.

To get permission to build and operate the new crossing, we must seek consent through a special planning process and be awarded a Development Consent Order (DCO) from the government's independent planning authority, the Planning Inspectorate.

You can find out more on the Planning Inspectorate’s website here.

The DCO application process is made up of six stages. Watch our film to explore each stage in more detail.

Our Development Consent Order, seeking permission to build the Lower Thames Crossing

Our current status

We are currently in the pre-application stage, where we present our plans to the public and stakeholders like local authorities and regulatory bodies.

Since we began consulting in 2013, we have held more than 270 days of consultation and received almost 90,000 responses. This feedback has been critical in helping us design the new crossing and make plans for how we build it, ranging from deciding the location of the crossing and the preferred route, to the precise alignment and the layout of junctions and bridges.

Our most recent consultation period closed in the summer of 2020 and we are now finalising the design of the crossing using consultation feedback and preparing our DCO application.

Although our formal consultation period has closed, we’re continuously engaging with local authorities and stakeholders, as well as carrying out further ground investigations and surveys to find new and innovative ways to reduce our impact on the local community and environment.

The Development Consent Order application process
The Development Consent Order application process

The DCO process explained

Pre-application stage

This is when we present our project to the public and relevant stakeholders like local authorities and regulatory bodies.

Our most recent consultation period closed in the summer of 2020 and we are now finalising the design of the crossing using consultation feedback and preparing our DCO application.

This does not mean that our DCO application is approved, it is when the Planning Inspectorate decides whether we have submitted all the relevant documentation to allow the application to move forward. If our application is accepted, we move onto the pre-examination stage.

When accepted, our application documents will be available to be viewed on the Planning Inspectorate website.

The process then allows for anyone, including businesses, or individuals, to register as an Interested Party. By doing this, you will be able to submit a written representation or attend a public hearing to present your views on the project.

Also, during this stage, the Planning Inspectorate will appoint a panel of inspectors to serve as the Examining Authority, and a first meeting will be held to discuss procedural issues and the timetable for examination, called the Preliminary Hearing.

This is a six-month process when the Examining Authority will examine the DCO application against the tests in the National Policy Statement for National Networks.

You can read more about the policy statement here.

The Examining Authority will assess feedback from the public and stakeholders through written representations and the hearings. If you have registered as an Interested Party in the pre-examination phase, you can make a representation.

Traditionally hearings were held at locations in close proximity to the projects location, but as we all respond to, hearings are now taking place online through virtual events. More information on this can be found in Advice Note 8.6 of the Planning Inspectorates advice notes.

The Planning Inspectorate has created several advice notes to help you understand the process and will take you through the planning process for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects.

These be found on the Planning Inspectorates website here. 

Following the end of the six-month examination stage, the Examining Authority will have three months to write a recommendation report and submit it to the Secretary of State for Transport.

The Secretary of State for Transport then has up to three months to make the final decision on whether to grant the DCO which would give us permission to build and operate the crossing.

If the Secretary of State for Transport grants the DCO, this is the final stage of the process and provides a six-week window for anyone with legal grounds to challenge the Secretary of State for Transport’s decision through judicial review.

This is when construction of the Lower Thames Crossing will start.

For more detailed information, visit the Planning Inspectorate's website.

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