Greenwash bullshit from Highways England

Highways England who are doing their utmost to push through the Lower Thames Crossing have announced a target of planting up to one million trees in a bid (a futile one in our opinion) to offset the environmental damage that will be caused by this scheme: ‘Greenwash’ blast at National Highways over Thames Crossing trees claim 29.6.22. Does this greenwash bullshit jog any memories? Well, yes because Highways England announced something similar last year: New forest plans for Lower Thames Crossing 2.6.21.

This is what Laura Blake, Chair of the Thames Crossing Action Group had to say about the latest incarnation of this proposal:

You cannot talk about caring for the natural environment whilst proposing such a hugely destructive and harmful road project. Much of the land where they are proposing to plant these trees is agricultural land that they want to take for compensation for the harmful nitrogen pollution the project would cause. This is not mitigation, when you minimise the impacts, this is compensation, when you acknowledge the damage that has been done, because they can’t find a way to minimise or stop the pollution. It also increases the thousands of acres of farmland that would be lost if the LTC goes ahead, at a time of major food security concerns.

A huge chunk of this proposed compensation land is at Hole Farm, near Great Warley, which National Highways have already publicly stated is part of their national plans to ‘improve’ biodiversity along their major routes, in this instance the M25. Since they have stated these plans are going ahead regardless of whether the LTC gets permission, they should not be counted as part of the LTC project, It is creative accounting and yet more greenwash nonsense.”

The site of this planting near Great Warley is NOT in Thurrock but is up in the neighbouring local authority of Brentwood. Don’t get us wrong, we welcome tree planting anywhere that’s sustainable and where it can add to biodiversity and improve the aesthetics of a location. We’re pleased for the people of Brentwood who will be getting even more woodland to enjoy on top of the many acres they already have. It should be noted that much of the area to the south and west of Brentwood already has a pretty decent amount of tree cover, particularly when compared to Thurrock.

Apart from the bits of Westley Heights and One Tree Hill that are in the far east of Thurrock, and Belhus Park towards the west, the rest of the borough is pretty low on trees. The ravages of Dutch Elm disease plus decades of sand and gravel extraction then subsequent landfill have all played their part in denuding Thurrock of any decent amount of tree cover. A situation that’s going to be exacerbated by the Lower Thames Crossing being smashed through Thurrock against the wishes of many of the residents.

A road crossing that will mean more noise, more pollution and will adversely impact the lives of many residents in Thurrock. Assuming that the project does go ahead, then at the very least, a significant amount of tree planting and associated landscaping along the route to reduce the noise, offset the pollution from the traffic and generally improve the aesthetics the area wouldn’t go amiss. What do we get instead? Grandstanding greenwashing from Highways England but sod all that will offset the environmental impact of the Lower Thames Crossing in Thurrock.

Because the proposed woodland is part of Highways England’s commitment to increase biodiversity (stop sniggering at the back!) along England’s Strategic Road Network by 2050, regardless of whether the Lower Thames Crossing goes ahead or not, it will be planted. So, Great Warley will get the benefit of this new woodland regardless of what happens with the crossing – we’re pleased for them:) However, should Highways England finally get permission to smash the approach to the crossing through Thurrock, then at the very least, they owe us a decent amount of tree planting and landscaping along the route to reduce the environmental degradation that will come from the Lower Thames Crossing…

If they can’t even guarantee that, then they’re welcome to stick their proposed crossing where the sun doesn’t shine!

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