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.

As the most ambitious road scheme since the M25 was completed almost 35 years ago, our DCO application is one of the most complex applications ever developed. 

We plan to submit our DCO application later in 2022. If consent is granted, we intend to start construction in 2024.

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.

At our community impacts consultation last year, we said we would submit our DCO application later in 2021. However, in November 2021 we announced plans to change our proposals for land next to the River Thames at the request of Thurrock Council and local stakeholders such as the Port of Tilbury. This was to ensure that Thames Freeport’s potential was not impacted by the Lower Thames Crossing.

As a result, we now intend to submit our DCO application later this year. If consent is granted, we intend to start construction in 2024. Our target road opening is 2029/30, but for the purposes of construction and traffic modelling, the road opening date is assumed to be 2029 throughout this consultation.

A record-breaking programme of consultation

Did you know? During the past few years we have carried out the most extensive consultation exercise ever undertaken for a UK road scheme, which has resulted in major improvements to our proposals. To date there have been more than 300 days of consultation resulting in over 90,00 responses. Find our more here.

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

The DCO process explained

Pre-application stage

We are currently in the pre-application stage.

On 20 November 2020 we withdrew our application based on early feedback from the Planning Inspectorate. We are taking time to collate the information required for the specific points raised and plan to submit a new Development Consent Order application later in 2022


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.