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 submitted our Development Consent Order application in October 2022 and from June to December 2023 it was examined by a panel of five independent planning inspectors known as the Examining Authority. 

The Examining Authority now has three months – until 20 March 2024 – to submit a recommendation report to the Secretary of State for Transport. The Secretary of State will then make a decision on whether to grant a Development Consent Order. A decision is expected on the Lower Thames Crossing during 2024.

Find out more and sign up for email updates about the examination progress on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.

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

Our current status

We are currently in the recommendation and decision stage. 

The Examining Authority writes a recommendation report and submits it to the Secretary of State for Transport, who will make a decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent. A decision is expected during 2024.

The DCO process explained

Pre-application stage

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 375 days of consultation resulting in over 95,000 responses. Find out more here.

We submitted our Development Consent Order application on 31 October 2022 and on 28 November the Planning Inspectorate confirmed it has accepted our application for detailed examination. This means the Planning Inspectorate is satisfied that our consultation was conducted properly and a rigorous examination of the proposals by a panel of independent, government-appointed experts can begin at a date set by the Planning Inspectorate. If consent is granted, we could start construction as early as 2024.

Our application documents are 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 examine the DCO application against the tests in the National Policy Statement for National Networks. The Lower Thames Crossing examination ran from 20 June to 20 December 2023. 

The Examining Authority assessed feedback from the public and stakeholders through written representations and the hearings. Those who had registered as an Interested Party in the pre-examination phase could make a representation. 

More than 20 hearings were either held online as virtual meetings or as a hybrid in person/virtual hearing at locations close to the proposed route in Kent and Thurrock and also in London. 

Following the end of the examination stage in December 2023, the Examining Authority now has 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.