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