A decision over plans to build a road tunnel beneath the River Thames linking the Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown, has been pushed back by a further six months, in order to assess the possible impact the scheme would have on air quality.
Plans to develop the tunnel have been put forward by Transport for London, with the backing of the Mayor of London.
According to TfL, the proposals would reduce congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel and improve the reliability and resilience of the wider road network in London.
However, opponents to the scheme claim that the development will encourage more traffic and potentially have an impact on air pollution.
A six-month public inquiry into the proposals was carried out in late 2016, with the Planning Inspectorate having recommended the plans for approval by the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling.
A decision on the plans had been expected this week, after having been delayed since October. However, the Department for Transport has opted to extend the decision deadline until May 2018, in order to consider how approving the proposals could impact air quality.
In particular, the Department will assess any impact this could have on modelling in the government’s nitrogen dioxide plan, published in the summer.
In a statement to Parliament this week, transport minister Paul Maynard, said: “The deadline for the decision is to be extended to 10 May 2018 (an extension of 6 months) to enable further consideration of the effect of the scheme on air quality (including its compliance with the updated UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations published by government on 26 July 2017).
“The decision to set a new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to give development consent.â€?
The two local authorities at the centre of the plans, Greenwich and Tower Hamlets have expressed disappointment at the delay. In a joint statement, Cllr Denise Hyland, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich and John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “The Royal Borough of Greenwich and Tower Hamlets council are disappointed by the latest delay in the government reaching a decision on the Mayor of London’s plans for the much needed Silvertown Tunnel.
“Both our councils have always been keen to ensure that the Silvertown Tunnel should not have a detrimental impact on the environment. That is why we welcomed the Mayor of London’s revised and improved plans for cleaner, greener public transport options and significant investments in pedestrian and cycling improvements in our boroughs and others. Our residents’ lives have been blighted by stationary vehicles stuck in queues at the Blackwall Tunnel for far too long.
“Despite the additional six month delay, we welcome the added considerations into the impact on air quality and we look forward to the final decision in May next year.â€?