It was planned that the bridge should be built by 2013 and would have connected Beckton in the London Borough of Newham with Thamesmead in the London Borough of Greenwich linking the A406 / A13 junction in Beckton with the A2016 Eastern Way and Western Way in Thamesmead and serve the new Thames Gateway development.
The bridge was to have a span of about 650 metres, with a 50 metre vertical clearance for ships, yet be low enough not to impede the flight approach to the nearby London City Airport. The bridge was to have had four lanes for general traffic and two lanes for public transport use. It would also have had a cycle lane, a pedestrian walkway and the facility for a Docklands Light Railway crossing.
The design and location was similar to the East London River Crossing proposed and approved by two public inquiries during the 1970s-90s but subsequently dropped by the Department for Transport.
For pedestrians the nearest other crossings are the Greenwich foot tunnel and the Woolwich foot tunnel. The 'Woolwich Arsenal extension' to the Docklands Light Railway, from King George V station under the river to Woolwich Arsenal station, is due to open in early 2009.
For vehicles the nearest other Thames crossings are the Blackwall Tunnel (A102), the Dartford Crossing (M25) and the Woolwich Ferry.
The bridge was supported by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London at the time, and planning applications for the scheme were submitted by Transport for London to the London Borough of Newham, London Borough of Greenwich in July 2004 and were approved in December 2004.
A public inquiry on the scheme sat at Charlton Athletic Football Club from June 2005 to May 2006.
The public enquiry drew organised opposition from a number of environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth; they and a local opposition group argued against the bridge at the inquiry. Prior to the inquiry 2,949 objections and 47 expressions of support were received. During the inquiry a further 1,819 written representations were received which were opposed to the proposed development and nine in support. Twenty two objections were withdrawn during the Inquiries. The planning inspector summarised the main reasons given as objections in his decision letter as follows:
- the proposed developments did not conform to the Development Plan for the area or to national planning guidance and that and there were more acceptable ways in which the benefits aimed at by the proposed development could be achieved
- that in reality development was the first phase a larger strategic road scheme and would not deliver the regeneration benefit claimed
- that the tolling arrangements were unacceptable and also that the traffic modelling was inadequate
- that the scheme would result in unacceptable levels of traffic, air pollution, noise pollution and would impact on wildlife and nature conservation, and
- that the public consultation process had been inadequate.
A decision was announced in July 2007, with the planning inspector recommending that the bridge should not be built. However Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, requested that the inquiry be re-opened to examine the evidence further as to whether the bridge would lead to regeneration and to investigate the potential impact on pollution.
Ken Livingstone said that "Any delay to the Thames Gateway bridge is a blow to east London, and south-east London in particular," and that "The reopening of the public inquiry will delay bringing the benefits of the Thames Gateway bridge to an area that sorely needs them. This new crossing is crucial to supporting plans for an extra 160,000 houses in the Thames Gateway region and up to 42,000 additional jobs in the area as whole."
On 6 November 2008 the Mayor announced a "massive investment in transport infrastructure", but confirmed the cancellation of the £500m bridge. The reasons for cancellation cited included local opposition, insufficient funding, projected disbenefits to traffic flow and concerns over its location and environmental impact. It was also independently confirmed that the public inquiry would not reopen.
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