PRESSURE TO build a new lower Thames crossing could trigger the creation of a second M25 by stealth, environmental lobbyists warned this week.
Lobby group Transport 2000 has discovered that the Lower Thames Crossing is the lynchpin for an emerging outer orbital after piecing together new sections of road between airports and motorways around London.
The government has predicted an extra 3M cars will be on London's roads by 2016. But this forecast does not account for traffic generated by airport and port expansion and extra housing in the south east.
'The south east is sleep walking into over-development, ' said transport consultant Jonathan Bray, who has compiled a report The threat of a second M25: the south east as the Los Angeles of Europe for Transport 2000.
New roads are being planned without public debate and or care for the end result, said Bray.
'Each road scheme aims to be sustainable and is designed to regenerate areas. But linked up, the south east could become the Los Angeles of Europe, ' he added.
Transport 2000 claims that new roads do not ease congestion, but generate more traffic.
Critics of the report dismiss speculation about a 'second M25' as sensationalist.
'Joining a number of road schemes doesn't constitute an orbital, ' said Andrew Tesseyman, senior policy adviser for business lobby group CBI. Proposed areas of expansion are limited to Stansted and Luton airports and discrete sections of road, he added.
In addition, the location for the Lower Thames Crossing has not been confirmed, and could be sited near the Dartford Bridge, leaving the outer orbital incomplete.
But the fear of dual carriageways linking up and attracting a car-dependent lifestyle is a real concern, said independent transport consultant Denvil Coombe.
'If local authorities are short of jobs, they bend the rules to attract out of town development along new corridors spawning more car traffic.'