Dart­ford cross­ing tolls blow for Kent

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - 150 YEARS - by Paul Francis

LAWYERS have dealt a ma­jor blow to calls for Kent to be given a greater share of the money raised from the Dart­ford Cross­ing tolls.

Kent County Coun­cil has been told it has no prospect of suc­ceed­ing in any le­gal ac­tion against the Gov­ern­ment in the fight for a big­ger slice of the £50m raised each year from charg­ing driv­ers to cross into Kent.

County Hall lead­ers sought le­gal ad­vice last year about the chances of tak­ing the De­part­ment for Trans­port to court.

A sum­mary of that ad­vice, re­leased to the Kent Mes­sen­ger Group un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, shows that lawyers told KCC it had vir­tu­ally no chance of suc­ceed­ing if it sought a Ju­di­cial Re­view.

The ad­vice also in­di­cates that lawyers be­lieve the Gov­ern­ment is un­der no statu­tory obli­ga­tion to share any of the toll money with the county coun­cil.

As a re­sult, the county coun­cil was told: “In the ab­sence of a clear prom­ise, as­sur­ance, agree­ment or course of con­duct, it is dif­fi­cult to see any rea­son­able prospects of suc­cess. The ba­sis of the as­sump­tions made by KCC falls short of the clar­ity of com­mit­ment re­quired to make good the ba­sis for any al­le­ga­tion of un­fair­ness.”

The coun­cil has for many years ar­gued it de­serves a greater share of the money made from the tolls to help im­prove roads and trans­port, partly to com­pen­sate for the ex­tra traf­fic com­ing through the county.

It has pressed the Gov­ern­ment to hon­our what it claimed was a pledge to dis­trib­ute prof­its to coun­cils on both sides of the cross­ing once it had been paid for. But the lawyers’ ad­vice places a ques­tion mark over whether any such pledge ac­tu­ally even ex­ists.

The De­part­ment of Trans­port gives Kent £1m an­nu­ally from the tolls for trans­port schemes. But that money comes in the form of a loan, which has to be re­paid.

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