So what are the social & environmental impacts of expanding Seaforth Docks & why have they been all but ignored – A chat with former Sefton Councillor Cliff Mainey

This is my follow up posting to my recent missive on this subject which is accessible via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/04/16/peel-ports-new-container-terminal-at-seaforth-champion-puff-piece-ignores-the-transportation-scandal/

Cliff Mainey is a mild mannered man who sat on Sefton Council for quite a number of years through the 1990’s and up to 2012. He represented Maghull’s Sudell Ward so his interest in the consequences of the expansion of the Port of Liverpool at Seaforth may be a surprise to some who do not know him well. But Cliff hails from Litherland so knows his onions you might say. Here’s a bit of social history from Cliff to start off this lengthy but I hope interesting posting:-

I was born and raised in post war Litherland, I lived there until I was 22. Church Rd for a large part of that time was a normal two lane highway, that is one lane in either direction, changing to a dual carriageway at Kirkstone Rd. Church Rd in those days had wide grass verges lined with low hawthorn bushes on either side, a real village feel to the area.

The Litherland I recall was a close community with free movement across the ‘main road’ i.e. Church Rd. Schools, shops, churches, youth clubs; I was in English Martyrs youth club, drawing on both sides of Litherland for support and existence.

Then in the sixties all that changed never to recover. The ‘new road’ was built and Royal Seaforth Docks were developed. Jobs, jobs and even more jobs, the port was keeping pace with the world. The new road was essential. The rest is confined to the dust bin of lack of foresight.

Church Road was made into a dual carriageway from Kirkstone Road to the docks. Although the ‘planners’ did their best to reassured the people of Litherland at public meetings with subways under and bridges over the road and double/secondary glazing for those who lived on the road. I lived at 225 Church Rd. Litherland was devastated.

Shops on Church Rd, Sefton St and Kirkstone Rd lost half their customers. Even the bank closed. Children changed schools because of the road. Church Parrish communities changed. People hated the subway (not the posh butty shop) it was long, cold and wet and pretty soon problems with antisocial behaviour started, ( although?).

So, having had first hand experience of planning for the economy at the expense of the community, I asked in my time as a Sefton Councillor, that WIDER PLANNING ISSUES BE PART OF PLANNING PROCESS, to no avail. I was told these were unclear and need not form part of the planning permission/consent for the docks. As I seem to remember planning consent was deemed to have been given at the highest level of government, (the then Labour government if I recall correctly) as per Fracking and Sefton Council was just dealing with/granting local planning permission.

Former Lib Dem Cllr. Cliff Mainey who felt gagged when he raised issues on Sefton Council about access to and the environmental impacts associated with the Port of Liverpool.

Former Lib Dem Cllr. Cliff Mainey who felt gagged when he raised issues on Sefton Council about access to and the environmental impacts associated with the Port of Liverpool.

Of course I knew Cliff had asked awkward questions about the port expansion during his time on Sefton Council and indeed I have made reference to his concerns in previous postings on this subject. But I decided that I wanted to hear what Cliff thought now having had time to reflect on his efforts to drag such matters out of the political long grass when others seemed more than happy for them to stay there or even kick them further in to it.

Cliff is a environmentalist, a former Merseyside Fireman and he is well up on horticultural issues too. His efforts to question the impacts and consequences of the port expansion effectively cover two aspects, the environmental/social impacts and the transport impacts.

Cliff questioned the consequences of the dredging of the Mersey and its estuary as he wanted to know how such dredging, which has of course gone on in many forms for generations, will impact on our coast for future generations. More dredging was of course done and will continue to be done to facilitate the River Berth that will be accepting truly massive container ships later this year. The answers he got within Sefton Council were hardly helpful as they were usually along the lines of ‘that’s not a Council responsibility’ or ‘another agency controls that aspect of the project’ etc. The more he tried to get the planning issues looked at holistically, taking into account all the potential impacts, the more he ran into brick walls.

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

Now some of those brick walls were obviously political as Bootle Labour Party were probably more willing to vote with the Tories (and you know they did that quite often) rather than expose this issue to detailed public scrutiny. Some of the barriers were also created by bureaucracy as it is indeed the case that the Environmental Agency, Council and other bodies did and still do control differing aspects of such huge projects. But of course it begs the question about why these separate organisations seem to work in their own silos only dealing with each other when they have little or no choice. Highways England doing their own consultation on the proposed road down the Rimrose Valley with seemingly no involvement from Sefton Council or Network Rail in recent weeks illustrates this silo mentality only and sadly too well.

Other environmental issues that Cliff was and indeed still is concerned about fit with my own oft expressed concerns on this blog site. The proposed new road down Rimrose Valley Country Park, widening of the A5036 (Dunnings Bridge Road), air pollution from HGV’s accessing the port in ever larger numbers when there are pollution levels of concern right now etc. I could go on but you get my drift.

But Cliff also sees the social consequences of this project as his historical comments above demonstrate. Yes, port expansion may well create more jobs if the port is successful in bringing in more business but how are the social impacts going to be mitigated for those living near the port or along the A5036 corridor that serves it? In reality the environmental and social impacts are very much mingled into one knotty problem like a ball of wool with many strands bound together. When you pull one strand you have no idea how long it will be and what it will pull out with it. And of course Cliff has told us how promised port expansion mitigations of previous generations ended up dividing Litherland.

I think it fair to say that Cliff shares my transportation access concerns and like me he can’t understand why having allowed the port to build its new River Berth the freight access issues are only now being looked at in any detail. It’s as though the project has been done back to front, as in a reasonable world surely the access issues would have been resolved before construction work on the dock took place.

After my interviewing Cliff I can only conclude that he confirmed all my worst fears about this huge project and the conspiracy of silence that has blanked out or stopped the social, environmental and transportation issues being looked at holistically and in a timely manner. It really is the scandal of our age locally here in Sefton Borough.

My thanks to Cliff Mainey for his frank and illuminating comments on this murky issue.

Peel Ports new container terminal at Seaforth – Champion article ignores the transportation scandal

Buried away on page 18 of last week’s Champion newspaper was an article all about a visit by a little known government Shipping Minister (Robert Goodwill) to Seaforth Docks and the Port of Liverpool.

Red and blue cranes at Seaforth Docks

The article was in connection with his visit and how the expansion of the docks is we are told attracting new businesses to the area. All well and good except for the fact that this project has seemingly been put together without much in the way of credible transport planning, by responsible public authorities, to get the extra projected traffic that the expanded docks may generate to and from Seaforth.

I am not really pointing a finger a Peel here because if the transport infrastructure challenge is not successfully resolved they will be one of the victims of what to me has been an appalling planning processes.

I have commented on this many times before and yet the transport issues are only now being addressed (Highways England have just started public consultations) whilst the Champion tells us the port’s enhanced facilities are opening later this year. Just think how long it will take to put the controversial transport infrastructure solutions in place!

So yes dear Minister tell us what a great thing the expanded port may well be but what’s the point of saying all this when the planning for the the movement of freight to the from the port has in no way been progressed at anything like the pace it should have been to match the building work at the container terminal. I fear the press has just been used to shower us with the good news in the hope we will not worry too much about those transportation issues.

And they are utterly immense! A new road down the Rimrose Valley and Country Park, widening of the A5036, but probably very little extra freight by train as transport planners can’t really be bothered about that method.

The fact is that Seaforth Docks are hemmed in by residential housing to the east and north so whatever road transportation solutions are eventually proposed they are bound to have negative effects on residents living in Netherton, Seaforth, Litherland etc.

The fact that this has all been left to the very end of the project and effectively to chance is of no credit what so ever to Sefton Council, Highways England and Network Rail.

This may be a good news story but it has got a huge amount of grief attached to it that the powers that be have all but ignored. If this is an example of integrated planning for a project of regional significance I’m a Dutchman as they say.

Cliff Mainey

Cliff Mainey

I recently chatted about this with my old friend and former Sefton Councillor/Borough Mayor Cliff Mainey and another posting will follow. Cliff tried to burrow into the impacts of the port expansion and to put it bluntly he was blocked at every turn. Read on when I publish Cliff’s take on all this……

Maghull – Flooding – When the Environment Agency turned down volunteers

Quite a number of years ago, I suppose it must have been around the turn of the last Century, Maghull Town Council (then Lib Dem run) held a number of meetings with the Environment Agency about flooding. This was when the Lib Dems were warning about ‘climate change’ at a time when the Environment Agency line was that once in a hundred years events should be treated as such.

Of course this was well before the terrible flooding of Maghull’s Fouracres in 2012 and the events of Boxing day 2015 but it was clear back then that Maghull would be facing serious flooding issues in the future.

I raise this again now following a chat with my old chum and former Maghull councillor Cliff Mainey because it was Cliff who reminded me what had happened back then.

You see what had slipped my mind was that during those discussions it had been suggested by councillors that volunteers should be trained up who would know where to go to clear blockages in water courses in the event of very heavy rain.

Cliff, a retired Fireman, tells me that the Environment Agency rejected this idea. Now roll on to Boxing Day 2015.

Hall Lane, Maghull with a Merseyside Fire & Rescue worker trying to clear debris from Whinney Brook on Boxing Day 2015.

Hall Lane, Maghull with a Merseyside Fire & Rescue worker trying to clear debris from Whinney Brook on Boxing Day 2015.

At one specific spot the debris brought down Whinney Brook in the raging water blocked the grid/grill at the start of the culvert that takes this stream under Liverpool Road South at the Meadows shops. I photoed the consequences of this blockage and published those shots on Boxing day and reproduce them today. However, what I did not know was that the emergency services did not seemingly have this grid/grill within their emergency plan for flooding in Maghull so did not check it for a blockage until the water had back-flowed under Northway to flood the section of Hall Lane from the A59 to Old Hall Road.

Hall Lane, Maghull between the A59 and Old hall Road

Hall Lane, Maghull between the A59 and Old Hall Road.

This explains why the fireman that I saw clearing the debris from the grill/grid told me that he had seen the water level fall by 3ft after he had cleared it.

It was for this very sort of flooding scenario that Lib Dem Maghull Town Councillors had suggested that it appoint and train volunteers with local knowledge to help combat flooding problems all those years ago and as, I say, the Environment Agency poured cold water on the idea!

It strikes me that if they had been appointed and trained the grid/grill on Whinney Brook would have been kept clear and the water may well not have back-flowed up Whinney Brook.

I wonder how the Environment Agency feel about the matter now?

Addendum posted later on 24th January 2016 – How odd, I have just seen last week’s edition of the Aintree & Maghull Champion where there’s an article very much along these lines in terms of Maghull Town Council trying to get something similar up and running! I wrote this posting about 10 days ago and had no idea that MTC had been working up a new initiative some 16 or more years since Cliff Mainey had been thwarted the first time around. What an odd coincidence.

Seaforth Docks River Berth – More environmental consequences?

I have posted a number of times about the consequences of the Mersey river berth that will allow Post Panamax ships of an enormous size to dock at Seaforth. Below is an example of the type and size of ship that will be using the river berth:-

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Click on the photo to enlarge it

To date the issues I have raised have been about access to and from the port by rail and road for the increased level of freight that the port will generate, the lack of preparedness of Sefton Council, Highways England and Network Rail for this and the potential air pollution consequences. My last relevant posting can be read via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/08/04/lancashire-life-magazine-expansion-at-seaforth-dock/

But there is another issue which has been highlighted by former Lib Dem councillor and Mayor of Sefton Cliff Mainey. Cliff, like me, is an environmentalist at heart and his concern is the dredging of the Mersey to accommodate the river berth and the massive ships that will use it.

Cliff Mainey

Cliff Mainey

‘Where has the dredged silt been dumped now and where will it be dumped in the future’ asks Cliff ‘and what are the consequences of the dredging to our coastline?’

Seaforth Docks seen from the Mersey with work going on to construct the river berth for Post-Panamax ships.

Seaforth Docks seen from the Mersey in August 2015 with work going on to construct the river berth for Post-Panamax ships.

Click on the photo to enlarge it

These important questions should be a big issue for Sefton Council, the Environment Agency and any other authority that has an interest in protecting our coastline. It is clearly vital that the consequences of tampering with Mother Nature are fully understood but is this another issue associated with the river berth that those who represent our interests have not addressed with the vigor we would expect?