Rimrose Valley Country Park – An idyllic oasis

Idyllic view of Rimrose Valley Country Park

With the potential threat of a road being driven straight through this country park I thought it was time to have a really good look at it. I had been previously but not for any length of time. I was not to be disappointed.

I set off on my cycle from our Lydiate home last Saturday morning quite early on a bright and sunny day. Joining the foot and cycle paths that lead into the County Park at Edge Lane I found my way via this footpath network through into what is a linear open space. It is in fact surrounded by the built up areas of Crosby, Netherton, Thornton and Litherland and ends in Seaforth half a mile from the Container Terminal.

Rimrose in the foreground and its threat in the background

You can see why Highways England have been eyeing up the land to get a new road through to the docks but what on earth will it do to this lovely oasis if they get the go ahead? I remain very much opposed to that plan but we will find out very soon what is going to happen.

What I found early on a Saturday morning was friendly dog walkers, fellow cyclists and a lovely ride through urban countryside. What’s more a very tame squirrel joined me for 30 yards or more running alongside my bike. I assume he was wondering if I had some food.

The Seaforth end of the Country Park which joins the A5036 Princess Way

Surely there can be little, if any, doubt that a road driven through the Rimrose Valley can only have negative consequences for our environment.

Rimrose Valley Country Park – Highways England’s announcement delayed.

Rimrose Valley Country Park map.

My understanding was that Highways England (previously known as the Highways Agency) were due to announce their preferred solution to increasing the capacity of the A5036 otherwise known as Dunningsbridge Road/ Church Road in Netherton on 8th August.

Of course the big fear amongst environmental campaigners is that they will plump to build a new road through Rimrose Valley Country Park. The ‘need’ for the increased road capacity is due to the Liverpool 2 River Berth being constructed at Seaforth by Peel Ports, a subject I have posted about many times before.

But news reached me yesterday via an e-mail from Rimrose Valley Friends, who are trying to protect the Country Park, that the announcement has been delayed until September. We are told that this follows a Highways England meeting with Mersey Mayor Steve Rotherham.

The significance of the delay/deferment is not presently known.

Here’s a couple of links to pages on the Rimrose Valley Friends web site about the expected announcement:-

www.rimrosevalleyfriends.org/news/highways-england-port-of-liverpool-access-preferred-route-announcement-due-080817/#

www.rimrosevalleyfriends.org/news/highways-england-port-of-liverpool-access-preferred-route-announcement-delayed/

Access to the Port of Liverpool – An update

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

IMG

I return to this matter because Highways England have issued a 3rd newsletter which is now available on their web site – see link below (click the publications tab):-

www.highways.gov.uk/roads/road-projects/a5036-port-of-liverpool-access/

The map above shows what Highways England have in mind, as if we were in any doubt. Option 2 is their proposed new road down and through the Rimrose Valley Country Park. Option 1 is upgrading the A5036/Dunningsbridge Road etc.

The issues that pop out for me from this latest newsletter are:-

* The odd answer to the question which I and many others must have asked the Highways England reps at the various public events a few weeks ago. Why isn’t greater use being made of the railway network in order to distribute this additional freight? Answer – Improvements to the rail network are being considered elsewhere. The obvious follow up question is where is ‘elsewhere’ and why is there no indication of it in the newsletter?

* In a second question specifically about bringing the North Mersey rail branch line back into use Highways England give a reasonable answer but again the answer does not take us any further forward with regard to non-road solutions.

* On the positive side Highways England seem to be saying all the right things about biodiversity, green issues, air quality and noise issues, which of course we should welcome.

However, what you quickly realise is that the strong line of questioning that Highways England clearly got from the public during the first round of consultation was really about the rail connections to the docks. No surprise there of course but those of us pressing that crucial issue were talking to folk who exist to build roads! They have little or no interest in other forms of transport.

And all this brings me back to my greatest concern which I have voiced before. Why is there not a joined up consultation being undertaken including Network Rail and Sefton Council? Yes we know that Labour-run Sefton is hiding behind the sofa hoping no one will realise that they should be leading this debate and goodness knows what Network Rail are doing in reality. So all we have at present is Highways England being desperate to build a new road.

It really is time for Labour-run Sefton Council to come out from under their sofa and lead this important public debate. If Bootle Labour MP Peter Dowd can raise the issue in Parliament why can’t Labour get to grips with it at a local level? And I don’t mean photos with concerned residents in the local press! What we need is all agencies and appropriate bodies being brought together by the Council so we have a fully informed public debate. There its not so hard comrades is it? – just do it.

Seaforth Docks – Port Access – Highways England Consultation

I trotted along to Maghull Library yesterday to hear what Highways England had to say via their consultation process about either/or significantly increasing the capacity of Dunningsbridge Road (A5036) and/or building a new road to the docks down through Rimrose Valley Country Park.

The busy A5036 thunders over the Leeds Liverpool Canal in Litherland but the oasis of Rimrose Valley Country Park sits the other side of this manic highway to Seaforth Docks.

The busy A5036 thunders over the Leeds Liverpool Canal in Litherland but the oasis of Rimrose Valley Country Park sits the other side of this manic highway to Seaforth Docks.

I suppose that the obvious thing that hit me was that the consultation was just Highways England. Where was Network Rail? Why not a consultation on all the options to get freight to and from the docks encompassing road, rail and the ship canal? An impression of lack of joined up thinking was being demonstrated to me by Highways England going it alone.

I suspect that Sefton Council’s ‘don’t touch this issue with a barge pole’ type approach has something to do with the lack of a joined up thinking. Surely if Sefton was doing anything but sitting back and watching what is going on it would be insisting on the various potential deliverers of transport solutions doing their stuff in partnership.

Red and blue cranes at Seaforth Docks

Now don’t get me wrong Bootle Labour Party have been running from this issue as long as I can remember – 10 years or more I would guess. Trouble is Bootle Labour Party also run Sefton Council so their influence on this very controversial issue is everything. But as we have seen for a long time now sitting on the fence is about the best the Council has managed as it hopes the public will give Highways England a good baseball batting instead of them.

But all of this kicking the issue back into the long grass each time it rears its head is not leading a community it is hiding behind the community and leaving it to fight its own battles.

Interestingly, it seems that local Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson may be leaning towards those who oppose a new road being built down Rimrose Valley Country Park? Well at least that is my reading of his seemingly supporting an artist who is donating 10% of the sales from her work to the Rimrose Valley Friends Group who oppose the road planned through their County Park (Champion Newspaper 2nd March).

Where that puts Bootle Labour Party I don’t know but then again Sefton Central Labour and Bootle Labour not getting on is old news.

So that’s the politics of the issue but what about the proposals of Highways England? From listening to their representatives at the event in Maghull Library they appreciate only too well how controversial their proposed plans are and how Sefton Council is firmly sat on the fence. I got the impression they are doing their thing on their own because no one else is doing any wider more holistic consultation.

Their plans for the Dunningsbridge Road (A5036) could include flyovers or tunnels at the major junctions to enable traffic to flow far better than the present start stop caused by 7 sets of traffic lights. It could also include extra traffic lanes where it is possible to fit them in. They also see the lot of the pedestrian and cyclist as being a big issue and of the road in effect becoming even more of an un-crossable barrier (north/south) than it is now. It’s certainly not pedestrian or cyclist friendly now, so they are not wrong on that aspect.

One of the display posters in Maghull Library showing (dotted line) the potential route of the new road proposed by Highways England.

One of the display posters in Maghull Library showing (dotted line) the potential route of the new road proposed by Highways England.

With the proposed new road, I get the impression that Highways England think it has to be built as they were very clear that their thoughts are that the A5036 will not deliver enough freight capacity even if it is upgraded as far as is possible. To environmental campaigners like me this is a terrible prospect.

But what about the environmental issues. We all know that diesel particulate pollution of our air is a big issue and that with increased HGV traffic the only outcome can surely be more air pollution challenges. And how about noise and vibrations from rumbling HGV’s; that’s going to get worse too. There are not going to be any environmental positives here, only mitigations that will top-slice the worst of them. And that’s where rail and water come in, if the Port Access Steering Group is really going to lead a green solution.

If rail is going to be a serious solution, which I think it has to be, it will have to be electrified so that polluting diesel locomotives are not used. It means that the Bootle Branch will have to be brought back into use and new connections made at either end of it so that the national railway network can be accessed.

And then there’s the issue of taking barges up and down the Manchester Ship Canal to distribution facilities along it. Is this going to be much more than a token gesture? I hope not.

I fear that all the eggs are presently in the Highways England basket and with Sefton Council shuffling very uncomfortably on their fence it is going to take the good folks of Seaforth, Litherland, Netherton and Bootle to get their local leaders off that fence and fighting for them.

But even that is not the whole picture because of course Peel Ports want to build massive logistic facilities in Melling alongside the M57 and even further up the M58 in Skelmersdale. Wherever those facilities end up being built will mean huge HGV traffic flows in and around those communities too. So this involves folk in Melling, Aintree Village and beyond as well and even more high grade agricultural land being concreted over than is already proposed in Sefton Council’s awful Local Plan.

Seen in a field in Melling where locals are fighting the Peel Ports/Holdings proposals for a huge logistics park on what is presently farm land.

Seen in a field in Melling where locals are fighting the Peel Ports/Holdings proposals for a huge logistics park on what is presently farm land.

Is this going to be a huge economic boost for Sefton and a massive environmental disaster at the same time? But what if the port is unsuccessful in gaining the extra business that it is hoping for? In those circumstances it could be just one huge environmental disaster.

Very big issues here. Yes, as an environmental campaigner I am hugely sceptical of Highways England’s plans and proposals but this issue needs some leadership from Sefton Council. Are they listening?

A5036 – Dunningsbridge Road – A road leading to delays

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-road-named-one-britains-8650080#ICID=sharebar_email

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above.

It is interesting to see that Dunningsbridge Road is now officially classified as a ‘delay road’ something that regular users of it will not need to be told.

BUT with Seaforth Docks set to expand with a new river berth taking Post Panamax size ships the situation can only get worse!

Supposedly, in non-smoke filled rooms, Sefton Council, the Highways Agency, Network Rail etc. are beavering away at solutions but little is known of these deliberations. It’s about time the powers that be put their proposed solutions before us don’t you think?

Switch Island – Seaforth Docks road link – Many questions need to be answered

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/mersey-docks-set-motorway-link-8202582

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above – but the quote from that article below does not really take us any further forward.

‘Funding has been secured to upgrade the A5036 Princess Way – through Seaforth and Litherland – which links Liverpool’s ports to the motorway network.

This upgrade was announced last summer as part of the Liverpool Local Growth Deal.’

This has been a subject that Sefton Council, in particular, has not been at all keen to talk about. Indeed, getting behind this story to gain some detail over recent months has been like pulling teeth.

So now the cat is completely out of the bag can we please be told how this upgrade of the A5036 is to proposed to be achieved and the environmental and community impacts of such proposals? It is no use doing deals behind closed doors just to impose an already agreed solution on South and East Sefton’s communities