Access to Port of Liverpool and that oddly timed judicial review

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

I’ve posted many times about access to the Port of Liverpool and the lovely Rimrose Valley Country Park being chosen to have a new road driven right through it to provide that additional access. But what was Sefton Council’s Cabinet trying to achieve with the judicial review that they launched in October 2017?

Cranes at Liverpool 2’s deep water river berth for colossal sized contain ships, Seaforth.

What an odd question you might say, but hear me out.

I’ve been reading a report which went to Sefton Council’s Cabinet on 28th February 2013, nearly 7 years ago now. It starts off with the words ‘As part of the City Region Deal, a Port Access Steering Group (Chaired by Sefton Council) has been established’ so who was running this group is very clear. The report was all about bidding for money to assist in developing and providing improved access to the Port via the Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T). That same report goes on to say ‘Sefton Council has been leading the coordination of City Region activities associated with port access on behalf of the City Region Partners.’

Now let’s look at an interesting chain of events:-

February 2014 – Atkins [consultants] report for Highway England (Access to the Port of Liverpool Feasibility Study) considers 2 major options i.e. a rebuild of the A5036 or a new road down the Rimrose Valley. It also considered the alternative option of a tunnel which it effectively rejected on the grounds of cost. Remember that happened in February 2014.
November 2014 – Atkins make a presentation to the Liverpool City Region Port Access Steering Group (led by Sefton Council) where the tunnel options were considered cost prohibitive.
October 2015 – Highways England publish a document entitled A5036 Port of Liverpool access Newsletter 1 It considered just 2 options. The tunnel option was not included.
January 2016 – Another Highways England Newsletter produced – Again no Tunnel option.
June 2016 – A further Highways England newsletter produced – And again no Tunnel option.
22 July 2016 – Sefton Council writes to Secretary of State for Transport formally requesting they fully consider and consult on a tunnel option.
22nd August 2016 Minister of State replies that the tunnel option would not provide value for money so rejects Sefton’s request.
31st August 2017 – Highways England adopts ‘Option B’ (new road down Rimrose Valley) – No tunnel.
19th October 2017 – Sefton Council seeks judicial review of Highways England decision of 31st August 2017 because it excluded one or more options involving a tunnel which rendered the consultation so unfair as to be unlawful.

My point with this timeline is this. Why did Sefton Council’s Cabinet wait until July 2016 to request the Secretary of State for Transport to fully consider a tunnel option when this option had effectively been rejected back in February 2014? That’s almost 2 and half years before!

It is of course no surprise that it was argued that the claim (made in October 2017) for a judicial review was out of time as such a review should be brought promptly and in normal circumstances not later than 3 months after the grounds to make the claim first arose. Those grounds arguably first arose in February 2014 or possibly more likely in October 2015 if my reading of the situation is correct. Which all begs the question of what was Sefton Council’s Cabinet was trying to achieve? Had it been leading the Port Access Steering Group or protesting about what had come about as a consequence of the activity of that group, Highways England and its consultants?

The Council must have known it was effectively out of time for a successful judicial review yet it still pursued one. The fact that it lost the review can surely have been no surprise what so ever. Clearly, to me anyway, the serious objection to the lack of a tunnel option within the process should have been taken forward as early as May 2014 or more likely January 2016, so why wasn’t it? The answer to that question we can only speculate upon but to me the activities of the Cabinet make little sense. To have waited until October 2017 to go for a judicial review is bizarre as the writing was clearly on the wall from the consultant’s report in February 2014.

Answers on a postcard………….

Rimrose Valley Country Park – Fight against new road goes on……..

An idyllic view of Rimrose Valley Country Park

Highways England are to run 2 information sessions about their plans to build a road through this beautiful Country Park. Details of the events are on the Rimrose Valley Friends website – see link below:-

www.rimrosevalleyfriends.org/news/important-update-highways-england-information-sessions/

Tuesday 22 October 2019 between 2pm and 8pm
at the SING Plus Centre, 53 Cambridge Road,
Seaforth, Liverpool, L21 1EZ; and

Thursday 24 October 2019 between 2pm and 8pm
at The Park Hotel, Dunnings Bridge Road, Liverpool
L30 6YN

Port of Liverpool – Expansion continues & will become 2 carts (or many HGV’s) before the horse?

Rimrose Valley Country Park.

I picked up the link below via a Liverpool City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) newsletter:-

www.peelports.com/news/2019/contract-awarded-for-phase-2-of-liverpool2-container-terminal-expansion

That the continued expansion of Liverpool 2 develops is of course no surprise at all. That the on-line article makes no mention what so ever of access to the Port does surprise me.

It’s not as if the access issues have been uncontroversial; they’ve been hugely controversial and still are and Highways England has not even taken it’s first bulldozer into Rimrose Valley Country Park yet.

I’ve always looked upon the expansion of the Port of Liverpool as being a cart before horse kind of project or willing the end result without the (acceptable) transport means to deliver it. And by ‘acceptable’ I mean that pushing a new road through Rimrose Valley Country Park to deliver the transport means is quite obviously unacceptable to many folk living in the southern part of Sefton Borough.

There’s got to something very wrong in our strategic planning process in England for us to have ended up where we are with this project.

Access to the Port of Liverpool – 15 years on from Strategic Access Study – Time to reassess due to Climate Crisis

I was recently asked to assist a campaigner who is a part of the fight against Highways England’s plan to build a new road right through Rimrose Valley Country Park. The ask was for me to help with obtaining a copy of a 2004 report on the options for transport access to the Port of Liverpool.

Rimrose Valley Country Park on a lovely Sunday morning. A Lone cyclist can be seen in the distance.

Firstly, I had to obtain a copy of the report and with a little help that was achieved.

The report is titled ‘PORT OF LIVERPOOL STRATEGIC TRANSPORT ACCESS STUDY Phase 3 Final Report’. It looked at 3 options for providing improved access to the Port of Liverpool and it comes down on the side of putting a new road through the Rimrose Valley. This is of course the option now being pursued by Highways England and which is causing so much controversy and objections.

I think it fair to say that I’m a big supporter of Rimrose Valley Country Park and love cycling through it, so it could be said that my opinions are somewhat biased in favour of the campaign group Rimrose Valley Friends who are leading the fight against the new road. In other words I’m not claiming that this piece is of an independent nature.

The report summarises the work undertaken by a team of consultants, lead by FaberMaunsell, for the study’s steering group comprising: • Sefton Borough Council; • Liverpool City Council; • Highways Agency (now Highways England); • Strategic Rail Authority; • Merseytravel; and • Atlantic Gateway.

Three strategies emerged from this work:

• Strategy 1 (Modal Transfer, Mitigation And Management) – to maximise the benefits and improvements where major highway investment is considered either unacceptable or undeliverable. This strategy combines rail and public passenger transport initiatives with traffic management, environmental mitigation and policy and enforcement but no significant investment in highway infrastructure which would generate additional capacity.

• Strategy 2 (Highway – A5036(T) On Line Improvements) – taking the best elements of Strategy 1 and combining them with link and junction improvements principally on the A5036 (T) to improve capacity within the corridor and therefore reduce delay and congestion.

• Strategy 3 (Major Highway – Rimrose Valley) – taking the best elements of Strategy 1 and combining them with the construction of a new road through the Rimrose Valley from Switch Island to the Princess Way/Bridge Road roundabout to relieve the existing key routes of a significant proportion of the port-bound traffic.

Clearly, there’s a danger of reading a 15 year old report and thinking that all it looked at then (agree with its conclusions or not) is just as relevant now. The big issue is of course the climate change/crisis we are facing and the need to restrict/cease use of petrol and diesel engined vehicles. This is now a matter of public policy, as opposed it being an issue within scientific and environmental community as it was back in the early 2000’s. For me this very real green issue is, without considering any other matter, a clear reason to re-examine what the options should be to improve access to the Port of Liverpool. And of course the recent delay in constructing the new road, caused by the legal action taken to stop it, has created a time frame which could be used to conduct a reassessment, so there really is no excuse for pursuing a project that in effect predates our climate crisis.

All walking and cycling destinations from the main cycle path in the Country Park.

I don’t think I learned a great deal more than I knew already from re-reading the report (with 15 years between reads) but all the same it was useful to reacquaint myself with the detail. I hope the report is of use to the Rimrose Valley Friends in their campaign work.

I had another lovely cycle ride through Rimrose Valley on the 4th August.

Rimrose Valley Country Park – Latest news about HE’s new road

I was sent this yesterday from Highways England as a Lydiate Parish Councillor:-

‘As you will be aware, we faced a legal challenge regarding our preferred route choice for the A5036 Port of Liverpool access scheme. This was lodged in November 2017 and heard by the court in October 2018. The court ruled in favour of the preferred route option but naturally the challenge has impacted on the 2019 construction date. We now expect to start work in late 2022 or early 2023.

We are fully committed to working alongside our partners and local community to ensure we have a solution which benefits everyone.

Traffic will only increase on the existing road and wider network beyond the Port of Liverpool. The bypass proposal we are looking to take forward will not only address congestion in these areas but improve the quality of life for those living along the existing road. It will also provide more reliable journeys and improved links to the region whilst future proofing the network.

The bypass will also enable the regions aspirations for economic growth. The improved road network will benefit proposals for new housing and commercial developments as well as servicing Liverpool2.’

I have not copied the whole of the text just the relevant part of it, I would add.

Clearly the determination of Highways England to move forward with this new road despite very significant opposition is a huge disappointment to those of us who oppose a new road being driven through this country park.

An idyllic view of Rimrose Valley Country Park

But knowing how equally determined Rimrose Valley Friends are to try to stop the new road being built there are bound to be more twists and turns in this ongoing battle of wills.

Rimrose Valley Country Park map.

Switch Island – Highways England seem to have stopped celebrating it

Most folk do not walk or cycle around the now infamous Switch Island where the M57 & M58 Motorways join with the A59, A5036 and the new(ish) Brooms Cross Road but it’s quite possible and even safe to do so. Indeed it’s probably safer than driving around it based on the almost daily road traffic accidents that happen there. However, if you do walk or cycle it you will come across this large boulder with 2 metal plaques set into it:-

The plaques record the 1st and 2nd phases of the reconstruction of the junction in 1998 and 2006. But what about the other phases? I think there have been 2 additional ones – one when Brooms Cross Road was joined to it and then very recently when major re-signage and safety changes were made. Now it could be that austerity means there’s no money for additional plaques, or the boulder’s not big enough for additional ones, or despite all the phases and changes the damn thing (the island not the boulder) is a bit of an embarrassment to Highways England so they are trying to keep a low profile? All 3 are, I’m willing to believe, potentially the case of course.

Click on the photo to enlarge it