Climate Change & the Port of Liverpool

Daughter Jen and I attended a public meeting in Waterloo yesterday evening at Crosby Lakeside Adventure Centre organised by Friends of the Earth. The subject of the meeting and debate was The Port of Liverpool & The Climate Crisis.

The meeting took the form of a panel of speakers making initial statements and then them taking questions which had been submitted prior to the meeting, although there was also some interaction with the audience of I would guess @150 people.

(The acoustics were not great in the room so I may have missed some points that were made)

The panel was Paulette Lappin (Sefton Councillor for Ford Ward & Cabinet Member – Regulatory, Compliance and Corporate Services), Stu from Save Rimrose Valley Campaign, Bill Esterson MP for Sefton Central, a representative of the Church Road & District Residents Assn, Craig from Friends of the Earth and the event was hosted/chaired by Dominic Browne, editor of Highways Magazine/ Transport Network.

Cllr. Lappin raised concerns about poor air quality associated with the area around the Port. She also said that Sefton Council was still pressing for a road tunnel to access it.

Rimrose Valley Country Park.

Stu from Save Rimrose Valley Campaign was disappointed that Peel Ports & Highways England were not at the event.

Bill Esterson MP said he was against both a new road down the Rimrose Valley or the alternative Highways England solution of upgrading the A5036/Church Road. He wanted a tunnel but but not a road tunnel, a rail tunnel.

The Church Road & District speaker (my apols I did not catch his name) said his group represented concerned residents from Millers Bridge to Switch Island. He also said his group would be taking Sefton Council to court for its failings. He wants digital air pollution monitoring at all the schools around the A5036 corridor.

Craig the FofTE speaker said a Health Assessment for the proposed new road down the Rimrose Valley needs to be made. He also called for Highways England to be scrapped in favour of sustainable transport solutions. He was clearly incredulous that the Port had been expanded and then the transport links to it were being considered.

Other comments – Why was Steve Rotherham the Metro Mayor not at the event? – The response from some was that he was simply a figurehead but with little power. FofTE called on Rotherham to come out clearly against the 2 road schemes for accessing the Port.

Why did Sefton Council not apply for government money (in 2018?) to enable it to conduct detailed air monitoring? – This was clearly a big issue between the Church Road & District Group and Sefton Council, indeed it led to the host saying he was glad the two of them were at different ends of the table.

What had Merseytravel been doing as the Transport Committee for the City Region? Had they been assisting Highways England?

Rebecca Hanson (from the audience) called for the only digital monitor in the Port vicinity to be put on-line so that anyone could access it for real time air pollution information. My understanding is that the Sefton Cabinet Member undertook to try to get this done.

Has a detailed assessment been undertaken for the 3rd alternative i.e. a rail tunnel? The MP thought not.

Reference made to early reports and investigations via Sefton Council and the Port Access Group it chaired, going back to 2003, but of course the Climate Crisis had not been the massive issue then that it is now.

A chap from the audience asked about the long talked of HGV parking-up facility for the Port and where this had got to – no one seemed to know the answer to this.

My thoughts on the event –

Why hadn’t Sefton Council sent a councillor along who was a member of the Port Access Steering Group which it had chaired from the outset? Cllr. Lappin said she had not been a member of it.

Why was the Sefton Central MP there when the vast majority of issues are actually within the Bootle Constituency?

What did the event achieve? Well it clearly led to information sharing amongst those who attended it but whether it will have contributed to changing of minds in government or elsewhere is a different matter. I got the impression that all of us at the event were opposed to what Highways England is proposing (either road scheme) so there’s a danger we were talking to ourselves and not really exerting that influence that is so clearly needed on the real decision makers.

If I have anything wrong here please let me know and I will correct. As I said the acoustics were not great.

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………….