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?

Rimrose Valley – The road down the middle of it – The subject Labour has hoped would go away

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/public-meetings-over-proposed-200m-10842216

Rimrose Valley Country Park - Picture c/o the Liverpool Echo

Rimrose Valley Country Park – Picture c/o the Liverpool Echo

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

I have posted about this many times before. My last posting is available below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/12/23/south-sefton-rimrose-valley-country-park/

This has long been the subject that Labour-led Sefton Council has not wanted to discuss let alone vote upon. Their approach seems to have been one of the odd bit of hand wringing, the odd mutter along the lines of -don’t talk about i – and a hope that the Highways Agency (now Highways England) will cop the blame for it. If that passes for community leadership then I’m a Dutchman.

But with a couple of info-leaflets doing the rounds in recent times from Highways England and now some public events it will be interesting to see Labour councillors hopping from one foot to the other whilst trying not to commit themselves. Or am I being too cynical?

South Sefton – Rimrose Valley Country Park

This linear piece of green space which runs all the way from Thornton to Seaforth is under threat from a plan by Highways England (previously known as the Highways Agency) who want to build a road right down the middle of it to service the 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.

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.

Click on the photo to enlarge it

A petition has been launched to try to save this unique green space from the bulldozers. Please see the link below:-

www.change.org/p/sefton-council-give-rimrose-valley-country-park-local-green-space-special-protection?tk=0vN7DiOjtzPyEa12iliks3igUafK6ihH3Vw6YHWMAUA&utm_source=supporter_signature_milestone_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=supporter_signatures_2500&utm_term=supporter_signature_milestone_email

Of course this relates back to numerous of my previous postings (see link below) associated with the expansion of Seaforth Docks and the lack of planning in that expansion to address how the increased freight traffic will get to and from the docks.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/10/27/access-to-the-port-of-liverpool-looks-like-those-in-power-but-not-the-council-are-finally-talking-to-us/

Sefton Council likes keeping its head down about all this but my guess is that they want Highways England to take the flak, so keeping a low profile may well be in their interests? Trouble is we are talking pollution from increasing numbers of trucks accessing the docks and we all know that diesel fums are bad for all of us.

This should be an issue that Sefton Council is leading not one they are seemingly ducking!

The website of Rimrose Valley Friends is accessible via this link:-

www.rimrosevalleyfriends.org/

The photo above is also amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

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:-

11960201_961815140544892_8270652737917260902_n

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?

Seaforth – Peel’s new river berth construction moves forward BUT…..

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/business/watch-construction-work-300m-liverpool2-9482897

The present Seaforth Docks and hinterland

The present Seaforth Docks and hinterland

The Liverpool Echo has the story of the construction – see link above.

BUT, what is happening with regard to how goods are going to get to and from the port when the new river berth has been constructed and is in use? The Echo article makes reference to transhipment down the Manchester Ship Canal but that is not where all the addition freight is going to go.

Sefton Council, The Highways Agency, Network Rail and Liverpool City Council have been ‘looking into this’ for years yet we know precious little about the proposed solutions that are actually going to be proposed. Yes there’s been a lot of talk and speculation but real hard facts on which residents living near to the port and along the A5036 corridor to Switch Island can be fully consulted upon is hard to find indeed.

Is the old Aintree – Bootle freight railway line, which has been mothballed for years, going to be opened up again?

Do the Council really want to drive a new road down the Rimrose Valley Country Park?

What are the noise and air pollution consequences going to be of hundreds of additional diesel powered lorries thundering through Seaforth, Litherland and Netherton?

Is it not about time all this was debated in the open so that we all know what’s going on?

Air Quality Impact of Port Expansion – Seaforth, Liverpool

In response to concerns expressed by a number of environmental campaigners Sefton Council has recently produced a briefing note on this matter. You can read it below and my comments at the end.

Seaforth Docks and hinterland

Seaforth Docks and hinterland

This photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

*****

The Council is currently undertaking an exercise to review the air quality impacts of port expansion and this will examine the impact of different modes of transporting cargo. This process involves modelling the air quality impacts of the increases in vehicle, train and ship movements associated with port expansion using an air pollution dispersion model supported by increased monitoring in the study area. The modelling will be undertaken by Council Officers although independent consultants have been appointed to advise on the modelling process and critically appraise the outcomes. Officers are also working closely with the consultants appointed by the Highways Agency, to advise on the options for improving access to the port, to examine the air quality implications of each option.

The statutory Local Air Quality Management, Review and Assessment process, which involves 3 yearly Updating and Screening Assessments and annual Progress Reports will continue and this will entail an ongoing review of levels of key pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide, in line with Defra guidance.

With respect to ports, a Detailed Assessment for sulphur dioxide is only required for shipping using fuel with a sulphur content of greater than 1% and where there is residential exposure within 250m for ports with 5,000 – 15,000 ship movements per year or1km where there are more than 15,000 ship movements annually. The Harbour Master has confirmed that all vessels approaching the Port must not use marine fuel which has a sulphur content exceeding 0.10 %. There are no residential properties with 250m of the dock. When last reviewed the number of ship movements within the Sefton area of the port was below 15,000. The impact, and number, of ship movements is the subject of ongoing review under the Local Air Quality Management process, mentioned above, and will be modelled as part of the review of the impacts of port expansion. The impact of emissions from post Panamax vessels will be specifically considered.

The Council will be commissioning a health impact assessment of the port expansion that will incorporate the findings of the air quality study once complete. This will examine the impact on health of the port expansion as a whole including the increase in all types of cargo movements. Any significant health impact concerns arising from the assessment will then be considered for an appropriate approach to their mitigation.

The most significant source of air pollution locally is from road vehicle transport and the appropriate local measures to address sustainable transport and air pollution are delivered under the Liverpool City Region Local Transport Plan. The fourth Local Transport Plan is due to be published in April 2015 and the arrangements for stakeholder and public consultation have not been finalised yet. Those with concerns about transport related air pollution should take the opportunity to influence the development of this plan as it will determine how the available resources for sustainable transport are to be used for the next decade.

Port expansion and associated transport access is one of the stated strategic priorities of the Liverpool City Region Cabinet and Local Enterprise Partnership.

*****

My view is that this is a huge environmental/health issue for the Bootle part of Sefton and along the transport corridors that carry goods to and from the docks at Seaforth. Getting the transportation links right is crucial but I fear there is too much going on behind the scenes about this. Little of any detail is available to the public and when I asked for such detail I was referred to a bland report produced in March this year which told me very little that I did not already know.