Rimrose Valley Country Park – Are Sefton Tories backing Highways England plan for new road through it?

Rimrose Valley Country Park map.

Defending Rimrose Valley Country Park from having a new road forced through it is a matter close to the hearts of many local people in Sefton Borough. To me, it’s always been an obvious and firm no on environmental grounds.

And then Keith Page brought my attention (see link below) to this article on the Liverpool Echo website:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/tory-councillor-wants-new-road-15499566

Rimrose in the foreground and its threat in the background

Does this mean that the official policy of Sefton Tories is to back the new road or are the comments of the Formby Conservative Councillor just his own views?

But what about the reason given for wanting the new road! Really, keeping our local country park free from vehicles is a far, far higher priority. Time for Sefton Tories to clarify their stance on this new road project – Are they backing it?

Port of Liverpool – The two road only options on the table

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/port-traffic-route-headache-option-12556835

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

This is a matter which I have been blogging about for a long time now and I still feel angry about it.

A classic cart before the horse situation if ever I saw one. The new Liverpool 2 River Berth catering for massive Post Panamax container ships is planned, constructed and completed before any serious thought is given as to how the increased freight is going to get to and from it. You really could not make this up as a planning absurdity but that’s pretty much what has happened.

Liverpool 2's massive new container cranes

Liverpool 2’s massive new container cranes

The A5036 route that links the Port of Liverpool at Seaforth with the motorway network at Switch Island is presently the only/major corridor for freight moving to and from the Port. It’s congested, at busy times the capacity is insufficient to cope with the traffic wanting to use it and there are already big concerns about air pollution from the diesel powered HGV’s that thunder up and down it. What’s more the A5036 is hemmed in by residential areas along significant parts of it.

As I have said before there are two options on the table from Highways England, either increase the capacity of the A5036 or build a new road right down the middle of Rimrose Valley Country Park! As if either option is credible and the plans seem to pit residents who live around the A5036 against residents who live either side of the Rimrose Valley.

And what has Sefton Council been doing? And where’s on earth is Network Rail? Between the two of them the best you can say is hiding behind the sofa!

Why has making new rail connections with the port seemingly been forgotten? Where’s the community leadership from Sefton Council?

This is indeed a dogs breakfast of a mess and the people left to pick up the pieces (and the air pollution) are the residents living in Netherton, Litherland, Crosby and Seaforth.

The present consultation on a road only solution needs to be brought to an end and only reconsidered when every possible rail freight possibility has been put in place.

Rimrose Valley walk to oppose new road to Seaforth Docks – 11th September

I have posted about the unwelcome proposal for a new road to Seaforth Docks down the Rimrose Valley Country Park many times before so am pleased to help publicise this event.

RV-Main-Path

www.cprelancashire.org.uk/news-private/current-events/item/2368-walk-planned-to-highlight-current-threat-to-green-belt-land

The Lancashire Branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has the story on its web site – see link above

This is a jointly organised walk/protest with Rimrose Valley Friends and it starts from the car park of the Cooksons Bridge Pub in Gorsey Lane, Netherton. But potential participants need to register that they will be attending. Check details on the CPRE web site (link above) on on the Friends web site at:-

www.rimrosevalleyfriends.org/events/greenbeltwalk/

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.

Access to the Port of Liverpool – Now there’s a strange coincidence

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/bootle-mp-set-demand-answers-11205293

What a strange coincidence, the very day (yesterday) that I publish the views of former Sefton Councillor Cliff Mainey on the muddle (that’s putting politely) and trouble over how freight will access the newly expanding Seaforth Dock, Bootle’s MP is raising the same issue in Parliament.

I am glad that Peter Dowd MP is raising the issue (see the link to the Liverpool Echo article, which was written before Peter raised the matter in Westminster Hall, above) but I do wonder how chuffed his Labour colleagues on the Council will be about his intervention.

Is it my imagination or has this been the subject that dare not speak its name on Labour-run Sefton Council or not?

Yes of course Peter is right to focus on the all but nothing approach of Network Rail to the port expansion and yes of course we all want as much freight as possible moved by rail out of the port but why has Sefton Council not been leading this fight?

Of course Government will need to significantly fund any road and/or rail solutions that are brought forward but surely the plans need to have been worked up at a local level. Sefton Council should have been leading this with the City Region Local Economic partnership (LEP) and the City Region Authority itself in collaboration with Highways England and Network Rail. Government is only really going to react to proposals that have been worked up and are properly evidenced. It is this work that should have been going on in detail for the past 3 or 4 years. Why has it not been done?

We should by now know what the viable solutions are and be implementing them but Highways England are just starting consultation, Network Rail seem to be stuck in the sidings and Sefton Council have run for the hills!

So yes Peter, thanks for raising the profile of this issue but dear me how much longer will it take to get everyone pointing in the right direction?

As I have said before the planning of how freight is going to get to and from the expanded docks is a scandal. I will report on what came out of the Westminster Hall debate in due course.

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?