Seaforth – How not to blow up a block of flats!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/seaforth-residents-life-hold-after-11256192

The Liverpool Echo has the latest on this rather bizarre story. Bring back Blaster Bates or Fred Dibnah?

Must be a right old carry on for the poor Seaforth residents who have had their lives disrupted.

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By the way there’s another block by Bootle Strand Railway Station that is due to meet a similar fate (see photo above – it’s the unrefurbished one of course), but not too similar we all must hope?

So what are the social & environmental impacts of expanding Seaforth Docks & why have they been all but ignored – A chat with former Sefton Councillor Cliff Mainey

This is my follow up posting to my recent missive on this subject which is accessible via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/04/16/peel-ports-new-container-terminal-at-seaforth-champion-puff-piece-ignores-the-transportation-scandal/

Cliff Mainey is a mild mannered man who sat on Sefton Council for quite a number of years through the 1990’s and up to 2012. He represented Maghull’s Sudell Ward so his interest in the consequences of the expansion of the Port of Liverpool at Seaforth may be a surprise to some who do not know him well. But Cliff hails from Litherland so knows his onions you might say. Here’s a bit of social history from Cliff to start off this lengthy but I hope interesting posting:-

I was born and raised in post war Litherland, I lived there until I was 22. Church Rd for a large part of that time was a normal two lane highway, that is one lane in either direction, changing to a dual carriageway at Kirkstone Rd. Church Rd in those days had wide grass verges lined with low hawthorn bushes on either side, a real village feel to the area.

The Litherland I recall was a close community with free movement across the ‘main road’ i.e. Church Rd. Schools, shops, churches, youth clubs; I was in English Martyrs youth club, drawing on both sides of Litherland for support and existence.

Then in the sixties all that changed never to recover. The ‘new road’ was built and Royal Seaforth Docks were developed. Jobs, jobs and even more jobs, the port was keeping pace with the world. The new road was essential. The rest is confined to the dust bin of lack of foresight.

Church Road was made into a dual carriageway from Kirkstone Road to the docks. Although the ‘planners’ did their best to reassured the people of Litherland at public meetings with subways under and bridges over the road and double/secondary glazing for those who lived on the road. I lived at 225 Church Rd. Litherland was devastated.

Shops on Church Rd, Sefton St and Kirkstone Rd lost half their customers. Even the bank closed. Children changed schools because of the road. Church Parrish communities changed. People hated the subway (not the posh butty shop) it was long, cold and wet and pretty soon problems with antisocial behaviour started, ( although?).

So, having had first hand experience of planning for the economy at the expense of the community, I asked in my time as a Sefton Councillor, that WIDER PLANNING ISSUES BE PART OF PLANNING PROCESS, to no avail. I was told these were unclear and need not form part of the planning permission/consent for the docks. As I seem to remember planning consent was deemed to have been given at the highest level of government, (the then Labour government if I recall correctly) as per Fracking and Sefton Council was just dealing with/granting local planning permission.

Former Lib Dem Cllr. Cliff Mainey who felt gagged when he raised issues on Sefton Council about access to and the environmental impacts associated with the Port of Liverpool.

Former Lib Dem Cllr. Cliff Mainey who felt gagged when he raised issues on Sefton Council about access to and the environmental impacts associated with the Port of Liverpool.

Of course I knew Cliff had asked awkward questions about the port expansion during his time on Sefton Council and indeed I have made reference to his concerns in previous postings on this subject. But I decided that I wanted to hear what Cliff thought now having had time to reflect on his efforts to drag such matters out of the political long grass when others seemed more than happy for them to stay there or even kick them further in to it.

Cliff is a environmentalist, a former Merseyside Fireman and he is well up on horticultural issues too. His efforts to question the impacts and consequences of the port expansion effectively cover two aspects, the environmental/social impacts and the transport impacts.

Cliff questioned the consequences of the dredging of the Mersey and its estuary as he wanted to know how such dredging, which has of course gone on in many forms for generations, will impact on our coast for future generations. More dredging was of course done and will continue to be done to facilitate the River Berth that will be accepting truly massive container ships later this year. The answers he got within Sefton Council were hardly helpful as they were usually along the lines of ‘that’s not a Council responsibility’ or ‘another agency controls that aspect of the project’ etc. The more he tried to get the planning issues looked at holistically, taking into account all the potential impacts, the more he ran into brick walls.

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

Now some of those brick walls were obviously political as Bootle Labour Party were probably more willing to vote with the Tories (and you know they did that quite often) rather than expose this issue to detailed public scrutiny. Some of the barriers were also created by bureaucracy as it is indeed the case that the Environmental Agency, Council and other bodies did and still do control differing aspects of such huge projects. But of course it begs the question about why these separate organisations seem to work in their own silos only dealing with each other when they have little or no choice. Highways England doing their own consultation on the proposed road down the Rimrose Valley with seemingly no involvement from Sefton Council or Network Rail in recent weeks illustrates this silo mentality only and sadly too well.

Other environmental issues that Cliff was and indeed still is concerned about fit with my own oft expressed concerns on this blog site. The proposed new road down Rimrose Valley Country Park, widening of the A5036 (Dunnings Bridge Road), air pollution from HGV’s accessing the port in ever larger numbers when there are pollution levels of concern right now etc. I could go on but you get my drift.

But Cliff also sees the social consequences of this project as his historical comments above demonstrate. Yes, port expansion may well create more jobs if the port is successful in bringing in more business but how are the social impacts going to be mitigated for those living near the port or along the A5036 corridor that serves it? In reality the environmental and social impacts are very much mingled into one knotty problem like a ball of wool with many strands bound together. When you pull one strand you have no idea how long it will be and what it will pull out with it. And of course Cliff has told us how promised port expansion mitigations of previous generations ended up dividing Litherland.

I think it fair to say that Cliff shares my transportation access concerns and like me he can’t understand why having allowed the port to build its new River Berth the freight access issues are only now being looked at in any detail. It’s as though the project has been done back to front, as in a reasonable world surely the access issues would have been resolved before construction work on the dock took place.

After my interviewing Cliff I can only conclude that he confirmed all my worst fears about this huge project and the conspiracy of silence that has blanked out or stopped the social, environmental and transportation issues being looked at holistically and in a timely manner. It really is the scandal of our age locally here in Sefton Borough.

My thanks to Cliff Mainey for his frank and illuminating comments on this murky issue.

Peel Ports new container terminal at Seaforth – Champion article ignores the transportation scandal

Buried away on page 18 of last week’s Champion newspaper was an article all about a visit by a little known government Shipping Minister (Robert Goodwill) to Seaforth Docks and the Port of Liverpool.

Red and blue cranes at Seaforth Docks

The article was in connection with his visit and how the expansion of the docks is we are told attracting new businesses to the area. All well and good except for the fact that this project has seemingly been put together without much in the way of credible transport planning, by responsible public authorities, to get the extra projected traffic that the expanded docks may generate to and from Seaforth.

I am not really pointing a finger a Peel here because if the transport infrastructure challenge is not successfully resolved they will be one of the victims of what to me has been an appalling planning processes.

I have commented on this many times before and yet the transport issues are only now being addressed (Highways England have just started public consultations) whilst the Champion tells us the port’s enhanced facilities are opening later this year. Just think how long it will take to put the controversial transport infrastructure solutions in place!

So yes dear Minister tell us what a great thing the expanded port may well be but what’s the point of saying all this when the planning for the the movement of freight to the from the port has in no way been progressed at anything like the pace it should have been to match the building work at the container terminal. I fear the press has just been used to shower us with the good news in the hope we will not worry too much about those transportation issues.

And they are utterly immense! A new road down the Rimrose Valley and Country Park, widening of the A5036, but probably very little extra freight by train as transport planners can’t really be bothered about that method.

The fact is that Seaforth Docks are hemmed in by residential housing to the east and north so whatever road transportation solutions are eventually proposed they are bound to have negative effects on residents living in Netherton, Seaforth, Litherland etc.

The fact that this has all been left to the very end of the project and effectively to chance is of no credit what so ever to Sefton Council, Highways England and Network Rail.

This may be a good news story but it has got a huge amount of grief attached to it that the powers that be have all but ignored. If this is an example of integrated planning for a project of regional significance I’m a Dutchman as they say.

Cliff Mainey

Cliff Mainey

I recently chatted about this with my old friend and former Sefton Councillor/Borough Mayor Cliff Mainey and another posting will follow. Cliff tried to burrow into the impacts of the port expansion and to put it bluntly he was blocked at every turn. Read on when I publish Cliff’s take on all this……

‘Ground survey set to assess potential for Rimrose Valley road’

This was the headline in the Champion newspaper on 19th August and a sobering one it is too.

How many times have I commented on the complete lack of foresight and preparation for the soon to be completed river berth at Seaforth Docks? I lose count I really do but to consider churning up a Country Park for a relief road beggars belief. My last posting is here:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/08/04/lancashire-life-magazine-expansion-at-seaforth-dock/

Yes I know the Highways Agency (now Highways England) has been considering this option for years now, so long indeed that no one can quite recall when they first thought of it!

Frankly this carry on is probably the biggest local scandal to afflict the south of Sefton Borough. With the river berth about to be opened later this year virtually nothing has been done (except for the recent works to the big roundabout in Seaforth) to address the increased HGV traffic and the air pollution it brings with it.

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 with work going on to construct the river berth for Post-Panamax ships.

Click on the photo to enlarge it

It’s as though no one has realised or wanted to realise that building the river berth for much larger ships will have significant environmental consequences for Seaforth, Waterloo, Bootle, Netherton etc. Only in the UK could we get ourselves into such a muddle of wishing an end result (bigger ships, better port facilities, more trade etc.) without at the same time planning for the movement of freight from the docks to the Motorway network and onto the rail network. Yet here we are in that muddle and one of the ‘solutions’, possibly the only one we presently know of, is to build a new road right through a County Park in a densely populated area.

Where are the improved rail facilities up to? Who if anyone is planning for them? Do Network Rail have a project in their sights to use the rail freight facility in its present guise to its greatest potential? Is the mothballed Aintree – Bootle line going to be brought back into use to help expand the rail freight capacity? Is the Seaforth dock railway link to be electrified so to relieve the communities living near to the rail line from diesel pollution?

So many questions but only a new road through a Country Park on the agenda or so it seems!

The photo above is also amongst on by Flickr page at:-

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

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?