Possible Whitehall rethink on £250m port road?

Campaigners opposed to £250m access road close to the Port of Liverpool say hint of a compromise is offered in Parliament. Tony McDonough reports

Port Road
The Highways Agency says a new road close to the Port of Liverpool is essential


Pressure group Save Rimrose Valley claims comments from a Government minister offer hope that a compromise is possible on a £250m new road project.

In a Parliamentary debate on the road, which is located close to the Port of Liverpool, transport minister Karl McCartney hinted at a possible compromise. However, since the debate on September 7, Mr McCartney has lost his Government post.

In April National Highways told LBN it was still “fully committed” to the three-and-a-half mile dual carriageway. The scheme was first proposed in 2017 and has met with strong local opposition.

It is designed to alleviate congestion on Dunningsbridge Road. But the plan would see Rimrose Valley Country Park cut in half by the proposed A5036 Princess Way. A pressure group – Save Rimrose Valley – was formed in 2017 to fight the proposals.

Campaigners saw the debate in the Commons as a “significant milestone” in their battle. Called by Bootle Labour MP, Peter Dowd, the debate was supported by adjoining constituency Labour MP for Sefton Central, Bill Esterson.

Mr Dowd questioned the budget and ambition of the road project. He called for “multi-modal, sustainable solutions” to be put forward in its place.

His views were echoed by Mike Kane, Shadow Transport Minister for Aviation, Maritime and Security. While welcoming investment in the region, he said that this could not come at any cost.

He said: “We must look at alternatives to this scheme… listening to councillors, MPs, the Metro Mayor and local residents. We need a Government that’s committed to an integrated and innovative transport strategy.”

Mr McCartney, who was born in Birkenhead, responded on behalf of the Government. He defended the scheme citing the importance of the Port of Liverpool for economic growth. However, he added National Highways has a duty to mitigate the road’s impact.

“National Highways is helping the city region to develop (its) Local Transport plan and the Department is awaiting the outcome with interest. The project team is interested in developing opportunities to promote a more sustainable transport solution, potentially in partnership with the Liverpool freeport team and Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram.”

A number of campaigners from Save Rimrose Valley made the trip to London to witness the debate. One of them, Stuart Bennett, said: “We have been trying for some time to secure a debate on this topic at Westminster.

“We are grateful to Peter Dowd for making this happen and to Bill Esterson for his support. The reason this is so important is that, ultimately, this is where the fate of Rimrose Valley, the surrounding communities and this road proposal will be decided.

“We note that since the debate, Karl McCartney MP no longer holds his ministerial position. However, we will be following up on his comments directly with our Metro Mayor, MPs and councillors to better understand the discussions that have been taking place.

“It is vital that there is continuity and that any progress made and assurances given by previous ministers are acted upon by their successors.”

Sefton Council is also against the project. And in June Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram urged National Highways to rethink their plans. He said: “Based on what my colleagues are telling me in relation to this role proposal, true community engagement simply hasn’t taken place.”

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