City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram calls for rethink on proposed £250m Port of Liverpool road access scheme. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham is calling on the Government to reconsider plans for the proposed £250m Port of Liverpool access road.
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.
Sefton Council is also against the project. Now Mr Rotheram has weighed in with a letter addressed to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps.
In the letter, Mr Rotheram says the money allocated to the scheme should be reallocated to “sustainable solutions”. These include, he added, more investment into rail freight to support the growth of the port.
Mr Rotheram acknowledges the importance of connectivity for the port, particularly in the context of the new city region Freeport. However, he insists this growth must “align not only with our net zero ambitions but also with our plans for inclusive economic growth”.
He writes: “The elected representatives for the area believe they are best placed to understand the unique issues associated with a port operating amongst and alongside residential communities. And the negative impacts of HGV traffic accessing the Port of Liverpool.
“They are on record as stating that they do not believe another road is the answer and are of the opinion that their views are not being fully considered… Based on what my colleagues are telling me in relation to this role proposal, true community engagement simply hasn’t taken place.”
Road construction does not come under the remit of Mr Rotherham and the Combined Authority. However, he said he strongly supports Sefton Council’s “right to ensure alternative sustainable solutions” are considered.
In April National Highways told LBN: “We remain fully committed to progressing the scheme. We are currently working with the DfT to update the project schedule and to decide how best to take the scheme forward.
“Our scheme will support economic growth and employment in Liverpool city region, at the same time as reducing congestion, improving safety and reconnecting local communities.”
In August last year hundreds of people came out for a public demonstration against the road plans organised by the Save Rimrose Valley campaign. Bootle Labour MP Peter Dowd joined the demonstration along with representatives from the countryside charity CPRE, Friends of the Earth and Asthma UK.
That protest was specifically targeted at the Port of Liverpool. However, the chief executive and now chairman of port owner Peel Ports, Mark Whitworth, said the company was being unfairly targeted over a scheme that was not of their making.
Mr Whitworth added: “The relief route proposal is a project which has been assessed, conceived and taken forward by the National Highways agency. It is not and never has been, a Peel Ports project.”
Sefton Council, although supportive of more transport infrastructure for the port, has long been hostile to the proposed dual carriageway. In 2018 it failed in its attempt to have the public consultation reopened via a judicial review.
In November last year the campaigners put forward an alternative plan – an underground pipeline that could transport containers between the port and an inland hub next to the motorway network, meaning HGVs would not have to go to the port itself.
On Monday, Stuart Bennet of Save Rimrose Valley, said: “We welcome this important intervention from Steve Rotheram. We now have our council, our MPs and our Metro Mayor all saying that sustainable solutions to port access must be prioritised.
“The Department for Transport and National Highways can’t keep burying their heads in the sand and hoping that this issue will go away. It won’t. Opposition to these plans continues to grow by the day.
“We sincerely hope that Grant Shapps takes up Steve Rotheram’s offer. It’s high time that levelling up and building back better become more than just soundbites to those of us living in Merseyside.”