Campaigners say there is “no more hiding” over plans for a controversial road which could plough through a much loved park in Sefton.
The comments were made by the Save Rimrose Valley campaign group in a post on its website where a letter was shared from the Department for Transport to Sefton Council.
Plans to create an access road between the port and motorway which would cut right through Rimrose Valley Country park has attracted considerable controversy, including from local councillors and residents with a campaign group, Save the Rimrose Valley, having spent years fighting the plans.
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In a letter from roads minister Baroness Vere dated July 20 and sent to two Sefton councillors, she said: “I would not disagree that the Port of Liverpool and its expansion is the main driver of congestion and for the A5036 Princess Way scheme and this has been made quite clear in material produced by National Highways.”
Save the Rimrose Valley Campaign coordinator Stuart Bennett said: “It’s a last bit of green space here, nobody wants it.
“This is the first time they’ve said it so explicitly that the road is to do with the port, and to come from the roads minister no less.”
Peel Ports, which runs the Port of Liverpool at Seaforth Docks, has been claiming for years there is little or no link between the port’s expansion and the impetus for the road being built,
Stating that the port accounts for a small portion of all traffic along the existing congested route, Peel’s chief executive Mark Whitworth last September called campaigners “misleading” for claiming the port was the major driving force.
In a letter to campaigners at the time Mr Whitworth said: “It is not and never has been a Peel Ports project” claiming that the scheme was “assessed, conceived and taken forward” by National Highways with no links to Peel.
The Save Rimrose Valley Group said last year the letter was an “insult to the intelligence of local people” and an “attempt to deflect attention away from their major stake in the project.”
A series of correspondence between Peel and National Highways released in 2019 through FOI also appeared to show Peel had played a significant role behind the scenes in supporting the project, according to campaigners.
At the time Peel said they were “just one of many organisations” consulted about the project and denied they were the driving force.
Following the latest admission from the Department for Transport the group said in a statement on its website there was “no longer a hiding place” for Peel and National Highways.
The statement reads: “It means that this point is no longer in question and there’s no longer any hiding place for Peel Ports, National Highways or indeed anyone else who pretends that this road proposal isn’t primarily driven by the port’s growth.”
Responding, a spokesperson for Peel told the ECHO it would be “unusual” if the Port of Liverpool didn’t have an opinion on the scheme, which they “fully support.”
The spokesperson said: “As a major local employer and economic driver for the region, responsible for approx. 16% of the current traffic volumes on the road, it would be unusual if we didn’t have a view on such an important infrastructure investment in Sefton.
“We fully support this project, given it will deliver significant environmental, congestion and economic benefits to the local community, North Liverpool and beyond.”
A spokesperson for National highways said the existing road between the port and motorway network “acts a brake on the economic ambitions of the city region” and a anew road would be an important strategic investment for the area.
The spokesperson said: “Our scheme is an important investment in the strategic road network and economy of the city region and wider North West as part of a multi modal approach to meeting rising demand on the area’s transport infrastructure.
“The existing route between the Port of Liverpool and the motorway network is heavily congested with issues including noise and pollution for local residents who live right next to the road, and unreliable journeys for businesses, commuters and other road users which acts as a brake on the economic ambitions of the city region.”
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