Frustration as Grayling reaffirms road through Rimrose as his preferred choice 

Friends of the Earth condemns a government response to call to immediately halt plans to build a road through the heart of Rimrose Valley Country Park in Sefton.
  Published:  14 May 2019    |      3 minute read

Local campaigners and leading environmental organisation Friends of the Earth have condemned a government response to their call to immediately halt plans to build a road through the heart of Rimrose Valley Country Park in Sefton.

Friends of the Earth Chief Executive, Craig Bennett, wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport last month calling on him to protect Rimrose Valley Country Park and urgently explore sustainable alternatives amid plans to build a road through it as part of the A5036 Port of Liverpool Access Scheme.

In his letter to the Secretary of State, Bennett highlighted the complete failure to think about the infrastructure required to support increased HGV traffic from the Port of Liverpool before it was expanded. He accused Department for Transport of instructing Highways England to deliver a road-based solution without first looking at the issue more holistically and considering more sustainable options - such as shifting freight from road to rail - which would go a long way towards alleviating the terrible conditions suffered by those along the existing route.

In his reply, Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, acknowledged that ‘Local communities and users of the existing A5036 are already affected by congestion, severance, accidents and noise nuisance’ but insisted ‘This will only get worse if road capacity is not increased.’

But campaigner Stuart Bennett, speaking on behalf of Save Rimrose Valley said:

‘Conditions alongside the existing route are horrendous. This begs the question; why was widening sections of this route even considered and put forward in the public consultation?  It was never a valid option - either for capacity, or for the health and wellbeing of residents. Highways England were never going to go for this one, so it was a false 'choice'.’

‘Sadly, the contents of the Transport Secretary's reply bears all the hallmarks of Highways England's PR department. We've heard it all before. We sincerely hope he has familiarised himself with the project, its huge public health and environmental impacts and has an appreciation of how unpopular this road is.’

Grayling claimed that ‘Improvements on the A5036 corridor form part of a multi-modal approach to improving access to the Port of Liverpool. This includes double-tracking the line and […] potentially doubl[ing] the number of freight trains able to serve the port.’ But Stuart Bennett said ‘This is a drop in the ocean. Rail freight is a tiny part of how the Port moves goods from A to B today. The vast majority is by HGV. Doubling an already tiny amount is paying lip service to a multi-modal approach. Rail needs to be properly expanded, taking goods out of residential areas and avoiding the need for highly polluting and damaging HGVs on our communities' roads.’

Grayling said Highways England ‘will endeavour to ensure that any development within Rimrose Valley and surrounding area is kept to a minimum, and will work closely with local stakeholders to mitigate the environmental impact of the proposed bypass.’

Reacting to Grayling’s reply, Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett said:

‘Building new roads when time to avoid climate breakdown is running out is the latest in a long line of blunders from “failing Grayling”. These plans need a radical rethink. Ploughing ahead with the next stage of the planning process, which includes a statutory consultation, and offers such an unthinkable option to local residents is irresponsible.

‘Let’s be clear; a bypass through Rimrose would destroy the park, taking away a vital green space, irreparably damaging local wildlife and undermining the health and wellbeing of the community. No amount of mitigation or commitments to enhance the area will make up for that.

‘At a time when we need to be slashing climate-wrecking emissions, the government should pursue policy that reduces road dependency, not encourages it.’

Notes to editors:

  1. Highways England will also need to submit an application for Development Consent under the nationally significant infrastructure projects regime