By Jose Ruiz
Highways England announced plans in 2017 to build a dual carriageway through Rimrose Valley country park down to the Port of Liverpool. When an alternative route was not presented, Sefton Council took action and in October 2018, a case was taken to Manchester’s High Court. The decision went in favor of Highways England.
The last time Rimrose Valley country park made it into the local news, was when Sefton Council took Highways England to court late last year, stating they need to consider other routes that won’t damage the environment and get rid of needed green space. The application was dismissed.
Campaigning against the dual carriageway has grown stronger than ever, with Save Rimrose Valley campaign group supporting Sefton Council in it’s court appeal. On February 12th 2019, members from the campaign group secured a meeting in Westminster with MP Rachel Maskell, a member of the shadow transport team. They were accompanied by Bootle MP Peter Dowd. In the meeting they expressed their concerns, providing a detailed map of all the schools nearby that would be affected by the pollution from the road, and a red line outlining Highways England preferred route for the dual carriageway.
Mersey Mash spoke to Stuart Bennett from the campaign group, to get an update on what has been happening since the court case, and what they hope will happen in the future.
Why do you think the Councils case was dismissed?
“It was quite a narrow argument and the judge believed that Highways England weren’t obliged to present a tunnel option tot he public but the good part about the legal action taken was that it caused a lot of delay to the project. We think Highways England are a year behind schedule.”
Asking Stuart if he thought the meeting in Westminster was promising, he replied: “It was extremely promising, Rachel Maskell is a senior Labour politician and is very sympathetic to our cause. She is interested in sustainable transport policies and she sees road building as a last result.
“The reading in between the lines is that if Labour were in power, projects like this one would not have been approved. They would be looking to explore things like rail, better public transport to take cars off the road and increase capacity on the existing roads, rather than building more damaging ones. We are waiting to see what she’s able to do but we’ve asked for Labour support at a national level to help us highlight our campaign and oppose the scheme.”
Save Rimrose valley oppose this scheme, so what do you think is a better option?
“A better option would be increase rail so get all the freight that’s arriving from these big ships off and onto a fully funded expanded rail network, we should also be exploring other ways of getting freight around like the Manchester ship canal. The point is nobody is looking at intelligent solutions all Highways England know is we build roads. The Government need to stop them and employ someone to look at this from a holistic perspective and come back with a design that is sympathetic to the environment protects public health and doesn’t pollute our children which is essentially what their road will do.”
The image below shows how many places could be affected, such as schools, children centres and cycle routes that are based around Rimrose Valley.
“If the road goes ahead all the children that walk or cycle to school will have to go through a fly over or footbridge inhaling HGV fumes. Scientific evidence states that this causes lung damage, asthma and bronchitis, its horrendous.” – Stuart Bennett, Save Rimrose Valley
Dangers of fumes
In an article posted on trucknews.com, Karen Bowen, who is a professional health and nutrition consultant, states what the dangers of inhaling fumes can do to you: “Short-term exposure to diesel fumes, can temporarily irritate your eyes, skin or respiratory tract and/or cause dizziness, headache or nausea. However, longer-term exposure may lead to more serious health concerns, such as lung cancer, kidney damage, and increased risk of heart attack.”
In recent weeks, students around the UK and the world went on strike in a climate change protest, this determines there is a clear desire from the younger generations to better our environment for the future.
Why do you think the government would give the go ahead to schemes such as the dual carriageway?
“I can’t understand it. Perhaps its incompetence, laziness and no desire to change, take your pick really. Children understand that air pollution and green space are important issues, but these well paid people from Highways England just ignore them. They don’t seem to be able to grasp the fact that roads damage peoples health and destroy the environment They should take an example from children.” – Stuart Bennett, Save Rimrose Valley
Earlier this year, the UK government announced it’s ‘clean air’ strategy, which states that it “sets out our plans for dealing with all sources of air pollution, making our air healthier to breathe, protecting nature and boosting the economy.”
Save Rimrose Valley campaign group do have sympathy for Highways England, in the sense that they have been asked to build the road – but believes the people in charge of the organisation should tell the government just how damaging this scheme could be to public health and the environment and other possibilities need to be considered.
Commenting on the subject, Highways England have previously stated “after analysing the options of improving the existing road or building a tunnel, the study concluded that the cost would significantly outweigh the benefits.”
Stuart continues to state that campaigning will be a long process, but the group is prepared to see it out till the end. “We are in it for the long haul, as long as it takes we will be around. In the best case scenario, someone, somewhere will see the light and realise that they have made a big mistake, but if not it looks like we have minimum a couple of years of fighting ahead.”
Are you confident your campaign group can change the decision made?
“We would not be bothering with this if we didn’t think we could stop this. Our goal is to be the first campaign group to stop a national road building project, and I think we have a good chance.”
Save Rimrose Valley plan to continue to amount pressure on the transport department to reconsider the scheme again as well as connecting with national politicians, Mr Bennett said: “that’s the short term goal. In the mean time we will continue to host events and demonstrations encouraging people to reject the project and support our group.”
What both Save Rimrose Valley and Highways England do agree on is urging the public to attend the statutory consultation that Highways England are hosting, to voice their opinion and have their say on the dual carriageway. The date is yet to be confirmed.
Who knows what could happen with the fate of Rimrose Valley country park, for now, the dual carriageway is planned to go ahead, but Save Rimrose Valley will not back down without a fight.