Sefton Council has lost its legal fight to order Highways England to re-consult on proposals to ease traffic on the A5036 Dunnings Bridge Road by building a dual carriageway through Rimrose Valley country park.
Dunnings Bridge Road is the main route from the motorway network through South Sefton to the Port of Liverpool, and its congestion has long been a point of contention. But when consulting on its port access project, HE only considered two options, the £250m Rimrose route and a revamped Dunnings Bridge Road.
Following a High Court hearing in Manchester on October 23, a judgement has been issued dismissing the application, with Mr Justice Kerr ruling that he would not order Highways England to re-open consultation.
Opposition was first mounted when the Rimrose scheme emerged as a contender in 2015, with thousands signing a petition against, but in August 2017, Highways England decided after consultation that Rimrose would be pursued as its preferred option.
A scoping document was released in January this year detailing the scheme, on which Arcadis is HE’s primary advisor, with responsibilities including design, EIA, traffic modelling and stakeholder engagement.
The route is three miles long, and is a bypass through the Rimrose Valley area linking the Princess Way section of the A5036 to the south and Broom’s Cross Road to the north, including new junctions, bridges and footbridges.
It also includes an upgrade to dual carriageway on Broom’s Cross Road between the new bypass and the Switch Island Interchange, and de-trunking of the existing A5036 between the Switch Island Interchange and the Princess Way section of the A5036. The scheme is intended to take freight away from residential areas on the congested A5036.
Sefton had been granted an application for judicial review in February this year, but the High Court has now ruled in favour of Highways England.
Sefton believe that the crux of the matter rests in Government and Highways England failing to make adequate financial provision for the full range of options to be explored, including a tunnel. The judge agreed that the judicial review in itself was a valid challenge, but said that the budget for the scheme was a political decision, rather than a decision for the courts
Cllr Ian Maher, leader of Sefton Council, said: “I’m really disappointed by this decision and I will be seeking legal advice to see if there’s anything else we can do as I firmly believe that the tunnel option is the only option which could balance the need for improved access to the port with the needs of the local community.
“Their failure to include the tunnel as an option in the consultation process has deprived our residents of the opportunity to express a view. It is also completely at odds with the Government’s agenda to improve air quality, and is a slap in the face for local residents who suffer the resulting implications including the loss of a much loved urban green space.”
In a familiar refrain, Government spending in the South East was cited by Maher, who described the investment in a Thames tunnel between Essex and Kent and “smacking of double standards”. That scheme, it should be noted, is proposed as a toll route linking the M2 and M25, potentially being a 14.5m road with a 2.5m tunnel section.
Maher concluded: “In his judgement Mr Justice Kerr said the scheme and allocated finances was ultimately a political decision, so I call on the Government to now show some steel and really reconsider this, make the money available as they have done in the South and start to put the health and wellbeing of our communities first.”