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.
Following a High Court hearing in Manchester on October 23, a judgement was issued today (November, 16) dismissing the application. Mr Justice Kerr ruled that he would not order Highways England to re-consult and include the tunnel option for the proposed Port Access route through Rimrose Valley.
Despite the strong case the Council made that Highways England had failed to include the tunnel option in its consultation or in any event failed to include it in a lawful way, the High Court ruled in favour of Highways England.
The Council believes the judgement was lost because the Government and Highways England failed to make adequate financial provision for the full range of options including a tunnel. The judge was clear in his statement that the budget for the scheme was a political decision and not a decision for the courts.
Sefton Council’s decision to apply for a judicial review was agreed to be valid by Mr Justice Kerr.
Cllr Ian Maher, Labour 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 and this is wrong. It is also completely at odds with the Government’s agenda to improve air quality and a slap in the face for local residents who suffer the resulting implications including the loss of a much loved urban green space.
“This ruling is a further blow to us, especially after learning that Highways England has backed a multi-billion-pound tunnel crossing under the River Thames between Essex and Kent. They have agreed to spend billions on a tunnel under the River Thames but ruled out building one in Sefton because it cost too much. It just smacks of double standards and reinforces my belief that we are treated as the poor relation in the North.
“Throughout this process it seems that all Highways England has been concerned about is the cost of the scheme and not one thought has been shown towards the detrimental impact on our communities. 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.”