How Sefton’s biggest dual carriageway became a ‘sacrifice zone’
They don’t have a catchy protest anthem or MPs fighting their corner — but the residents of Church Road need help, too
Dear readers — what do you do when you’re both in the right in a dispute? It’s a question Jack’s been asking himself, working on today’s story. When it comes to plans to build a road through Rimrose Valley, you’ll have heard a lot from one side — the Save Rimrose Valley campaigners, who are creative and energetic when it comes to protesting, and have a lot of public support. You’ll have heard rather less from the residents of Church Road, who could be facing serious health issues as a result of the route to the dock’s current position. Jack digs in: what, if anything, can be done?
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St Helens Council has fallen victim to a suspected cyber attack, which was discovered on Monday. The attack, which is being treated as a “suspected Ransomware incident”, is now the subject of an investigation by the council, with security measures in place to ensure IT systems continue to run safely. Whilst residents can access some services through the council website, they have been warned to remain vigilant as cyber security specialists work to find the cause of the security breach.
Property developers have launched an appeal after the council deferred planning permission for a number of homes to be built in the Eldonian village. Kersh Worral Commercial submitted plans to build 29 flats and 39 houses to replace the former Elaine Norris centre on Vauxhall Road, but were told the proposal would not be considered until a site visit was undertaken. That was in December last year, and for eight months Kersh Worral have been awaiting approval of the plans — and a visit to the site. They have now challenged the council’s delay, and are seeking damages for “the unacceptable, unnecessary and unreasonably extended timeframe” it took for the council to conduct a site visit. Meanwhile, the council’s planning committee has called the plans “terrible”, adding that the lack of affordable housing included in the proposal sends out “the wrong message to the citizens”. In one of our most-read pieces to date, Jack untangled the complicated web of off-shore developers and disgruntled Eldonians — read that here.
The Ferry operator P&O will axe its Liverpool-Dublin route following the expiration of their current contract in Merseyside. The shipping firm said that extensive negotiations to extend their current lease have been unsuccessful, with the route now set to close later this year. Several unions — including the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) — have spoken out about the closure, with RMT general secretary Mick Lynch urging the government to scrap any remaining contracts with P&O as they "cannot be trusted to operate economically vital ferry services". P&O have not responded to Lynch’s comments.
🎭Enjoy the stage adaptation of Robert Tressel’s classic novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at The Casa Theatre Bar, a thought-provoking tale about unemployment, which feels even more relevant today than it did at the time of publication (1914). Tickets are available here.
🔎Do your kids fancy themselves as budding Sherlock Holmes’? At the Storybarn’s Detective Academy, they’ll get stuck into a series of clues and challenges to help find a missing magical key. The 90-minute mystery is perfect for 4-9 year olds, with tickets for kids and adults available here.
🖌️Get creative with a Graffiti Art class courtesy of Zap Graffiti. The street art company is running a two-hour class between 4:30pm and 6:30pm suitable for both beginners and experienced art lovers. Snap up your tickets here.
💃The Jamaica Street Carnival Party is returning to Liverpool for its third year! The Baltic Triangle will play host to international reggae and dancehall stars, whilst also showcasing some of the finest local acts. Boasting their biggest programme yet, JSCP 2023 will host both indoor and outdoor stages and an outdoor market. Buy tickets in advance here.
By Jack Walton
When you think of the campaign to save Rimrose Valley in Sefton, think of a residents’ campaign on steroids. For more than half a decade, a group has waged war on plans to build a £250-million road through the valley. It’s been a colourful campaign, a battle well fought: 700 or more marchers singing “you can shove your dirty highway”, local MPs lending their support, the council too, representatives of the city’s religions, plenty of local and national press coverage. One intrepid local campaigner even married a tree in protest. Surely, Kate Cunningham must have thought, Highways England wouldn’t bulldoze my new groom? If you walk through any of the communities neighbouring Rimrose, stickers registering love and support for the 3.5km country park adorn almost every window.
But just a short walk away, another community is suffering — and very little noise is being made about it. While Rimrose Valley is flush with press attention, much less concern has been shown for the residents of Church Road, an approximately two mile-long stretch of dual carriageway, and the neighbouring area. They are the silent losers of the Rimrose Valley war. If Church Road (the massive dual carriageway which currently serves as the main access road through Sefton to the docks) remains the main route, locals say their health will suffer.
Back in April, we touched upon the Rimrose Valley question when we took a deep dive into Sefton’s ongoing issues with polluted air. With the new road, locals told us, a bad situation would become a disaster. The latest news is that the scheme for a new road through the valley has been kicked into the long grass: there will be no development until 2025 at the latest. Its future as the new main access route to Peel’s ports is thus on ice. By the time things get going again, if the current polling is accurate, a Labour government could be in power. Given that the SAVE campaign has near-unanimous support among local Labour politicians, you’d think they might be on the final straight.
But not everyone in Sefton is reaching for the champagne. All along Church Road, residents are frustrated. “The British people are the most apathetic people you’ll come across,” Chris Doyle tells me. She lives just off the road, and while she ostensibly supports the Rimrose Valley campaign, she’s demoralised by the difference in support for the two movements. While hundreds rally for Rimrose Valley, the Church Road community group has struggled to get the numbers. “If it’s not happening on their front door, forget it,” she says. “If I’m going to be involved in a protest, I take a day’s annual leave. Why can’t you?”
The comparison Chris draws between the two groups is no anomaly. In the past, the two plights have been pitted against one another. The Save Rimrose campaign who want to preserve the most important green space in the area. And the residents of Church Road whose status as the main access route to the docks brings with it endless traffic and air pollution. The now defunct Champion Newspaper used to cover the issue in depth and once ran a story about “pro and anti Rimrose road groups” holding rival meetings. While most Church Road residents will tell you they don’t actually want a road through Rimrose, they just want to be able to breathe clean air. But in the past, tensions have flared.
When I talk to campaigners on both sides, they accuse backers of the scheme of being everything from “slimy toads” to “polluting twats”. But occasionally the ire is aimed at each other. “I see in the paper they are all off marching into town over the rimrose valley road pity they don’t march down Church Road and see what we have to put up with,” wrote one Church Road community member on a local Facebook group recently. Ed Conley, a local data scientist, tells me the two sides “used to hurl abuse at each other” online. “There was no middle ground.”
Conley was one of the founding members of the Rimrose campaign, but now has become a major supporter of the plight of the Church Road residents. He tells me the area has been turned into a “sacrifice zone” by the project, a term more commonly used in America to describe towns that have been destroyed by (generally environmental) alterations that serve another purpose. But whatever that purpose may be, anyone living there is the sacrifice.
Nowadays, Conley doesn’t even like to see the two cases conflated. “It’s divide and conquer,” he says. “There is an isolated problem with that road,” he says. “What do we do about it now? How do we get the HGVs off?”