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Press Release: Documents expose Peel Ports’ influence in Highways England road project

Documents obtained via a Freedom of Information request [1] reveal the level of Peel Ports’ influence in Highways England’s A5036 Port of Liverpool Access Scheme, despite previous claims to the contrary [2].



Draft meeting minutes and emails exchanged between members of staff from both organisations over the past two years show the level of access the government-owned company is offered to Peel Ports’ customers in efforts to build support for its unpopular road project [3].


The documentation shows how:


  • Peel Ports “worked tirelessly to secure the Government funding” for the scheme

  • Peel Ports offered tours of its facility to “relevant opinion formers and decision makers” and senior members of Highways England’s staff

  • Peel Ports advised Highways England on its strategy to identify “key stakeholders” and secure their support

  • Peel Ports requested sight of information gathered by Highways England’s former sub-contractor, detailing other stakeholders’ views on the scheme

  • Peel Ports offered to arrange introductions to its customers, including shipping operators, haulage operators, scrap metal exporters, commodity dealers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers

  • Peel Ports offered Highways England as much support as needed to progress the scheme, including in relation to 2018’s legal challenge

  • Peel Ports received frequent, detailed updates and analysis from Highways England on the status of the project

  • Peel Ports was instrumental in plans to arrange a joint presentation with Highways England to the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to promote the scheme

Speaking on behalf of the campaign, Stuart Bennett said:


“This documentation confirms what many people already suspect; that the driving force behind this road is Peel Ports. What is surprising is the frequency of the contact it has with Highways England and the content and tone of the communications. This is because Peel Ports has previously told us that the road project is little or nothing to do with them. Similarly, Highways England distances itself from the Port of Liverpool in its communications.


“However, the bigger story here is the documentation Highways England isn’t sharing with the public. There are large gaps in what has been provided and hardly anything at all in 2019, which we find hard to believe. It raises many questions: Who are the ‘opinion formers and decision makers’ Peel Ports is so keen to influence? How many meetings, joint-presentations and tours of the port have taken place? What is it Highways England wishes to hide?”


“We have serious concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding Highways England’s road building plans and how information is shared between a government-owned company, paid for by us, and private companies; particularly when, in this instance, the latter is the single biggest beneficiary of the project.


“We have complained to the Information Commissioner about Highways England withholding documents on the grounds that it is not in the public interest. We don’t believe that for one moment, given the huge outcry against this road. It is more likely that it is not in Highways England’s or Peel Ports’ best interests. That is another matter entirely and their embarrassment is not a reason for withholding this information.”


Notes


[1] Link to full Freedom of Information Request here:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/documentation_and_correspondence


[2] Link to download minutes from our meeting with Peel Ports in March, 2018, with relevant sections highlighted:

https://www.saverimrosevalley.org/pp-rvf-minutes


[3] The proposed road through Rimrose Valley Country Park is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and a replacement for the current A5036 Liverpool Port Access Road.

The DfT instructed Highways England to design a road to service the newly-expanded Port of Liverpool; facilitating more HGV movements.


In its public consultation Highways England offered only two options; both of which were unpalatable to the local community and in fact weren’t any choice at all. Option B (Rimrose Valley) was the least favoured. Summary of results here:

https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/he/a5036-port-of-liverpool-access-scheme/results/n170135---a5036-port-of-liverpool-access----summary-pcr---web.pdf

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