Mersey Gateway Project given planning approval
Mersey Gateway backers have hailed the Government’s announcement that the project has been given planning approval as “fantastic news”.
The approval was yesterday (Monday 20th December) signed off by two Government ministers – Transport Secretary Philip Hammond MP and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles MP – and gives the green light for the project team to begin the procurement process in earnest during 2011.
It was accompanied by the publication of the Inspectors Report, written by Inspector Alan T Gray and his team, after they conducted a public inquiry into the project in the spring/summer of 2009.
Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council, said: “This decision has been a long time coming but it is fantastic news and we are delighted that the Government ministers and the Planning Inspector have backed our plans so comprehensively. There is still a lot more work to do before we begin construction, but this brings us a huge step closer to delivering much-needed new jobs and investment for Halton and the whole region.”
Steve Nicholson, Mersey Gateway Project Director, said: “Everyone connected with this project has worked incredibly hard for the last few years to get to where we are today, and that hard work will continue as we discuss the final financial details with the Department for Transport and finalise our plans for appointing a private sector partner to build and operate the scheme.”
The Government approval and the publication of the Inspector’s report comes almost 18 months after a public inquiry was held into the project. The approval of the seven different planning applications, legal orders and listed building consents considered as part of the public inquiry covers the plans for the new bridge, the main tolling plaza and the surrounding approach roads on both sides of the river.
It also covers the powers needed to charge tolls on the new bridge and set out proposed road user charges on the Silver Jubilee Bridge, as well as authorising compulsory purchase activity along the route.
Up-front Government funding for the project was confirmed in October’s Comprehensive Spending Review. The project team is now in detailed discussions with Department for Transport officials to identify the most cost-effective way for the Government to provide ongoing assistance to supplement the income that tolls will bring in.