Peel Port in the Dock

Peel Port in the Dock

Photo above: Peel Ports have invested in new cranes ahead of plans to expand before the transport infrastructure is in place.

Joe Coventry reports in depth on the relentless impact air and noise pollution from the port has on those living nearby.

The Litherland that exists today was once the old Norse settlement Liderlant, mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book. It’s a hybrid name meaning ‘slope’ in old Norse and ‘land’ in old English. The slope gently dropped down to the sandy Seaforth coastline on the River Mersey. Now it heads pel mel for the huge challenge facing the adjacent communities fronting the Port of Liverpool dock walled estate and its monopoly operator, Peel Ports.

The Docks have traditionally been a major employer in the city: a seven-mile gateway for world trade on which Liverpool has prospered. Now though, activity is massively centred around the Seaforth Container Base complex. Here-in lies the rub. The Container Base is a gigantic undertaking requiring a dedicated road infrastructure which has become increasingly at odds with the needs and concerns of local residents due to environmental degradation which has increasingly blighted their lives.

Step up to the plate Highways England. After cursory public consultation to either upgrade the existing A5036 access road or mutilate the green lung that is Rimrose Valley Country Park, they chose the latter, dismissing building a tunnel in the process as a non-starter. Sefton Council sought a Judicial Review which failed on the grounds that the decision to build the dual carriageway was a political decision, never mind the £70-330 million price tag, or that it was not the first choice of respondents who replied. Since then political activist groups have taken up the cudgel. The bottom line is that the community is increasingly coming under stress from the inability to curb pollution, with no redress or solution in sight.

Uppermost is air pollution. As traffic flows have increased on the existing A5036, log jams of traffic, and HGVs in, have added to the deteriorating local environment. Sefton Council is considering introducing Clean Air Zones (CAZs) to tackle hot spots identified in a survey by environmental consultancy AECOM, where the A5036 intersects the main arteries bisecting it on the approach to the docks. Also identified is the Miller’s Bridge Entrance in Bootle. Such action would be a start, assuming funding from Government, but it is not the final solution surely? Nor is it clear which heavy polluters would bear the brunt of such a measure, which is considered to be a temporary expedient anyway.

HGV entering Liverpool’s Peel Port. Credit Amanda Stanley

More damaging evidence comes from another survey, that of The British Lung Foundation (January 2020), which found that there are 1000 plus deaths annually which are directly attributable to toxic air pollution levels in the deprived areas of Liverpool. Bad enough, but it’s devastating that the finding ‘life expectancy of school children born since 2011 may be reduced by upwards of 5 months’ has passed with little more than a shrug of the shoulders from politicians or Peel Ports, who see such collateral damage as par for the course. Inaction on combatting illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulates in fuel, which include dust, ash, and soot, has left Merseyside with the highest levels of lung disease in the country. To say that the Government’s action is tardy is an understatement, but don’t worry, it plans to ban the production of new diesel and petrol cars by 2035. That it does little to tackle the impact now shows its priority is ensuring that big business thrives at the expense of its own citizens. Shameful.

Meanwhile Peel Ports is very big business. It has expanded its infrastructure exponentially with the state of the art, 2017 built, ‘Peel Ports 2’. 10 massive rail mounted gantry cranes and the arrival of 3 ship to shore cranes by 2021 show the extent of their ambitions. In the Canada Dock is a 160-acre steel processing facility for importing and exporting firms. The huge DACSA Corn Mill dominates the Dock Road in Seaforth, while the proposed new Everton stadium on Bramley-Moore Dock awaits planning permission. Dock operations in Dublin, London and Glasgow, the Manchester Ship Canal and Speke Airport are also amongst its assets.

Bizarrely, the monopoly claims that its target of a 40-minute turnaround per vehicle entering the docks is good for everyone. It may be good for its profits and for the wider business community but try telling that to long suffering local residents for whom it is adding only more misery, congestion, and toxic air pollution. The company thus gains at the expense of disenfranchised locals without having to pay a penny for the privilege, while the taxpayer picks up the tab. In plain view its monolithic Martian-like structures, an eyesore in their own right, dominate the horizon for miles around, especially at night when their garish red warning orbs leave no doubt that the remorseless 24-hour activity around them continues unhindered. It means relentless light and noise pollution from container related activities, and scrap metals being worked on outside legitimate hours. This is much to the chagrin of residents, not just in the local vicinity but much further afield causing debilitating sleep deprivation while the powers that be turn a blind eye.

So, what is to be done?

A bit of thinking outside the box might help and an opportunity unexpectedly turns up in the Court of Appeal case earlier this year dismissing the third runway expansion of Heathrow on the grounds that environmental considerations were not taken into account. Excellent news for those suggesting that air travel expansion has already gone too far; that frequent flyers should pay a surcharge and air fuel should be taxed. The review of flight plans for Liverpool John Lennon Airport show that a sustained increase in noise levels will adversely impact the whole of Merseyside, along with the climate impacts we know are an inevitable result of air travel. The same grounds for the Heathrow ruling should be applied here to stop Peel’s environmentally damaging expansion in Merseyside – at both air and seaports – and beyond.


  1. Yeah!! Good to hear the correct version of the impact of the port traffic. Also at risk is Crosby beach. We have been visiting for years. Since the dredging and big containers belching their fuel and what looks like oil sediment washing up the shore causing dirty oil slick like marbling in the sand. This is supposed to be Seftons future vision of a future holiday beach. It would be laughable if it wasnt so sad. On top of this as you said the now only one exceptional natural green space Rimrose Valley is under threat of been concreted and tarmacked to make way for the fuel belching trucks. All to make way for profit.


  2. This article could be dedicated to Paul Cooke, a local working-class activist for environmental health in Bootle, who sadly died of lung cancer last year, aged only 52.


  3. As a local resident, living close to Seaforth Docks, I am glad to see this problem getting some much needed publicity. I have suffered from unexplained respiratory illness since moving to the area & believe the air quality to be the cause. The particulates in the air are evident just from the amount deposited on windows and surfaces within the house. Added to this, over the past year or so, the noise has increased dramatically. There is no let up during the night, with sirens, bells, crashes and loud bangs into the small hours. Around 3am-4am I am often woken by a buzzing/drilling sound which causes the floor to vibrate. It feels as if there is tunnelling going on beneath the house at times. If the situation is this bad now, it cannot be allowed to get any worse. Local people need to be heard on this matter.


  4. At last some truth on the noise coming from Seaforth docks. I live on Breeze Hill Walton and my bedroom faces towards the docks. Since Xmas I’ve noticed extreme banging of metal and a load constant noise. I thought work was going on at Kirkdale station but no, it’s coming up from the docks. I’ve had to keep my windows closed, god help people living closer.


  5. the smells that come from the docks are revolting and my window cills in my seaforth flat are rotten with dust. Thousands of tons of scrap metal cant be good!


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