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Early finish for Mersey Gateway public inquiry

The public inquiry into the new Mersey Gateway crossing concluded four weeks early yesterday after a number of objectors withdrew their reservations.

The main phase of the inquiry into the £431 million new toll bridge over the Mersey between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes, which was expected to last up to ten weeks, concluded after less than six as a number of objectors withdrew their reservations, whilst others chose not to have their case cross-examined in public.

During the public inquiry the inspector heard support for the project expressed by a wide range of businesses and organisations, including The Stobart Group, Peel Holdings, the Halton and Liverpool branches of the Chamber of Commerce, and the Federation of Small Businesses.

The Environment Agency and Natural England both withdrew their previously held objections, and it was announced that the project had solved issues with a number of local businesses to acquire their land to allow the plans to proceed.

Following a supplementary planning session in July, the planning inspector conducting the public inquiry will present his report to the Transport secretary and Communities secretary along with a recommendation as to whether the project should proceed.

A decision is expected early in 2010. If approved, construction work is likely to begin in 2011, with the new bridge opening in 2014.

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