Mersey Gateway backers have hailed the Government’s announcement that the project has been given planning approval as “fantastic news”.
Planning approval was signed off yesterday by transport secretary Philip Hammond and local government Secretary Eric Pickles. It effectively gives the green light for the project team to begin the procurement process in earnest during 2011.
Government approval and the publication of the planning 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.
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.
The centrepiece of the Mersey Gateway Project is a new six-lane toll bridge over the Mersey between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes. It is anticipated that construction work will start within two years, and that the new bridge will take around three years to complete.