Damien Moore suggests Council could be on verge of “nature crime” and “potential tree massacre”

11th March 2022

Damien Moore has suggested in Parliament that Sefton Council could be set to commit a “potential tree massacre” and “nature crime”.

The Council has strongly denied the claims, while the Sefton Labour group responded that Mr Moore’s allegations are “headline-seeking nonsense.”

Damien Moore said in Parliament yesterday that: “There are strong concerns among my constituents that Sefton Council is planning to cut back the greenery along Southport’s pavements and replace it with concrete blocks for cycle lanes.

Mr Moore’s office later clarified that the claim was due to wording within the, now defunct, cycle lane proposal that included Preston New Road heading towards Plough roundabout.

A spokesperson for Mr Moore said: “In the consultation document released by Sefton Council last year on the North-South Southport cycle lane extension plans, the Council included designs and measurements indicating how Southport’s roads and pavements will look if these cycle lanes were added.

“On tree-lined Preston New Road, the Council stated that they intended for there to be 1.5 metres of green space on either side of the road. A team from Southport Conservatives went to Preston New Road to check the figures for themselves and found that the green spaces on either side currently measure around 4.5 metres.

“This means that the Council would need to reduce the width of Preston New Road’s green spaces by around three metres on either side of the road.”

A motion submitted by Southport’s Conservative group to redirect £639,000 towards Sefton’s green spaces at last week’s Council meeting was also voted down by Labour councillors.

Damien Moore said: “I share the view of residents that this nature crime and potential tree massacre would be completely unacceptable. It goes against the environmental principles on which I was elected, and as MP it is not something I can sit idly by and ignore.

“These cycle lanes are widely opposed by local residents, who rightly want to protect local businesses as we bounce back from Covid, not harm them by preventing access. If matters weren’t bad enough, we now find out that Southport’s biodiversity and greenery will be harmed in the process, which is simply unacceptable.

“It is clear that Labour want to press ahead with cycle lane plans following the local elections, supported by fence-sitting Lib Dems. Only by electing a strong team of Conservative councillors can we stop this from happening.”

Sefton Council’s Labour Leader, Councillor Ian Maher, said of Mr Moore’s claim: “More headline-seeking nonsense from Southport’s Tory MP. Are local elections looming I wonder?

“I did think when I read this that ‘You really couldn’t make this up’. But sadly, it seems the Conservative MP for Southport obviously has.”

A spokesperson for Sefton Council said: “We do not recognise these concerns. We are happy to clarify that we have no plans for such a proposal, which would clearly contradict our continued efforts to tackle the Climate Change emergency.

“2022 will see a number of key projects reach or move towards completion and significantly reduce the carbon footprint generated from Council operations.

“Throughout all our service areas extra care is taken to ensure our borough is rich in biodiversity, including the continued planting of new trees and using agriculture to manage our dunescape.

“Sefton Council does have a statutory duty to ensure the public highway is suitable and safe for people to use, which may involve the cutting back of overgrowing and overhanging vegetation when required. 

“In cases where trees have died or are deemed to cause a health and safety hazard to the public, they will be removed, as we saw during recent stormy conditions.”