The Queen and Meghan Markle will visit Cheshire next week for a series of official engagements and while it expected they will be warmly greeted by hundreds of royal fans, one local group have revealed they plan to protest the royal visit.
Scrap Mersey Tolls (SMT), a campaign group strongly opposed to charges on the Gateway bridge, have brought forward a protest, initially planned for June 15, to coincide with the Queen and Meghan’s visit on June 14.
Her Majesty will be officially opening the Mersey Gateway Bridge as well as the newly-renovated Story Theatre during Meghan’s first official visit to Cheshire.
The Scrap Mersey Tolls (SMT) group have set up a Facebook event encouraging members to protest the bridge’s toll.
The protest will be around the time the Queen and Meghan are attending celebrations at the Catalyst – Science Discovery Centre.
Campaigners plan to kick-off the protest after 9am but this is subject to change, depending on the royals’ schedule – the group expects “it will be around midday”.
John McGoldrick, who is on the Scrap Mersey Tolls (SMT) Committee told Liverpool Echo: “It is bizarre that the Queen, who last September officially opened the toll free new road bridge over the Forth, has been persuaded to open a tolled bridge.
“Part of the tolls plan is to also put a toll on the Silver Jubilee Bridge. A bridge that was officially opened in 1961 by Princess Alexandra, the Queen’s first cousin.
“It will be the first free bridge in the UK to have tolls added. Was the Queen aware of this? Was she also aware of the unpopularity of the tolls and the terrible penalties being issued at the rate of 800,000 a year?
“Did she also not know of the current controversy because Halton Council have so far done nothing to refund the tolls and penalties which were recently judged to be illegal by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal?
“We do not know the answer to those questions, but in any case we have brought forward to the 14th a protest that by coincidence we were planning to have on Friday 15th.”
The protest comes after an anti-toll campaigner with the group sent a letter to the Queen to “respectfully beseech” the royals to reconsider their visit.
The campaigner said there was “no cause to celebrate the upset and hardship that has been caused” by the bridge being tolled.
Extracts from the letter shared on Facebook on Monday said: “I am deeply saddened to have just read that you and the Duchess of Sussex will be coming to officially open the Mersey Gateway Bridge on Thursday June 14th.
“Since it opened in October 2017 it has caused and continues to cause, great financial hardship to local residents and businesses, because it has effectively split the borough in two.
“The nearby Silver Jubilee Bridge, which has been the only way to cross the Mersey in this area since 1961, was closed when the new bridge was opened. When this bridge is reopened next year, the plan is to toll that too.
“This means that the only way to cross the river Mersey now is to pay a minimum of £2 each way.
“It should never have been tolled in the first place.”
Signing the letter “I have the honour to be, Madam, your Majesty’s humble and obedient servant”, the campaigner added: “Certainly there is no cause to celebrate the upset and hardship that has been caused by the decision to charge the people of your realm in this way.”