Libraries – Lost at an alarming rate but will we ever get them back?

This is former Aintree Ratepayer Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at a meeting to try to save his local library in 2013.

Libraries have been lost at an alarming rate across the UK because of austerity which, I might add, was backed by all 3 major political parties in the 2010 General Election. So whichever party had won back then the consequences would have been as they turned out to be or even worse across most public services. Indeed, it has been argued that under Labour in the 2010 – 2015 Parliament the cuts would have been greater as they planned to make £1b more than the Coalition Government actually made. The Treasury/Institute of Fiscal Studies chart below illustrates my point:-

But for me one of the greatest losses in our communities has been the demise of libraries, indeed I put a great deal of effort into trying to save Sefton’s closing libraries along with many other community campaigners. The loss of Aintree Library caused me the most concern as until 2011 I had been a Borough Councillor for Aintree Village. Others of course will have felt just as keenly the loss of their local library be it in Churchtown, Ainsdale, Crosby (College Road), Birkdale, Litherland or Orrell as Sefton Borough lost 7 of its libraries to cost cutting by the Council.

All that, as they say, is history. However, my question is will we get any of the lost libraries (in a suitably modern form) back? Well we won’t be getting Birkdale or Aintree Libraries back in Sefton Borough as the sites both now have housing on them. Here are before and after shots of Aintree:-

Me outside the former Aintree Library

The same site in 2017 when the houses, now completed, were being erected.

Libraries are far more than places where books are kept and borrowed from and I say that as a hoarder of books. A library is a community meeting place, a hub for the community, a place where lonely and isolated people can meet others. Yes they provide IT access and they should all have coffee shops within them too, like at Liverpool Central Library. Their foundation was all about the joy of reading together with gaining knowledge and such worthy aims are still quite valid to my mind.

Readers of this blog-site will probably know that I found Sefton Council’s unwillingness to run libraries, that it could not afford to run, in innovative ways using volunteers most perplexing (and that’s being polite about it!); it was a though the Council saw volunteers as more trouble than they were worth. But other models of running libraries have been successfully established across the UK where councils did not use their dead hand to stop such innovation.

Such innovations have regularly gone though my mind as I’ve come across them and then recently on a visit to the north east I saw this in Tynemouth:-

What’s more it was directly opposite a flat we had rented for a week’s holiday. Wow I thought, that’s great a library to visit and explore. And then the cold light of reality struck me, it was a closed library although not obviously so until you got right up to it. As you can imagine my heart sank when I realised I’d witnessed another gone library. Then this appeared a couple of days later:-

North Tyneside Council mobile library

Well a mobile library is far better then no library at all but whilst any kind of library will make me smile there is a part of me which looks upon them in a similar way to a rail replacement bus, if you get my drift. And so I thought, well at least Tynemouth has a mobile library as some council’s have withdrawn them too and my mind, such as it is, wandered elsewhere.

Then almost by chance I saw a local newspaper in our flat called the News Guardian and in flicking through it and smiling at some of the local articles of the kind you only find in local newspapers:-

‘Man bites dog – dog to sue’
‘Council leader thinks new traffic island is fantastic’
‘MP has a cup of tea and a cake with with potholing club members’

(and yes I did make these headlines up for the avoidance of doubt)

my eyes fell upon this article:-

Well that’s innovation and a future for Tynemouth Library I thought and my spirits lifted until that is I thought back to the lack of library innovation back home in Sefton Borough of course!

Libraries are still worth saving and personally I’d like to see a new modern network of them being re-established….

Click on the photos and newspaper article to enlarge them

And there was my old school – Maghull’s Woodend Primary

The Liverpool Echo has an article on its website, which prompted this posting as Woodend is not amongst the schools listed – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/nostalgia/72-closed-demolished-schools-arent-17782814

The photo above was taken in April 2018 and shows the former Woodend Primary School on the right. It was, on closure, merged into Maghull High School, as it shared the same grounds, and became its 6th Form Block.

I only did my final 2 terms of primary school there when we moved into Maghull in December 1968 yet I have happy memories of that short time – Mr Hadaway the Head teacher and Mrs Hughes my form teacher. I then, almost literally, walked across the playing field into Ormonde Drive Secondary Modern School in September 1969. Woodend School opened in 1968 just months prior to my going to it

My other memories of Woodend are sad though as I was involved in helping my good friend Andrew Blackburn in a campaign to try to save it from closure. Another of the campaigners, Pam Edwards, was given the Maghull Civic Award in 2001 (see photo above) for her efforts in setting up a nursery there. Sadly the number of children attending the school was falling in the late 1990’s and Sefton Council’s Education Department had their eye on it for closure.

A significant campaign was put together by people such as Andrew and Pam to try to keep the school going. Leaflets were printed advertising the school which were distributed by the campaigners across Maghull and parts of Aintree but we just could not drum up the numbers needed to save the school. As the end came nearer children moved to other schools locally and closure became an inevitability.

What was so sad about the closure was that the school was a good one, with a great Head (Alex Blythin) and a team of very dedicated staff & teachers. It’s big disadvantage though was that it was all but hidden behind housing in Ormonde Drive and Liverpool Road South so if you were not aware of it you’d hardly be likely to stumble across it.

That it continued to have an educational use was a bit of a blessing but I’m sure there must be many Maghull residents who remember it fondly and regret its demise.

Maghull Town Council recognised the contribution the School had made to the Town when they had this photo taken and distributed to each person in it. It was taken in early 2002, the School closed in July 2002:-(

Please click on the photos to enlarge them

Maghull’s Vast Urban Extension -Sefton Council complains about site it selected to build on!

The vast Maghull East site seen from Poverty Lane presently used for growing crops but under Sefton Council’s Local Plan it will become housing.

Sefton Council produced a Local Plan which it finalised and published in April 2017. In that plan, amongst other hugely controversial sites across the Borough which had been designated for building, was the massive urban extension of Maghull dubbed the Maghull East site.

Presently @1700 houses are expected to be built on that former Green Belt and presently high grade agricultural site which I and many other environmental campaigners fought against. But this is not another rehash of the arguments to save the site from development because we lost and Sefton Council won you might say. No, this is a commentary on what has happened since then as Sefton Council and developers/builders have been working up strategies and plans to deliver this massive urban extension to the Town.

Sefton designated this site, no one else selected it for them

You see Sefton Council designated this site to be built on, no one else selected it for them. Yet now we seem to have a situation where the same Council is complaining that that things are not going well, that things have been flawed, that the site is going to have all kinds of detrimental effects on Maghull etc. etc. We’ve even heard Sefton moaning about the Town’s infrastructure being unsustainable if things are not put right.

I’m sure all those concerns are only too valid as they are amongst those raised by those of us who campaigned against this monster site being developed in the first place. Indeed, it was obvious to us that developing such a huge site as this would be full of difficulties and that’s even if you, like Sefton Council, felt it was sensible to go ahead with!

Sefton Council is fighting against a process which it put in place!

My point? Sefton Council is now fighting against the consequences of developing a site which it chose itself. Maybe it should have thought through what it was planning to do before agreeing to do it because the drainage, traffic, infrastructure, schools, doctors/dentists and other environmental issues (or indeed the Council’s interaction with developers) were are quite predicable problems.

We have reached a stage now where Maghull residents, many of whom opposed the building in the first place, have had to rise up again because the development they did not want has turned into the organisational mess that they feared it would and all because this vast site was picked by their own Council to build upon.

Bootle – Blitz exhibition at Crosby Library

Sheila and I went along to this interesting exhibition (which is open until the 6th March) after seeing it promoted in the Champion newspaper.

One of Sheila’s ancestors was killed in the Bootle Blitz so we had a family connection to it as well as historical curiosity.

I took a number of photos whilst there and thought I would share them here:-

Johnson’s factory on Linacre Road hit by an incendiary bomb

A more recent shot of my own of the rebuilt but closed Johnson’s the Cleaners building.

Marsh Lane now Bootle New Strand Station

Very different times indeed but still within living memory of some who were but children at the time. The horrors of war are too easily forgotten so it’s good to see Crosby Library putting on such an interesting photographic and educational display.

We will remember them

Click on the photos/graphics to enlarge them

Maghull – Those hugely contentious planning applications for its urban expansion

The vast Maghull East site seen from Poverty Lane presently used for growing crops but under Sefton Council’s Local Plan it will become housing


Place North West has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.placenorthwest.co.uk/news/sefton-defers-decision-on-1700-homes/

The deferment was of course associated with the Special Planning Committee meeting held last week in Bootle Town Hall.

I guess those of us who fought against this vast former Green Belt/high grade agricultural site being designated for housing in Sefton Council’s Local Plan (I fought it twice – 1998 WON, Most recently – LOST) will be sad but resigned. Resigned to the fact the battle to save the land from development was actually lost when Sefton Council approved its Local Plan on 20th April 2017.

On that date we lost the battle to save the land

The issues at stake now for Maghull are all about how the site will be developed, drained, laid out, the effect on the local infrastructure, the timescale for the building etc. etc. There can be no doubt that an urban extension to Maghull of the scale of 1,600+ houses will have very significant impacts on the highway network, public transport, health facilities, school places, land drainage, you name it.

It was for all these reasons that I fought to to protect this high grade agricultural land, which grows the food we eat, and engaged with the two campaigns to stop the development in 1998 and then again up to April 2017.

Yes clearly Sefton’s Planning Committee now has some huge decisions to face up to/tackle following the Council selecting the vast Maghull East site to build upon. But as Sefton decided to designate such a huge area for housing the problems of actually delivering on that site are a direct consequence of that designation. No ifs, no buts.

Maghull folk, particularly those living around/close to this massive development, have now been pulled into all kinds of issues which concern and worry them. Yes they are trying to influence the Council and developers but I fear that with the planning system in the UK being set up the way that it is that soon Sefton’s Planning Committee will give the green light whilst many issues of concern in that community will be left unaddressed.

Frankly, I have never liked the way town and country planning takes place. It’s too remote from communities, its full of jargon and complexities that seem to be in place to keep ordinary people at arms length. My two years on Sefton’s Planning Committee up to May 2015, when I came off Sefton Council, confirmed this to me. And no this is not a dig at Sefton Planning, its a dig at the whole set up of planning across the UK for generations.

I deeply regret not being able to save both Green Belt and high grade agricultural sites across Sefton Borough from development but I enjoyed working with community campaigners like Maria Bennett, Peter Greener and many many others who put their every effort into those campaigns.

Maybe one day, hopefully soon, Government will value high grade agricultural land more highly than bricks and mortar

Press cutting from 1998 as we fought to protect the Maghull east site from development. We won back then but could not win in the recent re-run of the battle for Maghull East.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Lydiate Primary School closed amidst safety concerns

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/safety-concerns-shuts-merseyside-school-17319927

Lydiate Parish Council was briefed on the problems facing the School at it’s meeting last night by School Governors.

We were shown photos of problematic parts of the 1953 constructed building and pieces of concrete which came off it during a very recent investigation into its condition.

The Parish Council is supportive of the decision of the Governors to close the school building pending a more detailed inspection of it as clearly the safety of the children, teachers and anyone using the building has to be the major priority.

We were also told at the PC meeting that accommodation has now been found within Maghull High School for the 300 children currently attending Lydiate Primary.

The next few weeks will clearly be important in establishing the extent of the safety issues affecting the school building, so at present it hard to say how long it will be out of use.

Lydiate Parish Council’s ability to help the school address its building issues is quite limited but I’m sure we will try to help lobby the powers that be to take action when asked to do so. We have offered the meeting room in the Village Centre for the school’s use should that be of help to them.