Blue Wheelie Bins – It’s all about communication

Whatever the rights & wrongs (in recycling terms) of Sefton Council indroducing a 4th wheelie bin per household the issue is one that has many Sefton folk hot under the collar about, indeed some folks have been asking me (I’m a Lydiate Parish Councillor) to explain to them why it’s happening.

My understanding is that Sefton Council’s leaders must beleive there’s a good reason to separate out glass bottles and jars from other recycling materials which presently all go into the Borough’s brown wheelie bins like paper, cardboard, plastic, tins etc. It must be a good reason, or at least I really hope it is, because it’s costing £1.7m to order 100,000 Everton or Manchester City coloured bins! But as I’ve not seen the background information I don’t know whether the move is a good or bad one and I say that as a committed environmentalist & recycler.

But what I do see is a communications disaster due to the lack of clear messaging from Sefton Council. And that takes me back some years to when I was Leader of Sefton Council and a certain Councillor David Tattersall was Cabinet Member for the Environment. David was in public relations professionally and he realised as soon as Sefton was moving towards separating household waste into non-recyclable and recyclable that public messaging was vital. If I recall correctly some of the popular national press were sending out messages at the time against wheelie bins so clearly getting messages out to residents in the Borough was going to be difficult; all but a propaganda war.

The point here is that David realised that proper timely messaging was important via mail shots and even sticky labels placed on wheelie bins together, of course, with carefully placed local newspaper adverts and news items. I also recall that David told me that officials were not too keen on his demands for messaging but he was not to be put off.

Councils so often do things to their residents rather than working with them, command and control management I suppose you could call it. But, of course, imposition breeds resentment and a lack of cooperation/buy-in in a democracy, especially where folk are subject to alternative views and ‘facts’, or should I say even fake news/opinion.

Now I also realise that people with small outside spaces will, almost as a matter of course, be far from chuffed to find room for yet another wheelie bin. I even know of a Sefton resident who hardly ever uses their recycling bin but who drives to a local recycling centre to dispose of glass items. And yes there’ll be folk who oppose recycling in any form because that’s their political stance you might say. So there was always going to be a section of the Sefton community who just don’t want more wheelie bins, be they blue or any other colour, and they may even send their new bin back. However, the vast majority of folk just want to know in straight forward terms what they are being asked to do and why it will be of benefit to the environment, their ability to recycle etc. etc.

But, if you don’t get a clear message out or you just rely on messaging via press articles don’t be surprised that folks start asking ‘what’s going on?’. Politicians all know that personal messaging is what voters are more likely to respond to positively, that’s why political parties will often address political propaganda to you at elections. Why do those same politicians not realise that similar messaging is required when it comes to important council communications?

And to put the tin lid on it, so to speak, it’s only just over a year since Sefton ceased collecting food waste and that service cessation suffered from poor communication too as my blog posting of the time made reference to:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/06/13/sefton-council-food-waste-collections-cease/

Maghull – Update on Stafford Moreton Way & Woodend environmental projects

Here’s an update on two significant Maghull environmental projects which are presently being pursued by the Friends of Maghull & District and which I thought were worth shouting about. I don’t have any direct involvement in either project [only so many hours in each day:-)] so any queries are best directed to Frank Sharp – woodendcwp@gmail.com – who leads on these matters.

Here’s the update:-

Thank you very much for your kind past support towards the ongoing Stafford Moreton Way Wildflower Project in 2019/20. We would like to take the opportunity to provide an update and to encourage you to support our latest project which is currently at 97% of its target total, leaving an outstanding £678.

Firstly, we hope you have been coping with the pandemic challenges and that our letter finds you in good spirits.

The Stafford Moreton Way Wildflower Project had two stages: (1) November 2019 involved removing turf in three areas and planting mixed wildlife friendly hedging, 12 trees, 1500 bulbs, covered with bark chippings as a weed suppressant, and (2) in April 2020 we had to postpone the installation of the recycling rhinoceros sculpture, the wildflower turf, and noticeboard, due to the pandemic restrictions. We are hoping to lay the turf on the 22.9.20, install the rhinoceros in October/November and following this install the noticeboard. We have had a terrific response from the community in collecting the plastic bottle tops for the recycling rhinoceros particularly from three local primary schools, the children of which we hope will proudly unveil the statue and insert the bottle tops. We had some small teething problems with the maintenance on site as London and Cambridge Property Management’s subcontractors (Marshalls) were unable to work during the pandemic and then this was compounded by new subcontractors (Spacecare) who were initially not fully briefed of their responsibilities which we hope to resolve this week. Continued updates are still available on our website at www.spacehive.com/stafford-moreton

The Woodend Community Woodland Project – www.spacehive.com/woodend – , is at Bobby’s Wood situated at the junction of Liverpool Road South and Northway, across the road from Lidl and the Alt pub and neighbouring Bumbles Children’s Nursery.

Rationale.

We are conscious that developers are seemingly keen to build everywhere in Maghull at the moment despite planning refusals by Maghull and Sefton Council’s Eg Damfield Lane was a blue plaque preservation area but central government overturned their refusals and the land is currently being built on. Consequently, we want to preserve the natural beauty of Bobby’s Wood but make it more user-friendly by improving upon the handful of dog walkers that currently use it. To achieve this we have focused on creating a (1) safe hedging and rail perimeter and (2) an accessible natural Cotswold path, which will be the springboard for all the other proposed natural improvements.

We developed the proposals earlier this year, consulted a variety of horticultural experts and stakeholders. Spent July undertaking a survey open to the whole of Maghull and also focused on door knocking on over 600 houses in the vicinity and received overwhelming support as can be seen in the online survey report, including Q&A and information sheets available at http://www.maghull-tc.gov.uk/news The survey also amazingly resulted in 30 respondents expressing an interest in becoming volunteers as part of a Friends of Bobby’s Wood group.

We started crowdfunding in April 2020 and will finish in late October 2020. By some miracle, during the incredible pandemic challenges for everyone, we have somehow raised £22,913 which is incredibly humbling and also perhaps an indication of how refocused people are now about nature. If we over fund we are targeting the first £3000 on populating the huge rear borders with community engaged planting.

We have provided further introductory information below and have created an introductory video on the crowdfunding website at www.spacehive.com/woodend

We hope you can help again with this new project and thank you once again for your past and hopefully future motivational support.

Best Wishes and Take Care,

Frank Sharp (Friends of Maghull and District).

Extra Information.

To reinvigorate an historic woodland entrance to Maghull, with a welcoming, accessible, iconic and engaging wildlife friendly space, focusing on enhancing the environment, history, community, legacy and economy.

Our Ambition.

Between April and October 2020, we are initially targeting funding to create a safe and accessible area as a platform for community led projects for years to come. This involves (1) ‘accessible’ 230m pathway (cost £6,500) for dis/abled, prams, elderly, to join together various future destinations that will eventually include the following:

RHS mentored community led designed and managed planted borders

Under-planting current trees with hundreds of free Mersey Forest donated tree whips and bulbs to future proof and enhance.

A 6m banqueting table and benches near Bumbles Nursery to act as a fun picnic table and community hub.

A wisteria arched tunnel

Signage to welcome and inform regarding the rich history (remnant of a 2×5 mile mediaeval wood belonging to a Saxon called Uctred referred to in the Domesday book (1086)).

The potential loan of a 15 foot Saxon warrior sculpture.

Our other initial target is to purchase and install (2) 92 m of diamond rail fencing (cost £4500) around the perimeter for the following reasons:

To protect the beautiful 1385 wildlife friendly mixed hedging whips we are obtaining from the Tree Council for free, that will form the 230m perimeter and will be planted in November 2020, during National Tree Week with the support of every aspect of the community eg local nursery, two primary schools, one high school, the local Scout groups and U3A etc.

To protect children and pets from directly accessing the busy roads

To provide habitat and food for wildlife, whilst providing a beautiful appearance.

To provide research evidence on how hedging can reduce 60% of the vehicle pollution, produced by the daily 20,000 vehicles, conducted between Sefton Council, the Tree Council and a professor & his team from Bangor University.

To protect from vehicle pollution and noise.

Through the planting activity we want to establish a specific friends of community group to care and support the wood.

How will you help make our roads safer?

Government is working on changes to the Highway Code to make road use safer for cyclists and pedestrians so whether you’re a pedestrian, horse rider, cyclist or driver (I wonder how many of you are all 4?) have a go at this quiz on the proposed changes to the Highway Code which is on the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-54027461

Maghull & Lydiate’s ‘Berlin Wall’ & the ‘Bible’ of cycling infrastructure

In response to a previous posting about cycling infrastructure in Sefton Borough a Twitter responder (Clive Durdle) pointed me (and indeed Sefton Council) towards something called CROW. Yes, I wondered what it was too but after some Googling I realised it’s pretty much the ‘Bible’ for building cycle friendly/safe roads. And surprise, surprise (NOT) it’s a Dutch publication.

Here’s a blog posting about it:-

therantyhighwayman.blogspot.com/2019/07/crow-flow.html

And here’s a link to the publishers – by gum it’s not cheap!

crowplatform.com/product/design-manual-for-bicycle-traffic/

The new Alt JUnction

Of course, the obvious question is what manual were Sefton Council using when they designed the new junction in Maghull – A59/Northway-Liverpool Road South-Dover Road (The Alt Junction) – as I struggle to see how cycling through this brand new junction was considered at all! Frankly, I’ve yet to hear a good word about it from the pedestrians, cyclists or drivers whom I’ve spoken to. Yes, I realise it’s new and we generally don’t like change so we’re often sceptical about many new things, but this junction could start to become almost as unpopular as its much bigger brother just a few hundred yards away from it – I refer of course to the now infamous Switch Island ‘Home of traffic Accidents’.

The reason this new junction is important is because there are few crossing places across Maghull & Lydiate’s ‘Berlin Wall’ otherwise known as the A59/Northway dual carriageway (and even fewer safe ones) for pedestrians and cyclists. These are they south to north:-

* South end of Maghull adjacent to River Alt – A good pedestrian/cyclist safe crossing with traffic lights.
* The Alt Junction – Brand new but in my view far from being cyclist friendly & it’s a long walk for pedestrians.
* Hall Ln Junction – Pedestrians have high-level bridge to cross but it’s disability/cyclist unfriendly(steps).
* Damfield Ln Junction – Another high-level safe walking bridge but it’s disability/cyclist unfriendly (steps again).
* Westway/Eastway Junction – A pedestrian subway which cyclists are discouraged/banned from using.**
* Dodds Ln Junc’ – A good pedestrian crossing with traffic lights separate to the non-traffic lighted junction.
* Kenyons Ln Junction – Traffic lighted but no pedestrian phase & lights often do not recognise waiting cyclists.
* Robins Island – Traffic island with no pedestrian crossing facilities or safe access onto cycle paths.

The distance between the most southerly A59 crossing and Robins Island is @2.25 miles the vast majority of which is through two highly populated suburban communities, except the Kenyons Ln – Robins Island section. What’s more a large proportion of community facilities – Town Hall, Leisure Centre, Library, Frank Hornby Museum, Police Station, Health Centre, Industrial Estate, Recycling Centre, Main Shopping Centre and Lydiate Village Centre – are all on the western side of it. Maghull’s 2 railway stations being on the east side together with 2 of the 3 local high schools*. My point being, there are many reasons why Maghull & Lydiate folk have to cross this busy major road each and every day and the crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists are far from adequate.

We all know we should be walking and cycling more to help us to be fitter/healthier and of course to save the planet but the way Maghull & Lydiate has been set up/planned in effect encourages vehicle use simply because of the lack of safe/accessible crossing facilities associated with it’s very own ‘Berlin Wall’.

On that basis why has the most recently rebuilt junction on ‘The Wall’ been built with cycling facilities all but excluded? Has Sefton Council got a copy of CROW and if so is it simply gaining dust on a shelf in some out of the way storeroom?

* The local primary schools are split 4 on the east side, 5 on the west

** The pedestrian only subway looks like this:-

It could be adapted for pedestrians and cyclists like this one in York:-

I would be interested to hear what others think about shared space subways in cycling unfriendly Maghull, Sefton Borough or elsewhere.

In whose best interests are our government promoting a return to working in offices?

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

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53942542

Well now, apart from thinking at first this seems more like Russian socialist tractor factory ‘advice’ i.e. do it or else, my more sober reaction was why are the Tories saying get back to your offices?

Sage advice I was given in politics and indeed life many moons ago was to understand how to react to a situation you need to know, as far as possible, why what you are reacting to is being said in the first place. So let’s look at the possible motivations:-

* To make public transport more sustainable and for it to require less subsidy – good one
* To help businesses which rely on office buildings (sandwich shops etc.) – good one
* To get people out in their cars driving to work – No, goes against climate change requirements
* To help mental well being – Unlikely as there will as many benefits as disbenefits
* Because employers want it – No, as many will not as they’re eyeing up saving money on office space

Now how about the cynical reason? Those who fund the Tory Party are rich property owners who stand to lose a lot if office space stops being used/rented out at the same scale as before lockdown. Oh yes, you can bet they’ve been lobbying hard and who pays the piper etc. etc. Of all the reasons this will be the main one although unspoken of course by Ministers. You can bet your bottom Dollar, Euro or £ on it in my opinion.

Also on this subject, I happened upon the TUC Leader Frances O’Grady being interviewed on Radio 5 Live about this earlier this evening. It was on one of those infotainment/news programs that 5 Live puts out. As usual she was impressive and to my mind she makes the often media unsavvy trade union movement seem in touch with real people and I say that as a retired TU officer who often despairs of TU leaders in the media such as McCluskey. I have the feeling that she’s a Liberal and does not realise it. I hope I’ve not just caused her problems saying that!

Her contribution to the debate about whether office workers should be pushed/forced/cajoled back into their office blocks was well considered and balanced. And of course she was firm on the difficulties some workers will have working at home in small inappropriate spaces where they can’t get the peace and quiet they need.

So yes, like everything in life one size does not in any way fit all but where appropriate, given the right facilities, working from home has to be right for some people. Government should butt out except to ensure employment standards are met by the money saving employers and they should be thankful that almost by chance the appalling pandemic has potentially reduced climate changing air pollution via some folk no longer having to do the daily commute.

Another take on why Merseytram didn’t make the grade

I’ve commented on this very significant urban transport debacle many times before but the other day I came across an article published in June 2008 in an international magazine called Tramways & Urban Transit. Yes I know, railway/tramway enthusiast niche issue……..

The article covered the ever more desperate attempts to breath new life into a project which had been all but killed off by the then Transport Secretary Alistair Darling back in 2005 when he withheld £170m of government funding. Quoted in the article was former Labour MP (for Liverpool Riverside) Louise Ellman who said the project had failed because there was a ‘lack of clarity’ from the bidding partners.*

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Region has to show for its big tram ideas.

Louise was of course right. If memory serves the big issue for the Labour government of the day was concern over the funding package and rising costs. The article points towards Knowsley (Lab Council) & Liverpool (Lib Dem Council) being unwilling to cover further cost over-runs.

I was leader of Sefton Council at that time and can recall the tortuous process of trying to get Merseytram going through 2004 to 2009, but where the article is silent is with regard to another big issue which led directly to what Louise Ellman called the ‘lack of clarity’. I refer to the destination of the first line – Kirkby. I took the view, as did many others on Sefton Council and indeed politicians across the wider Mersey Region at the time, that the first line should go to the airport. Liverpool John Lennon Airport was in our view the obvious destination to start a tramway system on Merseyside but our voices were lost as Merseytravel was determined the first destination should be Kirkby. We had nothing against Kirkby but it already had a 15 minute Merseyrail service which simply needed extending to a 2nd station in that Town, whereas the airport had no rail/tramway connection and indeed it still doesn’t.

One of the ‘pulls’ towards Kirkby for the 1st Merseytram line was a proposed and huge TESCO/Everton FC redevelopment in that Town but that plan fell over it’s own hurdles with Everton now likely to he headed to a new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock at some point yet to be determined.

The other thing not mentioned in the article is the position of Wirral Council. They were hardly big supporters of Merseytram because being on the other side of the River Mersey they would be highly unlikely to see any benefit from the project at all. Maybe they and their residents still harked back to the first Mersey Tunnel which was supposed to have trams running through it to Birkenhead as well as road vehicles. Of course that never happened so once bitten (even though back in the 1930’s) twice shy?

Anyway, on with the thrust of the article, having given a bit of the local political background, as it was written on the basis that then (in 2008) Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly** had offered to revisit the stalled/virtually failed Merseytram project. In effect she was asking Merseytravel to come up with a new more viable scheme. At this point Merseytravel still had another 2 years to enact the powers given to it by Parliament to build the first phase of the tram system.

Sadly, of course, Merseysiders will know that no such viable plan was put forward and in 2010 the powers lapsed.

To me the project was a lesson in how not to plan major public infrastructure. It seems obvious now, as it should have been then, that the partners in the project needed to have a common view as to how it would be taken forward and as I think I’ve shown above there was no such common view. My feeling is that Merseytravel launched into the Merseytram project with far too many loose ends trailing behind it, hoping that all would be ‘alright on the night’ so to speak – It never was and probably was never going to be.

The irony is that within the same magazine there’s a celebration of NET (Nottingham Express Transit) which had won ‘Light Rail Operator of the year – 2007’ as it had been able to gain government support for it’s system (first opened March 2004) on the basis of it being clearly robust and well supported. I’ve travelled on NET; it is indeed a good system and I hope that I’m not just saying that as a Notts born lad.

A Nottingham NET Tram at the Phoenix Park terminus.

* The bidding partners were Merseytravel (the passenger transport body for Merseyside), Liverpool City Council, St. Helens Borough Council, Knowsley Borough Council, Sefton Borough Council & Wirral Borough Council.

** Ruth Maria Kelly is a former British Labour Party politician, serving as Member of Parliament for Bolton West from 1997 until she stood down in 2010 – Wikipedia