Bus Lanes – Ditched in Liverpool for political brownie points – Well that’s my view

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

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/mayor-joe-andersons-decision-scrap-15699959

I’ve always thought that taking out 22 of Liverpool’s 26 bus lanes was a backwards step which would inevitably mean later running and more unreliable buses plus it was certainly a poke in the eye to all who hold environmental issues close to their hearts.

Yes, it was popular with many car and van drivers; well it would be wouldn’t it! My guess is that it was done to make it look like having an elected Mayor for Liverpool City meant that decisive policy changes could be easily and popularly be made. In other words, it was a political decision with little thought towards the need to challenge how the majority of us need to change our travelling habits.

That Nottingham is mentioned in the Echo article is very much to the point because that city is one that’s leading the charge to change the way its citizens move around and make those movements more sustainable. It’s a long-term process for change but if Nottingham’s trams are anything to go by the changes are all for the better.

A Nottingham NET Tram at the Phoenix Park terminus.

And Nottingham’s buses are pretty good too and seemingly reasonably reliable because of bus priority lanes and accurate on-time information about them.

Display on No.58 Nottingham bus

The bottom line is that since the failed Merseytram project Liverpool has not had a plan to make its public transport and particularly its bus network 1st class for modern day use and indeed expectations. Yes we can have a complete restructure of our bus network akin to re-regulating it (as Merseytravel are inching towards and I agree with) but if the infrastructure is not there to produce fast, reliable buses that go where people want them to go then those that can afford to will continue to use their polluting cars and accept that sitting in traffic jams is just the way that it is. Those who can’t afford to run cars or don’t wish to run cars then have no choice and are saddled with a dysfunctional bus network to get them around the city.

No, backing out of bus priority lanes was a backwards step. It got some short-term political gain but for long-term congestion and poorer transportation in the city. Not clean, not green, no fast efficient buses, no vision for transportation in a thriving city. Now go look at Nottingham and see how things can be done……..

Southport – Sainsburys’ Meols Cop development troubles

Cllr. John Pugh

Southport’s former MP is still on the campaign trail as a Sefton Borough Councillor for Dukes Ward; here he’s taking on the might of Sainsburys as the link below to a Liverpool Echo article details:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/controversial-sainsburys-store-ever-built-15632011

Walking and cycling in the Liverpool City Region (LCR)

Via my good friend Sefton Councillor John Dodd I have become aware of a web site called Arrive Happy in the past few days:- Here it is via the link below:-

www.arrivehappy.org/our-cycling-and-walking-masterplan

As I understand things 31 walking/cycling routes were previously identified across the City Region/Merseyside and now 9 of them are to be progressed towards a funding bid.

Liverpool City Region Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) – I’m told that the LCR Transport Partnership, have identified, using the evidence collected, a total of 31 potential cycling and walking corridors. The previously agreed and approved methodology used for the Active Travel prioritisation process has identified 9 corridors to be developed in more detail with a view to submitting a bid for Transforming Cities Fund funding.

I understand that these 9 corridors will form the basis of the next phase of the LCWIP and will be subject to formal engagement with stakeholders across the LCR which started on the 17th December with an engagement meeting with key stakeholders in the morning and the launch of an online survey into cycling and walking in the city region – www.arrivehappy.org/our-cycling-and-walking-masterplan

The two diagrams below show firstly the 31 identified potential corridors and then the 9 to be taken forward for more detailed design work. More detail will be shared, I understand, as the plan develops.

BUT if you live in Sefton Borough

Now I don’t know about you but if you live in Sefton Borough north of Bootle then there’s little to cheer about as no routes have made it into the 9 to be taken forward! I hold no information as to why this is the case although above you will see reference to an ‘approved methodology’ for choosing the routes to take forward. However, to say the least, I’m at best disappointed. On the ’31 map’ Maghull, despite being a large community, does not even get a mention!

Note:- Click on the two graphics above to enlarge them

Sefton Focus Review of 2018

It’s always interesting to look back at a year just ending – lessons can always be learned from history (even very recent history) but that’s a piece of traditional advice many of our present-day politicians really seem to struggle with.

So let’s look back at the past 12 months via 12 Sefton Focus postings – each month has a link back to my original posting. It’s my personal take on 2018:-

January – A celebration of everything Hornby:-

In the Hornby Room at Meadows Leisure Centre Maghull – Michael Portillo with Frank Hornby Trust Chairman Les French as seen on TV this year.

Well, I had to start this review with the TV programme which put Maghull firmly on the map. I refer of course to the Town being a part of one of Michael Portillo’s Great Railway Journeys celebrating the life and works of Maghull’s most famous resident – Toy maker Frank Hornby:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/01/18/maghull-hornby-as-seen-on-tv/

February – Pavement Politics:-

We Libs are known for our ‘pavement politics’ so it’s no surprise that in February I was going on about pot-holes! Sadly, as we shall see later, a pot-holed/poorly maintained road which I mentioned back in Feb’ ended up being a contributory factor to a cyclist’s death later in the year.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/02/26/the-state-of-our-road-surfaces-on-your-bike/

March – Youth and CAB make way for Police:-

The move of Maghull’s Police Station from Westway into Maghull Town Hall, facilitated by Labour-run Maghull Town Council, made my blood boil because a successful CAB help point (still not replaced when we were told it would be) and a unique youth facility (a Youth Coffee Bar run by local young people) were both lost to make way for the boys and girls in blue.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/03/24/maghull-cheering-on-the-new-police-station-no-remembering-what-we-lost-to-rehouse-the-police/

April – Oh for decent services on the Southport-Wigan-Manchester line:-

Departure board at Southport Station.

Railways have always been of great interest to me and I’ve been a member of OPSTA for many years now. Their campaigning to bring about a decent train service from Southport to Wigan and Manchester has been long-running and as I type it still is. This was the state of things back in April BEFORE the complete melt-down of the May timetable changes. Note – I think it fair to say that Merseytravel have now upped their game a little regarding services on this line but the reliability of it (It’s run by Northern Trains) is still very poor indeed.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/04/18/southport-loss-of-trains-to-manchester-airport-and-piccadilly-seems-merseytravel-has-form-here/

May – Did Merseytram burn Merseytravel’s fingers?:-

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

In May I mused about the lack of significant public transportation developments across the Liverpool City Region and pondered on whether the failed Merseytram project burnt Merrsytravel’s fingers too hard.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/05/25/merseytravel-did-merseytram-knock-the-stuffing-out-of-innovative-progressive-transport-planning-in-the-city-region/

June – Canal Breach in Melling:-

The Leeds Liverpool Canal breached in the Waddicar part of Melling during June, stopping the many pleasure boats that use the canal during the summer season. The canal was closed for quite a few weeks whilst repairs were undertaken by the canal and River Trust.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/06/13/melling-canal-breach-this-mornings-photos/

July – How accessible is the new Maghull North Station?:-

I penned this posting a few weeks after the new station was opened. The level accessible route into the station has now been provided although there’s still no dropped kerb for cyclists off School Lane.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/07/23/maghull-its-new-north-station-an-accessible-interchange/

August – The sad death of a local Councillor and cyclist:-

The August posting links directly back to the one I highlighted in February i.e. the fatal accident involving Melling Parish Councillor Alion Doyle who was cycling on one of the lanes in Aughton which I raised concerns about back then. A stretch of this lane, maybe a 100 yards or so, is still in terrible condition this December and I have raised this with Lancashire County Council. Such a sad loss of life. RIP Allison Doyle.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/08/20/aughton-fatal-accident-on-bold-lane/

September – The battle against fracking:-

Being an environmental campaigner the battle against Fracking is important to me as it is to many others. This month’s chosen posting is about Lydiate Parish Council gaining information from the volunteer campaigners against fracking. And yes, Lydiate PC did subsequently agree to put £500 to one side to help the volunteer Moss Alliance with their legal costs.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/09/27/lydiate-parish-council-gets-insight-into-fracking/

October – Building on high-grade agricultural land, which feeds us, is the politics of the madhouse:-

The vast Maghull East urban extension (presently high grade agricultural land) site as seen from Poverty Lane, Maghull

Another environmental campaign that I feel passionately about. That governments and councils (of any political colour) can allow building on the highest grades of agricultural land, which grows the food we eat, is utterly mad to me – a subject I have blogged about many, many times…..

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/10/15/we-import-50-of-our-food-now-do-opposition-politicians-get-why-i-keep-banging-on-about-saving-high-grade-agricultural-land-from-development/

November – Ormskirk to Preston Line – The worst performing in the UK?:-

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound (when it’s not being replaced by a bus). The one behind it is Liverpool bound.

As the year dragged on for the poor long-suffering passengers of Northern Rail questions began to be asked about whether the line from Ormskirk to Preston could possibly be the worst performing in the UK. The question was taken up by BBC News with particular reference to a whole week without a single train running on the line. Performance can only improve in 2019, it just could not get any worse.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/11/23/northern-trains-could-the-ormskirk-preston-line-be-the-most-poorly-performing-in-the-uk/

December – The battle to try to save Rimrose Valley Country Park from Highways England’s plans for a new road:-

Idyllic view of Rimrose Valley Country Park

And to close 2018 a subject I have oft-blogged about, the campaign to try to stop Highway’s England building a new road to the Port of Liverpool through Rimrose Valley Country Park. There have been many angles which I have reported on but the bizarre tangle Sefton Council’s Tory Group have got themselves into takes a lot of beating.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/12/04/rimrose-valley-country-park-are-sefton-tories-backing-highways-england-plan-for-new-road-through-it/

Sustrans has big cycle route projects on the go but will the Trans Pennine Trail through West Lancs get an urgently needed upgrade?

This was the state of the Cheshire Lines Path/Trans Pennine Trail through Great Altcar Civil Parish in the winter of 2017 – it’s not got any better.

The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport has the article on its website, see link below :-

ciltuk.org.uk/News/Latest-News/ArtMID/6887/ArticleID/20306/New-projects-to-improve-access-and-safety-on-National-Cycle-Network-underway?gator_td=107QxtmDbxphgZPEl3MiUiwBbsbInstb%2bwwl6QjANKIN%2bkGPiAQn1eF%2boToMyy2jMURXokt1%2fFuRUftQqh%2f8WYuH0yKeXpWBUp3XSTR8rGwTqLJ6ORGTSNsCUnNgoqARgCXHl0wc974RlfQHmXxFDIq9werhM6BVGCiKVL4WU1%2fy656KO1e9jqVnprtBewe5

Quoite from the article linked above – ‘At least 55 new projects will be delivered over the next five years across the UK to kick-start the major overhaul of the National Cycle Network to transform it into paths for everyone. The projects are a result of the first ever review and an independent audit of the 16,575-mile Network, published in November 2018.

The “Paths for Everyone” report classified 54% of the Network as “good” or “very good” and unveiled a long-term plan to make it traffic-free and tackle physical problems. These include poor surfaces and barriers that prevent access for many people, particularly those with adaptive bikes, wheelchairs or prams.

Among the key measures to improve the Network are 55 “activation projects” which we aim to deliver in partnership with local authorities and other landowners across the UK. These range from improving signage, to removing unnecessary barriers and creating new traffic-free sections. The projects are to be finalised by 2023, at a cost of approximately £60 million.’

With thanks to Mike Perkins for the lead to this posting

Lydiate & Maghull – Those Neighbourhood Plan Referendums – We were given a vote on the wrong Plan!

Here I am looking at what was protected Green Belt and presently still is high grade agricultural land off Lambshear Lane in Lydiate. It’s been reserved as building land in Sefton’s Local Plan.

If you live in either community did you vote in the 2 separate referendums on the Lydiate or Maghull NP’s on 18th December? I did but with little enthusiasm even though I had a hand in putting the Lydiate one together.

Why my lack of enthusiasm? Because these Neighbourhood Plans will have only marginal influence on the big planning issues that people are concerned about. The significant issues were all ‘settled’ when Sefton Borough’s Local Plan was controversially rammed through Sefton Council by its Labour majority.

It’s the Sefton Local Plan that we should have had a referendum on!

I must admit to being baffled by the publicity surrounding the two NP referendums with even our local MP seemingly getting over-excited about them in the Champion newspaper. You’d have thought that these NP’s were game changers in the world of urban planning because of the hype, when in fact they are only very limited in their effect.

Did I vote yes?. Yes, I did. Would it have made any difference if I had not voted for the Lydiate plan or if either of the plans had been rejected? No, not really.

In simple terms, the electorate was given the chance to vote on the wrong plan. Now a vote on Sefton’s Local Plan, which only Sefton Councillors were able to back or sack, would have been very significant and well worth getting excited about. Why? Because that Local Plan defined which parcels of Green Belt and high-grade agricultural land will be built on across Sefton Borough. In other words, it defined 95% of planning guidance for Sefton Borough whilst the public (on this occasion in Maghull & Lydiate) was thrown a ‘democratic’ option to approve, or not approve’ around just 5% of that guidance.

The vast Maghull East urban extension (presently high grade agricultural land) site as seen from Poverty Lane, Maghull

Sorry, I really can’t get excited about a worthy but hardly significant NP for my Lydiate community when I’ve had a hugely controversial Local Plan imposed on me by Sefton Council’s ruling political establishment. The massive Maghull East urban extension, to be built on the highest grades of agricultural land, will still be built – The Maghull NP does not stop that. And in Lydiate, the allocated sites for building houses (again mostly on high-grade agricultural land which feeds us) are unchanged by that community’s NP.

We were thrown one bag of Kevin Carrots to approve or disapprove

As I say the vote was on the wrong plan. We were thrown one bag of Kevin carrots to approve or disapprove of when we should have been considering whether it is wise to build on field after field of them across the joint communities of Lydiate and Maghull.

Labour excited about an Eric Pickles inspired policy

It was also strange how excited the political party (which voted through Sefton’s Local Plan) got about the two Neighbourhood Plans whilst also trying to give the impression that their Local Plan had been nothing to do with them at all. Even odder when you consider that Neighbourhood Plans were promoted by none other than the Tory’s Eric Pickles.

There’s nothing wrong with the Lydiate Neighbourhood Plan, I might add, in case you were wondering. It’s just that the context of it and indeed the importance of it has been completely over-played in my view. I have had nothing to do with the Maghull NP I should add.