Melling – Trying out its new Prescot Rd/Bank Lane safe cycle route

I’ve mentioned this Liverpool City Region project previously (see links below) but now the M58 ‘Ashworth’ Junction to Kirkby part is complete* – here’s my review of it.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/05/02/maghull-to-kirkby-via-melling-a-cycle-path-for-prescot-road-school-lane/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/01/04/melling-new-cycle-path-from-m58-ashworth-junction/

Oh and there’s a related posting about the stone-built bus shelter which now sits between the new cycle path and Prescot Road and had previously been threatened with demolition:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/03/17/melling-prescot-road-bus-shelter-what-on-earths-going-on/

From the M58 ‘Ashworth’ Junction south eastwards towards the Pear Tree Pub there’s a cycle path on both sides of the road (Maghull Lane) up to the junction with Prescot Road. If you’ve read the 2nd link above you’ll note my frustration with the fact that the cycle path on the left-hand side has not been taken round into the Ormskirk bound carriageway of Prescot Road but stops just before the junction! This effectively invites cyclists to rejoin the road at a dangerous point if they’re going towards Aughton/Ormskirk. Bad planning in my view. From this junction, there’s only one cycle path on the right-hand side heading along Prescot Road. The path is wide so easily caters for cycles to pass each other. Here’s a photo looking towards the Pear Tree Pub/junction (in the far distance) with the M58 junction being behind the camera:-

The previously threatened bus shelter**, of significant Melling heritage, which was fortunately saved can be seen in this shot with the Pear Tree Pub in the background.:-

To get around the Pear Tree Pub the cycle path follows Prescot Road at the forked junction and then, via a traffic-lighted crossing, passes to the rear of the pub to join Bank Lane. Here’s the crossing:-

And here’s my final shot looking down Bank Lane where the new cycle path joins a longer-standing one which takes cyclists into Kirkby:-

All in all an excellent piece of cycling infrastructure of the highest quality. Nice to see that it’s fully signed, unlike the new cycle path along the A59/Northway in Maghull. The hedging has been replanted so another environmental tick in the box there.

When the section into Maghull and its North Railway Station is constructed (at some point in the future – I know not when) a valuable complete safe cycling route will have been provided. Oh but please do that short missing section into Prescot Road from Maghull Lane for goodness sake! And on that note I’ll repeat something I often say about cycling infrastructure, it’s all well and good doing these grand and often expensive projects but sometimes relatively minor cycling solutions all over our communities remain unattended to. Identifying and tackling those many small projects needs to be a priority. If Sefton Council wants to know my list then I’ll happily supply it but in case I’m becoming a grumbler let me say again the new cycle path I post about here is most welcome and of high quality.

* The section running into Maghull and its North Railway Station will, I assume, be constructed along with the development of the vast Maghull East Urban Extension.

** Storm Arwen took the roof off this bus shelter and there was a great idea from a local resident to replace it with a living roof. I backed that idea and Tweeted my support for it to Merseytravel which they seemed to like the idea of. I note that the new roof is however not a living one, but what I don’t know is whether this is a temporary fix prior to putting a living roof on. Does anyone know more about this?

Note – Click on the photos to enlarge them

Driving UK society to a new ‘wild west’?

If we can get away with it, it’s OK. Our leaders don’t follow the rules, so neither will we. It’s every man and woman for themselves. We are all Thatcher’s children. Grab what you can before anyone else does.

I put it that such is starting to characterise what is happening to our UK society which was once thought to be very stable and law-abiding.

A process that has probably been well in train and developing for many years seems to have accelerated since lockdown, indeed you could say it’s been driven with the foot very much down to the boards. The end result is one of us becoming a more self-centred and isolationist society. Wasn’t it Thatcher who said there’s no such thing as society? Well in 2021 that’s even more true than when she said it 40 years ago. We seem to have a significant section of present-day society that does not see itself as being a part of anything much at all and certainly not part of a neighbourhood or community, and very much not part of a wider world!

You see this most obviously on our ‘wild west’ roads where pretty much anything goes these days. I never fail to be troubled, and this is pretty much every time I leave our house by cycle or car, at lunatic driving. Not just breaking the speed limit but doubling it and red-light running is something I now expect to see at every traffic-lighted junction and Pelican Crossing as opposed to a once in a blue moon thing it was say 20 years ago. Litter comes tumbling out of cars at junctions, even dirty nappies. Anyone who drives at or just below the speed limit is hounded by abusive drivers who feel entitled to do whatever speed they wish and who know the chances of being caught doing it by the powers that be are all but non-existent.

And then I look at our wretched government which seems to lead this wild west society by doing just as it pleases and beggar the consequences. Yes, of course, I’m no Tory so I do have an axe to grind against them but surely the modern Tory Party is a world away from what it once was? A party which has always had its spivs and wide boys but which kept them firmly in the background now seems to celebrate dodgy doings and those who do them!

My Dad’s family were working-class Tories living in a council house but with a few unfortunate exceptions, in terms of beliefs, they were decent and law-abiding. The exceptions being, anti-semitism and anti-Catholicism. Dad died in 2009 but even back then he was clearly troubled by the declining standards within the Tory Party; his views on Johnson are unprintable. He once told me that his concerns mirrored what he saw as the decline in his much loved Daily Telegraph newspaper. He could not be doing with dishonesty and could not understand the drift of the Tory Party he had been a member (off and on) and supporter of his whole adult life.

Yet will this drift towards a wild west-type society be tackled or have we gone too far for any politicians to have the guts to stand against selfishness, I know best and sod everyone else I’m doing what I want attitudes? I have my doubts as bit by bit Johnson has been taking us towards a Trumpian-type society and it is very difficult having in effect endorsed a ‘do as you please there’ll be no consequences’ approach to then haul that back. That horse has bolted and the opposition looks too weak and ineffective to address matters; best to not see what’s going on.

As a Social Liberal, my guiding principle is along the lines of we should be free to do as we wish so long as we are not harming others and the environment in exercising our freedoms. If we learn that what we doing is hurting others/the environment then we should try to restrain our freedoms accordingly, but I appreciate that many Conservatives and indeed Labour supporters would not support such a view of our world.

On the whole, I’m pessimistic about our direction of travel not least because it will inevitably lead to the poor becoming poorer and the powerful grabbing an even bigger share of our ever more unequal society.

Bridges, bridges & more footbridges

I blogged a while back about Lydiate footpath No.5, which links Southport Road to Eagar Lane, as a bridge over a stream needed replacing. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/07/01/lydiate-footpath-no-5/

Well, it took a bit longer but the new bridge is now in place. However, concerns have been raised that the step up to the bright blue bridge is too high at around 14 inches**. Lydiate Parish Cllr. Edie Pope* tells me that a Sefton Council officer agrees it’s too high a step so I’m guessing that an additional step will be added? Here’s Edie at the bridge:-

I’ve been wondering why the bridge is bright blue as not so far away a couple of footbridges on paths linking Lydiate, The River Alt and Ince Blundell have also just been replaced and they are a far more discrete brown colour – see below:-

No, I’m not asking for a repaint, just curious about why some footbridges are brown and some blue.

* A section of this footpath actually runs along the boundary of Cllr. Edie Pope’s Church View Farm and she tells me that at some point in the distant past before she owned the land the footpath seems to have been moved from one side of the stream to the other. This must be back in Lancashire County days i.e. well prior to local government reorganisation in 1974. This being the case, if the path had been on the other side of the stream, there would have been no need for a bridge.

** Many local footpath bridges have steps up to them and I have previously pondered on this, amongst other reasons, being a form of obstruction to deter motorcycles. Our historic footpath network in England has never been disability friendly so such steps usually don’t make the paths any more inaccessible. It’s only very modern public rights of way where disability has been/is catered for.

So who’d you have as aides if you were US President?

I was having a conversation with my old political buddy Andrew Blackburn the other day and we talked of who we would have in our team if we were the US President. It was re-watching the 1st season of The West Wing which inspired this conversation. It must be one of the best series that I’ve seen on the TV. So anyway here goes with my personal list of West Wing characters and some personal additional aides.

Those in brackets are the actors playing the parts in Season 1:-

The President (Martin Sheen) – Me of course! – Delusions of grandeur of it seems:-)

Vice President (Tim Matheson) – Phil Holden – needed to pull in the right of centre vote. All but a Republican he’s never the less far from being a right-wing nut-job. Has a fine analytical mind with which I often don’t agree but is useful in balancing my Social Liberal ‘leftie’ outlook.

Chief of Staff – Leo McGarry (John Spencer) – Andrew Blackburn – Always sees the wider picture, is very loyal and will tell me what I don’t want to hear.

Deputy Chief of Staff – Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) – David Rimmer – the most polite and successful political hit-man I ever knew – ‘Leave it to me boss, you won’t hear of it again’ and I didn’t.

Communications Director – Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) – David Tattersall – Turns government-speak into straightforward language voters can easily grasp.

Deputy Communications Director – Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) – Steph Prewett – The best at seeing required end results and making sure they’re achieved. As with David Rimmer, the buried bodies are never seen again.

Press Secretary – (CJ Cregg (Allison Jamney) – Layla Moran – Progressive, Liberal, naturally outgoing and likeable, has the common touch which few in politics have. She’s a natural to talk for my White House on any matter of public importance. Good to have someone of Palestinian descent in high office too.

Personal Aide to the President – Charlie Young (Dule Hill) – A young Charles Walker – Cheeky, full of fun, loyal and generous. A lifetime of wide experiences to fall back on make him an essential team member.

Secretary – Mrs Landingham (Kathryn Joosten) – Christine Polanski – 100% reliable gets rid of time wasters, knows when I need support and can make me laugh when stress levels are high.

Special advisors not a part of the West Wing –

Special Advisors Defence & Foreign Policy – Paddy Ashdown, Tom Tugendhat, Ming Campbell, Robin Cook

Special Advisor – Social Policies, housing & planning – Roy Connell

Special Advisor – Education and crime – Geoff Howe

Special Advisor – Environment and climate change – Caroline Lucas

Special Advisor – The arts, culture, broadcasting and media – Andrew Beattie

Special Advisor – Liberty, freedom, charities, poverty – Iain Brodie Browne

Special Advisors – without portfolios – Peter Gibson, Barry Smith, Dave Martin, Lord Peter Smith, Ken Clarke,

Special advisor – Transportation – Amtrak Joe

Urban transit systems feed the beast at the centre

Passing Merseyrail trains at Aughton Park Station on Merseyrail’s Northern LIne to Ormskirk

It’s true, they all tend to serve the city at the centre of things and rarely offer connectivity between the satellite towns/districts. I’ve often thought about this because of my experience with Merseyrail but the same will be true of virtually all metro/transit systems. The link below addresses Greater Manchester’s very similar problem:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0yekbZWMWw&t=482s

But like Greater Manchester, there are potential solutions available subject to the money to do them and the political will. Readers of this blog site will probably recall that I’ve always been sceptical of the Liverpool City Region as a concept because it potentially sets up power and resources being pulled into Liverpool at the expense of towns such as Bootle, Southport, St. Helens, Ormskirk, Kirkby and Birkenhead. To my mind, Liverpool City benefiting from losses in the districts is simply bad politics, bad for the wider than Liverpool local economy and bad social policy. Yet the Liverpool City region is set up with a public transit system which is in effect designed to deliver such outcomes!

I don’t want there to be excellent transit to Liverpool but crap irregular and unreliable buses joining up important district centres. So what are the possible solutions? I’ll look at just two for the Liverpool City Region but from it, you’ll get my drift, I hope.

Expanding Merseyrail

If you take the Liverpool – Southport and Liverpool – Ormskirk Merseyrail Northern Lines they effectively head north from Liverpool in a ‘V’ shape with Southport and Ormskirk at the top of the ‘V’. What’s needed is for the Ormskirk Line to head further north to Burscough (a fast-growing town in itself these days) and then for it to finish at two destinations – Preston and Southport. The track/trackbed’s already there to enable this, indeed the only bits without track and regular train services are the two ‘Burscough Curves’. It really is a ‘no brainer’ because at a stroke you’ve ended up connecting Ormskirk with Southport and Southport with Preston. What’s more, you’ve converted the present hourly service between Ormskirk and Preston to a far more regular Merseyrail service.

One end of the mothballed North Mersey Branch seen here from the platform of Aintree Station.

Coming down the present ‘V’ towards Liverpool you have a second very clear opportunity to connect up Bootle and Aintree using the currently mothballed North Mersey branch. Or look at it a different way. Presently, if you live say in Maghull and want to get a Merseyrail train to Southport you have to travel south all the way to Sandhills Station in Liverpool to change trains to then go back northwards towards Southport. Under what I’m outlining here you could go via Ormskirk without needing to change trains.

None of this needs land to be acquired, buildings to be demolished or major engineering works but it would significantly help to connect up north Merseyside and Lancashire communities assisting their economies.

Of course, there will be other similar solutions in other parts of Merseyside/Liverpool City Region such as reconnecting Skelmersdale with the railway network. That project, which does require heavy engineering, land to be purchased etc. is being seriously looked at despite it having an eye-watering price tag.

More perspectives on the World Heritage Status loss in Liverpool

The ‘3 Graces’ on Liverpool waterfront taken from the new Museum of Liverpool, which may well be one of the planning compromises too far?

I’ve posted about this previously and here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/07/21/liverpool-world-heritage-status-lost/

Scouser opinions on the move/loss seem to be, as a generality, – ‘we did not ask for WHS’, ‘it was of no value’, ‘glad it’s gone’, ‘who cares the visitors will still come’ etc. etc.

Here’s a Scouser having his say having given the matter significant consideration – be prepared for a long read – Phil, an Everton fan and good friend of mine, does not have a short button!:-) –

phlhldn.blogspot.com/2021/08/the-liverpool-blitz-and-if-you-know.html

And here’s a quite different perspective, one that my professional historian relative agrees with –

sevenstreets.substack.com/p/unescos-binned-us-off-what-next-for

I’m not a Scouser as I only came to live on Merseyside aged 10 in 1968, so I’m not sure how long it will be before I’m adopted. My perspective is one of looking at the management of Liverpool City Council over quite a number of years and thinking along the lines of, ‘with better local management this rather sad (to me) situation need not have happened at all’.

Heritage is very important to me and I despair of old buildings and landscapes being lost so that another developer can make a quick Buck. Liverpool has changed massively since the dark days of the 1970s/1980s but I’m far from convinced that politicians and planners for the City really do have a strategic plan to carefully weave in new developments so they don’t compromise historic views and landscapes.

Other historic cities manage to do this successfully, or at least more successfully, so what’s gone wrong in Liverpool? Yes, planning laws and policy have been progressively (or is that more appropriately regressively) ‘relaxed’ over many generations by UK governments of all colours, in the name of speeding up the timescale of new developments. The trouble is, with historic landscapes, this rush to build anything cheap as fast as possible will clearly lead to unfortunate compromises. Personally, I’d rather see strengthened planning policies, especially ones adopted at a local level, so that due consideration and indeed protection can be given to historic buildings, Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas etc. etc.

But none of this lets Liverpool City Council off the hook though as the ‘Caller Report’, limited in scale as it was, has recently pointed a very critical finger at the Council’s activities, not least in the area of regeneration, property management, highways, and planning. Some Liverpool folk may well not want World Heritage Status back, I accept that, but I really do hope they want their City Council to get back on track in the area of regeneration and planning at least.

Historic buildings don’t exist in isolation, they sit in landscapes and the buildings close to them, in particular, need to be sympathetic in their design. My view is that Liverpool lost the art of fitting historic buildings in with new developments quite some time ago and yes the Museum of Liverpool was, for me at least, probably the start of the misstepping of regeneration and planning in the City.