What to do with Lancashire before we all lose the will to live!

I’d been wondering where the very, very long-running saga regarding the oft-talked about reorganisation of local government in the County of Lancashire had got to and then picked up on Jim Hancock’s latest blog article which I link below (look for Lancashire Devolution):-

www.jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

I thought the argument about keeping all of the district councils plus a county council had been settled (or is that an imposed settlement) in that like many other areas of England the councils would all be unitary. But it seems that some folk still want to retain the old two-tier council arrangement, 3-tier if you included, as you should, the network of parish councils.

This is a matter I’ve covered before (see links below) and I still hold to the view that John Prescot’s plan to place half of West Lancs District/Borough into Sefton Met Borough and half into Wigan Met Borough had great merit. Yes, I know where you split West Lancs is problematic but surely solvable.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/06/28/lancashire-is-it-about-to-get-an-elected-mayor/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/08/10/lancashire-still-squabbling-over-local-government-changes/

No, trying to keep the district councils and a county council with some convoluted system to make decisions is, in my view, a recipe for going around in circles at best and at worst it could be a disaster for local governance in Lancashire.

But where I do agree with what the Lancashire local authorities have put forward is their rejection of a Regional Mayor and I won’t bore you by yet again rehearsing my reasons for saying this. Suffice to say I’m no fan of Regional Mayors whatsoever.

Frankly, and this may sound rather illiberal, the circus has to stop and decisions have to be made otherwise we’ll be discussing this endless process of reorganising Lancashire along with the negative consequences of Brexit for the next 15 years!

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

Shakespeare and Prescot

I’ve always had a soft spot for Prescot, the stamping ground of the near-legendary (to me anyway) Cllr. Ian Smith whom I’ve heard referred to as ‘Mr Prescot’ and we’re not talking ‘2 Jags’ here!

The steeple of Prescot Parish Church just as the sun was going down.

I’m also a fan of ‘The Post’ a new online newspaper for Merseyside which has just published an in-depth article about Prescot’s soon to be Shakespeare Theatre. The link below is to The Post article, by Robin Brown, which is well worth a read:-

www.livpost.co.uk/p/whats-past-is-prologue-how-shakespeare

I decided to ask ‘Mr Prescot’ for his views on the project and this is what he says:-

‘We are very supportive of the Shakespeare theatre being built in Prescot. The unique history of the Town demands this investment in its future. The original Elizabethan theatre was sited at the other end of Eccleston Street near a building known a the ‘Flat iron’ for obvious reasons.

We are all looking forward to the opening in 2022. The theatre will attract visitors to Prescot from all over the world. The renovation work to shops in the Town have been in keeping and Eccleston Street offers a café and restaurant atmosphere and is welcoming to visitors both day and night.

Prescot can look to a great future by building on its past, it has important stories to tell and will become an important visitor attraction in the North West.’

Councillor Ian Smith – Prescot North Knowsley MBC & Prescot Town Council

And here’s an interesting link about the project from the Liverpool Echo:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/shakespeares-links-merseyside-new-playhouse-22585829#ICID=Android_EchoNewsApp_AppShare

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.

RIP Barry Griffiths & Ron Coffee

I’ve learned in recent days about the deaths of two former councillors that I served with.

Barry Griffiths was a Conservative member of Sefton Council until 2012 and I recall him being a very polite and good-humoured chap. During my time as Leader of Sefton Council (2004 – 2011) Barry was a senior member of the Tory Group on what was then a balanced council with no one party in overall control. As Leader I often felt a bit like a Circus Ringmaster as I tried to corral differing views into a common way forward. Often things were tense but I recall that on odd occasions Barry would take the trouble to come up to me and say a few encouraging words. I appreciated his kindness over what I suspect was a very wide political gap between us.

Ron Coffee was a Liberal Democrat member of Lydiate Parish Council in the late 1980s through to the early 1990s if memory serves correctly. I think he was on the council for around seven years having originally won his seat at a Parish Council by-election. Ron, who lived in Lydiate for many years, was a college lecturer by trade. My distinct recollection of him was that he had a deep interest in public transport and would often be found commenting on the performance of buses, trains and Merseytravel. My apologies for the poor quality photo of Ron.

RIP Barry and Ron

My Kirkby and Maghull/Hornby worlds have come together

The other day I received by post a booklet titled ‘Steaming Back To Kirkby Loco – Life on the Lines in the days of Steam – At Kirkby in Ashfield Loco Shed’. The booklet has been written and published this year by David Amos and Keith Murray. Here’s the front cover:-

As a Kirkby lad by birth (I lived there until I was 6) I found the booklet very interesting and informative. My understanding is that my Uncle Ken Calladine (on my Mother’s side of the family) was both an engine driver and he worked, at least for some of his working life, out of Kirkby Loco Shed*. He was born on Urban Road Kirkby, yards away from the railway.

I’ve resided on Merseyside since I was 10 and for 33 of those years, I lived in the town (Maghull) where world-famous toy maker Frank Hornby made his home. Some years ago now I became a trustee of the Maghull-based Frank Hornby Charitable Trust which runs the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre within Meadows Leisure Centre & Library in Maghull**.

A view of the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre

So having mentioned Kirkby In Ashfield and Maghull, what’s the connection other than my living in both communities at some point in my life? Well, the connection was made by my reading the booklet referenced above because the authors talk about a certain class of steam locomotive which was based at Kirkby Loco Shed* – a Stanier Class 8F steam engine. The point is that I would have stood looking at that class of loco with my Grandad Walter Calladine at the level crossing on Urban Road Kirkby in the early 1960s. But what makes this interesting is that Hornby made a model engine of an 8F with the number 48073. That loco was based at Kirkby shed!

You may have guessed where this is going now? Well yes, I’ve just purchased a second hand Hornby 8F with the number 48073, which in due course will be loaned to the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre in Maghull. OK, it cost me a few Quid and I may have a bone to pick with David Amos and Keith Murray for them leading me to part with my hard-earned pension but actually, I’m rather delighted to have made another connection between Kirkby and Maghull. And here’s a photo of said model complete with its original packaging:-

And here’s a photo of a real fellow member of the 8F Class after it had a rather unfortunate accident at Kirkby Loco Shed in 1959!:-

* Kirkby-In-Ashfield Shed Codes – Sept 1938 to Sept 1955 – 16C, Oct 1955 to August 1963 – 16B, Sept 1963 to October 1966 – 16E

** The opening hours of the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre reflect those of Maghull Library. The present days/hours (November 2021) are Monday to Wednesday & Friday 10am – 4.30pm, Thursday Closed, Saturday 10am – 1.30pm. Please note at the time I posted this blog piece the website of Sefton Council was still showing the restricted Covid Lockdown opening times for Maghull Library. We are trying to get them to update it.