Fly-Tipping!

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

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56128314

A subject I’ve blogged about many times before and one that completely exasperates me as the country lanes which I cycle are always having rubbish dumped alongside them. Only last week I found Spurriers Lane/Outlet Lane (Melling/Simonswoood- Merseyside/West lancs) in its depressingly usual state, a state it seems to have been in for more years than I care to recall. And yet the regular fly-tippers don’t ever seem to be brought to book for their acts of environmental ruination, or so it seems to me anyway.

I recall trying to get covert surveillance done of notorious fly-tipping locations back when I was a Sefton Borough councillor but there was always a reason why it could not/would not be done, yet the councils spend huge amounts of money clearing dumped rubbish up. Surely some of that money spent actively trying to catch the fly-tippers and following that through to the publicity that could flow from court cases would help to deter others?

A local authority in Norfolk seems to have taken up covert surveillance successfully (see link below), how about Sefton and Lancashire having a go?:-

www.north-norfolk.gov.uk/news/covert-surveillance-helps-secure-fly-tipping-prosecution/

So how do Parish Councils really behave?

I’ve been a parish councillor continuously since September 1985 on Maghull Town Council and in more recent times on Lydiate Parish Council so you won’t be surprised to hear that after the carryings on at Handforth Parish Council, so beloved of the internet and media in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been asked by folks whether I’ve ever witnessed or even been a part of such ‘entertainment’.

I’m happy to say that I’ve not. Yes I’ve seen the odd flare of temper and odd inappropriate/rude remark, the odd bit of disrespect but usually it’s been directed at parish councillors by frustrated members of the public lobbying for help/support over a matter of importance to them. Driven by frustration over whatever matter brought the member of the public to a parish council meeting and quite probably because the angered resident quickly found out that whatever was buzzing in their bonnet could not actually be fixed by the parish council, can tip someone over into impolite commentary.

I do recall one chap who for a period of time would come to Town Council meetings and his tone and rudeness was regularly over the top but everyone kept their cool and the responses from the Town Councillors were firm but polite. My view was that he came for arguments on various matters and was deliberately provocative but as I say the councillors did not rise to the bait. That’s not to say many of us weren’t tempted!

In my 16 years as a Sefton Borough councillor I had at one time 5 parish councils within my Borough ward and they were all very different in how they went about things as parish councils usually are. District, Borough and County councils are pretty much of a muchness no matter who or what party is running them as 95% of what they do is the same as any similar council. However, parish councils can be very different animals despite existing under the same basic law and rule book.

I spotted Jim Hancock’s remarks on this very subject yesterday (on his Hancock’s Half Page Blog site) where he said:-

‘LYMM NOT HANDFORTH.

I see the councillors in the Handforth parish were making fools of themselves again this week. I spent a recent evening watching the proceedings of Lymm Parish Council. The councillors dealt efficiently with issues from flooding to litter with a smile on their face.

I suspect that’s the case with most town and parish councils. After we’ve had our fun over Handforth, we should acknowledge the selfless work at this level of our democracy.’

I like parish councils and their diversity. Yes some can become akin to private members clubs where they don’t hold elections every 4 years (this happens where there are insufficient nominations to trigger an election) but they are the bedrock of our democracy as they are the closest form of governance to the electors. Yes I would change them if I were in government by giving them more powers and responsibilities over very local matters such as street cleansing, the running of parks and gardens and the like.

I bet for every bad parish council you could come across there’d be 20 or more which are a credit to their village, neighbourhood, community……..

Port of Liverpool access road goes on back burner?

Rimrose Valley Country Park.

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

www.placenorthwest.co.uk/news/delays-in-store-for-port-of-liverpool-link-road/

But of course there’s the paralel issue of government under pressure over its climate change busting £27b road building programme which is being seriously challenged in the courts by the likes of Transport Action Network:-

tan.creationtest.co.uk/campaign/legal-action/

So there’s a possibility here that the time being lost to delays could be used to further the environmental campaigns to save Rimrose Valley from having a road bulldozed through it. Having said that Highways England*, which is in my view not sufficiently regulated by a powerful independent regulator, could simply be told to keep the new road project going by the Secretary of State for Transport, its ultimate boss.

My thanks to Bob Robinson for the lead to this posting

* Highways England is a private company limited by shares, wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Transport. The Highways England Board is the primary governance arm of the company and is accountable to the Secretary of State for Transport.

Rimrose Valley Country Park in the foreground and the Port cranes in the background.

Lydiate – The state of our LLC towpath

Towpath north of Jackson’s Bridge

The towpath of the Leeds Liverpool canal through Lydiate leaves a lot to be desired; a subject I’ve blogged about before I might add. Here’s a couple of links back to previous postings in October 2015 and June 2019 :-

October 2015 – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/10/22/lydiate-leeds-liverpool-canal-bank-collapse/

June 2019 – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/07/29/lydiate-improvemnets-to-tow-path-flow-from-controversial-house-building-site/

The worst section of towpath is probably that which is north of Lollies Bridge (Southport Road Bridge) up to and past Lydiate Hill Bridge (also known as Billy’s Bridge) where the land and fields adjacent to it is higher. This causes water run-off onto the towpath with muddy almost impassable conditions at times especially after heavy periods of rain.

Lollies Bridge

View from Billy’s Bridge looking back towards Lollies Bridge.

Canal bank collapse just south of Lydiate Hill Bridge – Photo 2015

Ok, now to try to put all this in context of what Lydiate Parish Council is trying to do in 2021. If you’ve read the links above you’ll know that some planning gain money (otherwise known as Section 106 money) from the housing development at the end of Maghull’s Turnbridge Road (the new estate is known as Rosehill Gardens) has been allocated to the Canal & River Trust to upgrade the towpath along the section of it which is adjacent to the new housing i.e. the Green Lane Maghull to Bells Lane Lydiate section. The money amounts to £67,000 I understand. These works are yet to be undertaken I might add.

The recent intervention by Lydiate Parish Council has been along the lines of saying to the C&RT that whilst money to upgrade the towpath is obviously welcome there are actually worse parts, far worse parts, of the towpath through Lydiate which could do with attention and can we discuss how this can be achieved either using the S106 money or other funding sources. The response of the C&RT has been that the S106 money can only be spent on the defined section of canal towpath as detailed in the planning permission.

The Trust do however acknowledge though that the towpath elsewhere through Lydiate Parish Council’s area is in poor condition and that it can become impassable during inclement weather. They also say they’d be happy to work with the Parish Council to help identify improvements and priorities for the canal in such locations.

As readers may know the C&RT is a charity (similar to the National Trust – I’m a member of both I might add) and it is reliant on securing funding via developments (such as Rosehill Gardens) to try to improve the condition of the towpath surface or through bidding for funding via local and national schemes and initiatives. They seem to be happy to work with LPC to try to improve the canal towpath but clearly this means significant extra resources will need to be identified. At a very rough back of a fag packet type guess I’m thinking that to do up the whole of the towpath through Lydiate Parish could involve say £250,000+ and presently there’s just £67,000 in the pot for one already defined section of it, which is partly in Maghull.

There’s some good news however as the canal bank collapse (pictured above in 2015) is, we are told by the Trust, scheduled to be repaired in the next financial year – 2021/2022 assuming scarce maintenance resources do not have to be redirected to more urgent works.

The Parish Council is going to discuss the matter again at its February Zoom meeting to see if ways forward can be identified with regard to the bad sections of towpath.

I’ll update further as things hopefully develop…….

And a look back to the days when pedestrians and cyclists were unwelcome on our canal towpath – notice as seen at the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port

What is consultation actually all about?

I think it fair to say that the public sector is generally poor at genuine consultation (partly because proper consultation costs too much) and it often is simply engaged in what is no more than information sharing (telling folks what is going to be done) and box ticking. So telling folk what is going to be done to their community, neighbourhood etc. is often dressed up as ‘consultation’ when in reality the comments made may well be (politely) ignored/rejected.

I recall a ‘consultation’ event being held at Maghull Town Hall a few years back about the then proposed building of what is now the newish Maghull North Station. That consultation was, at face Value, useful but I got the distinct impression that there were always going to be good reasons not to take forward suggestions which were made by attendees at that event. I blogged about it at the time – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/12/14/maghull-consultation-response-on-towns-2nd-and-new-railway-station/

My somewhat cynical response was ‘and it does make you wonder whether Merseytravel and their partners (Network Rail & Merseyrail) really do want to hear alternative views at all. Seems some things are sadly set in stone.’ If you look back at the suggestions which I noted were made whilst I was at the event

* The draft design of the station is too boxy and bland – Don’t want to end up as nondescript as Aintree Station when it was modernised.
* Will some of the circular buses be diverted there because the bus access along narrow roads is poor to the present Maghull Station?
* Can there be a memorial included to reflect the historic Moss Side Hospital that was on the site before? This refers to the pioneering work done there during and after the First World War into shell shock.
* Can the old Maghull Station be renamed Maghull Hornby to differentiate it from Maghull North?
* Can Maghull North name be changed to say Maghull Moss Side for example?

you could say that only one was actually followed up on – the memorial and an excellent memorial it is too. The others were rejected (or not even taken seriously?) it seems and there may well have been others I did not hear about.

So why start banging on about ‘consultation’ now Robertson?

Well my good friend Roy Connell, once a fellow Sefton Borough and Maghull Town Councillor, has public sector consultation buzzing around his head presently.

In his case it involves consultation by office of the Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner regarding the amount of extra precept (an addition to our Council tax bills) it wants to charge in the financial year 2020/2021. Roy’s view, if I’ve understood him correctly, is the consultation has in effect been all but tokenistic. 2072 people expressed a view on the matter via either being telephoned directly or through them commenting on the matter via the survey (no, like you I didn’t know about it) on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website. When you consider that Merseyside has a population of approximately 1.4m then a couple of thousand taking part in a survey/consultation is a very small percentage.

We live in a representative democracy where we elect people to make significant decisions about our country, region and community. The idea being that if those decisions displease us we can kick out the representatives who made them. But we seem to have developed, at least in recent years, a desire to consult folk over decisions about public policy. At face value this is a great idea but in reality aren’t the consultations rather meaningless if the vast majority of folk know nothing of them or if those being surveyed may not be taken much notice of unless they say things which fit with the policy direction being consulted on?

Southport and its railways in 1959

I’m returning once again to the photographic collection of Neil Reston, a former BR employee, whose historic railway photos were passed on to me in 2020 by his family.

This posting concerns Southport where I’ve identified 6 photos which I think will have been taken in 1959 but stand to be corrected if anyone reading this blog thinks otherwise.

Southport Whit- Monday

Former West Lancs Railway Station

There is no commentary with the photos other than the last 2 where I have included the wording in the photo album. Maybe it would be a reasonable assumption to think that they may all have been taken on Whit-Monday 1959? If we do that the date would be Monday 18th May. In the last but one shot what became a Merseyrail Class 502 EMU can be seen. I think the loco number on the lead photo is 44896, if so, here’s a link to the class of engine:-

railuk.info/steam/getsteam.php?row_id=9838

Corrections and further information very much appreciated.

Click on the photos to enlarge them