Meadows Leisure Centre, Maghull – Just who is supposed to maintain the planted areas around it?

This was a question put to me recently via my involvement with Maghull in Bloom but sadly I had already noticed the weed infested garden areas.

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When I was Leader of Sefton Council I also happened to be the Sefton Council Cabinet member responsible for the construction of the Leisure Centre. Indeed, I led the community campaign to get it built over many years.

My point is this, I distinctly remember agreeing with Maghull Town Council, who own the land on which the Leisure Centre is built and who have leased the land to Sefton Council, that it would continue to maintain all the landscaped areas around Meadows once the contractors maintenance period had ended.

So it’s simple, Maghull Town Council should be maintaining the garden areas just as they are cutting the grass around them. Why this is not happening beats me but as Labour now runs both Maghull and Sefton Councils it is surely not beyond the wit of Labour man or woman to resolve this is it? I have written to the new Leader of Maghull Town Council about this.

Meanwhile whilst the two Councils squabble over who will do it the Maghull in Bloom volunteers are in solution mode as well and they tend to get things done when Councils procrastinate.

Why isn’t the whole of England Parished?

The purpose behind the 1894 legislation (which Gladstone used to set up Civil Parishes) was to separate civil and religious powers in England (rural England in particular) but since then why has no government seen fit to Parish the whole of England?

To those of us in the parish movement (I mean Parish Councillors) it seems such an obvious thing to do if managing communities effectively at the grass roots is a desirable outcome; which it clearly is. So let’s examine why it has not happened and sadly may well never happen.

Firstly, we live in a significantly centralised democracy and since the Second World War it has probably become more centralised. Power is firmly gripped at Westminster and all governments, no matter what they say before taking office and certainly after they have taken office, seem to fall for the argument that letting the natives do what they want is simply not good for them. For that buzz word localism read ‘we need to let the natives think they are gaining more control over their affairs and the communities they live in whilst not really giving them much at all’.

We can see this played out in planning regulations over generations where centralised policies and edicts are made over how many houses should be built for example, even targets (remember the Regional Strategies) for house building are imposed at times.

But hang on don’t all the main political parties talk about decentralisation and localism? Well yes they do but in practice anything that is devolved is either sent down with strings attached or is a reasonably worthless sop such as Neighbourhood Planning.

Then there is the existing spread of parish councils. Are they a good advert for further and/or real decentralisation? I am sure you can find both good and poor examples to justify an answer either way but frankly the parish councils sector is not well organised, it does not effectively campaign and it is taken little notice of by all governments.

But why is that the case? It is probably because of the extremely diverse nature of parish councils and finding two alike is hard work. Governments like dealing with Districts, Boroughs and County Councils because they are predicable, usually do as they are told and can have their funding put at risk by not following the governmental line. Is there any wonder then that national politicians who think Westminster is the be all and end all of democracy don’t care for a local government sector that is incredibly diverse, sleepy in some quarters whilst too innovative and over active (for Government tastes) in others, is staunchly independent and presently still has fund raising powers that are significantly un-fettered by government?

Take Eric Pickles that blunt and controlling Yorkshire chap. He seems, as a Minister of the Crown, to be pondering on trying to control parish precepts! What business is it of his; a parish precept is a matter between the parish council and the folks who live in that parish. Why on earth would anyone outside of a parish have any wish to interfere in that very local democratic process?

But for my money the problem is that parish councils need to become more credible despite their diverse nature because if they don’t truly local grass roots democracy will never be endorsed by any government in terms of powers available and extending parish councils across all of England. The big question is how do they become more credible and break down the walls of our stifling centralising democracy?

Sefton Council – What’s happened to our grass verges? They are knee deep yet again?

For as long as anyone can remember Sefton Council and its contractors have never really got to grips with cutting the Borough’s grass verges. Each growing season councillors have to complain about the lack of cutting but this year we were wrong footed and given a false sense of hope as the first couple of cuts actually happened!

But sadly things have gone downhill since then and some verges are about as bad as they can get or ever have been at present. What’s more the Highways Agency seem to be in competition with Sefton Contractors as to who can grow the longest grass as the A5036 Dunningsbridge Road is showing grass above knee high.

Grass verge at Dunningsbridge Road, Netherton

Grass verge at Dunningsbridge Road, Netherton

Below is Lydiate Parish Councillor Robbie Fenton measuring the height of the grass at the junction of Liverpool Road and Kenyons Lane Lydiate during a previous Council-run ‘competition’ to see where the longest grass could be grown in the Borough!

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No wonder residents are calling for the Council to get its act together!

June 2021 Note – This posting has attracted some interesting ‘green’ responses in recent weeks and ones that I share the views of. Yes, turning grass verges into wildflower havens is something I think Sefton Council should seriously look into as other local authorities have taken such a course of action. Of course, back a few years ago when this posting was published the issue then was the frustration of Sefton Borough residents who saw their verges being left in an uncut mess when there was no environmental policy driving the matter whatsoever.

What a carry on – The new Sefton Central Area (Farce) Committee met in Maghull last night

Well I said from day one that it would be more like a conference than what a truly local Area Committee should be and so it proved. Just look at how many people there were in that large room and they are not all on the photo!

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Formby residents had to go all the way to Maghull to raise concerns about traffic regulation orders in their own patch which previously were dealt with in Formby.

A Crosby traffic issue was dealt with in Maghull instead of in Crosby ….. I could go on but you get my drift!

The meeting started off with many public questions about very local matters in Formby and Aintree, wind farm issues in Ince Blundell and green belt concerns just about everywhere. The worrying point was that virtually no questions got answers despite them being submitted in some cases many weeks ago. One chap said he had submitted a question to the new Area Committee 8 weeks ago but still no one was able to answer his adult care provision concerns. What’s more he is a well known senior Labour Party activist! If he can’t get the Labour Council to take note of his concerns what chance the rest of us?

Prior to the meeting there was a large lobby/protest outside the meeting venue (Maghull Town Hall) by folks wanting to stop Sefton Council allowing building on the Green Belt. What interested me was that apart from us Lib Dems no one seemed to want to engage with them at all. Here is a photo of the green belt protestors.

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I posted yesterday about the Labour members who are promoting the plan to build on the Green Belt not answering detailed questions about their Council’s plan in the public question time session of the Area (Farce) Committee but later on I was taken aback at the response a chap from Crosby got from Labour. He had come out to Maghull to quite reasonably ask that the councillors from the 4 Crosby Wards dip into their ward funds to help finance his campaign group who are trying to save Collage Road Library from Labour’s axe. He got a positive from Andrew Tonkiss a Lib Dem member of Victoria Ward but he got short shrift from a Labour member for Manor ward who seemed most put out that the chap had not contacted him personally before turning up at the Area (Farce) Committee to ask for financial support. In the end Labour, who have a large majority on the Area (Farce) Committee, wanted to take it away and give it a mull over. Wow, that is really backing a community initiative! By the way it was during that discussion that Labour members made the suggestion that money from a £1m slush fund be made available to library campaign groups when they, yes they, had all voted not to make such funds available at the recent budget meeting!

Did local democracy get a boost from that farcical Area Committee meeting last night – a resounding NO! Were Labour able to prove that the merging of the 3 former Area Committees (Formby, Crosby & Sefton East Parishes) into one huge Area Committee for everywhere outside of Bootle and Southport was a step forward – a resounding NO!

Reactions to Labour run Sefton Council’s Green Belt Grab

Not surprisingly the plans recently unveiled by Labour run Sefton Council to grab more high grade agricultural land to build upon have gone down very badly.

The Champion newspaper’s East Parishes reporter Jim ‘The News Hound’ Sharpe calls the master plan ‘bonkers’.

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr John Pugh the Lib Dem MP for Southport says the plan will create a ‘hollowed out sprawl’.

Maria Bennett of Formby Residents Action Group (Fragoff) says ‘Sefton’s plan is completely flawed’

Tonight at Maghull Town Hall a large number of concerned residents and environmental campaigners mixed in with folks who have seen through Labour’s con-trick of one part of that Party in Sefton promoting the green belt grab whilst the others condemn it, turned out to voice their concerns.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard at the site in Maghull where Labour run Sefton Council wants to built 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce's Lib Dem team opposes Labour's plans

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard at the site in Maghull where Labour run Sefton Council wants to built 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce’s Lib Dem team opposes Labour’s plans as they did last time Sefton Council tried to earmark the site for building land

The meeting was of the first of the quite ludicrous Central Sefton Area Committee i.e. everywhere that is not Bootle or Southport in the Borough. I wondered what would happen as Labour like to hush up and crush up protestors as Aintree Library campaigners found out when they attended a meeting of the former East Parishes Area Committee trying to stop Labour from closing their library.

Like back then the protestors were out in force because they thought that their community leaders were off on a course of action which would damage their community. Well they were right over the Aintree Library (although the community may well have stopped the closure by taking it over themselves) and many, many folks think they are right now to fight Labour every inch of the way over the Green Belt grab.

This is what happened. The campaigners asked 3 questions about the detail of the proposals under Labour’s Local Plan. Did they get any answers? No. My Lib Dem colleagues and I deliberately sat and watched because we wanted to know what the Labour councillors present would do. In effect Labour said they did not know the answers to the questions and would get back to the questioners. Well at least the questioners were not shouted at but answers there were none!

Carla Lane Animals in Need, Melling – Issue of fundraising stall at Maghull Square

I was not able to attend the meeting of Maghull Town Council yesterday evening but as this highly popular local animal charity was proposing to lobby the Council at the meeting I put together the briefing note below for the rest of the Council.

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Dear Council members and Animals Need representatives,

As I will not be at the Maghull TC meeting tomorrow evening when the charity is attending to ask for the Town Council’s support in their fight to continue to hold their fund raising stall somewhere in Maghull’s shopping centre I have put this short note together because I have been trying to help the charity in their hour of need.

When I became aware that the owners (Maghull Group) of the northern side of Maghull’s shopping centre had in effect given the charity notice to quit I lobbied the company to see if I could get them to reconsider. They made it clear that their mind was made up and they would not be allowing the charity to pitch their stall on Maghull Group land in future.

I then spoke a number of times to Margaret Brady of the charity, Jerry McConkey (a Highways Officer at Sefton Council), Alex Scott (a Neighbourhoods Officer at Sefton Council) and passed on the contact details to Margaret Brady of the owners of the southern side of the shopping centre (London and Cambridge Properties).

My hope was that either Sefton would allow the charity to pitch their stall on Sefton Council owned land or that London and Cambridge Properties would.

Sefton were not unsympathetic but then it became clear that any application to pitch a stall on public land on the northern side of the shopping centre (i.e. northern side of Westway) would be objected to by Mason Owen the agents for the Maghull Group. On that basis Sefton via Jerry told me and the charity that if they applied for permission it would in all likelihood be refused due to the anticipated objections from Mason Owen.

After a lot of discussions it became clear to me that the only way forward would be for the charity to make the formal application and then try to appeal against the expected refusal. I think any appeal would need to go via the appropriate Sefton Cabinet member i.e. Cllr. John Fairclough and I have sent a note to John recently telling him to expect the charity to make contact with him. I have not heard back from him as yet.

The last I heard London and Cambridge Properties had not responded to the charity in terms of whether they would allow it to pitch a stall on their land but if there has been any movement here I am sure the charity will update the Council.

I think we all know how well supported this animal charity is and how devastated their supporters are by the recent turn of events. My hope is that the Council will back the charity and try to put pressure on the Maghull Group, Sefton Council and London and Cambridge Properties in an attempt to try to find them a suitable fund raising pitch for their stall.

Best wishes
Cllr. Tony Robertson – 28th May 2013