Are cyclists really the scourge of our streets? Of course not, the Ch5 show was just prejudice and entertainment

A cyclists on the towpath of the Leeds Liverpool Canal in Aintree Village

The Channel 5 entertainment show of last night was all about the evil of cyclists – yes that’s right the people who have gone carbon neutral to try to help save the planet and who generally are fitter and healthier than many vehicle drivers too I bet.

Here’s a take on the programme from The Guardian web site by Rebecca Nicholson :-

www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/jul/09/cyclists-scourge-of-the-streets-review-a-road-rage-rant-dressed-in-lycra

That some cyclists ride in stupid and irresponsible ways is a given; why they probably drive vehicles with the same lack of respect for all around them too. And yes I grumble about grown adults riding on pavements, jumping red lights and not stopping at Zebra crossings as well. Only the other night – it was 10.15pm – in Maghull and I was sat at a set of traffic lights in my car (you see cyclists are drivers too) on the dual carriageway A59 when a youngish chap wearing a black T shirt and shorts rode his bike past me down the wrong carriageway. A deliberate attention seeking act no doubt. But as I say drivers of vehicles can be just as bad.

Me in my cycling gear

We used to be a nation of cyclists but after World War 2 we fell out of love with cycling and head over heels in love with driving cars. This shift, which has led to air pollution that is killing us and huge obesity problems is now on the turn again. You could say that what comes around goes around as cycling is once again becoming a mass participation mode of transport and a way to get and stay fit.

I’ve been a regular cyclist now for around 4 years having spent a good 30+ years when I hardly ever peddled at all. I can’t understand why I stopped cycling as I love it and feel much better both mentally and physically for getting back in the saddle. I mostly cycle for enjoymnet and fitness although at times I find my bike can get me into places where car parking is hard to find to do a bit of shopping.

Yes I have encounters with vehicles and I’ve blogged about them previously; there are some very bad drivers out there. But the real problem is the lack of cycling infrastructure, another issue I have commented on before – cycle lanes that finish in the oddest and sometimes the most dangerous of places, the lack of safe cycling routes from logical point to point places and even such simple things as no dropped kerbs such as right outside the brand new Maghull North Station. I could go on but you get my drift……

As a young lad living in Rochdale between the ages of 6 and 10 in the 1960’s I cycled all over the place and as a mature chap in his 60’s I’m now doing the same thing. Cycling, like modern tramway systems in urban areas is the future of sustainable transportation.

Climate Change – Getting Real

Despite the political and media obsession with Brexit and whilst it may seem like the biggest major crisis, the reality is that climate change will kill off the human race if we don’t take very serious action very soon.

At a local level I get sick of cycling behind pollution from diesel powered vehicles many of which could be electric powered because they only do local trips. The circular buses which serve Maghull & Lydiate and connect the community to railway stations and shopping center are just one obvious example where change to electric power should have happened years ago. And what about the Post Office’s local delivery vans too where similar very local runs must be being made day in day out. I’m sure there will be other examples…..

Air pollution is killing us all by shortening lives and it’s linked to dementia too. It’s a scandal that communities up and down the land, often the poorest ones, are being subjected to pollution levels that are simply far too high. Governments have know this for years but little has been done apart from a lot of wringing of hands.

That our present Government has dismantled virtually all the green initiatives brought in by the Coalition is astonishing when we have declared a climate emergency as those green cutbacks are taking place.

Another example is the lack of progress with building regulations. Why aren’t all new buildings being constructed with solar panels/tiles; they’ve been around for years, there really is no excuse.

I could go on but you get my drift………..

Sefton Council – Draft Strategic Housing Market Assessment Update 2019

The draft report, which is available for comment, is on Sefton Council’s website – see link below:-

www.sefton.gov.uk/shma

This is the general comment I have made in response to the draft assessment:-

I remain concerned that Sefton is not targeting sufficient social housing, single level housing for the elderly/those with disabilities and 1 and 2 bedroomed properties in general both social housing and the ordinary housing market.

At the same time the Council is pursuing building on Green Belt/high grade agricultural land whilst not achieving sufficient housing in the categories I have mentioned above. It is bad enough losing high grade agricultural land to development but doing so whilst not addressing actual housing need in the Borough is particularity upsetting.

I remain far from convinced that building more 3, 4 and 5 bedroomed properties for the normal housing market will in any meaningful way meet actual housing need.

If you wish to comment you can do so by e-mailing this address:-

local.plan@sefton.gov.uk

Maghull – Now about that vast urban extension to the east of the Town

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

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

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/housing-company-banned-joe-anderson-16287342

I wonder where this is heading and will Sefton Council take the same approach to these developers as Liverpool City Council seems to be doing? It feels like a long time now since Sefton Council picked the vast Maghull East site for an urban extension to the Town on what is presently high grade agricultural land. And it was a hugely controversial move which created a significant environmental protest movement in the Town and indeed across the Borough of Sefton, which I was a part of – see my many previous posting about it on this Sefton Focus Blog Site.

But there is danger here in thinking that Sefton Council or indeed Liverpool City Council can achieve much on land which is in private ownership. Yes, if the land to be sold is owned by a Council it gives it far more leverage as to the use it is put to otherwise, if the land is in private hands, the leverage is far, far less.

Like many I want to see the end to leasehold and ground rents etc.

Maghull/Lydiate* – What was the thinking when the Turnbridge Road site was picked for development?

You only have to pick up a copy of the Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper or look at comments on the Maghull Community Facebook page to see how troublesome this site is proving to be during the early stages of construction work to realise what a tough site it was always going to be to build on.

And before you think oh here’s that damn environmental campaigner going on about stopping development and building on agricultural land again just bear with me…..

When Sefton Council chose the sites that it was willing to take out of Green Belt/allow to be built upon in its Local Plan, why was this site picked?

I ask because it has proven to be a devil of a site to develop due to the restricted access to it. What with a weight limited canal swing bridge, narrow estate roads & country lanes and two primary schools to negotiate those of us with local knowledge have been left scratching our heads. For less than 50 housing units it makes you wonder what the imperative was to get this particular site built upon.

Now don’t get me wrong I was an opponent of Sefton’s Local Plan whilst I was on the Borough Council (until 2015) and continued to fight it (in my capacity as a Lydiate Parish Councillor) after I left that Council and yes I have ranted many times about why we need to protect things like high grade agricultural land from being built on. But that’s not my point here. Putting to one side feelings about the rights and wrongs of building on Green Belt and agricultural land, which grows the food we eat, why from a strategic planning perspective did Sefton Council prioritise this oh so difficult site above other alternatives?

Answers on a post card to Sefton Planning Dept…….

Oh, and by the way, I’m guessing that the ‘temporary’ road speed markings down the rural part Green Lane are associated with trying to control construction traffic accessing the site?

*Note:- The site is being accessed through Maghull’s streets and lanes but it’s actually wholly within Lydiate.

Housing Crisis – However you look at it the real issue is the lack of social housing

How many times have we watched politicians of all colours wringing their hands in an attempt to look like they are tackling our nationwide housing crisis? Far too many times.

We’ve had ‘Help to Buy’ and all the other incentive schemes to get young folk onto the housing ladder but there’s strong opinion that these initiatives do little more than put more money in developers pockets whilst probably keeping house prices high! But however you cut it none of these politician’s schemes are addressing the real problem – the huge lack of social housing.

Yes, we all know that this crisis had it’s seeds set back when 1980’s Thatcherism brought in ‘Right to Buy’ for council houses because the money raised from the sales was not used to build new council/social housing. It’s now generations since that policy was brought in and each year that passes we fail to build enough social houses for rent.

Not everyone wants to own their own home but many who do will sadly never afford it due to our low wage culture.

The effect of all this has been an explosion in the private rented housing sector, but with rents often much higher than the cost of a mortgage. Of course, those who want to save up for a deposit can’t do so in part because they are paying such large amounts to their private landlords! A housing trap indeed and those who are the poorest suffer the most with poor housing conditions, landlords not doing repairs and eviction when the rents outstrip their ability to pay them. At this point local councils have to pick up the problem of homeless people and this becomes a bigger problem week by week, month by month…..

And let’s not get all rose tinted spectacles about how council housing used to be because in many cases it was poor and it led to the Decent Homes Standard that Blair’s government brought in. Trouble is there are still many homes in the social housing/council housing/housing association sector that still don’t meet those standards.

The regulation of housing associations also looks to be far too light touch with some of them, particularly we are told the larger ones, not delivering decent homes or doing repairs in a timely way. Government only seems interested in scoring housing associations over how many new properties they build and no one is keeping an eye on the standards by which they manage their properties. There’s also a worrying slide towards not having strong tenant participation in the running of housing associations.

So we don’t have anywhere near enough social houses and those we do have are at best patchy in terms of their management/maintenance. At the same time we are sacrificing more Green Belt and high grade agricultural land to build houses, which will be almost all privately owned/privately rented thereby not meeting our real housing needs. And that’s not even adding into the pot that the houses we are building are often 3, 4 & 5 bedroomed properties when we also need 1 and 2 bedroomed houses, bungalows etc. for our aging population.

Housing crisis, we certainly have one, but our politicians have their heads firmly in the sand with their fingers in their ears so what they won’t see and can’t hear is not happening.