Lydiate – Progress on sporting/fitness facilities

We had a meeting of Lydiate Parish Council yesterday evening via Zoom* and after many frustrations it looks like some positive progress is being made with regard to changing facilities at our Sandy Lane Playing Field. I would add that the frustrations have not been within the parish council.

What started the project was our concern that we could not accommodate women’s football because the changing rooms were simply inadequate and needed both upgrading and expanding. Followers of this blog site will recall that I’ve posted about this project before although not for a while. Here’s my most relevant previous posting for reference:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/08/23/lydiate-progress-with-multi-sports-area-and-changing-rooms-at-sandy-lane-park/

So where are we up to? A modular changing facility will be insalled (subject to planning permission and Football Foundation funding being finalised) next to the present building (see photo below) and some changes will be made to the present building to provide refreshment facilities supported by a funding stream from Sefton Council.

Present Sandy Lane Changing Rooms building

The outdoor fitness equipment which is presently on the Parish Council’s Lambshear Lane/Village Centre site will be relocated to Sandy Lane to make it more accessible as the Lambshear Lane site is often locked. I’m a user of this equipment although not recently due to it being behind a fence. Interestingly, there’s been a lot of talk about whether indoor gyms are safe during our Covid 19 crisis but there’s less concerns with regard to outdoor gyms and they are free to use too.

The photo above is from when the equipment was originally being installed at Lambshear Lane a number of years back.

This progress, assuming all the parts of it fall into place, is very welcome and the efforts of the Parish Clerk should be noted here. It will still leave aspects of the sporting facilities at Sandy Lane to be resolved such as refurbishing the older changing rooms and resurfacing the tennis courts/turning them into a multi-sport area but those issues are for further debate and funding as the opportunity allows.

* Strangely the Parish Clerk told us that someone had thought the Parish Council had met face to face during the pandemic. We have not done so of course and our meetings have been via Zoom and will be so for the foreseeable future unfortunately.

CPRE confirm what we anti-Local Plan campaigners have long thought

Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall (June 2013) trying to save Sefton Borough’s high grade agricultural land from development.

I have said many times that there is no need to build on high grade agricultural land across England. As a Sefton Councillor, a Maghull Town Councillor, Lydiate Parish Councillor and then after coming off both Sefton & Maghull Councils I fought alongside environmental campaigners opposing the Sefton Local Plan which designated high grade agricultural land for house building. We LOST….

This is a matter I’ve blogged about far more times than I care to recall but the underlying feeling of those of us opposing Local Plans across England was that there must be sufficient brownfield sites to deliver the housing* we have long been told is urgently required. However, the process to identify building land and indeed land use generally has always been flawed. Scoping it out on a council by council area basis has been looking thorough the wrong end of the telescope for me. In my view it should have been done and needs to be done at a regional level. The old process was called Unitary Development Plans but they then morphed into Local Plans although still tackled on a council by council basis.

This article on CPRE website is very interesting and informative:-

www.cpre.org.uk/news/theres-already-enough-suitable-land-to-meet-targets-for-new-homes-we-find/ **

And as CPRE say in a Tweet today – BREAKING: We’ve found that there is enough brownfield land for 1.3 million homes – enough to meet government housing targets for the next five years.

There is already enough land to build the homes we need – so why deregulate the planning system?

* Of course we campaigners against the Sefton Local Plan were not just concerned about the concreting over high grade agricultural land, but what kind of houses would be built anyway. Many of us were of the view that the real housing need in England is in the social housing sector. On that basis councils, like Sefton, were not only sacrificing the land the feeds us for housing but they were not even gaining much if any social housing in the process!

** Whilst this article is mainly focused on the Tory plan for further planning deregulation (build what you want where you want) it, in my view, also exposes the flawed nature of Local Plans and their predecessor Unitary Development Plans.

Maghull & Lydiate’s ‘Berlin Wall’ & the ‘Bible’ of cycling infrastructure

In response to a previous posting about cycling infrastructure in Sefton Borough a Twitter responder (Clive Durdle) pointed me (and indeed Sefton Council) towards something called CROW. Yes, I wondered what it was too but after some Googling I realised it’s pretty much the ‘Bible’ for building cycle friendly/safe roads. And surprise, surprise (NOT) it’s a Dutch publication.

Here’s a blog posting about it:-

therantyhighwayman.blogspot.com/2019/07/crow-flow.html

And here’s a link to the publishers – by gum it’s not cheap!

crowplatform.com/product/design-manual-for-bicycle-traffic/

The new Alt JUnction

Of course, the obvious question is what manual were Sefton Council using when they designed the new junction in Maghull – A59/Northway-Liverpool Road South-Dover Road (The Alt Junction) – as I struggle to see how cycling through this brand new junction was considered at all! Frankly, I’ve yet to hear a good word about it from the pedestrians, cyclists or drivers whom I’ve spoken to. Yes, I realise it’s new and we generally don’t like change so we’re often sceptical about many new things, but this junction could start to become almost as unpopular as its much bigger brother just a few hundred yards away from it – I refer of course to the now infamous Switch Island ‘Home of traffic Accidents’.

The reason this new junction is important is because there are few crossing places across Maghull & Lydiate’s ‘Berlin Wall’ otherwise known as the A59/Northway dual carriageway (and even fewer safe ones) for pedestrians and cyclists. These are they south to north:-

* South end of Maghull adjacent to River Alt – A good pedestrian/cyclist safe crossing with traffic lights.
* The Alt Junction – Brand new but in my view far from being cyclist friendly & it’s a long walk for pedestrians.
* Hall Ln Junction – Pedestrians have high-level bridge to cross but it’s disability/cyclist unfriendly(steps).
* Damfield Ln Junction – Another high-level safe walking bridge but it’s disability/cyclist unfriendly (steps again).
* Westway/Eastway Junction – A pedestrian subway which cyclists are discouraged/banned from using.**
* Dodds Ln Junc’ – A good pedestrian crossing with traffic lights separate to the non-traffic lighted junction.
* Kenyons Ln Junction – Traffic lighted but no pedestrian phase & lights often do not recognise waiting cyclists.
* Robins Island – Traffic island with no pedestrian crossing facilities or safe access onto cycle paths.

The distance between the most southerly A59 crossing and Robins Island is @2.25 miles the vast majority of which is through two highly populated suburban communities, except the Kenyons Ln – Robins Island section. What’s more a large proportion of community facilities – Town Hall, Leisure Centre, Library, Frank Hornby Museum, Police Station, Health Centre, Industrial Estate, Recycling Centre, Main Shopping Centre and Lydiate Village Centre – are all on the western side of it. Maghull’s 2 railway stations being on the east side together with 2 of the 3 local high schools*. My point being, there are many reasons why Maghull & Lydiate folk have to cross this busy major road each and every day and the crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists are far from adequate.

We all know we should be walking and cycling more to help us to be fitter/healthier and of course to save the planet but the way Maghull & Lydiate has been set up/planned in effect encourages vehicle use simply because of the lack of safe/accessible crossing facilities associated with it’s very own ‘Berlin Wall’.

On that basis why has the most recently rebuilt junction on ‘The Wall’ been built with cycling facilities all but excluded? Has Sefton Council got a copy of CROW and if so is it simply gaining dust on a shelf in some out of the way storeroom?

* The local primary schools are split 4 on the east side, 5 on the west

** The pedestrian only subway looks like this:-

It could be adapted for pedestrians and cyclists like this one in York:-

I would be interested to hear what others think about shared space subways in cycling unfriendly Maghull, Sefton Borough or elsewhere.

Another take on why Merseytram didn’t make the grade

I’ve commented on this very significant urban transport debacle many times before but the other day I came across an article published in June 2008 in an international magazine called Tramways & Urban Transit. Yes I know, railway/tramway enthusiast niche issue……..

The article covered the ever more desperate attempts to breath new life into a project which had been all but killed off by the then Transport Secretary Alistair Darling back in 2005 when he withheld £170m of government funding. Quoted in the article was former Labour MP (for Liverpool Riverside) Louise Ellman who said the project had failed because there was a ‘lack of clarity’ from the bidding partners.*

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Region has to show for its big tram ideas.

Louise was of course right. If memory serves the big issue for the Labour government of the day was concern over the funding package and rising costs. The article points towards Knowsley (Lab Council) & Liverpool (Lib Dem Council) being unwilling to cover further cost over-runs.

I was leader of Sefton Council at that time and can recall the tortuous process of trying to get Merseytram going through 2004 to 2009, but where the article is silent is with regard to another big issue which led directly to what Louise Ellman called the ‘lack of clarity’. I refer to the destination of the first line – Kirkby. I took the view, as did many others on Sefton Council and indeed politicians across the wider Mersey Region at the time, that the first line should go to the airport. Liverpool John Lennon Airport was in our view the obvious destination to start a tramway system on Merseyside but our voices were lost as Merseytravel was determined the first destination should be Kirkby. We had nothing against Kirkby but it already had a 15 minute Merseyrail service which simply needed extending to a 2nd station in that Town, whereas the airport had no rail/tramway connection and indeed it still doesn’t.

One of the ‘pulls’ towards Kirkby for the 1st Merseytram line was a proposed and huge TESCO/Everton FC redevelopment in that Town but that plan fell over it’s own hurdles with Everton now likely to he headed to a new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock at some point yet to be determined.

The other thing not mentioned in the article is the position of Wirral Council. They were hardly big supporters of Merseytram because being on the other side of the River Mersey they would be highly unlikely to see any benefit from the project at all. Maybe they and their residents still harked back to the first Mersey Tunnel which was supposed to have trams running through it to Birkenhead as well as road vehicles. Of course that never happened so once bitten (even though back in the 1930’s) twice shy?

Anyway, on with the thrust of the article, having given a bit of the local political background, as it was written on the basis that then (in 2008) Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly** had offered to revisit the stalled/virtually failed Merseytram project. In effect she was asking Merseytravel to come up with a new more viable scheme. At this point Merseytravel still had another 2 years to enact the powers given to it by Parliament to build the first phase of the tram system.

Sadly, of course, Merseysiders will know that no such viable plan was put forward and in 2010 the powers lapsed.

To me the project was a lesson in how not to plan major public infrastructure. It seems obvious now, as it should have been then, that the partners in the project needed to have a common view as to how it would be taken forward and as I think I’ve shown above there was no such common view. My feeling is that Merseytravel launched into the Merseytram project with far too many loose ends trailing behind it, hoping that all would be ‘alright on the night’ so to speak – It never was and probably was never going to be.

The irony is that within the same magazine there’s a celebration of NET (Nottingham Express Transit) which had won ‘Light Rail Operator of the year – 2007’ as it had been able to gain government support for it’s system (first opened March 2004) on the basis of it being clearly robust and well supported. I’ve travelled on NET; it is indeed a good system and I hope that I’m not just saying that as a Notts born lad.

A Nottingham NET Tram at the Phoenix Park terminus.

* The bidding partners were Merseytravel (the passenger transport body for Merseyside), Liverpool City Council, St. Helens Borough Council, Knowsley Borough Council, Sefton Borough Council & Wirral Borough Council.

** Ruth Maria Kelly is a former British Labour Party politician, serving as Member of Parliament for Bolton West from 1997 until she stood down in 2010 – Wikipedia

Liverpool – Do you want to zip to the library?

View from inside Liverpool Central Library’s domed glass roof to the outside viewing area.

Liverpool Business News has the story on its web site – see link below:-

lbndaily.co.uk/zip-world-changes-plans-enough/

When I first heard about a zip wire from the top of St Johns Beacon to the roof of Liverpool Central Library I thought it was akin to an April 1st story, a wind-up, a bit of leg pulling so to speak. But no it turned out to be a a real plan with a real planning application.

View of St. Johns Beacon from roof of Liverpool Central Library

Now call me old fashioned but what on earth have a zip wire and a library got in common? I’ve got nothing against zip wires what so ever but there’s a place for everything and a library is simply not such a place. The roof terrace of this particular library affords views across the City and an opportunity to view them in relative peace and quiet.

View towards Empire Theatre from roof of Liverpool Central Library

Sadly, I have spent far too many hours campaigning to save and protect libraries from closure; fights that were lost due to austerity and not a little political intransigence. Yes of course libraries need updating and Liverpool Central Library is an excellent example of such modernisation. However, the calmness of a library is what makes it so special particularly in our stressful and noisy society. Compromising that peace and quiet is just wrong in my view.

Another view over the City from Central Library’s roof

Lancashire – Still squabbling over local government changes

I’ve said before that the piecemeal reorganisation of what was once the huge county council (with numerous small district councils such as West Lancs Borough) area of Lancashire has ended up leaving a mess of everything that has not already become a unitary authority.

Former BBC and Liverpool Post reporter Political commentator and writer Nick Hancock debating with Sefton’s Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne.

Below, via the link, respected north west journalist Jim Hancock updates us on the tortuous ‘progress’ towards a resolution (scroll down to ‘Driver’s Umbrella’):-

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

Lancashire should have been sorted out as one whole package

The process of doing bits here and there over numerous years via different governments has led directly to this mess and muddle. I support the move to unitary authorities as in my view having a County, a District and often a Parish/Town Council too has not worked.

Power to the Parishes!

Getting rid of the muddle in the middle i.e. the District Councils is the right thing to do. However, it should be being done whilst devolving more powers and responsibilities to the network of Parish and Town Councils across the County (and set up new ones where they don’t presently exist) – of course that’s not being done!