Pilling Lane Steps, Lydiate – A Brief update

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This is me at the steps leading up from the Leeds Liverpool Canal to Pilling Lane in Lydiate today.

Readers will know that my Lydiate Parish Council colleagues and I have been pushing for the steps to be repaired and reopened without delay but that it now looks as though the Canal & River Trust will not be undertaking the required work until January 2014 at the earliest, as the Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper reported a very recently.

I had another look today and it seems that the Trust may have given up the unequal struggle, at least partly, to stop folk using the steps because the fencing at the bottom of the steps has now been removed leaving only the fence at the top, which I have frequently see people climb over.

The steps are very much misaligned (below where I am stood in the photo) due to what seems to be a water erosion problem below them. Clearly, investigation of the problem when the work starts may lead to it being a bigger issue than it may seem to be at present. Bearing in mind that the road here was closed for repairs a few years ago due to a similar problem I fear that things could get worse before they are resolved.

SAVE OUR GREEN BELT – Sefton/West Lancs liaison or not!

Readers will know I have long been critical of Labour run Sefton Council’s approach to its Local Plan and the present public consultation which will almost certainly lead to high grade agricultural land being lost forever under concrete and tarmac. As an environmental campaigner I am utterly horrified.

But one of my related concerns, which I expressed at a Sefton Council meeting not so long ago, was with regard to my concern about the lack of detailed joint working with West Lancashire Borough Council as the two councils have been putting their neighbouring Local Plans together. So, when an e-mail recently hit my in box telling me that West Lancs has concerns about Sefton’s Draft Local Plan I think you will understand why I have worried about what I see as seemingly superficial liaison between the Councils. The e-mail was directing me to a letter sent by Planners at West Lancs Council to Planners at Sefton. It is rather long so I am only copying the pertinent points:-

“there are three areas of concern that West Lancashire Borough Council would like to raise with Sefton Council and request that Sefton Council look at how potential impacts could be mitigated through the Sefton Local Plan or that a particular allocation be reconsidered.
Firstly, there are a number of proposed development allocations (in Policies SR4 and SR5) that are located adjacent, or very close, to the borough boundary with West Lancashire, particularly in the Southport, Churchtown, Ainsdale and Formby areas. While West Lancashire Borough Council does not object to these allocations, we would wish to ensure that all potential impacts of these sites on land and communities within West Lancashire have been considered and that policy requirements for mitigation for any negative impacts on the West Lancashire side of the boundary are included within the Sefton Local Plan.
Secondly, those same allocations have the potential to generate fairly significant traffic travelling through West Lancashire on the A570 and/or the local moss roads in the Western Parishes. Policy SR10 is supported when it prioritises “Improved access to Southport from the east [A570 corridor]” but West Lancashire Borough Council would welcome further detail or discussion on what these improvements may be, especially where the improvements are needed within West Lancashire. In particular, the impact of increased traffic on the A570 on Ormskirk must be considered, as there is already significant congestion within Ormskirk and through-traffic travelling between Southport and the M58 contributes to this. Indeed, one of the reasons that the West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-2027 does not focus more development in the Ormskirk area is the added congestion this would likely cause, and so West Lancashire Borough Council would have concerns if additional traffic generated in Sefton were to add to this congestion in Ormskirk. Regard should also be had to the forthcoming West Lancashire Highways & Transport Masterplan from Lancashire County Council on this matter.
Thirdly, West Lancashire Borough Council wishes to express concern regarding the allocation of the two sites to the north of Lydiate as reserve housing sites (SR4.47 and SR4.48). These sites would be released from the Green Belt and, in the long-term, would likely be developed. The release of this land from the Green Belt would close the strategic Green Belt gap between Maghull / Lydiate and Aughton / Holt Green. The village of Holt Green to the south of Aughton is only 1.5 km from the existing built up area of Maghull/ Lydiate. The release of these sites from the Green Belt would reduce this gap to less than 1 km. The gap to the main built-up area of Aughton would be reduced to 2 km. As such, given the potential impact on the purposes of including land within the Green Belt (in particular that of preventing neighbouring towns from merging into one another), West Lancashire Borough Council would ask Sefton Council to reconsider the allocation of these sites and review whether alternative sites would have less of an impact on the purposes of the Green Belt, for example, sites on the western side of Maghull which do not form part of a strategic gap and are partially contained by the existing built-up area. It is West Lancashire Borough Council’s view that the release of sites SR4.47 and SR4.48 would be better considered as part of a cross-boundary strategic Green Belt review given that it affects a strategic gap between two settlements in separate authorities.”

Now, does this or does it not indicate a lack of detailed joint working? I think I know the answer as will other environmental campaigners.

With regard to points being made by West Lancs Council a couple are fascinating. Regarding their 2nd point i.e. ‘Improved access to Southport from the east’. Why on earth does that need spelling out to West Lancs? Are they really saying that they have not heard of the project to reconnect the Southport/Wigan and Ormskirk/Preston railway lines at Burscough or the long talked about Ormskirk road by-pass! And on their 3rd point they clearly have concerns about the two ‘reserved’ development sites in Lydiate and the effect that building on these sites will have because it could well ‘close the strategic Green Belt gap between Maghull / Lydiate and Aughton’.

My fears about Sefton not working closely with West Lancs over the Local Plan seem to be coming true but bearing in mind the ridiculous Merseyside Joint Authority proposals, which do not include West Lancashire (see my guest posting from Cllr. Nigel Ashton of yesterday), should I be surprised? We seem to have an invisible ‘Berlin Wall’ being built around Merseyside and it will be to the detriment of both Sefton and West Lancashire’s communities.

South West Lancashire – a bit of local history about the emergence of bus services in the 1920’s

The other day a local chap with extensive knowledge of buses showed me a book called Pioneer Bus Services in South West Lancashire by TB Maund FCILT.

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I am a trains man personally but this book had a couple of fascinating references to early bus services serving the Ormskirk and district area.

Take for example a reproduced advert for Contour Motor Services who on 6th July 1922 were launching an improved service between Aintree, Maghull and Ormskirk on Thursdays. It says:-

‘A special bus will leave Aintree for Ormskirk at 12-0 noon and travel via Old Roan, Netherton and Sefton returning from Ormskirk at 4-0 p.m. Fares to Ormskirk from Netherton 1/- ; Sefton Church 10d’

Also, from 2nd July the same year ‘A special bus will leave Aintree at 5-50 p.m. for Sefton Church, returning at 6-10 p.m. & 8-15 p.m. Fare – Aintree to or from Sefton, 5d.’

Then from 19th April 1923 Bretherton’s Motor Service advertised an Ormskirk, Maghull and Aintree service. From Aintree it called at Old Roan, Wood End (southern end of Maghull), Red Lion Bridge, Maghull Brook (boundary between Maghull & Lydiate), Swan Hotel (Aughton), Stanley Arms (Aughton), Long Lane and Ormskirk. This service seemed to run most days of the week, including Sundays, although not very frequently.

An interesting read and it certainly filled some gaps in my local history knowledge.

Pilling Lane, Lydiate – Back to those steps leading up from the Leeds Liverpool Canal

A while back I posted about my concerns and indeed those of Lydiate Parish Council regarding when these out of use steps from the canal tow path up to Pilling Lane will be repaired and brought back into use.

Above is me at the out of use Pilling Lane steps - This photo was taken months ago

Above is me at the out of use Pilling Lane steps – This photo was taken months ago

My latest concern was prompted by a Lydiate resident contacting me – my posting of 24th July refers.

Sadly, things are pretty much as the resident said, after his encounter with Canal & River Trust people on site, in that the repair work has now slipped back to January 2014 according to the Trust whom Lydiate Parish Council has been in touch with.

These steps have now been out of use for many, many months on end and I am fully aware how cheesed off Lydiate residents and other canal users are, particularly as the next nearest access points are some way off at Bells Lane and Billy’s Bridge (Lydiate Hill Bridge) in either direction. What’s more if any warning signs were erected, as I was told they would be at these previous bridges I am yet to see them.

This really is proving to be a stubborn problem to resolve and I just hope that the Canal and River Trust will get moving on the repair work ASAP ; please no more delays!

STOP PRESS:- Below is a very recent picture taken on 21st August showing how the security fences are continually being broken down by frustrated canal users.

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Merseyside Joint Authority Plan – Lib Dem Merseytravel Councillor says NO!

There has been some media coverage of a plan to get all the Merseyside Councils to form a joint authority; you could say it would be a form of recreating the long lost Merseyside County Council.

Within Sefton we Lib Dems have always been highly sceptical of such forms of local governance as the risk is that all power simply moves to Liverpool Town Hall and the diverse communities of Sefton will be the losers.

Some years ago we gave the fledgling Liverpool City Region a fair wind but that was back when it was intended to be one that brought in West Lancashire, Ellesmere Port and Neston etc. That plan withered on the vine so what is on the cards now is a return to joint council running within the old Merseyside boundaries. This is a nonsense because Merseyside is simply too small to be an effective sub-regional governance area in my view. Just look at Greater Manchester; there is some sense that as it covers the vast majority of the travel to work area of Manchester and it is big enough not to be dominated by Manchester City.

Sefton’s boundary, to a very significant extent, is with Lancashire so why should it benefit Sefton to be even more glued to Liverpool City and Knowsley Borough whilst, by implication, being less connected (in local government terms) with Lancashire?

No, this idea is not a sensible runner as far as I am concerned and neither is it to Cllr. John Dodd, a Lib Dem member of Merseytravel (The Transport Authority for Merseyside) who represents Meols ward in Southport. John opposed the controlling Labour Party on Merseytravel this week, which voted to back this Joint Authority plan, and he was right to do so.

Merseyside is simply too small to be an effective sub-regional local government grouping and Merseytravel, probably more than any other public authority across Merseyside, should know this all too well. Just look at the Merseyrail extensions that have been completed in recent years or which are being planned for/suggested. Virtually all are outside of the old County boundary meaning the travel to work area is far bigger than the old County boundary. Completed Merseyrail Wirral Line extensions to Ellesmere Port and Chester come to mind of a few years ago. So does the long talked about extension of the Northern Line from Ormskirk (in West Lancs) to Burscough (even deeper into West Lancs). Such rail extensions prove a point don’t you think?

Southport and Chesire Lines Extension Railway

This fascinating railway which succumbed to closure well before the infamous Mr Beeching decimated our railway network was probably one that should never have been built.

Between Aintree Central and Southport it only served isolated rural communities and the reality is that it never reached anywhere near the business targets the promoters had hoped for.

Much of the track is now part of the Trans Pennine Trail long distance footpath with the part through the sand dunes in Ainsdale and Southport being a coastal road carrying hundreds of vehicles every day.

I shall probably return to this unique joint railway in the future but for now here is shot of a ticket from Aintree Central to Ainsdale.

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