Lydiate and its Great War 1914 – 1918 – A lovely remembrance booklet

I think I mentioned a while back that Lydiate Parish Council had put some money towards this booklet which was produced to look at the impact of WW1 on the farming village of Lydiate, and how children today are remembering the young men from their community who gave their lives.

Local author and historian Pam Russell was the guiding light together with Kath Coyle – WW1 Lydiate project coordinator.

24 young Lydiate men died while serving in WW1

24 young men from Lydiate (or with strong links to it) died while serving in WW1 and the booklet celebrates the life of each one with individual write-ups. I was interested to have confirmed something which another well known local historian (Bruce Hubbard) had told me some time ago i.e. that one of Lydiate’s fallen is not on either war memorial in the community – Herbert Finch who was killed on 19th October 1917. It seems he lived near the Lydiate/Maghull boundary so may have unfortunately been overlooked by both villages. He is however commemorated at Tyne Cot memorial in Belgium. Wouldn’t it be fitting for his name to added now to either the memorial at Our Lady’s Catholic Church or the one at St. Thomas’ CofE Church?

There’s also a brief history of Lydiate through the ages and of Lydiate life in 1914 within the booklet.

As well as the booklet there’s a website about the project at ww1lydiate.org.uk which you can access via this link:-

madcos.org.uk/project/ww1-lydiate/

I think many primary school children from Lydiate’s 3 schools may have a copy of the booklet and you just might be lucky in tracking a copy down if you call in at Lydiate Village Center on Lambshear Lane.

A great tribute to the fallen, congratulations to all involved.

Maghull – Millbank Lane is unadopted says Sefton Council

I cycle around the Sefton East Parishes (Maghull, Lydiate, Aintree, Melling and Sefton & Lunt Villages) part of the Borough quite a lot and the other day I was stopped by a chap on Park Lane who said ‘hey you are a local councillor aren’t you? – can you get the pot holes in Millbank Lane filled in please?’.

Oddly I had just been down there on my bike and had noticed some large pot-holes myself so I was only too happy to get in touch with Sefton Highways to ask them to oblige.

Millbank Lane, I should add runs from the junction with Kenyons Ln, Park Ln and Dodds Ln through to Maghull’s boundary with West Lancs and Aughton Civil Parish. The final 50 yards of it (in Aughton) is a footpath, only the part in Maghull is tarmaced and it serves a part of the Maghull community known by some as The Small Holdings.

Sadly the response from Sefton was that the lane is not one that has been adopted by the Council so it is not their responsibility to repair the pot-holes. I had wondered if that would be the answer because although unadopted roads usually have a sign saying ‘Unadopted’ at their beginning (and Millbank Lane for some reason does not) I had a funny feeling that it may indeed be unadopted.

From the gate and stile to Butchers Lane (behind the camera) in Aughton is only a footpath.

But clearly over the years the lane has been patch repaired on numerous occasions as you can clearly see. So the question now is who does hold the repair and maintenance responsibilities for Millbank Lane. Any answers on a postcard (or by e-mail) to me would be appreciated.

Which brings me to a memory of my first political campaign as a candidate and when when I first won a seat on Maghull Town Council in September 1985 for the SDP/Liberal Alliance.

My agent for that election was none other than Bruce Hubbard and he sent me canvassing up Millbank Lane to the Small Holdings community. So door-knocking I went to be met at one house by a chap asking me about ‘pig subsidies’. Suffice to say that I was floored by that question and Bruce has been using my bewildered response in his after dinner speeches ever since. No wonder I had to leave Maghull in 2011 to move to Lydiate! I would add that I no longer represent Maghull as a councillor – I’m a Lydiate councillor these days.

Maghull – Campaign to gain a cenotaph for the Town

I lived in Maghull (1968 – 2011) long enough to have heard this talked about before, indeed having Bruce Hubbard as a friend I have often listened to him talk about the Town’s war memorials and war dead.

Readers may recall that I blogged in 2015 about the video Bruce made with St Andrew’s Primary School children about those from Maghull who lost their lives in the 1st World War. Here’s a link to that posting and the YouTube video:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/03/18/maghulls-great-war-bruce-hubbard-presents-an-excellent-madcos-video/

Now John Sayers, a local councillor for Maghull, is proposing that he and his fellow Maghullians campaign to get a formal cenotaph for the Town.

The Lychgate of St Andrew's Church, Maghull

The Lychgate of St Andrew’s Church, Maghull

The present main war memorial is in reality also the lychgate (I appreciate that there are differing ways of spelling this) to St. Andrew’s Church.

John’s idea sounds like a good one to me although there will be two significant problems to overcome i.e. raising sufficient funds (that could be many thousands of Pounds) and finding a suitable space where it can be erected bearing in mind it would become the place to hold Remembrance Day events in Maghull.

A quick glance at the internet threw up this Heritage Lottery Fund advice/guidance:-

www.hlf.org.uk/about-us/news-features/funding-historic-war-memorials-funding-and-protection

It will be interesting to see how this project develops but with a fair wind you never know.

But for what it is worth my personal view (as an outsider now living in Lydiate) is that the best war memorial I have seen is the very modern one in Lostock Hall, Preston but it may not be to everyone’s taste of course:-

1914-1918

The inside curve of this war memorial carries the names of all the locals who died in the 1st World War from the Lostock Hall area.

The inside curve of this war memorial carries the names of all the locals who died in the 1st World War from the Lostock Hall area.

A close 2nd for me and more local war memorial is in Burscough. It was also recently erected, in this case in remembrance of those who fought from the Royal Naval Air Station of HMS Ringtail. It is right outside the new Booths Supermarket.

Royal naval memorial to those who served at HMS Ringtail, Burscough during WWII

Royal naval memorial to those who served at HMS Ringtail, Burscough during WWII

Were my 16 years on Sefton Council productive and worthwhile?

Well I have been having a ponder but I suppose the first thing that readers of this posting may say to themselves is that ‘it’s not for you to say but for us to judge’. You could also add that the judgement has already been handed down by my being invited to leave office on Sefton Borough Council by the Park Ward electorate. However, I have been asked a few times since the May elections what I thought of my time as a Borough Councillor so it has started a certain amount of reminiscing on my part, so here goes anyway.

16 years is a long time to recall all the events of note, at least it is for me as I have never kept a Tony Benn type diary of my activities.

Meadows Leisure Centre – Maghull – I led the campaign to have this built going back well before I was even elected to Sefton Council back in 1999. To see it open in 2009 was a delight. To have also assisted in establishing an exhibition space for the Frank Hornby Trust within the leisure centre was likewise an important step forward. Regrets? Two really – in incorporating a new home for Maghull Library within the Leisure Centre I don’t think we fully understood the noise conflict between exercise classes and the expected quiet of the a library. Secondly, I am disappointed that the planned integration between the leisure centre and the leisure facilities in the adjoining Maghull Town Hall have never been taken forward. The intention was for the two buildings to be run seamlessly as far as users were concerned despite them being owned by two different councils. This vision sadly was lost when Maghull Council came under a political leadership with differing objectives.

Former Maghull Lib Dem Councillor Andrew Blackburn who helped me push the Leisure campaign forward.

Former Maghull Lib Dem Councillor Andrew Blackburn who helped me push the Leisure campaign forward.

My old friend, fellow campaigner and former Councillor Bruce Hubbard outside the Leisure Centre

My old friend, fellow campaigner and former Councillor Bruce Hubbard outside the Leisure Centre

Les French (Chairman of the Frank Hornby Trust) with Margaret Carney & Glyn Sands in the Hornby Room at the Leisure Centre.

Les French (Chairman of the Frank Hornby Trust) with Margaret Carney & Glyn Sands in the Hornby Room at the Leisure Centre.

The Atkinson – Southport – For quite a while I held Cabinet responsibility for the development of this huge project to refurbish 3 adjoining very old and previously poorly upgraded listed buildings into what we see now. I love it and am pleased that it has fulfilled the objectives set for it. Regrets? None really – It cost more than the original budget but frankly we always thought it would. You can’t work on old buildings and expect it to be straight forward because it never is.

A Crossens Canoe on display at The Atkinson in Southport

A Crossens Canoe on display at The Atkinson in Southport

Raising the profile of Sefton’s Parish Councils – I put a lot into this as the relationship between Sefton Borough Council and the 10 Parish Councils in its area had been poor and negative for far too long. I renegotiated what we called the ‘Double Rating’ agreement so the Parish Councils who did their own parks and gardens maintenance got paid a sensible amount back from Sefton Borough Council who were also taking money off local residents in those communities but not then spending it in those communities. Regrets? Yes, Labour have reversed the deal and it is now worse than when I renegotiated it. Places like Lydiate, Maghull & Aintree are being poorly treated by Sefton Council!

Maghull North Station – I have been pressing for this to be built for a long, long time so am delighted that the Coalition Government gave 90% of the money required to build it in 2014. I hope it will be constructed in the next 2 to 3 years. Regrets? None.

Site for the new Maghull North Railway Station.

Site for the new Maghull North Railway Station.

Switch Island – Thornton Link Road – I was campaigning for this before being elected in 1999 because trying to win a Borough Council ward that included the Parish of Thornton made this a must achieve issue. It took a while and I have said many times that the determination of the people and Parish Council of Thornton was the clincher; what I did was to take the matter to the then regional bodies of government and persuade them to back the project. The Blair/Brown Government sat of fence and never came up with the money but again the Coalition Government gave the final green light and of course a large proportion of the money. It is now all but built. Regrets? Thornton folk and their Parish Council not getting the credit they deserve because others (Labour) keep trying to claim that credit for themselves.

Cllr. Geoff Howe and a young me in this @2001 shot marching with Thornton residents. My placard says '83% of Thornton residents want a relief road'.

Cllr. Geoff Howe and a young me in this @2001 shot marching with Thornton residents. My placard says ‘83% of Thornton residents want a relief road’.

Me with the then Coalition Government Roads Minister Mike Penning sealing the deal to get the Link Road built in 2010

Me with the then Coalition Government Roads Minister Mike Penning sealing the deal to get the Link Road built in 2010

Works starting on the new Link Road

Works starting on the new Link Road

Lydiate Village Centre – It took some years to get the new building constructed after the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club building had been burnt down. At the time Sefton Council (the land owners) were not exactly being proactive and helpful. But the determination of Lydiate Parish Council (particularly its Chairman Dave Russell) finally got us there with me steering the issue through Sefton Council. I have to say that Dave together with former Cllr. Andrew Blackburn and Lydiate’s then Parish Clerk (Brian Beaven) were the leading lights in this project, I was simply got Sefton to be positive and supportive. Regrets? None.

Former Lydiate Parish Councilors Tony Fenton and Pat Foster outside the old Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club

Former Lydiate Parish Councilors Tony Fenton and Pat Foster outside the old Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club

Cllr. Edie Pope outside Lydiate Village Centre

Cllr. Edie Pope outside Lydiate Village Centre

Oriel Drive GP Surgery – Aintree – So happy this got built during my time as a Borough Councillor for Aintree Village. Working with Aintree Village Parish Council and the health providers was a delight and the new building was worth all the efforts of many people. Again, I was there to assist others who did far more than I. Regrets? None.

Me, Terry Baldwin, Jack Colbert and Peter Gill - July 2012 at the formal opening of the new GP Surgery

Me, Terry Baldwin, Jack Colbert and Peter Gill – July 2012 at the formal opening of the new GP Surgery

Decentralising Sefton Borough and empowering its diverse communities – Sefton has always been an uncomfortable mix of diverse communities with little in common and on the back of the Local Government Boundary Commission deciding not to split the Borough up I helped lead a process to try to empower local communities. We set up Area Committees created a Parish Council’s charter and despite the two old parties, whom we shared power with, being highly sceptical of our push to give power away to the people we did make some strides in the right direction. Regrets? Yes, when Labour took control of Sefton they started an inevitable process to recentralise power in their Bootle heartland. They took out 3 Area Committees to create one massive and pointless one in the centre of the Borough. It was never going to work and it still does not work. As for the Parish Charter which was aimed at treating the 10 Parish Councils with respect (and even decentralising power to them) suffice to say that the day it was ripped up in front of the Labour Cabinet by Aintree Village Parish Councillor Peter Gill showed how Labour cared little for those not in their tribal tent.

Fighting for our precious Green Belt and high grade agricultural land – This seems to have been almost a lifetime campaign for me. Just before I got elected to Sefton Council I had headed up a successful campaign in Maghull to stop the Borough Council from allowing a massive area of land to the east of Maghull being concreted over. We won because Maghull Town Council, its local Borough Councillors and residents spoke with one voice that said to Sefton Planners exactly where they could stick their plans! Regrets? Certainly, because I had to re-fight the very same battle again in 2014/15 but this time without the now Labour-run Town Council who sat and watched it wash over them. I made many new friends in the environmental movement but Labour were determined to build on the highest grade of agricultural land in England and we have been defeated. As I pen this posting we can only hope that a Government appointed Inspector has more concern for our food growing land than either Maghull Town Council or Sefton Borough Council.

A petition against building on Green Belt being presented to Cllr. Dave Russell the then Chairman of Lydiate Parish Council in 2013.

A petition against building on Green Belt being presented to Cllr. Dave Russell the then Chairman of Lydiate Parish Council in 2013.

Fighting to save Woodend Primary School (Maghull) from closure – I attended this lovely school but in the early 2000’s it was struggling because it had so few children in it. Why parents living close to the school were sending their children elsewhere when this great little school had been serving the adjacent community so well I do not know. The fight to save it was being run by the Governing Body led by the redoubtable Andrew Blackburn and being an ‘old boy’ of the school I was right behind his efforts. I recall us delivering advertising leaflets around the southern part of Maghull and beyond to help the school attract more children and was heartbroken when this campaign did not succeed. Regrets? – Losing the fight obviously but also being blamed on a doorstep in Maghull for the closure of Woodend by a lady who clearly felt I had done just the opposite of what I actually had done!

Fighting to raise the profile of our local railways – The Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan lines are both important for the Sefton and West Lancashire Boroughs. Again this has been an almost lifetime issue for me. Seeing Merseytravel (the Passenger Transport Authority for Merseyside) make little or no progress on these two lines was always a frustration. It was as though they looked upon the lines as not being important to Liverpool so they were not going to put much effort in to developing them. The Liverpool centric approach to transport planning on and around Merseyside has always been to the determent of the large towns that surround Liverpool and here Southport, whilst being in Merseyside, has been poorly served by the Authority they pay to deliver public transport. Regrets? – Not being able to break down the barriers between Merseyside and Lancashire that have held back transportation and other issues since 1974.

Southport Station

Southport Station

Fighting for green issues – Whether it be fighting for our precious Green Belt and high grade agricultural land not to be built upon or seeing Lib Dem run Parish Councils installing solar panels on Maghull Town Hall and Lydiate Village Centre green issues have meant a lot to me. Regrets? – I have always found it difficult to understand why Tory and Labour councillors are generally disinterested in green issues. Labour stuck me as being way off the pace with such matters with the Tories hardly much better.

Solar panels on Maghull Town Hall roof

Solar panels on Maghull Town Hall roof

The fight to save Sefton’s Libraries – A massive campaign but one that was ultimately lost as we could not persuade Sefton’s ruling Labour Group to back off from their closure plans. 7 of Sefton’s 13 Libraries were lost and it was a huge step backwards in my view. Regrets? – Seeing volunteer campaigners being treated so badly by Labour. All they wanted was the chance to try to run their libraries as voluntary undertakings but Sefton Labour would have none of it. So very sad.

rsz_protesting_about_library_closures_-_southport

rsz_al_collins_at_a_save_aintree_library_public_meeting_on_26th_october_12_2

I could go on but I have probably mentioned too many issues already. I enjoyed the vast majority of my 16 years as a Sefton Councillor and the 7 I served as Council Leader. Did I make a difference? I would like to think so but that is probably best left to your judgement not to my rose tinted spectacles.

Environmental candidates firmly rejected in Sefton

The really sad part about the local election results declared in Sefton Borough yesterday was the very firm rejection of candidates standing on environmental agendas.

In my own case during my 35 years as a local political activist (30 of those as a local councillor) I have become more and more concerned about our local environment, global warming, protecting high grade agricultural land from development etc. etc. Sadly, it seems that those who vote have moved towards being less concerned about such matters.

In 1998, as the Lib Dem Leader of Maghull Town Council, I led the successful campaign to stop Sefton Council from allowing a massive slice of land to the east of Maghull from being developed. The people of Maghull (of all political colours) were fully behind that campaign and it was a celebration of both environmentalism and community action. In 2014/15, fighting the same battle once again, I felt like I was pushing a huge bolder up a hill with only a significant minority of the local population joining in. The battle was unsurprisingly lost as the majority of local borough councillors (now Labour) were battling against me and the environmental cause by voting to develop that very same piece of land.

In the elections of last Thursday Bruce Hubbard and I as Lib Dem candidates, standing on a very firm environmental ticket, were massively rejected as were the independent candidates in our wards (Park & Sudell) who were standing on a very similar ticket. Indeed, if you add together the votes of the Lib Dem and Independent candidates standing against development of high grade agricultural land in these two wards it still does not equate to enough votes to beat the Labour candidates from a Party that is openly voting for the development of this land.

Over in Formby where Sefton’s new environmental movement was reborn in the past few of years the Independent FRAGOFF group were unable to repeat their electoral success of the last round of elections as again they were beaten, if only narrowly, by Labour candidates.

So why were those who went to vote this May seeming less interested in environmental matters and in saving high grade agricultural land from development than they were last year or indeed back in 1998? Has the ‘green’ cause taken a big step backwards because the eye of the electorate is on other matters – the economy, austerity, immigration etc? Are we awaiting an environmental disaster, which affects the Borough of Sefton, before we remember how important the environment that supports us really is?

The other interesting thing is the poor performance of the Green Party in Sefton. They have hardly been the leading the charge over the kind of environmental issues I am raising in this posting and the votes they gained across the Borough reflect that. I could not be a Green Party member because their socialist instincts are illiberal to me but it does puzzle me why their voice on issues such as building on high grade agricultural land is not heard.

Only 2% of the land in England is of the same high quality as that to the east of Maghull which Labour-run Sefton Council wants to have built on. It is the land that grows the food we eat! To my mind Sefton Council needed to be fought all the way yet the majority of those who went out to vote last Thursday clearly did not agree.

For whatever reasons the cause of environmentalism has sadly taken a back seat in the electorate’s mind.