Maghull – Habitat Regulations – Town Council has an in and out relationship with them or so it seems

The irony of Maghull Town Council taking out hedges (otherwise know as a habitat for wildlife) in Glenn Park only yards away from other hedges along Eastway, which they have previously left uncut despite complaints from pedestrians, due to Habitat Regulations is not lost on me.

This saga goes back a while now (to 2015) and I have posted about it previously. Here’s my most relevant previous posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/11/30/maghull-i-keep-getting-asked-why-maghull-tc-does-not-cut-its-hedges/

What’s brought the matter back into focus now is the removal of a couple of quite long hedges from within Glenn Park by Maghull Town Council in the past few days. My understanding is that the stated reason for removing them is to introduce sight lines across the park to assist with anti-social behaviour issues there. Well the motive seems sound then at one level but hang on a minute.

Glenn Park – Where until recently there was a hedge/wildlife habitat

Firstly, a bit of history. Glenn Park has long had ASB issues associated with it; I can trace them back into the mid 1980’s at least, as that is when I became a Maghull councillor. Various things have been tried to tackle the problem. For example the former tennis courts were floodlit to provide a caged ball area in the 1990’s. Another initiative between Maghull Town Council and Sefton Council’s Youth Service was the youth facility that operated within the park making use of the former bowls hut. I also recall The Town Council introducing Park Rangers across all of Maghull’s parks to tackle ASB. The demise of the youth facility and the Park Rangers must have had a negative impact on ASB issues.

Anyway back to the present. As you may have guessed by now the Town Council pointed to Habitat Regulations when they were challenged over uncut and overgrown hedges along Eastway. As I have pointed out in my previous posting (linked above) they were being selective in their interpretation of the regulations because where a hedge is close to a footpath it can be cut back on the side causing access issues for pedestrians.

So what we have established is that the Town Council are aware of the appropriate regulations. Here’s a link to those regulations which seem to be more properly known as The Hedgerows Regulations (1997):-

www.gov.uk/guidance/countryside-hedgerows-regulation-and-management

So how do we end up in a situation where the Town Council takes out hedges seemingly without reference to the hedgerow regulations it was merrily quoting when it came to the non-cutting of hedges only yards away not so long ago?

I am aware that a Maghull resident has referred the matter to Natural England and that a response is awaited but frankly I can’t see why the environmental and habitat considerations were seemingly not taken into account along side the ASB issues before action was taken to grub out two lengthy sections of what would have been mainly Hawthorne hedging.

Yes of course the ASB issues need to be addressed again at Glenn Park but to do so whilst removing habitat for wildlife is solving one problem to effectively create another. There must have been a viable alternative (reducing the height of the hedges comes to mind as is happening in other places presently around Glenn Park) so why was it not pursued? Surely an Environmental Impact Assessment would have been the first consideration would it not?

The Town Council may well get away with removing the hedging and the home it provided for wildlife but surely a public body should be approaching such matters with the green and environmental consequences of any park management changes being its first thought.

As an environmental campaigner I am so saddened by this turn of events.

Maghull – I keep getting asked why Maghull TC does not cut its hedges

MTC's KGV hedge 22 08 15

I have covered this rather odd matter before on this blog site but to recap the issue is this.

Along Eastway there are hedges both sides of the road that belong to Maghull Town Council. The hedges bound Whinneybrook Field on one side and Glenn Park on the other. Also along the A59 (Northway) The Town Council has a hedge that bounds KGV Park where Maghull Town Hall is sited.

MTC's Whinney Brook Field hedge 22 08 15

Both of these sites have not been getting their hedges cut over the last couple of years and by that I mean regularly cut. They have both had an end of growing season cut very recently (early November) but up until then the hedges have been significantly over grown and almost wild.

In 2015 I related a story about a partially sighted chap who lives in Eastway who walked into the barbs of the overgrown hawthorn hedging along that road. He had to contact the Town Council to ask them to cut the hedges back I understand. He raised the matter with me as well at the time and again this year.

I was a member of Maghull Town Council for 30 years (until May 2015) so some folks must still think that I am because I have also been contacted by a lady asking if I could assist her in getting hedges cut back in Maghull. As you may have noticed from the text above this has finally now happened.

BUT why does this problem keep manifesting itself each summer? I recall that during my time on the Town Council a tractor was purchased (and a hedge cutting flail arm for it too) so that the Council’s many hundreds of yards of hedging across the Town could be effectively and efficiently cut. That machinery could do the job quickly and my recollection is it took just 2 groundsman to operate it i.e. one driving the tractor and a second one acting as banksman to keep people and animals away from the cutting.

The kind of equipment Maghull Town Council acquired to cuts its many hundreds of yards of hedging across the Town.

The kind of equipment Maghull Town Council acquired to cuts its many hundreds of yards of hedging across the Town.

I say all this because the lady who contacted me recently said that she had been told by the Council that there were effectively three reasons why the hedges are no longer being cut i.e. that legislation won’t allow hedges to be cut before 31 July, a lack of man power and antiquated machinery.

Well as you can read above the Town Council did have the machinery to cut the hedges and it was far from being antiquated so what has it done with it?

A lack of manpower (and womanpower too)? I know that the Town Council now takes on grounds maintenance jobs as it is trying to operate as a business on top of looking after the Town’s 75+ acres of parks, gardens and play areas. This was starting to happen during my last couple of years on the Council and I recall saying back then that it should not be allowed to impact on the standard of parks maintenance. Are we to assume that it has and that commercial activities of the Council are taking a preference to maintenance of the Towns parks and gardens?

And what about that nesting birds issue? It is true that the advice given to us all is that we should refrain from cutting hedges from 1st March until 31st July (some advice says 31st August) due to nesting birds. If I understand the legislation correctly, if you knowingly cut a hedge where there are nesting birds in this period you are breaking the law.

There are of course caveats to the law such as if the hedge is next to a public highway and not cutting it will create health and safety issues. In such circumstances ways should be found to cut the hedge. The hedges I am aware of in Maghull which folk are most concerned about are all next to pavements and it should surely not need a partially blind chap to protest to the Council before it addresses such hedges in my view.

So there you have it. I don’t know all the ins and outs as I am no longer a Maghull Town Councillor but should the Town Council wish to tell Maghull residents about its hedge cutting policy/problems then I am sure such information would be welcomed.

Maghull – Why has the Town Council not been cutting its hedges and a littering of other sins

The lack of hedge cutting around Maghull’s parks has of course been raised before on this blog site. My previous post refers at:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/08/23/maghull-hedges-has-anyone-at-the-council-noticed-how-desperately-they-need-cutting/

But look at this, an advert for hiring out the Town Council’s Grounds Maintenance staff, seen on the Town Hall internal notice board on 22nd October:-

WP_20151022_19_34_24_Pro

Click on the photo to enlarge it.

When Labour took control of the Town Council in 2011 they said they were reducing what they called the ‘Rolls Royce’ standard of maintenance that the Lib Dems had promoted for Maghull’s parks, gardens and playing fields. Little did we know that they were seemingly moving towards a ‘Trabant’ standard as the alternative!

There have been complaints of hedges not being cut this year at Whinney Brook Field and Glenn Park along both sides of Eastway and at KGV Park along the A59/Northway. Also, concerns about litter piling up at Dodds and KGV Parks has come to our attention this summer and autumn via Facebook and the latest edition (28th October) of the Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper. The lack of hedge cutting refers back to my previous posting about the blind chap walking into and getting a face full of Hawthorne from the uncut hedges on Eastway.

Would it be too much of a leap to wonder if the lack of maintenance of the parks and gardens in Maghull is due, at least in part, to the Grounds Maintenance staff seemingly being out for hire on private contracts?

It was also interesting to note that the Champion article whilst being critical of the Council, via the comments of a local resident, carried a response from a ‘Council spokesperson’. It seems Maghull’s Labour rulers were not too keen on being seen to be a part of an article like this. Surprising really as they would normally be all smiles for the media’s camera at the opening of a packet of crisps but not it seems at the litter caused by discarded packets of crisps etc.

Of course the Council is as much the victim of the litters and rubbish dumpers as the wider community. However, experience tells us that if litter and rubbish is not cleared away quickly it, by default, gives the impression that the community/Council do not care for the area and more littering and dumping takes place.

Will Maghull Town Council address these maintenance issues or not?

Maghull – Half cut, well its better than no cut I suppose

Half cut, yes but I mean hedges not drunken half cut.

Remember my postings about the hedges around two of Maghull’s parks of a couple of weeks ago? If not see the links below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/08/23/maghull-hedges-has-anyone-at-the-council-noticed-how-desperately-they-need-cutting/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/08/25/maghulls-hedges-the-council-responds/

But when I checked on the hedges on 9th September it was obvious that only one side of the hedge at KGV Park (on the A59 – Northway) had actually been cut! The park side is still well overgrown as is the top of the hedge.

KGV Park - They only cut the pavement side, not the top or the Park side.

KGV Park – They only cut the pavement side, not the top or the Park side.

You can just about make out Maghull Town Hall through the overgrown hedge

You can just about make out Maghull Town Hall through the overgrown hedge

So I went to look at Eastway where the virtually blind chap (see my original posting – link above) had walked into one of Maghull Council’s overgrown hedges a few weeks ago. It was the same here on the Whinney Brook Field side of the road i.e. cut on the pavement side but not the top or the park side.

Half cut at Whinney Brook Field.

Half cut at Whinney Brook Field.

But on the other side of Eastway the hedge bounding Glenn Park had not been touched at all so it still overgrows the pavement

It really makes you wonder about Labour-run Maghull Town Council’s pride in what is after all their community.

Maghull – Hedges has anyone at the Council noticed how desperately they need cutting?

The hedge along Northway (A59) just north of Maghull Town Hall and KGV Park has been a problem for a long time with residents often complaining that it does not get cut often enough. When I was a councillor representing Maghull (I now represent Lydiate) I often complained and pushed Council officers to have it cut, but without councillors complaining it would seemingly never be cut for reasons no one seemed to understand!.

It used to be quite a contrast because Maghull Town Council would regularly cut the section it owned (the part that borders KGV Park) whilst Sefton Borough Council was always having to be pushed to cut back its section (running from KGV Park to the Leeds Liverpool Canal bridge). Oh, and by the way this Sefton Council lack of cutting goes back well before any public sector budget cuts and well before the first photo below was taken.

This was back in July 2012 when my old friend and then Cllr. Andrew Blackburn was trying once again to get Sefton Council to cut their hedge back as it was forcing pedestrians to walk on the grass verge right next to the very busy A59

This was back in July 2012 when my old friend and then Cllr. Andrew Blackburn was trying once again to get Sefton Council to cut their hedge back as it was forcing pedestrians to walk on the grass verge right next to the very busy A59

But now Maghull Town Council seems to have ‘bettered’ (surely worsened!) Sefton in not cutting their hedges very often either. This was the scene on 14th July 2015:-

This was me just a few yards away from where the previous photo of Andrew was taken but by the section of hedge owned by Maghull Town Council.

This was me just a few yards away from where the previous photo of Andrew was taken but by the section of hedge owned by Maghull Town Council.

Then last Friday night I was out in a local pub with my mate Keith and was asked by a Maghull resident with significant sight problems why Maghull Council was not cutting its hedges on Eastway. It turns out he had walked into the overgrown hedge and got a face full of hawthorn because he could not see that it was overgrowing the pavement.

I had noticed just before I went on holiday that the Town Council’s hedges along Eastway were getting in need of a cut but that was over two weeks ago, so clearly they had not been tackled whilst I had been away. And this is the state they were in on Saturday 22nd August!

MTC's Whinney Brook Field hedge 22 08 15

Yes, folks who can see that hedges are overgrown can say walk on a grass verge (although on the A59 that is hardly a safe thing to do) to avoid them. But what about the blind, those with other disabilities etc.? I am told the chap with sight difficulties had telephoned the Town Hall but had not got much joy other than a response along the lines of the hedges will be cut in September.

And irony of ironies a check of the hedges along the A59, on the same date, showed that Maghull Town Council’s stretch was well overgrown whilst Sefton Council had actually been out to cut their stretch! This was the state of Maghull TC’s A59 hedge!:-

MTC's KGV hedge 22 08 15

I have of course made Maghull’s Town Clerk aware of the concerns expressed to me by the chap with sight difficulties.

Oh, and one other point that may be relevant. When Labour took control of Maghull Town Council they started a process whereby the grounds maintenance staff would be sent to work on some outside contracts which we were told would bring in money for the Council. The consequence of this would be a reduction in the maintenance standards across the Council’s many parks, gardens and play areas as the staff would be working elsewhere. At the time I became aware of this move I voiced concerns about not allowing the maintenance standards to drop too far and the evidence of the photo’s in this posting seems to be that they have dropped too far.

I don’t know whether the Grounds Maintenance staff are still working on outside contracts. If so then we probably know why the hedges are not being cut. If not then why are the hedges not being cut?

I think Maghull Town Council needs to reassess its priorities as their lack of hedge cutting could well be putting local residents at risk from hawthorn barbs.

Maghull Town Council – Now what about that new play equipment?

Not so long ago I posted about some of Maghull Labour’s wild and even wilder claims, the posting is via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/11/17/maghulllydiate-labour-made-up-stories-misinformation-in-their-upside-down-world/

One of the issues I commented on was their talk of investing money in Maghull’s parks and gardens. Strange we in opposition on The Town Council thought, these are the very people who took money out of the Town Council’s budget for such expenditure! The extract from my blog posting above said:-

‘Maghull Parks – Labour says they are planning improvements to Maghull parks yet it was Labour-run Maghull Town Council who took the money for such improvements out of the Council’s budget! We Lib Dems opposed the money being removed.’

So if money is to be spent by Labour-run Maghull Town Council on the Town’s parks where on earth is it going to come from?

Roy Connell

Roy

Well how about from Planning Gain money negotiated after Labour voted for the Ashworth South site to become a prison? Yes indeed, that is the source of the money even though the site is now going to be used for housing. However, the person who led that negotiation on behalf of Maghull’s local councillors was none other than former Lib Dem councillor Roy Connell. Not a single Labour councillor was even elected in Maghull back then!

So here we have Labour trumpeting that they are spending money on Maghull’s parks when in fact the reason the money is going to be there at all is down to Roy Connell and his Lib Dem colleagues who fought for the money back in 2008. I am sure that Labour don’t want folks to be told this as it rather spoils their plan of trying to look like generous benefactors but the truth will out and it certainly has outed Labour’s spurious claims!

Now what about the detail of where this money is to be spent? (This must be all Labour’s and Council Officer’s thinking as we Lib Dems have been kept out of the process)

* ‘Outdoor performance area in KGV Park’ – This is the park surrounding Maghull Town Hall and Meadows Leisure Centre. Readers may recall that Labour said they wanted to build a band stand there a few months ago for reasons most of us could not grasp, as no one had asked for one, and nearby residents seemed particularly unimpressed by the idea. Well it seems they are to get one whether they like it or not!

Illustrative only - Is this what Maghull Council has in mind for Maghull's KGV Park?

Illustrative only – Is this what Maghull Council has in mind for Maghull’s KGV Park?

* An ‘Infrastructure project relating to Plant heritage in KGV playing fields’ – No idea what this is, sorry.

* Balls Wood – New play equipment. This is the park next to the M58 Motorway.

* Extra pieces of play equipment in the following Maghull parks – Glenn Park, South Meade Park, Dodds Park, Lathom Gardens Play area, Round Meade Park, Moss Park, Mersey Avenue Park, Moorhey Park and KGV Park.

KGV Park - Maghull

KGV Park – Maghull

And how do I know all this? Well it is contained in a report going to Sefton Council’s Planning Committee on 10th December. And oh yes, the report to the Planning Committee also says that all this was fixed up via ‘Ward members were invited to meet with officers from Planning and landscape Services to discuss recommendations of where to allocate greenspace monies and to carry out tree planting’ – This should read Labour Ward members as I was certainly not invited!

It’s a funny old world being a councillor in Maghull these days under Labour-run Maghull & Sefton Councils. Maghull Council agendas are bland and rarely is there much to discuss but then things like this, which must have been decided in non-smoke filled rooms, then just pop out. Now what’s all that about transparency in local government?