Maghull – It’s 2nd railway station opens tomorrow 66 years after it lost its original 2nd station

Maghull lost its original 2nd railway station when it closed on 7th January 1952. That station (Sefton and Maghull) was on Sefton Lane and was a part of the former Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway.

I’m told by an old Maghullian in the know that the first talk of a 2nd station for Maghull, on the Liverpool – Ormskirk line, was just after World War 2, so its taken a while you might say to get it built.

The serious talk has been going on for I suppose over the last 25 years and it took some time to secure the station site. My good friend and former Sefton councillor for Maghull, Roy Connell, had a hand in that effort and the battle was won some 10 or more years ago when the rest of what was then called the Ashworth South Site* was down to have a prison built on it. That prison, which was never built of course**, is not to be confused with the temporary prison (HMP Kennet) which did operate from the former Ashworth East site for just under 10 years until quite recently.

Maghull North Station site – 27th September 2017

Construction of the new station (somewhat unimaginatively called Maghull North***) started last September and when it became apparent that it was due to open alongside the May 2018 railway timetable changes some of those in the railway know scratched their heads and said ‘that’s not going to happen’ or words to that effect. And indeed it did not and the opening was put back a month until 18th June.

This photo shows, on the left hand side the shortish back gardens of the Mersey Avenue houses.

The building of the new station has not been without considerable upset though for the residents of Maghull’s Mersey Avenue, who will have the station at the bottom of their back gardens. Noise, overnight working and the height/scale/position of the lift towers became huge issues and it led to demands for compensation payments which remain unresolved I understand. So it’s worth those standing on the platform of the new station taking a few moments to think of the troubles of the Mersey Avenue residents.

Having fought for the station to be built for more years than I care to recall I’m obviously pleased that it’s finally arrived. Now we want Merseyrail’s Liverpool – Ormskirk Line extended to its logical end of Preston. The present arrangement of a poor and unreliable service by Northern Trains onward from Ormskirk is a hang over from the decline of our railways in the 1960’s. I hope I’m still breathing when Northern are kicked off that line and we can all once again travel the length of the Preston to Liverpool railway.

Welcome Maghull North, your birth has been a long and tough one but you should be of benefit to many future generations.

* Former site of the world famous former Moss Side Hospital which pioneered the treatment of shell shock during and after World War 1.

** When the new prison was cancelled @2010 the site was designated for housing and presently the Poppy Fields and Pavilions housing estates are being built on the site.

*** Campaigners seeking to acknowledge the world groundbreaking medical history made at Moss Side Hospital wanted the new railway station to be called ‘Maghull Moss Side’ but the dead hand of railway administration was having none of it. They had made a decision and we were stuck with it so to speak just as they refused a quite sensible request to change the name of the old Maghull station (which was once called Maghull & Melling) to ‘Maghull Hornby’ in recognition of former Maghull resident and world famous toy maker Frank Hornby.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

HMP Kennet – Melling’s prison is closing and the only surprise is that it is 7 months early!

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

This has been a odd story for a while now in that the closure of the prison is still often talked about as being a ‘shock announcement’. It really is not as it was always meant to be a temporary prison from when it first opened. In fact the only ‘surprise’ is that it is closing 7 months before the originally stated closing date.

My last relevant posting on this subject, from the 8th of June, is below:-

It is also in Melling Civil Parish not Maghull but that fact does not seem to settle with folks either.

Melling – When is a shock not a shock at all? – Closure of Kennet Prison

Recent Liverpool Echo and Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper stories refer:-

If you lived in Melling or Maghull when this prison was originally foisted on the community you may recall that that undertakings were given back then (2006/2007) that it would only be a temporary prison and that the land had only been leased for 10 years. This information is no state secret and was readily available back then and it’s less than 10 years ago that it all happened.

Yes the government of the day has since changed twice since 2007 first to the Coalition and more recently to a Tory one but as far as I can see all the present Tory Government has done is to carry out the undertaking made by Labour when they opened the prison, nothing more, nothing less.

So where is the shock? Surely the shock would have been if the Tories had decided to extend the lease or even make the prison permanent, would it not?

As for our MP who seems to want to scrutinise the present Government’s decision to close the prison, what is there to scrutinise? We are told it is overcrowded and unsuitable for a prison due to its layout etc. Yes, the unsuitability of the buildings seems to me to be correct. As for the overcrowding, it either has too many prisoners in it or it does not. If there are too many then that is clearly unacceptable.

So what does the MP want to scrutinise? Does he think it is suitable to be a permanent prison or at least to be kept open for a longer period? Does he think that the overcrowding needs to be investigated? Does he feel that the undertaking of the last Labour Government was wrong and that the present Tory Government should not have stuck to those undertakings? It would help if he was clearer as to what shocked him about the recent announcement and what he feels needs to be scrutinised because at present there has been no shock and things have proceeded as they were seemingly meant to.

Is this story just a reflection of the 24/7 news environment we seem to live in these days where even ordinary run of the mill stories are ‘bigged up’ and put before us by the media on the basis that we can’t recall what happened last week so will be shocked by information that is no shock at all?

My letter to the Champion newspaper which followed up the Liverpool Echo and Champion ‘shock’ stories is below:-

Dear Sir,

The closure of Melling’s Kennet Prison is far from the massive shock that local Labour MP Bill Esterson seems to believe.

It is of course a huge concern for the prison employees and as a trade unionist I share their worries but let’s not forget that Kennet was only ever intended to be a temporary Prison. Indeed, it was the last Labour Government that told us it would be temporary when they opened it nearly 10 years ago via a short-term lease from Merseycare NHS Trust. Mr Esterson may not recall this however as he was a councillor in Medway, Kent back then.

As for Mr Esterson’s over the top claim that the closure ‘undermines the safety and security of our country’ this really does stretch the imagination too far.

But underneath the MP’s political hyperbole Kennet has indeed had a positive effect on its local community because it has for example assisted with Maghull in Bloom’s work. So as it is wound down lets remember it for its positive contribution.

The reality is though that what has happened is the present Government has carried out the pledge of the last Labour Government i.e. that the prison would be only temporary – where is the shock in that Mr. Esterson? Don’t you want the Tory Government to honour the Labour Government commitment? Do you feel that the Labour pledge was wrong?

Yours sincerely

Cllr. Tony Robertson

Lydiate Parish Councillor

Melling’s HMP Kennet to close

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

This may not be the surprise announcement from Government that some may think that it is because the land on which the ‘temporary’ prison sits was only leased for 10 years from Merseycare NHS Trust.

It was a surprise though to read that the Echo still thinks the prison is in Maghull when it is actually in Melling. It was also a surprise back in 2006/07 when it was opened without so much as a by your leave by the last Labour Government in response to a prison population crisis at the time.

I have posted about the prison a number of times over recent years – here’s one of those postings:-

During the period whilst the prison was a category ‘D’ it did some excellent work with Maghull in Bloom and we were sad when it reverted to a category ‘C’ meaning that offenders were no longer able to assist with environmental work for Maghull in Bloom.

But I suppose that as Kennet was only ever meant to be a temporary prison then the fact that the 10 year lease is not to be renewed can hardly be the shock announcement which our MP seems to think it is. Does Mr. Esterson not realise that Kennet Prison was ‘sold’ to the local community by his own party in Government as being only a temporary prison facility?

Maghull in Bloom – Loved every minute of it

Following my decision not to stand for Maghull Town Council again (after 30 consecutive years of membership) and the fact that the electorate invited me to vacate my Sefton Council seat representing the western side of Maghull 3 weeks ago an important and rather sad consequential move was brought about.

Maghull Station in Bloom r

The move? To resign my chairmanship of the Maghull in Bloom Steering Group.

More than anything this was the role that I had enjoyed doing over the past few years as a councillor. Indeed, I think it fair to say that I found the experience one of the post rewarding activities I have ever been involved with. You see working with volunteers who simply want to improve the environment of Maghull and make it a better, cleaner and nicer place to live is very uplifting. No political side, no egos, nothing but those volunteers wanting to put Maghull first.

Volunteer 'Bloomers' get their just rewards.

Volunteer ‘Bloomers’ get their just rewards.

The Steering Group came out of an invitation to me from the volunteers a few years back to set one up. The problem had been bringing all the oganisations and bodies together so that progress could be made on ‘In Bloom’ projects. We ended up involving Maghull Station Volunteers, Melling in Bloom, Maghull in Bloom, Maghull Town Council, Sefton Borough Council, Ashworth Hospital, Kennet Prison, MADCOS (Maghull & District Cluster of Schools) and Sefton CVS to name just a few of the regular participants at our monthly meetings.

Maghull in Bloom

I like to think that the coming together each month of everyone who wanted to push the environmental agenda forward for Maghull worked and I really do hope that another Maghull Councillor will come forward to take the Group on to even greater success.

All I did was try to get people and organisations pulling in the same direction the work, as always, was done by the dedicated volunteers.

So sad to have to let this job of a lifetime go but having moved to Lydiate and not having any councillor responsibilities for Maghull any more the time had come to move on. I will really miss those monthly meetings and the great people who made them so enjoyable.

Kennet Prison – day release prisoners abscond

The BBC and Liverpool Echo have the story but let’s think this through because the fact is that an open prison, like Kennet, will have such problems from time to time. The assessment of an offender for day release may be wrong at times and there is no 100% guarantee that an assessment will get it right.

Of course ‘lessons will have to be learned’ as the old political phrase/excuse goes but we should not think that there will not be problems in the future because there will.

If we are to try to rehabilitate offenders as I think we should, as opposed to locking them up for the rest of their lives, then the balance of a risk assessed day release has to be the way forward even though that assessment can at times be wrong.

But there is a positive side to the rehabilitation route and it can be seen across Maghull where offenders from Kennet Prison have been working with Maghull in Bloom to brighten up the Town.

So let’s be concerned when things go wrong but let’s also celebrate when the process goes well.