£175m (or even £2b) sounds a lot for cycling & walking BUT it’s not much really

To start off this posting please have a read of the article linked below from The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport as it sums up where government thinking is seemingly heading quite well:-

ciltuk.org.uk/News/Latest-News/ArtMID/6887/ArticleID/32879/163175-million-more-for-cycling-and-walking-as-research-shows-public-support?gator_td=%2beI1zBnIYuYG7%2bOgusqjWGu5ZZ3%2bV4keUCmq3%2feVfXUBQ1EUrl6iRYVbt8AMDZa8BuPYg2Qec9tbYFzDd%2bowb%2fmeXmxqN51hO%2bWqAMtRbYK5EFnIW%2bJZy%2b9Bbs2rbZFBkIYukuNJZwTa74yXG%2fFBsa%2bjmt1QPIrPybd7EcLO7FMQgicqJmz9PJ9zZ1EWozrzCiROVULmgTH4DSsQ8w1KBg%3d%3d

News that government is to invest more in cycling and walking has to be welcome but let’s be honest an extra £175M spread across the country is not going to produce much at all; it will address the tip of a very big and long under-invested in iceberg at best.

But stop grumbling Robertson and come up with ways it could best be spent in Sefton and West Lancashire where you do most of your cycling. Well my first and most important advice to highway officers at Sefton Borough and Lancashire County Council’s is DON’T use what little money you get from this fund to try to do big projects. If you do a small area will get a big improvement but most cyclists won’t benefit at all. Please, please look at the myriad of small things you can do to make cycling safer and try to connect up obvious places which real cyclists want to get to and from. Presently the cycle network, other than in places like York, is a hotch- potch of bits and bobs all over the place which rarely connect with anywhere at all.

Safe cycling routes to schools is an obvious one to tackle but so are safe routes to railway stations, shopping centres, museums, leisure centres etc. Oh and don’t forget that secure cycle storage facilities are required too at each destination.

This is of course a subject I’ve banged on about before – see links below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/09/03/maghull-lydiates-berlin-wall-the-bible-of-cycling-infrastructure/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/05/03/maghull-lydiate-melling-simple-cycling-fixes-for-sefton-council-to-undertake/

And I noticed another easy fix for Sefton Council only today on Maghull’s Liverpool Road North (the section with a service road from the Westway to Green Lane junctions) where a dropped kerb outside Cornmill Lodge would enable northbound cyclists to access safer cycling on that service road. Obviously suitable bollards would be required to stop vehicles following suit!

Yes of course the rather grandiose safe cycling project to connect up Maghull with Kirkby is welcome but it’s one hell of a big investment for not a huge benefit for the majority of local cyclists. And that’s my point here; get the small easy fixes out of the way first because they will make a big difference to safe cycling. Oh and make sure that all projects that go through highways departments are scrutinised by cyclists before they are approved or you end up creating new highway infrastructure that all but excludes cyclists like the terrible new Alt Junction on the A59 in Maghull.

Walking and cycling destinations from Rimrose Valley County Park Country Park.

By the way the reference to Councils having to consult (see 1st linked article above) on how the money is spent is both welcome and interesting as my understanding is that with the money released by government during Lockdown 1 there was an instruction from government to benefiting councils not to consult!

With thanks to Mike Perkins for the lead to this posting

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!

Fracking – Has the threat of fracking on Altcar Moss really gone away?

Whilst at face value the announcement of Aurora Energy Resources that they are withdrawing their application (too Lancashire County Council) to be allowed to commence fracking in Great Altcar is excellent news, my feeling is that it would be premature to put out the bunting and celebrate victory.

The link below to drillordrop is very informative:-

drillordrop.com/2020/07/27/aurora-drops-altcar-moss-fracking-plans/

My understanding (please correct me if I’m wrong) is that Aurora have also indicated they may well be take legal action against the government’s fracking ban. That must surely mean that if they follow through with such legal action and are successful then they could well be back. Of course government could also relax it’s present ‘ban’ on fracking which has never looked to be a permanent policy position.

So yes another battle has been won by The Moss Alliance and other environmental campaign groups but I think it would be foolish to say that the war has been won.

My thanks to The Moss Alliance for all their hard work, work which Lydiate Parish Council was willing to back with financial assistance for legal advice and challenges.

Lancashire – Is it about to get an elected mayor?

Map of the Borough of West Lancashire.

Jim Hancock has the posting on his blog site – see link below:-

jimhancock.co.uk/big-changes-for-lancashire/

Jim, as ever, has an interesting and informative take on the long running saga about how Lancashire will be run in the future. It is to put it bluntly a dogs breakfast of a local governmental mess presently as I guess most will agree. Trouble is there’s been no consensus to agree how to sort out the mess which pre-dates John Prescot’s attempt resolve it as Deputy Prime Minister many years ago. Those with long memories will recall he wanted to split West Lancs and put half of it in Wigan Met Borough and half of it into Sefton Met Borough. It went nowhere and neither has any other plan it seems at least up until now?

My gripe with Jim, as those who know me will expect of me, is that he seems to back Metro Mayors and I can’t abide them. Jim says this ‘The success of the elected mayors in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region may finally have ended the squabbling in Lancashire over an elected mayor with a combined authority.’

Well Jim if having an elected mayor for the Liverpool City Region has been a success I would not like to see failure. Not enough devolved powers (I have often referred to the LCR deal as 3rd rate) and putting them in one persons hands is simply wrong to me. And just what has our elected mayor done that could not have been achieved without us having one?

But my other big gripe, which admittedly may not apply in Lancashire with it having no major cities, is that regional mayors operating from a big city have a detrimental effect on surrounding towns. Just ask Southport or Bootle or St. Helens or Birkenhead. A good example of my concern is the thousands civil service jobs being taken out of Bootle and centralised in Liverpool for HMRC. The jobs were put in Bootle for a very good reason in the 1960’s and 1970’s i.e to address an unemployment black spot and help the local economy. Taking them out reverses that piece of good work. And what has our City Region Mayor done to try to put a stop to this process?

Maybe as a Liberal I see the concentration of power in a single persons hands as fundamentally wrong but Tories and Socialists see otherwise? Maybe also as a Liberal I see true devolution of power very differently to the crumbs off the governmental table which is the present format of devolution. Frankly, no I don’t see Lancashire having an elected mayor being a big positive for a newly formatted local government structure in the county.

I like Jim’s commentary on politics in the North West of England and he’s often both well informed and right. However, we’ll have to agree to disagree that having an elected mayor in the Liverpool City Region has been a success. Indeed, I would go so far as to say it has been an abject failure for the majority of LCR – a bit like the present local government arrangements have been in Lancashire for a long time now.

If regional mayors are the solution you’re asking the wrong question.

Maghull & Formby Recycling Centres – Reopening via a pre-booking process

When Merseyside reopened it’s recycling Centres during our pandemic (4th May) some, including Sefton Meadows (Maghull) and Formby, did not open due to expected traffic congestion issues which would be caused by queuing traffic on busy roads.

At the time I wondered why Merseyside Recycling & Waste Authority (MRWA) had not brought in a pre-booking process for their recycling centres, where queuing traffic would be a problem, as just over the county boundary Lancashire County Council had done just that when it reopened it’s recycling centres. What’s more I know that Burscough Recycling Centre’s pre-booking process works very well because I tried it out having been unable to access a Merseyside facility due to the 2 nearest ones to me being closed and the next nearest having 2hr+ queues.

But as you may know Formby and Sefton Meadows Recycling Centres are now to reopen using, you’ve guessed it, a pre-booking process – see note below*

This has to be welcomed by residents who have been storing waste on their property which needs recycling but is not appropriate for the kerbside domestic recycling. Of course the other positive is that having all the recycling centres open means there should be less fly-tipping in the country lanes around Melling, Lunt Village, Ince Blundell etc. etc.

Fly-tipping in Longdale Lane Lunt from 2018

*The system will work like this according to the MRWA – ‘From Friday 19th June 2020, residents will be able to make bookings, online and also via a dedicated telephone line for time slots available week commencing Monday 22nd June. Booking slots will be released on a rolling weekly basis, once booking slots have been fully allocated, no further slots will be available for that day. When the resident completes and reserves an allocated booking slot they will receive a confirmation email.

The system will be administered by the Authority in partnership with our contractor Veolia, and each site will have a limited number of slots for each day. This allows for the site to be serviced – i.e. containers emptied etc. and also ensure that staff can monitor residents and implement and respect the social distancing rules. This servicing may cause some minor delays to booked appointments which may result in some minor queuing at the sites.

Cars and vans other commercial vehicles including large trailers will not be allowed to access the sites during this trial period and therefore the Permit Line will remain suspended. The Authority continues to develop plans on how these types of vehicles can be readmitted to sites in the near future.

The Authority will implement a clear communications campaign starting on Friday 12th June to ensure that residents are aware of the new trial, with support from officers at Sefton Council. This will be delivered via social media, websites and using local media. The Authority’s contractor Veolia will also be able to cross promote the trial booking system at other sites (via temporary signage) located in Sefton that are already open to the public.

It’s proposed that the trial will go live on 22nd June.’

This is all I know at present I might add.

A cycle ride of contrasts – Spurriers Lane – Outlet Lane – Melling & Simonswood

I’m still cycling during our health crisis although always on my own and not stopping at cafes etc. anymore….

A lane I cycle now and again is Spurriers Lane/Outlet Lane which joins Prescot Road at the Animal Sanctuary in Melling (Merseyside) and then goes through to Simonswood Civil Parish (Lancashire) to join Simonswood Lane. It’s single track lane for its whole length but traffic is light to non-existent virtually all the time.

Sadly, and probably because of the remote nature of the lane it is often a site for fly-tipping. Sights such as this are far from unusual sadly:-

What is it about fly-tippers using their junk to block steams at the side of such lanes? They love tipping in water for some bizarre reason! As you can see this is basically domestic rubbish that simply needed taking to the nearby Sefton Meadows Recycling Centre. I despair I really do.

The lane also has what is turning out to be a near permanent flood (close to Hesketh Farm) which I have nick-named ‘Simonswood Swimming Pool’:-

I’ll give Lancashire County Council a nudge as it’s been like this for quite some time now and is clearly an obstacle for pedestrians and cyclists.

Only yards away from this flooded part of Outlet Lane there’s a sharp left turn and in the distance there are quite a few old brick built buildings which are well spaced out. I’ve often wondered what purpose they serve or used to serve:-

They clearly have flat roofs and a gander at an Ordnance Survey map shows them to geometrically spaced with connecting tracks – around 8 of them and the nearest noted building to them is Basford Farm. Just out of curiosity does anyone know what the buildings were erected for?

When I reach Simonswood Lane I usually turn left and head towards Royal Oak where there’s a crossroads with Cunscough Lane. Royal Oak is part of Bickerstaffe Civil Parish. To reach Royal Oak you have to cycle over the M58 Motorway:-

From single track road to motorway within a few yards. In fact Spurriers Lane/Outlet lane effectively parallels the Motorway. the photo is looking towards Skelmersdale.

This was just a part of my circular route from my Lydiate home through Maghull, Melling, Simonswood, Bickerstaffe & Aughton Civil Parishes – around 10+ miles to keep the old legs turning and to get a bit of fresh air in these troubled times.

Click on the photos to enlarge them although the first one is probably frightening enough without enlargement!