What is consultation actually all about?

I think it fair to say that the public sector is generally poor at genuine consultation (partly because proper consultation costs too much) and it often is simply engaged in what is no more than information sharing (telling folks what is going to be done) and box ticking. So telling folk what is going to be done to their community, neighbourhood etc. is often dressed up as ‘consultation’ when in reality the comments made may well be (politely) ignored/rejected.

I recall a ‘consultation’ event being held at Maghull Town Hall a few years back about the then proposed building of what is now the newish Maghull North Station. That consultation was, at face Value, useful but I got the distinct impression that there were always going to be good reasons not to take forward suggestions which were made by attendees at that event. I blogged about it at the time – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/12/14/maghull-consultation-response-on-towns-2nd-and-new-railway-station/

My somewhat cynical response was ‘and it does make you wonder whether Merseytravel and their partners (Network Rail & Merseyrail) really do want to hear alternative views at all. Seems some things are sadly set in stone.’ If you look back at the suggestions which I noted were made whilst I was at the event

* The draft design of the station is too boxy and bland – Don’t want to end up as nondescript as Aintree Station when it was modernised.
* Will some of the circular buses be diverted there because the bus access along narrow roads is poor to the present Maghull Station?
* Can there be a memorial included to reflect the historic Moss Side Hospital that was on the site before? This refers to the pioneering work done there during and after the First World War into shell shock.
* Can the old Maghull Station be renamed Maghull Hornby to differentiate it from Maghull North?
* Can Maghull North name be changed to say Maghull Moss Side for example?

you could say that only one was actually followed up on – the memorial and an excellent memorial it is too. The others were rejected (or not even taken seriously?) it seems and there may well have been others I did not hear about.

So why start banging on about ‘consultation’ now Robertson?

Well my good friend Roy Connell, once a fellow Sefton Borough and Maghull Town Councillor, has public sector consultation buzzing around his head presently.

In his case it involves consultation by office of the Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner regarding the amount of extra precept (an addition to our Council tax bills) it wants to charge in the financial year 2020/2021. Roy’s view, if I’ve understood him correctly, is the consultation has in effect been all but tokenistic. 2072 people expressed a view on the matter via either being telephoned directly or through them commenting on the matter via the survey (no, like you I didn’t know about it) on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website. When you consider that Merseyside has a population of approximately 1.4m then a couple of thousand taking part in a survey/consultation is a very small percentage.

We live in a representative democracy where we elect people to make significant decisions about our country, region and community. The idea being that if those decisions displease us we can kick out the representatives who made them. But we seem to have developed, at least in recent years, a desire to consult folk over decisions about public policy. At face value this is a great idea but in reality aren’t the consultations rather meaningless if the vast majority of folk know nothing of them or if those being surveyed may not be taken much notice of unless they say things which fit with the policy direction being consulted on?

Merseyrail – Art On The Network

Do any of you Merseysiders out there recall this ‘Art On The Network’ project being launched by Merseytravel in 2005? Can’t say I do but during a rummage through my collection of books and magazines about Merseyside’s railways I rediscovered a forgotten pack from Merseytravel dated August 2010 all about the progress and future of this artistic project.

In the pack, sent to me by Merseytravel’s former Chief Executive and Director General Neil Scales was an Official Trail Guide, a book mark, a brochure and a DVD. In terms of ‘Selected forthcoming projects and plans’ the brochure says that in 2010 the following will take place – Animate the Underground, Art on the Network website to be launched, Art on the Artwork Open Art Competition and Charity of the year Art Project. And in 2011 – Animate Your Wait, Art on the Network Open Art Competition, Charity of the Year Art Project, Olympic 2012 programme, New [Merseytravel] Headquarters Artwork. It seems that Merseytravel was really becoming quite arty indeed. Time to start some internet searches for the project as I’m partial to art, particularly if it’s railway related:-

The first hit was this Flickr page www.flickr.com/groups/1557796@N25/ trouble is it has no photos on it!

This internet link to – Art on the Network – Public Art Update moderngov.merseytravel.uk.net › documents › Art on the… 15 Nov 2012 — The purpose of this report is to update Members on Merseytravel‟s. Public Art Policy/Strategy and Art on the Network (AOTN) activities. 2 – no longer works

I then found this Liverpool Echo article from 2012 launching that year’s art competition www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseytravel-launches-art-network-competition-3348110

I also found this from back in 2010 ‘The Drum’s’ website – www.thedrum.com/news/2010/06/23/merseytravel-launches-art-network-site-mando The link to the Art on the Network site does not work though.

In 2009 the Art on the Network Competition was won by Ron Davies farm8.clik.com/rdphoto/articles_114212.html

That’s pretty much all I found by Googling Merseytravel Art On The Network so I went onto Merseytravel’s own website and searched ‘Art on the Network’ but nothing came up at all. Now don’t get me wrong here, it’s not as if nothing was achieved by this project which may or may not be on-going. Indeed, some quite significant pieces of artwork have been created and displayed across the rail network on Merseyside it’s just that Merseytravel seems to have all but let the initiative go as there’s nothing on it’s website that I can find. That’s rather sad I feel.

But My point in penning this posting is not just to say how sad I am that the initiative ground to a halt (or should that be shunted into the sidings?) because it didn’t and hasn’t! I know that because my two local Merseyrail Stations have had artwork displayed on them in recent years and here’s the proof. First Maghull:-

Displayed at Maghull Station and designed by Deyes High Academy students

By Maghull artist Margaret Walton as part of the Station Volunteers project.

And at the new(ish) Maghull North Station:-

These two photos of the same sculpture celebrate the fact that this new station is on the former grounds of Moss Side Hospital which as a consequence of the Great War became a centre of expertise dealing with shell shock victims.

So to conclude my voyage into Art on the Network all I can say is how about celebrating it all at least on your website Merseytravel if nowhere else?

Maghull – That pond/grotto on the former Ashworth South Site

Not so long ago I had a good look around the Poppy Fields new housing site adjacent Maghull North Station.

I was particularly looking to see what had happened to the pond/grotto that had long been within the grounds of the former Moss Side Hospital/Ashworth South Hospital. I found it and took this shot through a building contractor’s fencing:-

I recall my old former Maghull Town Councillor colleagues John Sharman and Bill Chambers talking about it, as at the time they both worked at Ashworth Hospital. I refer of course to before the Ashworth South Site closed.

I then went searching for some background information about it and came across this in a Ecological Impact Assessment of the Ashworth South Site conducted by Atkins in May 2014 as part of the planning application process for the house building*.

‘Pond 3.4.5 A large pond is located within the woodland and is approximately 400 m2 in size and considered to have poor suitability to support great crested newts (HSI score 0.47, rated poor). At the time of the survey mallards were present in the pond as well as wrapped straw bales located within the pond which are understood to be a method of controlling pond algae. A stone built grotto approximately 10 metres long is connected to the pond (TN 29). The grotto has high bat roost potential and is a known bat roost (see 3.5.2 for more details). Peacock butterfly and moth species were recorded in the grotto at the time of the survey. No evidence of bats was recorded.’

* There had been a previous planning application process as the original intended use for the site was to have been for a new prison. Indeed, the access road into the site and the traffic island on School Lane were both constructed for the new prison. However, government changed its mind and decided to stop the prison construction with the site being sold off for the housing, which is presently being built.

Click on the photo to enlarge it

Special charter train on Merseyrail’s Northern Lines

Branch Line Society charter train at the new Maghull North Station 08 12 19

To follow up my posting of yesterday (linked below)

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/12/08/maghull-north-branch-line-society-charter-train-on-ormskirk-line/

here are two videos which have been published on You Tube of the special train on the Ormskirk and Southport lines:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZdtJOZZ1o8

www.youtube.com/watch?v=VB9wn8pel8Q

Maghull North – Branch Line Society Charter Train on Ormskirk Line

At lunchtime today a Branch Line Society charter train came through Maghull on the Liverpool – Ormskirk Merseyrail Line and I was there to see it at the new(ish) Maghull North Station.

Unexpectedly it stopped at Maghull North for 15 minutes allowing photographers both on and off the train to take photos. Here are my shots of the unique event. It is very rare to see anything other than Merseyrail’s own Class 507/508 EMU’s on the line. Indeed, this could well be the first charter train to visit and stop at Maghull’s new station. Please correct me if I am wrong here:-

The 4 coach train was topped and tailed by two West Coast Railways Class 47’s – 47 245 & 47 826.

The 2nd photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Maghull – Book sharing scheme at the new(ish) Maghull North Station

The new mini library at Maghull North Station

Local resident Frank Sharp has launched a book sharing scheme at the new Maghull North Railway Station akin to the one that is run by the Station Volunteers at the original Maghull Station.

Maghull Station Library run by the Station Volunteers

Organisers hope it will encourage a sense of community and ownership of the new station. Frank thanks Merseytravel’s senior rail project manager Darren Hazlewood and Merseyrail’s Sally Ralston, for allowing the installation of a bookcase and books which have been freely donated by the local community.

The initiative follows on with similar initiatives at other railway stations (not just in Maghull) and the international Little Free Library organisation, which aims to increase book access and forge community connections.

Says Frank “The idea is simply to encourage the community to emulate other railway stations and organisations by taking a book or leaving one – anything you’ve read and would like others to enjoy. The more people use it, the more fun it will be, and the more it circulates. Hopefully, it will also encourage a sense of community and ownership around the new station, akin to the brilliant award winning work undertaken by volunteers at Maghull’s older station.”

Editor – It all sounds great to me so I’ll now share the books and magazines I donate to the old Maghull Station across the Town’s two stations. I hope others will join in too. Please try to remember to add a book when you take one, or soon afterwards, otherwise the system does not really work.