For the last 5 years, one of my Borough councillors for Park Ward of Sefton Council has been Independent Pat O’Hanlon. She effectively took up as a Borough councillor as I bowed out of being one in 2016.
I got to know Pat as she was one of quite a few environmental campaigners who came together from across the political spectrum to oppose high-grade agricultural land being taken out of the Green Belt in Sefton Borough for development via the Sefton Local Plan; a fight I had long been involved with myself as regular readers of this blog site will be aware. Pat came from a Labour/socialist background but had left the Labour Party due to its stance on this hugely controversial issue. Indeed, she didn’t just leave Labour she stood against them and took a Sefton Council seat off them in Park Ward.
I liked working with Pat as she reminded me of another previous councillor for Park Ward – Lib Dem Robbie Fenton – who was tenacious and very determined to pursue any and every issue brought to her attention. Like Robbie, Pat did not seek the limelight as a councillor, she just got on with the job and she did it very well.
I was disappointed when it became apparent that Pat would not be contesting her Park Ward seat this May as politics needs the Pat’s and Robbie’s of this world who don’t give a damn who they take on.
Before Pat was elected she gained the nickname ‘Pat from Lydiate’ as a consequence, I think, of an interview on Radio Merseyside. She was also a very significant campaigner against asbestos pollution and I think it fair to say she gave both Sefton Council and the Health and Safety Executive a real run for their money over it.
Well done Pat, I’d be surprised if anyone who’d approached you during your term of office as a borough councillor had anything but good things to say about you. You more than did your bit for Lydiate, Maghull and the local environment; enjoy your retirement.
Having campaigned for Maghull’s 2nd railway station to be built over many years and being a railway enthusiast I had to be there to see and indeed ride the first train out of the station today. It was the 05.58 from Maghull North (ex Ormskirk) to Liverpool.
Together with a few hardy folk (it was a cold and windy morning) we joined the train and here are some shots of events:-
05.58am 1st train into the new station for Liverpool
The Merseyrail welcome tent giving out cup cakes. The chap on the right in orange is one of the engineers who built the station.
Ticket to ride the first train
View of a later Liverpool bound train
Radio Merseyside were there and they interviewed some travellers and even me. I also rode the first train back into the station travelling to Ormskirk.
By the time I left the station around 7.30am the car park was filling up and large numbers of travellers were turning up. One lady asked me in worrying tones whether trains really were running from the station as I was getting back into my car. I was able to assure her they were and thought to myself good job the line is not being run by Northern!
So Maghull now has its 2nd station and a pleasant opening day it was too. Great to chat with Stephen an engineer who has worked on the project for contractors Buckingham. Let’s hope the station settles in to being a great success on the Merseyrail system.
Readers of this blog may know that the RMT union has launched a ‘keep the guards’ campaign following it being suggested that the new fleet of trains for Merseyrail will be/could be driver only operation.
I have covered this issue previously as it is one which many see as being a negative step that does not need to be taken by Merseyrail, the private sector operator of Liverpool’s electrified local railway network or Merseytravel the public sector authority which oversees Merseyrail.
When Merseytravel were approached by Radio Merseyside below is how they responded following the launch of the RMT campaign to keep the guards on the Merseyrail network when new trains are introduced after 2020.
The statement provided to the radio station, which was read out on air, said that at this early stage no decisions had been taken into whether the new trains will be Driver Controlled Operated (DCO) – where the driver with the use of cameras and associated technology is responsible for the safe dispatch of the train rather than guards.
It was also highlighted that while Merseytravel will not be specifying that any new trains should be DCO, this method of dispatch has become increasingly commonplace in the UK (such as on the Tube in London and the Tyne and Wear Metro) and we do expect this may feature in the proposals put to us. It was stressed that Merseytravel are committed to maintaining a staff presence on a new fleet.
I have the feeling that this issue has a long way to run yet although Merseytravel could settle it now by simply saying that they will not be specifying driver only operation on the new trains. The ball or is that train seems to be firmly in Merseytravel’s court or is that siding.
Stood in a muddy field next to Dovers Brook with it tippling down, that’s where I was interviewed by Radio Merseyside journalist Mike Perkins as storm Frank was hitting Maghull today.
Dovers Brook in full flood looking north from Sefton Lane on Boxing Day 2015.
Thankfully at noon today the River Alt was not high and neither was Dovers Brook unlike Boxing Day when Maghull was hit by flooding.
Not sure what parts of the interview Radio Merseyside will use but I made comment on the low lying nature of Sefton and how much of it is prone to flooding at times of heavy prolonged rain.
Hall Lane, Maghull with a Merseyside Fire & Rescue worker trying to clear debris from Whinney Brook on Boxing Day.
I also explained how Whinney Brook flows into Dovers Brook which in turn flows into the River Alt and how when the Alt is too high the process starts to work in reverse causing flooding for parts of western Maghull.
Having lived in Sefton Lane as a lad and teenager I recalled how flooding took place near Dovers Brook back then but that it has got far worse in recent years with 2012 being the worst flooding event.
Dovers Brook where Sefton Lane becomes Bridges Lane – The houses were about to be inundated on 26th December 2015.
We also discussed the work the Environment Agency is doing on the Alt to create food zones in fields north east of Lunt and how this almost replicates what used to happen a 100 years ago when the Meadows around the Alt would flood each winter. In very cold weather it would provide a place for folk to ice skate.
A few days ago I was contacted by parents of children at this highly regarded School in Maghull. My own daughter (Jen) went there and I was a Governor for over 20 years until about 6 years ago.
My recollection is that the School has only ever had 3 Head Teachers and that includes the present one. Uniquely the School also stands side by side with a Catholic Primary School (St. John Bosco) indeed they share what you could call a common site.
The issue raised with me as a Borough and indeed Town Councillor for the ward in which the School sits was the reduction in the school day from 3.30pm back to 3.15 or 3pm.
The concerns are two fold – firstly, this goes against the present tide of schools increasing the hours of their school days and secondly the potential congestion outside the two schools at going home time if both are pouring out children within minutes of each other. Presently there’s 20 minutes between the two schools finishing time but under the alternative proposals there could be 10 or just 5 minutes depending on whether Green Park plumps for 3pm or 3.15pm.
Under the close at 3pm proposal the School day could lose 15 minutes teaching time but under the now second alternative (3.15) no teaching time would be lost. The lunch time would be reduced under both proposals to create room for manoeuvre. I would add that the School is saying it wants to make the move so that it can open up opportunities for after school clubs etc.
I do worry about the congestion if the Schools end up with leaving times that are too close.
I also hear the worries of some parents about the teaching time matter. Some folk clearly think that the time should not change and any time created by shortening the lunch period should be used for additional teaching. But at the same time teachers can only do so much because they are not getting long holidays with nothing to do as the national press may suggest at times. I have teachers in my family and I know what long hours they put in.
So Green Park finds itself looking to reduce its school day at the very same time that the Education Secretary, the rather odd and hard to like Michael Gove, is talking about doing just the opposite. The timing is clearly unfortunate!
I do hope this is all sorted out quickly and with the wider School community on board as I said in an interview with Radio Merseyside earlier today.
I can just hear the comments of Sir Humphrey echoing in the background and saying of the proposed change ‘that’s very brave Minister’.