A woodland without a forester? – Part 2

Since I posted the first half of this blog (here’s a link to part 1 – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/05/14/a-woodland-without-a-forester/) a fellow local environmental activist, Frank Sharp, has been in touch and he’s suggested that the downed wooden owl may actually be the body of a carved spider. I had been told that there had been/maybe still is a 2nd carved piece of public artwork within this particular wood so Frank could well be right. For reference here’s the photo again of the one I have seen and which we thought maybe an owl:-

Well as for progress I have none to report. Sefton Council hasn’t provided any further response and I’ve heard nothing from Mersey Forest and the Groundwork Trust. So who does have the maintenance responsibilities for Sefton Meadows No.3 woodland? The bottom line is that I have no idea and the powers that be whom I’ve contacted – Forestry England, Mersey Forest, Sefton Council, Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority (MWDA) & Groundwork Trust – either don’t seem to know (Forestry England and MWDA) or don’t seem keen to engage over the matter (Mersey Forest, Sefton Council, Groundwork Trust).

The mystery remains unsolved……………….

Sefton Labour Councillor goes Independent

It’s not been hard to pick up on the fact that Molyneux ward Labour Party have not been a happy bunch of campers for quite some time so when Sefton Cllr. Tony Carr announced he was resigning from the Sefton Council’s Labour Group, last week, to see out the rest of his term as an independent it did not come as a complete surprise to me.

If memory serves Tony was elected to serve for Molyneux ward (Southern Maghull, Melling and Aintree) in 2010 the year before I moved from Molyneux ward to Park ward (western Maghull and Lydiate) as a Lib Dem Sefton Councillor. I continued as a Sefton Councillor until 2015 so served alongside Tony for 5 years. My memory is of him being someone who was a good caseworker for residents and of a decent guy too. Like me, his background was from within the trade union movement. I think he was from UNITE, whilst I was PCS. I’ve noticed in the past that lay trade unionists can also make decent councillors as in reality the roles are not dissimilar; both need good communication skills and a willingness to help folk in difficulties.

I must admit to not really knowing Tony very well so I’m not sure where he would sit within the very wide spectrum of Labour activists. I’m guessing that he will not hold views as progressive as my own as a Social Liberal but I might be doing him an injustice there. It’s just that experience has taught me over many years as a trade unionist and politician that most Labour folk hold views that are to the right of me, some very much so.

I do hope there won’t be calls for Tony to resign his seat due to him leaving Labour to sit as an independent because my understanding is that he’s well thought of across the political divides and in particular by Molyneux ward residents.

And yes I have noted the very public allegations that Tony has made (via Facebook) with regard to his reasons for leaving Sefton Labour. Suffice to say that they are troubling indeed.

I wish Tony well as I’m not particularly tribal in my politics and am willing to say when someone from a differing political tradition to my own is doing a good job.

Dogs – Love them or dislike them these are the Sefton rules

Here’s a link to the updated rules for dogs on public land and highways:-

www.sefton.gov.uk/dogs

I’ve not had a dog since I was 14 but I do occasionally look after this lovely old chap called Chester:-

I’ve said it before but I really do wonder how one person can look after 6 dogs. Frankly, keeping Chester out of mischief is a big enough job when he comes to stay with us, another 5 Chesters is utterly mind-boggling to me.

Anyway, as Sefton Council has updated its rules which I might add will apply to all parks and gardens in the Borough (including those run by Maghull Town Council, Aintree Village Parish Council & Lydiate Parish Council) I thought I’d put the new rules out there.

A tribute to ‘Pat from Lydiate’

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.

Cycling and crossing Maghull’s ‘Berlin Wall’

The new (ish) cyclist unfriendly Alt Junction in Maghull

Maghull is very flat so you’d expect it to be perfect to cycle around and yet the busy A59/Northway cuts Maghull in half. I’ve always said it’s akin to the Town’s own Berlin Wall when it comes to cycling and even to some extent walking. I have of course blogged about this matter many times before and called upon Sefton Council to improve the lot of cyclists wanting to cross and cycle safely along Maghull’s great divide. Here’s a link to a previous posting of mine on this matter:-

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

I was and for that matter still am unimpressed with the new(ish) Alt junction as, in my opinion, it’s not cyclist-friendly. Expecting cyclists to dismount and then follow the same circuitous route that pedestrians have been landed with at this junction is not encouraging folks to leave their cars behind, in fact, it probably has just the opposite effect!

So, why do I return to this subject now? Well, improvements are afoot as shared-space cycle/pedestrian routes are being constructed on either side of the A59 between the Town Hall/Hall Lane and Damfield Lane junctions. The Damfield Lane/A59 junction, which has a poor accident record, is also being turned into a traffic-lighted one.

So the lot of cyclists is being improved although clearly, an A59 safe cycle route needs to pass through all of Maghull and indeed Lydiate to reach the cycle tracks along the A59 to the north of Robins Island in West Lancs. But don’t be churlish Robertson progress is being made which should be welcomed, and I do indeed welcome the progress.

Here are some shots of the work presently being undertaken at Damfield Lane and along the A59 to the Hall Lane junction:-

Looking towards the Town Hall/Hall Lane junction with the new and widened shared space path.

Elevated view of new Damfield Lane junction layout.

Damfield Lane junction looking north

It will be interesting to see how cyclist-friendly the Damfield Lane junction is when works are completed because from my perspective cyclists should not have to dismount to travel through a junction as seems to be the highway engineer’s want at the Alt junction. Junctions should be designed so that cyclists can go through them safely whilst pedalling not via having to walk.

I’m sure there’ll be much more to comment on as our presently very limited local cycling network is painfully slowly expanded.

£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