Friday, 6 December 2013

Garston Old Road planning update

The Council has said yes to the plans to demolish the Church Hall at Garston Park Church and build some houses.

You can see the information, and the conditions the Council has decided on, at this link.

The key bits of info are in a section called Decision Letter which is in a bit called Related Documents (so you may need to scroll down a bit)

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Petrol station and coffee shop for Speke Boulevard

A planning application's come in for a 24 hour petrol filling station as well as a Starbucks and some other retail on Speke Boulevard.

You can see the information, and make a comment, at this link.

Comments close shortly before Christmas.

Council to decide on houses for New Heys site

Liverpool's planning committee will be discussing and voting on plans for houses on the former New Heys school site in South Liverpool later this month.

The plan is to build more than 100 houses - mainly four bedroom - on the land.

The committee meeting is on 10th December.  There have been some objections to the scheme but the Council looks set to say yes.

The info is all at this link.  The item is a few items down.

Brodie Avenue phone mast decision

Liverpool's planning committee will decide next week (10 Dec) on whether it's OK for the phone mast on Brodie Avenue (opposite number 192) to be replaced with a bigger one, and new cabinets.

Last time work was done here it caused real problems and residents are unhappy with the way the phone company has behaved.  Some have also objected, along with  my colleague Cllr Richard Oglethorpe, to parts of this application.

The Council looks set to say yes though.

The papers for the meeting, including a report on the phone mast issue , are at this link (it's the very last item).

Monday, 2 December 2013

Changes at ASDA?

ASDA, on St Mary's Road in Garston, has put in an application to change its opening hours.

It wants to turn into a 24 hour supermarket (apart from on Sundays)

You can see the application, and comment, at this link.

The deadline is 19th December.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Allerton Road Christmas Market - 30 Nov

There's a Christmas Market on Allerton Road, L18, this Saturday (30th November). 

There'll be activities, food and drink, a choir and hand bell ringers from 9 am to 2pm.  There'll also be activities in some of the shops from 2pm onwards.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Developments in Beechwood Gardens area

I blogged some time ago about the plans from Plus Dane Housing for some building on the patch of land roughly behind the row of houses at 11 onwards Beechwood Gardens. It's a rectangular bit of grass at the moment.  The plan was for shared equity housing.

The Council approved the plans although it wasn't at all clear when anything would start.

Plus Dane have been in touch to say that the land transfer is about to go through.  This means the site will be fenced off, although no building will start until next year.

Plus Dane have written to some immediate neighbours but I am posting this here so the wider Beechwood community is aware.

I'll also update in my e mail bulletins which carry news about L19 and L18.  If you don't get these but want to start getting them, please drop me an e mail at with the e mail address you want me to use.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Greenhill Road planning update

The development at the West Farm Hotel on Greenhill Road looks set to be approved.

Earlier this year an application was turned down and this is a new one with some changes to it, partly taking into account what residents said about the first one.

The details are on the Council's planning pages which you can link to here.  The key document is called Case Officer.  This has all the various conditions in it.  You can also see plans and other information on this page.

My colleague Richard Oglethorpe made some comments about access and these are reflected in what the case officer says.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Poetry please!!

The Friends of Garston Library have another literary evening this week.  And the theme is poetry.

We'll be joined by members of the Dead Good Poets Society as well as local people who have sent their own poems in.

If you want to join us, please do.  The event is free.

It starts at 6pm at the library with a drink and takes place on Thursday 21st November.

This evening is the third in a series which has also seen talks on local history and crime writing.  Next year the plans are to feature books on Liverpool's maritime heritage and the literature of the first world war.

Dog fighting theft?

There are worries that the theft of a dog from outside a shop in Hunts Cross could be linked to dog fighting.

The police have released a picture and are asking for help.

Here's a link to the picture and Twitter feed from the police.

UPDATE: The dog has been found and reunited with its owner.  An arrest has been made.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Energy Saving day in Garston

Information and advice on how to cut energy and other bills is on offer later this month at an event in Garston.

The Energy Saving Advice Day takes place on 21 November at the Urban Village Hall on Banks Road.

Running from 11 to 3,the free event includes advice stalls, tea and coffee and a free prize draw.

It's organised by housing associations SLH and LHT but you don't have to be a tenant to come along.

Info is available from 01928 796 000

Friday, 8 November 2013

Selling off the childcare

Later this month (November) the City Council's Cabinet will take a decision in the next steps in their plan to sell off some of the childcare services based at Children's Centres in the City.

In this case they are talking about the services in Garston and Tuebrook. 

For legal reasons the Council has to publish a bit of advance information ahead of the Cabinet meeting (22 November). You can link to the info here.

The Garston service is based in Speke Garston ward and it is interesting, although frankly not surprising given lack of action on other items, that the info here makes it clear that the councillors for Speke Garston and the local MP have not responded when asked to comment.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Building about to start - Booker Avenue

Some time ago, South Liverpool Housing got permission to build some new homes on the bit of land at the junction of Greenhill Road and Booker Avenue (not the former petrol station, the other bit).

The idea is for the new homes to be shared ownership.

Anyway, the land transfer's finished now and there's a contractor ready to start.  So the building should start next week (beginning 11 November).

So if you see people at work on the site, that's what they're doing.

The conditions agreed for the development are in a report on the Council website at this link  (you need to scroll down and click on Decision Notice).  This includes info about the hours that building work (audible) can go on.  Basically it's restricted to between  8 am and 6pm on a weekday and 8 am and 1pm on  a Saturday.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Be gone weeds!


I spent part of today working on two of the planters on Long Lane in Garston.

These have been there for a couple of years now but for the last year or so no one has really looked after them (although they have been watered - thanks to local businesses).

Friends of Garston Park have now raised some money to replant these and some of the other planters around the area.

I'm one of a team of volunteers who've agreed to do planting and maintenance and I've "adopted" the two planters roughly outside Monty's café (bit of an agenda with that choice!)

So today I pulled out a bagful of weeds (one planter had rather become a thistle paradise) and started planting.  We'll all be adding to our planters over the months and years with the aim of helping brighten up the area and preventing them getting quite so neglected again.

(It's worth saying that the planters themselves were donated , along with soil, by Enterprise Liverpool as part of an initiative I kicked off when a Councillor to do with the Woolton Road/Long Lane patch).

The picture shows one of the planters on the day they were first planted up.  I helped and was joined by Cllr Richard Oglethorpe.  I'm hoping that when I've finished, my two will look nice like this rather than like something out of I'm a Celebrity.

(This is just one of the initiatives by Friends of Garston Park.  If you want to get involved let me know and I'll  pass your details on.  Not everything we do involves being out in the rain!)

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Indoor Christmas market in Garston

The Family Support Hub is planning a series of days giving people a chance to  buy, and sell, things in the run up to Xmas.  It starts later this month at the Village Hall on Banks Road.

Here's the link to the Facebook page with the information.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bankfield house site - housing going ahead

The Council's planning committee earlier this week gave permission for a housing development on the site of the former Bankfield House in Garston (corner of Banks Road and Brunswick Streeet)

The information's in these committee minutes (you'll need to scoll down quite a bit)

The digger's already on site!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Friends of Garston Park adopt the planters

I'm just back from a meeting of the Friends of Garston Park.

We're adopting some of the planters in L19 to keep them weeded and to replant.  I've come away with two lots of bulbs and some winter plants.. and we'll be following up with others.

The planters have been added to our area over a few years but some are sadly in need of some TLC.

Local shopkeepers have kindly watered them but it's time for a refresh to help them look better.

We've divided them up, taking on a couple or a few each. I've got two on Long Lane (conveniently near one of my favourite local cafes)

If you want to get involved in Friends of Garston Park and want info, drop me an e mail and I can pass your details on.  I am at

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Brodie Avenue phone mast application back

Earlier this year an application to make some changes to the phone mast opposite 192 Brodie Avenue failed because of the lack of a plan about how the nearby trees were going to be protected.

The applicants have put another plan in, with what looks like the missing information.

The form is incredibly difficult to read but it looks as if the mast will be replaced with one a bit higher and there'll be a new cabinet too.

You can now comment on line and there's a deadline in mid November.  Info is at this link.

The vast bulk of the material is in a section called Related Documents which is at the bottom of the page.

A Garston Poem

This is the poem that was written by Mike Axworthy for the Friends of Garston Park art project .  You can see it on the boards around the sports pitches.

Mike also read the poem at a recent Friends of Garston library event.

I thought blog readers might like to see it.


From Salt works to satellite dishes
Garston has changed
From rural idyll to industrial giant
Garston has changed

Like the river it stands on it flows and grows
Garston is changing
From Ireland Scotland Wales the world they came
Garston is changing

A special place to live work and play
Garston has changed
Plenty of jobs in its docks factories and railways
Garston has changed

Look at its schools church and hospital
Garston is changing
Is it regeneration or degeneration?
Garston is changing

A proud and independent people
Nothing has changed
With a strong community spirit
Nothing has changed.

Michael Axworthy.

Community Radio at ESLA

Enterprise South Liverpool Academy recently played host to two weeks of community radio.
Working with Liverpool Community Radio,other local schools and community organisations andn members, there were a series of programmes on a whole range of topics. 
I went in to take part in a programme about young people and politics.
The whole set up was really impressive and I get the impression that ESLA is keen to do it all over again.  I do hope so!

Monday, 28 October 2013

IM Marsh parking restrictions

The Council plans to make the "traffic order" around the parking restrictions by the IM Marsh campus tomorrow (29th October).  There'll be an advertisement at the back of the Liverpool Post this week and then the actual regulations are due to come into effect on a date in December.

This follows a committee decision, after quite some time of discussions, earlier this year.

You can see the material from the committee at this link.

News about new jobs

The Liverpool Post has today published an on line story about a load of jobs moving to Garston, and possibly more being created.  It's to do with the Matchworks.

You can read the story at this link

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Fund raising football match

Update:   More than £190.00 was raised at this match for the Wirral Autistic Society.

There's a fund raising football match today (27th October) to raise money in memory of the young boy who sadly died in the road accident on Speke Road earlier this week.

It's a junior team who are playing juniors versus parents.

It kicks off at 12 30 on Garston Park.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Longer hours for two local pubs?

The George and the Derby Arms, both in Garston village, have applied for some changes to their hours and other bits of their licensing conditions.

The changes aren't huge - they are basically longer hours on a Sunday, a bit more music at one of the pubs and doing breakfasts at the other.

You can see the details at this link.

The info about what they're asking for is towards the bottom of the page at the moment.  If you want to comment, the form to use is towards the top of the page (word attachment)

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Lower energy bills

A scheme to help people switch energy providers and save money is up and running on Merseyside.

You can switch as an individual, or join a joint switch in which negotiations take place on behalf of the group.

Apparently people who have never switched are most likely to benefit from this and most of us tend not to bother switching.

The information is at this link.

Buses - bizarre view of communication and consultation.

I had to laugh when I read todays letter in the Liverpool Post from Councillor Tim Moore.

Tim is attempting to say that the decision on bus lanes hasn't been rushed, is based on something, and has been communicated and consulted on.

As evidence for this he mentions two meetings with bus operators, and the ability of the public to have their say and help scutinise through two meetings at the Council.

He has got to be joking.

The decision was announced ahead of any committee meeting and was prominent in the press on 19 September.  The Transport commitee Tim says was an opportunity for people to have their say was less than a week later on a working day.  The "public" Cabinet meeting he cites was a mere two days after the committee.

If the Council had genuinely wanted a proper consultation, or even some communication before a decision, it wouldn't have worked to this timetable which looks and sounds very much like no other views were required.

It is good that there will be a scutiny group to look at the effects of the suspension but I have little doubt that this was an afterthought once opposition started being made clear.

I personally am agnostic about bus lanes.  But I believe all significant decisions should involve proper consultation and proper evidence.  In this case evidence could have been collected before any suspension rather than using the suspension as post hoc rationalisation.

As for the meetings with bus operators, both sides acknowledge they happened.  The bus people say these were meetings to tell them what was happening rather than to consult.  Without being there it's impossible to know but it will be interesting to find out what the timing of these meetings was (ie pre or post the press announcement)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Bin service communications - do they know who they're talking to?

I had a mailing yesterday from the Council about the bin service.

It was a standard letter from the Mayor about the changes.

It explained that people with  wheelie bins would have their purple bin emptied just once a fortnight instead of once a week.  It went on to make some points about recycling and landfill.

Ok, you'd think.  It's good they're keeping people informed.

Except in my area (traditional terraces in Garston) nothing is changing.  We are not having our frequency changed and the day stays the same.

In other words the Council is telling people for whom there is no change that there is a change.

(You can imagine how many people have read the letter and thought the collections were changing for them)

Now it's true that there are enclosures and if you go on and refer to the calendar, you can work out that Canterbury Street and those nearby will have no change.

But my point is this.  If there is literally no change, why spend money writing to people?

If the Council wants to promote more recycling and composting by those in terraced properties, surely it would be better to do this as a separate project with the right messages for those people
 (which would need to major quite heavily on storage).

Instead money has been spent on, frankly, spreading confusion.

I had thought they were paying rather a lot of money to a "comms expert" at the moment.

I sincerely hope they're not as if they are they are not getting what they pay for.

New ( and free) training programme for young people.

I've just come across this information (pasted below) which sounds like a good thing for 16 to 19 year olds in Liverpool who are not in work and not quite sure what they want to do or should be doing.  The contact details are at the end. The organisation is based at STEC which is on Speke Boulevard.

Employability Solutions Ltd is currently recruiting for an exciting new programme aimed at 16 – 19 year olds.
The programme is individually tailored to meet the needs and interests of the young people will improve a young person’s employability by providing new practical skills, access to the world of work and enterprise alongside coaching and mentoring from highly skilled professionals.
During the course young people will have a unique insight into their chosen pathway and will be offered work tasters, project visits and will meet with a range of guest speakers.
The places are limited and are allocated on a first come first served basis. Access to the programme is FREE for young people who meet certain eligibility criteria. We can also provide out of pocket expenses including travel, childcare and nourishment for those that need it.
For more information or to make a referral contact Nadia on 07955028530 or email

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Beechwood area residents

I'm just back from a really good first meeting of a potential residents association.

Big thanks to those who came and particularly to the lady who took the notes and so spared us my handwriting.

Lots of great idea which we'll now be following up.

I'll e mail everyone who was there, and who sent apologies, with an update

Get news about South Liverpool

With my colleague Councillor Richard Oglethorpe, I pubish an e mail bulletin roughly once a fortnight with news and information about South Liverpool.

It's mainly L19 and L18 although we do sometimes report about a wider area.

If you want to start getting the bulletin, you can subscribe at this link.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Beechwood residents

Thanks to everyone who's been in touch re the first meeting of the potential new residents association.

You should have had a letter or an e mail by now if you were in touch.  If you haven't heard  anything back however, drop me an e mail at

I'm looking forward to meeting (or re meeting!) everyone.

New plans for former Bankfield House site.

Liverpool's planning committee is next week to decide on whether or not to give the go ahead to a new set of plans for the former Bankfield House site.

The site, on the corner of Banks Road and Brunswick Street has been vacant for a while now.

A few years ago, plans for housing did go through, but the company involved is no longer trading so nothing happened.

These new plans are still for housing, but it'll be mainly social housing for rent rather than for purchase (although a few will be shared ownership)

The committee's report, with some of the background, is available at this link.

The link also includes the other items at the meeting, which is 29th October.

You'll see from the report that the local councillors covering Banks Road didn't bother to comment on the plans.  This is sadly very common in Speke/Garston and makes you wonder whether councillors see it as their jobs to have a view on local developments.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Garston Library events - will you be at the next one?

The Friends of Garston Library held another successful evening as part of a season of literary events.

The picture shows local author Mike Axworthy talking about local history books and his love of local history.

Friends of Garston Library secretary, Michelle Knox, is "in the chair"

I love being Chair of the Friends as there's so much we can do.

Our next event is on 21 November at the library with the theme of poetry.

We do have some guest speakers but we want your poems too.  So if you are a budding poet, do let us have a copy. 

Well be asking some people to read out their work

If  you've got a poem to send in, please e mail it to us at

But even if you are not a poet, you're welcome to come and listen to the others.

The event starts at six with a drink and takes place at Garston Library on Bowden Road. It's completely free.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Bus lanes suspended from Monday

I've blogged before about the Council's plan to suspend all the bus lanes in Liverpool.

It starts on Monday and you may see people out and about this weekend removing signs or covering up lines.

The Mayor says this is to deal with congestion.  He claimed there was lots of evidence of lanes causing problems.

He seems to have back pedalled a bit now and is saying that this is in fact a trial with people having the next six months to send their views in.

The Council website does not, as yet, have a link for people to do this.  When it appears though,I'll make sure I put it on the blog.

Frankly to suspend the lot without proper evidence strikes me as a pretty dangerous and ill thought out thing to do.  Surely lanes could have been reviewed in groups.

I was cycling along Childwall Valley Road the other day - in a bus lane.  If you live in Netherley or Belle Vale and commute by public transport, this is your only option (no trains here).  I wonder how much slower that bus journey (from a deprived area in to where the jobs are) will be.  Its certainly not going to be faster for those without a car.  And the cyclists?  Well if that bus lane becomes a busy jostling mix of cars and buses we can take a risk or be on the pavement. And no amount of press releases about "sustainable transport plans" will make a difference.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

New houses - Garston Park Church grounds?

A planning application's come in for the church hall at Garston Park Church to be demolished and for a small number of houses to be built there.

You can see the details and comment on plans at this link.

The comment deadline's in early November

Bonfire night events

There are some big organised bonfire night events in Merseyside this year.

Here's a link to a list of some of them.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Bin service changes - update

People  all over Liverpool are this week being told their bins will only be emptied once a fortnight (purple bins).

It doesn't affect everyone but it does affect  a large proportion of households.

At the same time the Council's come up with a new policy on bin collections which has been a lot less publicised than the collection frequency.

You can read the whole document at this link but  the key points are:

* bins are supposed to be out by 6 45 am and back in by 8pm on collection day (good luck checking up on that one!)

* if your bin is damaged or stolen you may have to pay for a replacement (there's an element of discretion here but it would be wrong to assume it's all going to be free)

* if your bin is "too heavy" or the lid won't go down, the binmen won't take it  Instead there'll be a sticker or a note to say its not been collected because of this.  It's then up to you to reduce the load before the next collection .  Given the move to once a fortnight, it's not clear exactly where anyone will put this waste in the meantime.

* you can get an extra bin if you have special circumstances.  It sounds like these are very limited.  (Interestingly a resident in South Liverpool with very special circumstances phoned about the problems fortnightly collections would cause them and instead of being told about this potential option was told to buy a composter.  A bit of consistency would be nice)

Some of the things in the policy make sense, but if the Council thinks its a good idea to not empty very full bins on the assumption that the refuse will disappear over the next fortnight it is very, very  wrong.  Flytipping anyone???

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Update on school expansion proposals

Fuller details about proposals to expand Gilmour Infants and Gilmour Junior schools are now available at this link

This web section will also tell you what consultation is taking place and how to comment.

Cycling in Liverpool

If you a cyclist, or potential cyclist, in Liverpool there's a chance this month to give your views.

The City Council is drawing up a new "cycling strategy" and it's looking for views on the draft by 28 October.

The link to the document (its nearly 50 pages but it really is a quick read) is at this web address

The draft was written in the summer so there are no mentions of the suspension of bus lanes but that doesn't mean you can't comment on the implications of that decision for cyclists if you want to.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Campaign to Save the Meadowlands - update 10 October

I've blogged previously about the Labour City Council's persistent desire to sell off this piece of land at Sefton Park and the campaign to stop that happening.

Tomorrow (11th October) sees the next stage with the Council's Cabinet meeting to make a decision in the light of the more than 1,200 objections sent in and the Regeneration Committee's support for the sale.

However the campaign to Save Sefton Park Meadows has also moved on with an attempt to get the piece of land given Grade 1 listed status.  This could put a spoke in the wheel of the rush to sale.

I'll update again when I have more news.

Two local schools to expand?

The Council's going through the process to decide whether two schools in L19 - Gilmour Infants and Gilmour Juniors - should expand.

Gilmour Infants is very popular and there are always disappointed parents  every year.  On the other hand  some argue that it's popular because it's small!

Anyway the first  official thing has happened with the publication of this notice.

There'll be consultations with staff, governors and parents etc and the Council's Cabinet will discuss in January 2014.

I'll blog again when more details area available, but I know there is keen local interest in these schools

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Event at Garston Park Church this weekend

Garston Park Church is holding a "Harvest of Hobbies" this weekend.

Taking place on Saturday 12 October, the event is an exhibition of all sorts of arts and crafts produced by members of the Church.  There'll be work there also by people from organisations that use the church.

The "Harvest" runs from 10 to 12 30 and there'll be refreshments available too.

Garston Park Church (old name Island Road Methodist Church) is in that bit of Garston where Garston Old Road meets up with Island Road and other roads.  It's not actually on Island Road though!

Friday, 4 October 2013

South Liverpool skatepark - another step closer.

There's a meeting for people to have their say/share their views about the proposed South Liverpool skatepark later this month.

I've blogged previously about this.  Basically a very determined group of young people got together to research, campaign and lobby to get the funds for a skatepark in South Liverpool and to look for a location.

Loads of work has been done, with help from Brendan Burton at Merseyside Youth Association, and it really feels as if it's nearly there now.

The group have organised a meeting, open to anyone with views about what sort of a skatepark it should be, on 22 October.  It's at 6pm at the Speke Community Centre (the commy)

There's a link to the facebook page here.

So the Meadowlands is in Sefton Park then

One of the issues around the Labour Council's desire to sell off the Meadowlands has been whether or not it is actually part of Sefton Park.

Those who want to save it, with the back up of some historic maps, argue that it is and so shouldn't be solved.

The Mayor has tended to say that it isn't.

But does he really believe that?

The Liverpool Echo this morning has a report of the "debate" at the Council's regeneration committee last night.  (The committee's majority Labour members supported the sell off)

The Echo quotes the Mayor as saying this (to the objectors)

"Sefton Park isn’t yours, it belongs to the whole city."

Now that's certainly true.  These big parks are "owned" by all of us whether we live immediately next door or in another part of the City.

But the Mayor's point is ONLY relevant if the piece of land in question is actually part of Sefton Park.  If it isn't, the ownership or otherwise of the park is immaterial.

Now to be fair to the Mayor he did also pursue his claim that the land is not part of the park.

In other words he did a bit of an in out  "hoke koke"

But surely he wouldn't talk about ownership unless a part of him really believed the Meadowlands was a part of Sefton Park.  Hmmmmmm.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Help the Garston cat rescue

The Garston cat rescue, which takes in and looks after unwanted or stray cats, is holding a fundraising event to raise money for its work.  The organisation does mainly care for cats but has been looking after a few dogs also.

The event is on 18th October.  Here are the details:

Woolton Village Club, 23 Allerton Road (next to the Raj Indian Restaurant), Woolton Village, L25 7RA

Music by local band Cat Sundies

Buffet, Fun Quiz, Great Raffle Prizes, Late Bar 

7.30pm - midnight

Tickets £5.  Can pay on the door, or order from Pam on 421 0305 / 07956 658 805
Nancy and the volunteers put loads of work and love into looking after the cat and they desparately need funds so do please support the event if you can.

Meadowlands decision (part two)

The final bit of the Council's decision on whether to sell off the land at Sefton Park will be made in just over a week's time on 11th October.

Its one of the items on the Cabinet meeting agenda for that morning.

There's a link to the agenda at this link

Meadowlands press release

I'm posting below a press release from my Lib Dem colleague Cllr Pat Moloney about tonight's meeting about the Mayor's plan to sell off a bit of Sefton Park land.

The Lib Dems are only allowed one official voting place on the committee that meets tonight so Pat will be our representative.  Other Lib Dems will be there though along with many of those who have been fighting the mayor's proposals. Frankly the vote tonight will depend if Labour Councillors decide to go along with the Mayor or support the objectors.

We will oppose the sale of the Meadows in Sefton Park

Today at a special meeting of the Regeneration Select Committee meeting, councillors will decide the fate of the Meadowlands in Park Avenue, Liverpool 18.

Despite heavy opposition the Mayor and his Administration have continued with their plans to flog the land for housing. 

Councillor Pat Moloney, the Liberal Democrat who will be attending the select committee meeting, said "it’s blatantly obvious by the high number of written objections to the loss of this land that it is valuable as green space.  The Mayor has made his views on the Meadowlands perfectly clear but we will be supporting the many campaigners who have worked tirelessly to protect this land and we will be voting against the sale."

This will be considered at a Special meeting of the Regeneration Select Committee on Thursday 3 October, 5pm at Liverpool Town Hall.  The report can be found at Item 2 here:

Meadowlands decision (part one) tonight

Tonight (3rd) the Council's regeneration select committee meets for "pre decision scrutiny" of the Mayor's plan to sell off land at Sefton Park.

It is open to members of the public and starts at 5pm at the Town Hall on Dale Street.

Despite more than 1,200 individual objections and a petition, the mayor looks set to ignore the public and press ahead.

Tonight is a chance, albeit a small one, to ask him to think again.  That however will depend on the mainly Labour Councillors deciding people's views are important and standing up to the Mayor.

Lib Dems have opposed this sale and continue to do so.  So do people from many other political backgrounds.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Does your organisation need a computer?

There are some free PCs available for voluntary organisations in Liverpool.

They were used by the City Council but aren't needed now.  They are working and loaded with relevant software and so could be a great bonus for a charity or faith group that can put them to use.

There's no maintenance package with them, so organisations getting one would need to deal with anything like this themselves.  Even so though this sounds like a bargain.

If you want to find out more and apply for a free computer (or more than one) for your organisation you can find out more at this link.  The deadline is the end of October.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Those bus lane comments - what do they mean?

Liverpool City Council's Cabinet today (27th September) agreed to get rid of all the bus lanes in the City for a "trial" nine months starting at some point in October.

The coverage of the decision in the Echo today has this quote from Mayor Joe Anderson

“We’ve reviewed them  (the bus lanes) over the last six months and we will compare that data with what we gather over the next nine months."

The Echo had a journalist at the meeting so there's no reason to doubt the accuracy of this quote.

But what on earth does it mean?

It appears to say that the existing bus lanes have been monitored carefully and data collected over six months.

So no doubt there is all sorts of statistical information used in the decision (the data).

Now decisions at these sorts of meetings are pretty much based on the material in reports provided for the committee.  And you can read the report for this one on the Council's website at this link.

Now there are several types of data that might be useful for an exercise like this.

You could count the numbers of buses and cars in various lanes and compare these to data from before the bus lane introduction.

You could time a typical car journey and compare it to a car journey from before the bus lane introduction.

You could look at numbers of passengers on buses using bus lanes as opposed to routes without any, and compare these to pre bus lane times.

You could measure air pollution in the areas near bus lanes and compare with data from before the introduction of the lanes (air pollution is one of the problems linked to traffic congestion).

You could measure traffic flows on "rat runs" and draw some conclusions about whether drivers are attempting to avoid roads with bus lanes.

And there are quite a few other data driven things you could do.

Now some of these bring their own problems.  The obvious is how you  control for other variations
 ( growth in car ownership, change in population, changes in bus fares, impact of roadworks and so on).  But they all have the benefit that they produce figures and could be viewed in graphs as trends if collected in a certain way.

So what exactly is the Mayor's data?

Well the report admits there is no up to date figures on bus useage (why?) but then goes on to use material from cameras overlooking the lanes (thus sidestepping the issue of lack of data from bus lanes without cameras).  And we get some pretty vague statements with no numbers attached. We're also told that officers have monitored these lanes directly (implying standing by the road rather than using a camera). But we're not told whether this monitoring consists of sampling and if so how often and at what time of day (there is nothing wrong with sampling but you need to know it's been done)

To be honest this "data" is nothing like data and is more a series of "ooh terrible traffic" type semi anecdotal statements.

Now it's perfectly possible to make decisions based on gut feel or impressions.  But if you do that you shouldn't claim you are using evidence (because you are not).

It's certainly true that some very specific problems have been identified, and these are listed in the report.  But isn't that an argument for looking at those specific problems rather than deciding on a blanket ban?

I am pretty agnostic about bus lanes.  I think if they work (and we need to define what we mean by work as the report certainly doesn't) they should stay and if they are not serving a purpose, or if they are not working, they need to be reviewed.

But I suspect this "all or nothing " approach will simply bring more problems to the very streets it's claimed it'll help.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Ah.. so Meadowlands decision next month then

I blogged earlier about the odd lack of material about the Meadowlands decision on this week's Cabinet agenda.

I was surprised not to see it there, particularly as it had earlier been listed as a September decision.

It now turns out that it's first going to be discussed by the Regeneration Select Committee, which meets next week.  It'll go to Cabinet after that.

It may seem strange to talk about a decision.  After all there's been lots of publicity already for the Cabinet saying "yes go ahead and sell it". 

Because its the loss of open space though, it has to be advertised so that various objections can come in.  This is a legal process and you may have seen the statutory advert in the Post.

Obviously rather a lot of people saw the ad as more than 1,200 objections came in by deadline.

You can read the committee report (and this is the only thing due to be discussed at the committee) at this link.

The meeting is on 3 October and the agenda lists this as Land at Park Avenue.

Basically the mayoral recommendation at the end can be paraphrased as
"read the objections... going to do it anyway".

Want to know about local history writing?

Next month sees the second in a series of literary events at Garston Library.  And this time the focus is on local history.

On 17th October, local author Mike Axworthy will be there to talk about writing and researching local history and in particular about his book "From Monks to Mudmen".

The event is free, with refreshments from 6 and the talk starting just after 6 30.  Its's open to anyone so do come along.

There'll also be a guest of honour and a presentation to two youngsters who've won the summer review writing competition (I'll blog again nearer the time about this)

This evening event follows the September event which saw crime writer Martin Edwards talk about his detective fiction series. November sees the focus move to poetry on November 21st.

Friday, 20 September 2013

What are those committees for?

Liverpool City Council, like others, has a number of Select or Scrutiny committees that are meant to scrutinise,look into, examine, challenge what the Council is doing.

The Chairs of each get a pretty impressive extra payment and if you add up the number of councillors attending you can see quite a bit of elected member time goes into them.

I will leave you do decide, gentle reader, if this one was planned as a worthwhile scrutiny event.

(Of course its just one of a number at which there are few items that look like discussions and
debates rather than just getting information - which presumably an intelligent person can get through reading)

Bus lanes - why the arguments don't stack up.

Liverpool City Council is to decide next week on a "trial period" in which there are no longer bus lanes in the City. 

I've taken the time to read the Cabinet report on this as well as the media coverage and heaven help us if this is the basis on which decisions are taken.

Firstly it's worth saying that not every bus lane is necessarily needed.  The one at Horrocks Avenue for example was originally linked to a fast bus service to the airport.  That service no longer exists and people using that stretch of road generally feel the lane achieves no purpose.

However the fact that a few may be in the wrong place is not an argument for junking the lot.

The media coverage has focused on the Council saying that the lanes have not resulted in a shift from car use to bus use (the implication being that they therefore serve no function).  The Cabinet report claims that the purpose of introducing bus lanes was to get people to switch their type of transport (interestingly no earlier report is cited and I'd be happy to bet that that wasn't the only reason or even the prime reason at the time). 

Now the Council doesn't run the bus service here so it won't have figures for bus use.  Merseytravel however does passenger surveys and the bus operators must have a clear idea of use in order to get the money back from things like free passes.  The Council report tell us however that no local figures are available. Instead is uses national figures which , it's true , do show a decrease in bus use. 

But the media coverage implies that bus use (as a percentage of journeys)  has not gone up in Liverpool, and therefore the bus lanes have not achieved their aim.

So we have a lack of statistics turned into an assumption and then a piece of dodgy logic about causation thrown in for good measure.

The only way we could know whether or not there is a causal relationship between bus lanes and transport modes is by having

a. accurate figures for transport use before their introduction
b. accurate figures for transport use after their introduction
c. those figures adjusted for demographics (like population figures)
d. all other conditions being held equal (ie nothing else being capable of causing transport decisions or those effects taken out in a reliable statistical way).

And the Council report, and media coverage has none of this  (I wonder why they haven't at least tried to use Mereytravel or Arriva/Stagecoach figures - a case of not wanting the info to get in the way of a decision I guess. Or perhaps if you know a decision has already been made you don't need to waste time on data either way)

However, putting aside the Council's lack of logic here, there is another argument.  The Council report talks about congestion and the need for traffic to move smoothly.  This is not least because of air pollution, particularly in the City Centre. 

This is a valid concern.  It's not great for air quality or for carbon reduction for lots of semi stationary vehicles to be belching out fumes

However, as someone who walks around the City a lot, it's clear that among the most polluting fumes are those from buses that are not moving much (or at all) Try breathing in those fumes and you soon see what a problem that is.  With no bus lanes, those buses are likely to be slower (they can't possibly be faster!)  The Government has recently given some cash to make some buses on Merseyside less polluting, but that won't cover the lot by any means.

Of course if the pollution from buses has been measured against that from other modes of transport in a serious statistical way, this point might be answerable.  I have looked in vain through the Cabinet report for this information.

The coverage also tells us that often drivers avoid bus lanes even at the times of day they are allowed to be in them .  Signs for bus lanes are confusing and I am not surprised that drivers treat them as 24 hour just to be on the safe side.

The suggestion seems to be that the bus lanes will be suspended for a trial period.  This doesn't feel like a trial though, it feels like a final decision.  I can't help feeling that it would be better to review each bus lane , or group of lanes, separately and make separate decisions based on actual hard data.

Finally, I had to laugh when I saw that one suggestion in the cabinet report is that while the lanes are suspended, the Council will consider whether to put cycle lanes there.  So basically they make a bit of the road busier and then ask if it would be a good idea for people on two wheels to be directed to that space! (of course they could mean the sort of cycle lane which bans cars..but isn't that just re introducing the problem they claim exists now?)

I am pretty agnostic about bus lanes as a whole  I think some work and some don't.

But it's clear that the Council is about to make a decision based on virtually no hard data.

Err... Meadowlands details please???

Liverpool Council is meant to be making its final decision on the Meadowlands planned sell off later this month  This follows the legal process with an advert and people sending objections in.

This should be happening at the Cabinet meeting next Friday (27th).  Papers for meetings are meant to be published a clear five working days in advance but pretty typically this item hasn't appeared yet on the Cabinet agenda (it's not uncommon for this council to dump things out with just a day to go)

However when it does appear it should be at this link.