8 Dec 2015

Supporting local police

Today I met with Merseyside Police on Raffles Road to support their
anti-burglary campaign. This involves free security mapping of personal
items such as phones, computers and bicycles.

Please do participate if you get the chance. This will not only help
secure your property and deter theft but can also help police to
prosecute criminals.

27 Nov 2015

MK Convenience Store, alcohol license application

I recently objected to an application to sell alcohol on Oxton Road. That case remains outstanding but a similar application has been made for a premises on Borough Road and I have submitted the comments below.

Re: MK Convenience Store
391 Borough Road
Oxton
Wirral
CH42 0HA

Having consulted with residents I feel the public interest would be best served by rejecting the licence for this store for the following reasons:

1. There is a well established problem with street drinking in this area. I have witnessed this at first hand many times. Clearly another licensed premises will exacerbate this problem. There are established services in the immediate area such as the YMCA dealing with the fall out from alcohol consumption and we should support them by denying yet more access to cheap alcohol. We should also be mindful of our health related pledges in Wirral's five year plan which specifically aims to "reduce levels of alcohol related ill-health".

2. Alcohol is an undoubted contributing factor to the level of criminal activity in this area. Police figures confirm the high reported instances of crime and the contribution alcohol makes to the overall level of crime. Significant policing resources are required to deal with the adverse impacts that alcohol is having via crime and anti-social behaviour. In the circumstances, another off-licence will exacerbate this problem.

3. Alcohol consumption is a clear source of public nuisance in this area not just as a result of street drinking and anti-social behaviour. The broader environment suffers hugely and I get frequent complaints about the level of litter in the area much of which consists of discarded alcohol containers. For example I received the following message on Sep 21st:

Dear Pat,
Borough road from Charing Cross on the Oxton road side it's an absolute disgrace with thousands of beer cans and bottles right up to Wirral Spares. The bushes and trees are an absolute eye sore. Why is this allowed to happen time after time ?
J B. Ashford Road


4. There are already numerous retailers selling alcohol in the area.

I would conclude by quoting from a resident of Halcyon Road who responded to my request for comments on this application with the following:

As someone who lives in Halcyon Road, we already have enough trouble with under age youths being sold alcohol and it obviously contributes to the anti social behaviour that we suffer living here. I would deeply object to yet another shop selling alcohol as this area is bombarded with cheap alcohol, ready available, often sold cheaper than a non alcoholic drink. Also this area is blighted by litter from the local public houses, another venue selling what will probably be cheap cans and bottles will only increase the litter we all have to walk through.

Cllr Pat Cleary
Green Party Councillor
Birkenhead and Tranmere ward

19 Nov 2015

Devolution for Merseyside: Where's the mandate?

Tonight I was the only Wirral councillor to vote against George Osborne's devolution deal for Merseyside. My colleague's in Liverpool voted likewise. We all support real devolution but recognise the gaping democratic deficit makes this whole process fundamentally flawed and unacceptable to anyone who calls themselves a true democrat. My specific reasoning is outlined below. Needless to say my call for the people to have their say was rebuffed by Labour and the Tories, all voting together for something the public have had no say on.

Statement on devolution for Merseyside by Cllr Pat Cleary

We live in an overly centralised state. Almost everyone recognises that power is far removed from local communities.

The Green Party strongly believes that a vibrant, healthy democracy has local engagement at its core.

If we look at democratic trends in Scotland and we see an engaged population where people's views matter and their votes really count thanks to proportional voting both to local councils and the Scottish parliament.

Of course, people here see this and they feel left out. They too want their voice heard and votes that are equal across society.

To some extent, the government has twigged this and recognises it needs to do something. But, of course, this government doesn't want what has happened in Scotland to happen here. They don't want real devolution that trusts people to make their own choices for where they live.

Therefore, what we get is an imposed version of devolution where very limited powers are centralised in the hands of a remote mayor rather than a remote minister.


So, in this imposed version of devolution, who asked the people of Merseyside what to ask for?

Who is asking them them whether this Tory version of devolution is acceptable?

Who cares whether people think a metro mayor is a good idea?


In truth, our minority elected government are scared of the people. They are scared to ask them what they really want because they know they will get answers they don't want to hear.

Devolution that is not rooted in democracy will undermine our democracy. It disenfranchises our citizens and gives those who despise politicians more reasons to despise us even more.

I know there is widespread dis-satisfaction with this deal. Our council leader correctly acknowledges that it has been "rushed and politically driven".

But what is completely absent here is any mandate from the people and we don't, as a council, have to accept that.

So, let's ask them. Lets explain why this plan is or isn't worth accepting. Let's ask if they want these powers concentrated in the hands of a mayor with minimal democratic oversight.

They might say "Yes, in the circumstances, this deal really is better than nothing".

They might say "No, bad devolution is worse than no devolution".

But if we don't ask them we potentially face decades of deficit. Not of the financial kind that we hear about every day. Not even of the environmental kind that this devolution report has absolutely nothing to say about. But, rather of the democratic kind that this process is supposedly based around but clearly does not understand.

So I echo the call made by Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society who said yesterday: "It would be a huge mistake for these important decisions about local democracy to be made behind closed doors. It's vital the public in the region get a say - otherwise, these devolution plans risk floundering and becoming an unpopular mess."

Dodging the democratic deficit is neither reasonable or necessary. Legislation enabling this deal will not be passed until next year. Voting for a Mayor in 2017 is clearly not the same as asking people if they wanted one in the first place.

There is now a clear window of opportunity to seek a mandate from the public.

So my question for the leader of the council is simple. Will he do the right thing by our democracy and seek legitimacy for this process by holding a referendum in May 2016 at the same time as the local elections?

13 Nov 2015

Why Wirral Council's plan for Hamilton Square is such a bad idea

I have written previously about the council's crazy scheme for a new road in Hamilton Square. The public response has been incredible with overwhelming incredulity that such a scheme could even get off the drawing board.

The formal consultation on this scheme ends today. Below is my submission:

Hamilton Square re-design - DC-STEP-1516-2

I am objecting to this scheme on the following grounds:

No clear rational whatsoever has been presented for this scheme, no business case, no cost/benefit analysis. When questioned, officers were completely unable to give an underlying and comprehensive reason why this scheme is required and what problem it seeks to address.

The proposal ignores the benefits of the current lay-out. People clearly enjoy the open, traffic free area in front of Birkenhead town hall. It enhances social/formal occasions and improves the working environment for staff in Birkenhead town hall and adjacent businesses. Indeed, the original scheme to pedestrianise this area had broad business support. Where is the evidence that business has now changed its position? If this scheme goes ahead it will make Birkenhead Town Hall a far less attractive location for weddings and other social occasions.

Hamilton Square is increasingly residential in nature, a fact that seems to have completely by-passed the authors of this scheme. In 2010 there were 25 names on the electoral roll for Hamilton Square. In May 2015 there were 54. This number will undoubtedly increase again as several buildings have recently been converted into flats and planning permission for several more has recently been granted. Why on earth would the people living on Hamilton Square want to see Hamilton Street turned into a road? Indeed, not one of the many residents I have spoken with feel this is anything other than a thoroughly bad idea.

The current lay-out was designed to reduce noise, dirt, pollution and vibration. And for very good reasons given the historic nature and immense heritage value of the Square. This scheme will increase noise, dirt, pollution and vibration especially if, as planned, buses and HGVs are permitted to travel the length of Hamilton Street at 30 mph. Officers were unable to give any reassurance about how much traffic was likely to use the new road. No significant provision to reduce/calm traffic on the new road is included. There is clear potential for a new road to become a rat-run for traffic using the Mersey tunnel.

This scheme will increase traffic dangers as it introduces conflict between vehicles and pedestrians where none currently exists. It is perverse in the extreme that Merseytravel is prepared to commit £400,000 of "sustainable transport" funding to a scheme that prioritises motor vehicles at the expense of pedestrians. As Merseyside has the worst road casualty statistics in the whole country and Wirral has an extremely poor pedestrian safety performance It is unacceptable that our council is prepared to spend £700,000 making our streets more dangerous.

There are many, many worthwhile road safety measures that would enhance our communities and help keep them safe - road humps, cycle paths, dropped kerbs. As an example, this £1.1 million would fund an additional 17 puffin crossings across Wirral.

The scheme clearly conflicts with several pledges under the 2020 plan, namely
  • Pledge 16: Wirral residents lead healthier lives
  • Pledge 19: Wirral neighbourhoods are safe
  • Pledge 20: Attractive local environment for Wirral residents

These plans also clearly conflict with Wirral's stated goal to play its part in tackling climate change.

The consultation around this scheme has, to put it mildly, been wholly inadequate. I am told that letters went out informing residents of the drop-in sessions. I have yet to meet any resident who received one. No plans were made available on-line until complaints from myself and others forced a u-turn. Indeed, I was told at the first drop in session that it "was not possible to make the plans available on line". But, somehow, they appeared a few days later. Also, no provision was made for people to submit comments/objections by means other than over the internet. This is clearly and outrageously discriminatory. And, finally, the on-line procedure was so opaque that I had to write-up and distribute clear instructions myself on how people could participate.

There is no evidence here of any joined up thinking about what can be done to enhance Hamilton Square and how this fits into a broader vision/plan for the wider area. Fundamentally, Hamilton Square/Woodside/Market Street has been undermined by poor decision making in the past. This has seen the centre of town dragged away from its historic core and, inevitably these key assets have suffered. This scheme will merely heap further suffering on the Square by creating a giant roundabout blighted by more noise, pollution and damage to its historic architecture.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the overwhelming mass of Wirral residents oppose this plan and regard it as a giant waste of public funds. I urge you to withdraw it immediately so we can avoid wasting even more time and resources and instead concentrate on planning a sensible vision for Hamilton Square and the surrounding area. The Green Party has already laid out such a vision and I urge you to consider it as part of a broader push to consult properly and build consensus with all key stakeholders about what is best for the future of Hamilton Square and the whole of Birkenhead.

Pat Cleary
Green Party councillor
Birkenhead and Tranmere

6 Nov 2015

How to waste £1.1 million in Hamilton Square

Wirral Council is consulting on plans to establish a new road in front of Birkenhead Town Hall, Hamilton Square. Traffic would run both ways for the entire length of Hamilton Street.

This will completely change the character of the area and I  know that many local residents and businesses are very unhappy about this. It also represents a shocking waste of £1.1 million at a time when public services are being cut left, right and centre.

What does the scheme involve?

Opening Hamilton Street to traffic along its entire length including the area in front of the town hall

How much will it cost?

£1.1 million. £700k from Wirral Council, £400k from Merseytravel

Why is the council proposing this?

A good question and one that council officers I spoke to at the first drop-in session were unable to answer satisfactorily. It seems to be some kind of half-baked idea to "liven up the square". Instead it will have the opposite affect. It is beyond doubt that increased traffic discourages people from using public spaces. The scheme clearly conflicts with several pledges contained in Wirral's recently released five year plan most notably with respect to healthier living and safe neighbourhoods.

Frankly, the council has found a pot of money and, instead of consulting properly about how the money should be spent, has told their highways department to come up with something. Unsurprisingly, they have developed a scheme which is purely focused on motor vehicles and addresses a problem that does not exist. There is already ample provision for traffic flow in the area. If anything, Hamilton Square needs more pedestrianisation, not less.

The fundamental issue is that poor town planning has sidelined the square by shifting the town centre away from its historic centre i.e. Hamilton Square/Market Street. This scheme does absolutely nothing to address that. Indeed there are many excellent ideas to regenerate the area none of which think increasing traffic flow around Hamilton Square is a good idea.

What's wrong with this scheme?

Everything. Effectively Hamilton Square will be a giant roundabout. Traffic volume, noise and pollution will increase. Residents and visitors will no longer be able to use the public space in front of the town hall. Weddings and other functions will dry up resulting in a loss of revenue to the council. The £1.1 million cost of the project is a colossal waste of public funds.

How to make your voice heard

It is vital that anyone opposed to this scheme takes part in the consultation. Wirral Council has not made this as easy as it could be so please follow these steps by November 13th at the latest:
  • Go to www.wirral.gov.uk/highways
  • Click on "Comments and objections about new traffic schemes"
  • Enter your contact details
  • On the next page enter the name of the scheme ("Hamilton Square re-design") followed by the scheme number - DC-STEP-1516-2
  • Then select "object to the scheme" from the drop down menu
  • You then need to state your reasons for objecting. This could be as simple as "extra noise, pollution, loss of amenity, waste of public funds" or you can, of course, give your own reasons.
Shockingly, there is currently zero provision for anyone without internet access to contribute to this consultation. If this affects you please contact me asap and I will ensure your views are included.

The last of two drop-in session where you can view the plans takes place in Birkenhead Town Hall on Tuesday, November 10th, 3-7pm. Wirral Council has failed to provide on-line access to the plans for those who can't attend. However, Wirral Green Party has created one. To view the plans visit http://bit.ly/20rDAqD

22 Oct 2015

Better facilities for Cyclists

I recently brought a motion before Wirral Council to secure support for proper facilities for cycle storage at new-build blocks of flats and commercial premises. This reflects years of frustration on the part of the Wirral Cycling Campaign who have been campaigning on this issue.

This was referred to the planning committee. I'm glad to say the committee unanimously supported the motion which reads as follows:

BETTER PLANNING TO FACILITATE CYCLING
Proposed by Councillor Pat Cleary Seconded by Councillor Phil Gilchrist

This Council supports the development of facilities for cycling in the interests of improved health, reduced air pollution, less congestion, and more economical travel. In particular, Council recognises that secure cycle parking/storage facilities are fundamental in facilitating the bicycle as a practical mode of transport for Wirral residents.

Council recognises that efforts to update Wirral's cycle parking standards have been ongoing for some time and looks forward to their implementation.

In the meantime, Council requests that officers reporting to the Head of Regeneration and Planning and the Strategic Director of Regeneration and Environment adopt a robust approach in requiring all relevant planning applications to identify, on submitted plans, the provision of cycle-parking facilities at homes and destinations which comply with the approved Council Cycle-Parking standards contained in Supplementary Planning Guidance 42 (Cycle Parking), and supplementary Planning Guidance Document 2 (Designing for Self-contained Flat Development and Conversions).

Below you can read my comments to the committee about this motion:

This motion is based on a very simple principal: If people cannot keep their cycles securely at home and at their destinations, they will not own a bicycle, and therefore cannot benefit from the cycle facilities which the Government and the Council are currently funding and seeking to provide in the future. 

To facilitate this we need clear standards that are properly enforced so that submitted plans routinely include adequate provision for cycle storage.

I doubt that apartment blocks in my ward are very different from anywhere else in Wirral but when I visit them I frequently encounter bicycles left on landings, balconies or chained to staircases. Or, even worse, a lonely bicycle lock still clinging to the railings following the theft of its parent. Of course, we have no idea how many people never acquired a bicycle in the first place because they had nowhere safe to keep it. What we do know is that, gradually, more people are cycling. Bicycle sales nationally in 2014 were 3.6 million compared with 2.4 million cars.

We also know that housing costs and welfare changes including the bedroom tax are forcing more people to downsize. The new lower benefit cap from April is likely to accelerate this shift to smaller accommodation. For those affected, a bicycle is often the most economical and perhaps the only form of affordable transport. It can greatly expand access to local services, training and employment.

Moreover, we are fortunate on Wirral that we have in Merseyrail a transport operator that takes bicycles seriously and has invested smartly in providing cycle storage facilities on its trains and at its stations. For many people, myself included, a combination of bicycle and train offers a real alternative to car ownership.

The background to all of this is a long standing campaign by the Wirral Cycling Campaign to secure better cycle storage in blocks of flats and places of employment. I have a brief quote from a letter sent to David Ball in August this year which reads as follows:

"For the past 15 years we have routinely and constructively objected to planning applications that fail to meet Wirral's guidelines in relation to cycle parking. All this in the hope that developers, pressed by the Planning Authority, would submit their applications at the outset with the appropriate facilities shown on the plans.  With very limited exceptions, this has not happened.  Worse still, the planning process has rarely dealt with the issue, except that on most occasions (but not all), case officers now simply add a cycle-parking condition to the planning permission.  This is not satisfactory, as staffing arrangements do not allow for non-compliance to be monitored, and enforcement action to be taken.  The time has surely come for more robust action from the Planning Authority to implement the Council's policy on cycle-parking.  WE ASK THAT PLANNING APPLICATIONS SHOULD NOT BE REGISTERED UNTIL THE REQUIRED FACILITIES FOR CYCLE-PARKING ARE SHOWN ON THE SUBMITTED PLANS.   This happens in other situations when inadequate planning applications are submitted, and such action will concentrate the minds of applicants."

If we look at items 4 and 10 on tonight's agenda we see two experienced applicants who have failed to include proper cycle storage in their plans thereby resulting in conditions being applied. Given budget cutbacks, it is hardly realistic to expect officers to enforce these conditions. The obvious solution is to ensure that submitted plans include adequate provision and that, over time, developers see this as something this is routinely included.

That's what this motion seeks to achieve. We are simply asking officers to implement council policy and play their part in increasing the number of journeys by bicycle and the many benefits that derive from that.

6 Oct 2015

TODAYS LOCAL, 65-67 OXTON ROAD, BIRKENHEAD

Re: Application for sale by retail of alcohol, 65-67 Oxton Road, Birkenhead.

An application was recently made for an alcohol license on Oxton Road. Below is a copy of the letter I have sent to the licensing panel which will meet later this month to consider this application:


I wish to object to this application which I feel will have a detrimental impact on the people I represent. I believe it impinges some of the key objectives of the Licensing Act 2003 namely:

To prevent crime and disorder
To protect public safety
To prevent public nuisance

My specific objections are as follows:

1. The Oxton Road area has a well established problem with street drinking. I have witnessed this at first hand many times. Along with Hamilton Square, I receive more complaints about street drinking around Oxton Road than in any other part of my ward. Clearly another licensed premises will exacerbate this problem. I have no doubt that the majority of local residents would oppose this application as it will contribute to the level of street drinking in the area. There are established services in the immediate area such as the YMCA dealing with the fall out from alcohol consumption and we should support them by denying yet more access to cheap alcohol.

2. Alcohol is an undoubted contributing factor to the level of criminal activity around Oxton Road and the wider Birkenhead area. Police figures confirm the high reported instances of crime and the contribution alcohol makes to the overall level of crime in the area. Significant policing resources are required to deal with the adverse impacts that alcohol is having via crime and anti-social behaviour. In the circumstances, the last thing the area needs is yet another off-license.

3. Alcohol consumption is a clear source of public nuisance in this area not just as a result of street drinking and anti-social behaviour. The broader environment suffers hugely and I get frequent complaints about the level of litter in the area much of which consists of discarded alcohol containers. For example I received the following message on Sep 21st:

Dear Pat,
Borough road from Charing Cross on the Oxton road side it's an absolute disgrace with thousands of beer cans and bottles right up to Wirral Spares.The bushes and trees are an absolute eye sore.Why is this allowed to happen time after time ?
J B, Ashford Road

I have included some photos taken on Tetbury Street (off Oxton Road) on September 22nd which clearly shows the public nuisance caused by discarded alcohol containers. Not only is this a public nuisance but it clearly places further strain on council services.

4. There are already numerous retailers selling alcohol in the immediate area. It is likely that there will also be a Lidl supermarket on Oxton Road selling alcohol. Moreover, the new supermarket (currently seeking planning permission) has the potential to significantly change the character of the Oxton Road area. Increased footfall may create additional opportunities for commercial premises that could enhance the street scene and broaden the retail offer. This application, if successful, would reinforce the area's existing reputation and could detract from future investment.

In summary, this application clearly runs counter to the public interest. It will worsen established problems relating to crime, anti-social behaviour and public nuisance. I urge you to reject it.

Cllr Pat Cleary
Green Party councillor for Birkenhead and Tranmere

21 Sep 2015

How you can support Green energy on Merseyside

The Collective Energy Switch Scheme enables residents across Merseyside
to pool their buying power to achieve savings on their energy bills.

I am pleased that the scheme's current instalment has incorporated my
suggestion to allow residents to indicate an interest in green tariffs
i.e. electricity that is generated from renewable sources - wind, solar,
tidal etc.

This will facilitate those who wish not only to achieve a better deal
financially but who also want to use their spending power to support
green industries and protect our environment.

You can register your interest at www.lcrenergyswitch.co.uk or by
phoning 0800 043 0151.

20 Jul 2015

Letter to the press: Benefit Cap

Next April the government's new weekly benefit cap of £384 per household
will take effect. This will decimate household finances for many Wirral
families and represents a financial time bomb for Wirral Council which
has a duty to accommodate homeless families.

Take the example of a couple with three children. Currently they can
claim up to £166 per week in housing benefit. From April this figure
will plummet to just £50/week. This is well below the average rent for
social housing (£93) and way below average rents in the private sector
(£145).

In Wirral, more than 1,700 households including over 5,000 children are
set to be acutely affected by the benefit cap. Many will inevitably face
eviction. A moderate estimate suggests additional costs to Wirral
Council of dealing with increased homelessness of £9 million each year.
This is a sum that threatens to undermine service provision across the
board in Wirral and put upward pressure on council tax bills.

The benefit cap represents a brutal attack on low income families and
their children. Yet only the Green Party opposes it. We call on all
those with a social conscience to join us in exposing its devastating
impacts and working with us to defeat it.

Cllr Pat Cleary
Green Party councillor for Birkenhead and Tranmere

13 Jul 2015

Wirral's Five Year Plan

Tonight's council meeting was devoted to Labour's five year plan. I voted in favour but made the following points emphasising in particular the dire implications of the benefit cap for Wirral families:


The Green Party welcomes this report and also welcomes the opportunity for all councillors to comment on it. We recognise the incredibly challenging backdrop given the government's persistent attack on local government. In that context we support the broad thrust of the plan though naturally we would have different priorities. I will restrict my comments to three priorities I would see as especially important.

1. It's a shame the report makes the all too common mistake of separating business and the environment. The clear implication is that business comes first and environment is secondary rather then weaving both into one clear and consistent vision of how we achieve our economic aspirations while fulfilling our environmental obligations. The words "climate change" are sadly absent from this report. Wirral has enormous potential to encourage more people to visit our beautiful heritage sites and coastal areas that provide abundant opportunities for low cost, low carbon activities using our excellent rail network. Tapping into Liverpool's success by encouraging many more to make the short trip across the Mersey to enjoy our environment and heritage is the sustainable option that we should be focusing on. This will not only attract more visitors to Wirral but will also increase the sense of pride and place of those who live and work here.

2. The plan, if delivered, would provide a safe, affordable, well maintained and efficient transport network. It will also encourage residents to live healthier lifestyles and promote physical activity.

All well and good but when reading the papers for last week's council meeting I was struck by the the cabinet report on capital monitoring in which it was claimed that Wirral now has some of the best roads in the country. Well not for cyclists it doesn't and not for pedestrians either. Wirral is part of a city region that has the worst figures for pedestrian casualties in the entire country. Pedestrians here are 44% more likely to be killed or seriously injured than in Greater Manchester and 53% more likely than the UK average. In Wirral, the number of cyclists seriously injured has seen a steep and worrying increase in recent years (22 in 2012, 29 in 2013 compared with average of 15 from 2005-2011). Pedestrian casualties have also increased. Frankly I don't believe either Wirral Council or Merseyside Police give road safety a high enough priority. This document is a missed opportunity to help address this.

3. The plan is terribly vague on homelessness saying only "we will also continue to tackle the challenges and causes of homelessness in Wirral". This is of acute concern to the Green Party.

From April next year, the benefit cap of £20,000 per annum will decimate household finances for many, many Wirral families. Take the example of a couple with three children. Currently they can claim up to £166 per week in housing benefit. From April this figure will plummet to just £50/week.

Over 1,700 families in Wirral are set to be acutely affected by the benefit cap. Many will inevitably face eviction. Given Wirral's duty to provide temporary accommodation to homeless families for up to two years how will this be funded? A conservative estimate suggests additional costs to Wirral of £9 million pounds per annum.

This is an enormous sum that threatens to undermine service provision across the board in Wirral. Affected families are entitled to know how their local authority plans to support them yet this document provides no guidance on how Wirral will cope with what is likely to be its biggest challenge over the next five years.

21 May 2015

More property marking dates

The police have provided me with more dates when you can get your
valuables (bikes, phones etc.) security marked at local railway
stations. These include October 7th at Conway Park.

09th June 2015 0900-1200 at New Brighton.

11th August 2015 0900-1200 at West Kirby.

07th October 2015 1700-1900 at Conway Park.

09th December 2015 1700-1900 at Hooton.

20 Apr 2015

Conway Street car parks

Last year a planning application for two car parks on the grassed area of Conway Street that borders Parkfield Avenue and Simpson Street was rejected.

Unfortunately, the applicant has appealed this decision. Below you can read my submission to that appeal:


I would like to make the following points regarding this appeal:
  • As you will be aware, the planning committee was unanimous in its view that the original application should be rejected. There was overwhelming opposition to the proposal.
  • The area directly opposite this site (which includes Europa Pools) is currently the subject of a major regeneration proposal. In that context, it would be unwise to allow proposals for additional car parking to proceed until those regeneration plans are finalised.
  • As stated in the original officer's report, "there is no requirement for additional parking provision within this locality". There are currently six council owned car parks within 500 metres and a further four privately operated car parks. In total, these provide 2,187 spaces. The site is extremely close to Birkenhead bus station and Conway Park railway station so there are clear, more sustainable alternatives. The national planning policy framework says local authorities should support a pattern of development that facilitates the use of sustainable transport. This appeal clearly runs counter to that objective.
  • This land is designated as primarily residential. Moreover, the established community on Simpson Street/Parkfield Avenue clearly benefit from the grassed area along Conway Street. This is complemented by a similar strip on the opposite side of Conway Street. This provides an important buffer against noise and pollution. This. This will change completely if this development proceeds. I cannot agree with the officer's report which states this development "would not have an adverse impact onto the character of the area or existing residential amenity," Residents in the surrounding streets are united in their opposition to the proposal for car parks. You will be aware of the petition against the proposal but I would like to add that I have not spoken to a single resident who feels there is any merit in converting this land for car parking.
  • I am particularly concerned that vehicles exiting the Simpson Street car park will not necessarily turn right onto Conway Street. Traffic here frequently backs up from the junction with Exmouth Street. There will be a clear temptation for vehicles to exit left out of the Simpson Street car park and access Conway Street via Simpson Street and Parkfield Avenue. I therefore cannot agree, as stated in the report, that "there are no highway safety issues relating to the proposal". Additionally, there will be a further erosion in air quality in the immediate area.
For these reasons, I urge you to reject this appeal.
 
Cllr Pat Cleary, Birkenhead and Tranmere ward

30 Jan 2015

Merseytravel's Walrus Card: What's the point?

I'm a frequent public transport user. I tend to travel off peak and at irregular times so I generally buy a Saveaway. It's flexible (buses and trains) and reasonably priced by today's (inflated) standards.

Recently, Merseytravel introduced the Walrus card. It's being trialled in Wirral before a planned roll out across Merseyside. It was dubbed an Oyster card for Merseyside. This sounded great as the Oyster card is really flexible. You load up your card in advance and travel when you need to so no need to queue at the station and fret about missing your train.

Only Walrus isn't like that. You have to load the card on the day you travel. And, it's quite slow to load based on the experience at my local newsagent.

Previously you could buy Saveaways in advance, scratch them off on the day of use and off you go. I always kept a stash at home and never had to worry about buying a  ticket on the day.

So what's the point of the Walrus card? My newsagent reports a huge dive in sales of Saveaways since Walrus was introduced.

We all want public transport to be as flexible as possible. At the moment Walrus is a real step backwards in flexibility as it doesn't allow purchase before the day of travel.

Hopefully Merseytravel are working on this. Otherwise sales of Saveaways are likely to fall and fewer people will be using public transport.

19 Jan 2015

More security tagging dates

British Transport Police have contacted me about some more sessions for
people to get their phones, bicycles etc. registered. Details below
including several at Conway Park station. This is a really practical way
to help fight crime and assist victims whose items are subsequently
recovered.

09/02/2015 Starting 1700 – 1900 hours at Rock Ferry

13/02/2015 Starting 1600 – 1900 hours at Hooton

14/02/2015 Starting 1000 - 1200 hours at Hooton

22/02/2015 Starting 1000 - 1200 hours at West Kirby

28/02/2015 Starting 1300 – 1600 hours at Conway Park

08/03/2015 Starting 1600 - 1900 hours at Wallasey Grove Road

21/03/2015 Starting 0900 – 1200 hours at Conway Park

02/04/2015 Starting 0830 – 1130 hours at Conway Park