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

3 comments:

  1. Pat your objection says it all,and i totally agree on all points.l hope this scheme is withdrawn.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The entire idea is totally pointless without any merit or advantage to the area or wider public.
    As you said the Wirral has a dismal attitude towards public safety, I have experienced mind boggling indifference from the traffic department whilst campaigning for something as basic as a double yellow line preceding a pedestrian crossing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This scheme is entirely without merit and diminishes the area

    ReplyDelete