20 Jan 2016

Hamilton Square aftermath

Following the welcome news that plans for a new road in Hamilton Square have been scrapped, here are four things I think Wirral Council needs to take on board as a result:

1. Some thoughtful pre-consultation soundings would have revealed that this was not a popular proposal. That could have saved countless hours of officer time etc.

The public response has been so overwhelmingly negative that it should set alarm bells ringing as to how such a scheme ever saw the light of day. It, understandably, creates a perception that the council is out of touch with the public and is not managing funds appropriately. There should be a root and branch review on how the scheme originated and how it proceeded to public consultation without informal soundings that would surely have raised fundamental questions about the merits of such a scheme. The Birkenhead constituency committee could have played a role here.

2. Proposals that involve significant public expenditure need a robust evidence base.

The public should reasonably expect that ,where significant sums of money are to be spent, that a coherent public interest case be established. No such evidence was provided for this scheme. It was claimed that the scheme would be "good for local business". However,

- no business case was constructed by calculating the monetary benefits and detriments to local businesses
 - no surveys of local businesses were carried out
 - no evidence has been collected on the effects elsewhere of removing pedestrianisation with the aim of helping businesses. Indeed the consensus is that pedestrianisation usually assists local businesses, and so removing it would be expected to be bad for the local economy
 - no monetary benefit from rerouting buses services has been calculated.

According to Wirral Council's 2020 Vision, the Council aims 'to be the best council in the country'.  The best councils do not spend £1.1M on a scheme without first calculating the net benefits.

3. We need to challenge the outdated view that prioritising traffic flow is a sensible approach.

Funding for the scheme included £400,000 from Merseytravel's "sustainable transport" fund. Appropriating such funds for a scheme that takes space away from pedestrians and allocates it to motor vehicles is beyond satire. I would expect our officers to be well aware of the need to promote active travel and discourage car use. This scheme does the opposite. Yet officers actively promoted this as a sustainable scheme on the basis that it would "allow cycling in front of the town hall", something many have been happily doing for years.

Indeed this scheme should force us to think very carefully about what effective consultation involves. The top-down approach employed here should be a thing of the past but there is a real danger that many of the same mistakes will be repeated in the forthcoming Neptune scheme for the town centre.

4. We need a comprehensive masterplan for Hamilton Square/Woodside

The public response to this scheme indicates immense affection for Hamilton Square something we have also seen recently for Woodside Ferry. This demonstrates the need for a comprehensive masterplan for the historic core of Birkenhead that has the support of the public as opposed to piecemeal measures that may well do more harm than good. I hope that one of the positive outcomes from this scheme will be reappraisal of what makes Birkenhead special and some fresh thinking about how best to enhance it. Indeed, the almost 200 responses to the original scheme consultation contain some excellent ideas from many people who recognise the untapped potential that Birkenhead offers. You can read the Green Party's Vision for Birkenhead here.

12 Jan 2016

Supporting Junior Doctors

This morning I attended the junior doctor's picket at Arrowe Park hospital to show solidarity with today's strike action. I'm pictured here with Charlotte Elliott, one of the local strike organisers.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has written an excellent summary of why the Green Party is backing junior doctors. You can read her thoughts here.

6 Jan 2016

Hamilton Square campaign update

As a result of our campaign against the new road plan for Hamilton Square, Wirral Council has launched a new consultation including an alternative scheme that keeps the pedestrianised area in front of Birkenhead Town Hall.

However, the original road scheme remains an option. It is therefore vital that as many people as possible take part in the new consultation.

What does the new consultation involve?

There are now three options on the table:

Option A: Is the original scheme which would see a new road built in front of the town hall and two-way traffic introduced along Hamilton Street. The cost of this scheme is £1.1 million.

Option B: This is the new option. A new cycle way would be incorporated in front of the town hall but,otherwise, this area would remain traffic free. Existing car parking adjacent to the town hall would be retained. Changes to the junctions closest to the town hall would give vehicles increased access to the Square from Duncan Street and Hamilton Street. Duncan Street would remain one-way. No cost has been given for this option other than it would be within the overall budget of £1.1 million.

Option C: Leave the square as it is.

To view the original and the new plans please visit:


Or use this short link: http://bit.ly/1NYDHmU
Then follow the links to complete the associated questionnaire which can be found at:


This will allow you to express a preference between the different options. The survey closes at noon on January 15th.

Also, Two drop in sessions have been arranged running from 3pm until 7pm on 7th and 8th January at Birkenhead Town Hall. Members of the council's regeneration and highways teams will be on hand to answer questions and explain the proposals.

Please do take part. It only takes a few minutes to complete the questionnaire and we need as many voices as possible to be heard to ensure the original and immensely damaging road plan is buried once and for all.