8 Dec 2020

Pleased that Green motion on car clubs was passed by council last night. Below are the comments I would have made had time permitted followed by the motion itself:

This motion, if passed and implemented would tick many boxes:

Environmental: can I remind council that our climate commitments include the need to fully decarbonise local transport by 2030 in order to keep within our carbon budget. Car clubs offer a route to reducing car ownership which helps to cut embedded carbon and minimise car journeys. They will also help reduce power consumption going forward which is critical as our society becomes more and more dependent on electricity, not only for transport but to heat our homes and offices.

Regeneration: meeting our brownfield first housing aspirations requires not only higher density housing developments but a laser focus on land use which must be used far more efficiently and intelligently than in the past. As with public transport and active travel investment, the infrastructure for car clubs needs to be planned in tandem with new developments.

Social justice: with petrol and diesel car sales set to end by 2030 car ownership is set to become less affordable while at the same time, younger generations increasingly find car ownership less attractive. Car clubs give people flexibility not to own a car but to retain access when public transport or active travel is not feasible.

Over 350,000 people in this country are already members of car clubs. However, Wirral is not well served at present and barriers to entry for private operators are significant. There is a clear role for the public sector to provide strategic direction to private companies to ensure the potential gains from an effective car club network are maximised.

Some work has already taken place within the council looking at experiences elsewhere and the lessons that can be learned. This motion seeks to provide political support to officers to build on this work in order to develop our strategic vision. We need to ensure we are well placed to bid for funding streams as we already have recently to help develop a charging network for electric vehicles.

So I therefore recommend this motion to council so that this work can commence as soon as possible.

Supporting Car Clubs in Wirral

Council notes;

The targets for new housing imposed by government on Wirral, the desire to protect our precious greenbelt and the resulting need to achieve higher density levels in new housing developments

the unanimous declaration of a Climate Emergency by Council in July last year and the related “clean travel” commitments outlined in the Cool 2 climate strategy with a clear objective to decarbonise local travel

the many changes indicated as part of the Cool 2 strategy which include: “a shift from individual ownership of vehicles to the use of travel services, e.g. car clubs”

that Car Clubs are an alternative to car ownership. They enable people to share cars, and only pay when they are using them. Although many schemes now operate across the country, there is no established scheme for Wirral

that many councils actively support local car clubs in a variety of ways – providing financial and/or marketing support, facilitating vehicle access and via specific policies which, for example, mandate provision for car club vehicles in new housing schemes

Car clubs therefore have a role to play in supporting a number of the council’s objectives for transportation, regeneration, climate change and sustainability

Council requests that

The Environment, Climate Emergency and Transport Committee incorporate a study of car clubs into its work programme, to include;

A survey of the current provision of car clubs in the Liverpool City Region

An analysis of council support for car clubs elsewhere in the country and the potential application of similar support in Wirral 

Recommendations as to the specific policies and measures required to help facilitate future car club provision in Wirral

2 Aug 2020

Car Parking charges

The decision to suspend parking charges in Wirral is deeply worrying and deeply wrong.

Deeply worrying because Wirral faces a £19 million black hole in its finances this year due to COVID-19. We can ill afford to forgo a key source of revenue as government support is withdrawn.

And it is deeply wrong in so many ways. In wards such as Birkenhead and Tranmere a majority of households do not own a car. This means the poorest households are now subsidising those who can afford to drive. The poorest families also suffer most from poor air quality and poor health. Yet here is Wirral Council subsidising the most unhealthy, polluting form of transport.

Public car parking is provided at public expense. It is right that those who use it should pay for it. If we have to pay for public transport we should certainly have to pay for public car parking.

Our high streets are clearly struggling due to the pandemic but also for deeper structural reasons as shopping patterns change and more business is conducted online. Free parking will do little to address these concerns. Successful shopping and leisure centres of the future will be based around people not cars. People want safe, clean places to enjoy that are free from the hazards and pollution that traffic brings.

The decision to suspend car parking charges is financially reckless, socially unjust and makes a mockery of Wirral's self-declared Climate Emergency.

Pat Cleary

Green Party councillor for Birkenhead and Tranmere

14 Jan 2020

Local Plan - speech to council

Transcript of Councillor Pat Cleary at Council Meeting 13.01.20
Wirral Local Plan 2020-2035

First of all can I thank all the officers for their hard work on preparing this documentation, our thanks as we know how much work was involved in its creation.

I would like to start by expressing my opposition to the government’s proposed target of building 12,000 homes over the next 15 years.  If people in Wirral find property expensive and unaffordable, then I think that has less to do with the number of new homes we are building and far more to do with  a decade of near zero interest rates and money printing which has enabled the cash rich to buy up property at the expense of the cash poor. That is why home ownership in this country is now at a 30 year low.

So, while the council must respect the legal advice it receives, there is, I believe scope to also include in the Local Plan, locally prepared, evidence based proposals for a lower housing target and I hope that the officers will consider that going forward

If there is in fact a shortage of housing in Wirral, why is the number of empty properties higher today than it was in 2014? Now, I applaud the work of the empty properties team, I liaise with them regularly on issues in my ward. They do a great job, but if we are going to meet the targets that we set out around empty properties in this document then I think that we are going to have to up our game significantly, and really start to look more intensively at compulsory purchase, in my own ward compulsory purchase has played a very positive role, we have seen regeneration and new retail on Oxton Road, we have seen the replacement of the derelict shops by Birkenhead Library with new green space, But, nearby we have seen the Victoria Lodge hotel, which has sat derelict for over a decade, and really blighted the local community. The owner there bring forward any regeneration plans, doesn’t submit any planning applications, shows absolute disdain for the local community and we need to stand up to that kind of land banking and address it.

Given the housing target we face, we have a lot of hefty burdens that have to be met. We have to find the available brownfield land, we have to in many cases reclaim and improve it, we have to achieve the density of housing required if we are going to preserve the greenbelt. We then have to create sustainable communities that are fit for the 21st Century and the climate emergency.

I just want to conclude really by expressing my disappointment really with the transport content in this document because transport is absolutely key to achieving all of those goals going forward. If we look at what we have got in the document, we are still, despite decades of evidence, spending millions of pounds trying to ease congestion that just generates more traffic, and all the problems that goes with it. It’s very disappointing to see that same thinking in this document. New road building is completely incompatible with sustainable development, but yet again we see this kind of outdated thinking here in this document.  We need to seriously look at public transport options for the new brownfield sites and in particular, I will say it again, the streetcar option for Wirral Waters. I don’t know what new year resolutions the council leader has made, but I would encourage him to add a new one  - to give his support and this council’s support to streetcar, it is really negligent I think that we have not supported that option, or not put forward something better if we think that option is not good enough. Otherwise, we will simply not meet the density and amenity/green space requirements for new brownfield developments.