What does Consultation mean in Liverpool?

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Last night we had an absolute omnishambles of a ‘consultation event in SFX Academy in Woolton. The event was supposed to be a consultation meeting about the relocation of St Julies School to Beaconsfield Road. It is the third botched event and residents were highly critical and angry. It was a text book case in how not to consult.

  1. At a previous meeting the council promised a full meeting with a Q and A session. Despite my warning some three weeks ago that this would be a politicised meeting during the official purdah period they only changed the type of meeting the night before without telling any of the would be participants. In fact they proposed to deal with this problem by forbidding local councillors from attending the meeting to hear what their constituents would be told!
  1. The council only proposed to consult with a very restricted number householders thus ignoring the fact that the traffic consequences of the proposed development would be felt across much of three wards involving minimum of 3,000 homes. We obviously let much of the wider area know.
  1. The council have clearly decided what they are going to do – build a new school – with consultation on minor items of detail only. Whilst the vast majority of people are totally opposed to the development the official survey form did not ask a question on the principle but only the detail. In fact officers told residents that in spite of the opposition a planning application will be submitted in May and a contractor has already been appointed. What price consultation now!!!”

Poor consultation is the epitome of the Labour Party in Liverpool. Council agreed to have consultation on the introduction of fortnightly bin collections. Indeed I seconded the successful resolution to that effect but then the Council did nothing. 23 bus lanes in Liverpool were suspended without any reference to bus companies, bus users, taxi companies, taxi drivers or cyclists. I could go on.

However, being a liberal, I am always prepared to positive and optimist about the people in charge of this process. Labour’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Jane Corbett, is a thoroughly decent and honest person. That is why the open letter below is addressed to her in the hope that she, having heard clearly what local residents had to say, will make their view known to the one person with a vote in Liverpool. Mayor Joe Anderson.

Letter to Cllr Jane Corbett

Dear Jane,

Thanks for coming to the none event last night at SFX and listen to our constituents from Woolton, Allerton and Church Wards.

The consultation process used here has been absolutely shambolic. This is the third meeting where no basic information has been made available to the residents about a range of issues but particularly those that relate to traffic and the measures that will be needed to improve what we all know will be horrific traffic problems. Details of what type of buildings and how they will accessed have not been addressed. No justification has been given to them about other options which we think are available:

  • Use of land at Gateacre
  • Temporary relocation to the empty Parklands School whilst the existing site is redeveloped.

Being just two of the options which should be exhaustively studied and discussed with the residents of both the proposed and existing sites.

No consideration has been given either to the changes in bus routes and subsidy for such changes which will be required. The proposed new location is very poorly served by public transport in contrast to the current location. Access will be particularly difficult from Speke where we all know there are problems with educational provision.

It would appear that the deal has been done. Officers told the public and I last night that:

  • The outline planning application would be submitted in May.
  • That a developer has been appointed. Indeed to add insult to injury the developers were actually part of the consultation process last night.

This is not the way to consult on something that will have a major impact on so many people. You heard the anger last night. These people are not Nimbys. Many of them would be better off keeping a school in their vicinity which would not be built on. BUT as local residents they know the problems. The road system and public transport systems simply cannot cope with up to 2,700 young people from wide catchments areas being crammed into a quite restricted space.

Beaconsfield Road is already dangerous. It is steep, crowded and of course has ‘Strawberry Fields’ which attract many tour buses and inappropriate parking.

Public transport is very poor and is likely to lead to an overload of bus transfers in Allerton Road which is already overcrowded at night and morning. Given the relative poverty of public transport the sort of projections for car usage for delivering students seemed to me to be very, very low.

In the ‘official’ feedback form you only asked for opinions minor matters of detail which would, in any case, be dealt with at a final planning application not an initial one. We however asked three questions on our feedback form and of the 117 responses we got the fallowing were the ‘scores on the doors’.

In favour of the proposal          2

Possibly in favour subject to details of the planning application  4

Against the proposal              111

You can see the redacted forms if you wish.

My Colleagues and I are appealing to you to do three things:

  1. Delay the planning application from May to September
  2. Use the time to publicly evaluate all the options.
  3. Hold proper and meaningful consultation with residents including a proper meeting, properly advertised as soon as possible after May 22nd.

I know that you heard what was said last night and I believe that you understood the genuine concerns. I know the problems with St Julie’s need addressing. Both my daughters went there and it needed some attention 14 years ago. But a school can only function as part of a living community. Just dealing with the problems of the school without taking any notice of the problems that would be caused to the community is not a good start!

I hope that you will persuade the Mayor to change his mind and agree to the three very reasonable things we suggest above.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

 

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,

Leader Liverpool Liberal Democrats

On Behalf of                Cllr Malcolm Kelly, Woolton Ward

Mirna Juarez, Allerton ward

Andrew Makinson, Church Ward

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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