Labour’s view of a “Green & Pleasant Land” in Liverpool

Wooltondigger

The destruction of a Park in Woolton where St Julie’s School leadership don’t seem to know the hymn “All things bright and beautiful”

The picture above says it all. On Sunday this piece of brown, tortured earth was a park. Now it’s a building site and it’s all so unnecessary.

Before I remind you why let me just say thanks to our local campaigners Mirna Juarez in Allerton/Hunts Cross and Malcolm Kelly in Woolton. For two years they, and many, many others, have campaigned to stop this desecration. They have held demo after demo inside and outside the Town Hall and on the land itself. They have been supported by dozens of local people who committed themselves to the fight. They received no help at all from the 6 Labour councillors for the area who have not even turned up to events at the Park run by the Save Woolton Woods Campaign.

They took this to the end. They camped out on Monday and Tuesday nights and forced a deferment of the work for at least a day. But with the Mayor not prepared to listen the bulldozers moved in. BUT the fight is not over. Malcolm and Mirna are part of a movement in Liverpool which is fighting to preserve every piece of parkland in the city. Parkland which is so badly needed for the recreation and health of the people of our City.

The fight is unnecessary because they could have built a new school for St Julie’s (which we all want) by decanting the students to the empty and purpose built Parklands school for 2 years, demolishing the buildings and building brand new ones within the footprint of the current school. The logistics for this were actually less complicated than continually moving students around the school. It would appear that the only reason that this did not take place was pure snobbery on behalf of a very small number of people.

The fight goes on because land is under threat at Calderstones Park (including most of the ‘Harthill Estate’ and two areas within the Park itself); 80% of Walton Hall Park has been offered for development and, of course Sefton Park Meadowlands is under threat. But these are only the threats from developers. There is, in fact, a threat to all our Parks because the Mayor of Liverpool has said that there is not a penny piece to run our parks from 1st April 2017. I can only assume that he knows what he is talking about!

I raised the issue at the Neighbourhood Service Committee last night. For Calderstones Park we established a ‘Task and Finish’ Group of the Committee. That Group met twice in November and December last year. It has not met since. Time is running out. Developing a business model and plan for Calderstones Park with its many strengths will be difficult. For other parks which operate in a more challenging environment, it will be even harder. That is why it is a disgrace that there has been no movement on this issue for 5 months. Last night there were lots of members of the various Friends of the Parks’ groups at the committee. They all have tremendous expertise. They have landscape architects, former park employees, solicitors, architects, accountants and a whole host of entrepreneurs in their ranks.

I challenged the Labour Party last night to involve all of them in a full, none-political and pragmatic discussion about the future for the Parks in general and their parks in particular. Oh No. The centralising tendency of the Labour Party has to decide the plan and then consult the people of Liverpool on its implementation. That means, because of the intervening elections, that no decision can be taken until at least the middle of June on the principles to be discussed.

So let’s just look at that election. In fact there are three elections on May 5th. For the Police Commissioner, for ward councillors across the city and for the Mayor of Liverpool. The fact is that the real disadvantage of having a Mayor is that all the power of the Council is, effectively, in just one pair of hands. But we can turn that situation to our advantage. Change the Mayor and you can overnight change the policy.

That’s why I can make this pledge to you with the absolute confidence that if I am elected I can deliver it:

“If elected on May 5th I will on May 6th remove from sale land in Sefton Park and Calderstones Park. I will remove the threat of development from Walton Hall Park. For these parks and others where local people wish to be involved I will transfer the management of the parks by way of an unbreakable 99 year lease to local none-profit making bodies led by local people by 31st March 2017”.

This will not be easy. New bodies will need to be established, business plans will need to be done and financial support will need to be arranged. All this must be done with the consent and support of local people and park users. That’s why I know that work needs to start on this very, very quickly. But it can be done, it must be done if we are to keep the parks which are so beloved by our people in safe hands.

Make May 5th a referendum on our green spaces. Make sure ‘Concrete Joe’ gets the message and that we remove him from the position where he can do so much harm to our environment.

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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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