This piece of Land at Beechley Riding Stables in Calderstones Park is still under threat from Redrow’s bulldozers
Some people are becoming very complacent about the possibility of the Parks and green spaces of Liverpool being safe from the bulldozer Labour has threatened to unleash on them.
This hopeful complacency has been brought on by two recent announcements:
- The decision that Everton will not be proceeding with the purchase and development of Walton Hall Park. Not only will EFC not be going there the other suggested developments of retail, leisure and housing will not take place. This is good news but it is not based on any view about the importance of Parks especially in North Liverpool where there is a clear deficiency. It was cold, hard economics which stopped this proposals. EFC doesn’t have the money to proceed as the anchor for this development.
Whether they have the money to plan for, acquire and develop a new site by 2019 remains to be seen. It seems highly unlikely to me but miracles can happen.
- The announcement that Mayor Anderson will oppose the development of land at Allerton Priory for housing. This prompts three thoughts in my mind. It is just the first success for the local residents and new councillor Mirna Juarez. I doubt that this announcement would have been made if the <Lib Dem team had not stormed to victory in Allerton on May 5. It may just be all talk. The decision on these matters is actually made, legally, by the planning committee. It could be that the planning committee will vote against the application and then the council offers a weak case against the developer, Redrow, when it goes to appeal. Does Mayor Anderson now have to pay back some of the money that was donated to his campaign last year by Redrow?!
Whatever happens will be watched very carefully by campaigners at Calderstones and Sefton Parks. There is not a single argument which could be advanced by the planning department in opposition to development of the Priory site that could and should not be used in the case of the Harthill Estate and other land at Calderstones and the Meadowlands. I warn the council now that any differential defence of green wedge will be the subject of a judicial review hearing which would be launched immediately we saw such a report appearing before the planning committee.
But the development of parts of our parks and green spaces is only one of the threats to them. In some ways of far greater concern because it affects all of our parks is the statement made last year and oft repeated by Mayor Anderson that from31st March next year there will be no money in the budget for looking after our Parks. I don’t know whether that is true but I have no reason to doubt it although the Cabinet Member responsible for Parks has hinted that there might be some money available for a transition from council to other sorts of management.
The failure of Labour to do anything to prepare for what would be an apocalyptic future for our Parks is either showing gross incompetence or great cunning. In June last year the Council agreed to set up two ‘task and finish groups’, one for Calderstones Park and one for Walton Hall Park to look at possible alternative forms of management of the Parks. Note the word ‘management’. We would have had nothing to do with these discussions if there had been any talk of transferring the ownership of the Parks.
We took that in good faith. Although no meetings of the Walton Hall Park group took place there were two meetings of the Calderstones Park Group. We met in October and December. In October Cllr Andrew Makinson and I worked with the Friends of Harthill & Calderstones Park to promote a consultation event inside the Park. More than 130 people came to it and more than 100 replied to a questionnaire we circulated in the community. We presented a report to the Task & Finish Group in December which was going to be fully discussed in January along with other items of hard information from the Council.
The meeting in January was cancelled and despite our best efforts no meeting has since been held. Originally we were told that this was due to legal difficulties and then we found out that there was no-one of the Leisure Department writing the report. Then we found out that the delay was the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services not having time to write the report!
This shambles is not only related to The Park. One of the ideas that came of the O’Brien Review was a suggestion that two pieces of land, one in the North of the City and the other at Menlove Gardens should be given to the management of local people. In good faith we worked with the council and more than 50 local people came to the meeting at the Halfway House in February. They voted in principle to accept management of the Park but raised a lot of very reasonable and practical questions. 5 months later those questions remain unanswered. We await with interest future developments but have repeatedly pointed out that the clock is ticking and we only now have 9 months to find, develop and prepare for solutions to the problems of the deadline of the end of March still stands.
So is this incompetence, lack of action or something deliberate. The alternative is, of course, that the Labour Party already knows what it wants to do with our parks but doesn’t want to tell us all or involve us all. Perhaps there is a solution in the offing with one of their chosen partners in the community or private sector who could take over at the last minute because there has been no time to prepare properly for community led, none-profit making initiatives.
Whatever the reason for the delay it is extremely worrying. Our Parks are treasured assets of the people of Liverpool. This slap dash, half-hearted approach to developing a realistic future for them deeply disturbs me and all the people who talk to me or otherwise communicate with me about green space issues.
Everyone connected with the Green and Open Space issues must continue the fight to prevent development for housing. But we must also open up a new front in the relationship with the council. We have to challenge Labour about the future of all the Parks and Green spaces of Liverpool if they are not to disintegrate into an unusable and dangerous jungle. The fight must go on.