This morning I went out delivering some leaflets to advertise a consultation event to create a small, wooded area and an outdoor activity centre on unused land at a Football Hub owned by the Council in my Church Ward in Liverpool.
My colleagues, Liz & Andrew Makinson and I have been working on this for a year with the Mersey Forest organisation, the Councils and the company that run the football hub. The football hub, which is well used, has some areas of land which fall outside its footballing requirement. Some of this is on the border with Booker Avenue School which does not have much outside space. So, we thought let’s use the space more effectively.
There are three reasons that we think that planting trees is important:
Firstly, the trees help to reduce air pollution. That is very important in Liverpool where we have poor air quality and where, consequently, there is a large number of people with bronchial problems.
Secondly, trees encourage biodiversity. All sorts of insects and birds respond to more trees not only in the trees themselves but also in the leaf mould etc which trees create.
Lastly, many studies show that wooded areas, like water areas create a sense of pleasure and wellbeing which help deal with people’s mental health problems.
An additional bonus here will be to reduce, after a few years, more visual and aural screening from the hard pitches themselves.
We believe that the outdoor activity areas are also important. They will help the school pupils and others to become more accustomed to dealing with nature and understand the way that food is grown and brought to us. This is not only a good thing in its own right, but will also add to the curriculum of the school by introducing a practical element.
We have had a number of discussions with residents over the last year but being Lib Dems, we are fully consulting with the local residents, especially those that overlook the football hub, to ensure that they both want it and can make alterations before a tree is planted. We have already obtained grants from the Council and Mersey Forest to start the project but will need more money to continue to develop the work over a two-to-three-year period.
The next step will be to encourage residents and their youngsters to get involved. Most of this will be practical such as digging the trees in and looking after them, in subsequent phases volunteer help will be requested for things like water features and paths. We will also be looking for a few people to act as a resident’s liaison group making sure that what happens is always being done with the support and consent of residents.
This is a project which we are very excited about, and we want to talk to other schools, parts of our parks, commercial areas and similar to look for more tree planting projects.
In areas where there are no gardens but back entries, we will be launching our back entry programme in the spring and encouraging groups of residents to plant tubs, introduce composters and generally make their area more environmentally friendly and ecologically viable for plants, insects, and birds. We had hoped to do this last autumn but had problems with the council over doing necessary weeding and other programmes first.
We hope to involve lots of residents in taking these very practical steps. Such steps are important. Too many people look at climate change and think it is too big a problem for them to get involved with. But if we all take small actions, they add up to big actions which make a real impact. In Heron Eccles we can plant about 50 trees and with other enhanced planting schemes can make a real environmental impact.
Every kilo of green material such as garden and kitchen waste which is composted has a double effect. It means that compost doesn’t have to be bought and brought to the area but made there. It also means that the stuff isn’t sent to land fill which is both expensive and dangerous for the environment.
If we can do it in Church Ward it can be done everywhere in Liverpool. We hope the council will take up our challenges and look for sites on both a permanent and temporary basis. There are some sites that will not be developed for years. Why not use them for the production of biomass or food in the meantime?
There are other things that we challenge our council about to do better. We have one of the poorest recycling rates in the Country. We are not a bee friendly city. We have few ‘green routes’ in many parts of the city. We don’t use solar panels on most of our buildings to provide power. There are lots of places that we could develop wind power especially along the Mersey. My colleague, Cllr Tormey regularly talks about opportunities in the hard event such as vertical concrete walls and the tops of bus shelters where we can introduce environment features.
If Liverpool can do it, everywhere in the UK can do it. Just think of what we could achieve if we all became more environmentally aware. There is so much that we can do without even changing our lifestyles. We just have to think differently then do things differently!
If we could then add on to these actions those things that are good for our health such as walking and cycling more and using public transport wherever possible our effect becomes almost exponential. Reducing the number of ‘chelsea tractors’ in most urban areas would be good as well.
In Liverpool’s Church Ward we are taking baby steps towards environmental activism. But if everyone took those baby steps, we would be taking the big strides which are needed to fulfil the demands made at the recent COP 26. This world will see me out. I want to ensure that it is fit for purpose for my grandchildren and theirs.