Walton Hall Park Development

Liverpool City Council is fully behind - indeed part of - the development group proposing to develop on a centuries old park in Walton, north Liverpool. The proposed development of Walton Hall Park raises so many questions it is difficult to know where to start, I've put a few comments and questions below though, which may be useful as a starting point if you are interested in a) the development and b) the workings of our council.

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Photos: A.J. Walker 2015 more on Flickr

There is not much information available to the general public yet, although the local authority appear to be very bullish about proceeding with its development. So, what is proposed?

  • A 50,000 seat stadium for Everton Football Club
  • 1000 new 'aspirational' homes - whatever that means
  • retail development
  • potentially a school and medical centre.

We have not been provided plans for how this would work yet, although this week (w/e 16 Jan 2015) a Labour councillor told the local radio station that a planning application should be ready to go in by the summer of 2015. There is some thought that this was to take the news away from the coverage of the fun run which was undertaken last weekend at Walton Hall Park, which was getting some local news coverage. Whatever the reason it seems unwise to be spouting such a statement without backing this up. Planning in the summer? What for? Presumably some sort of outline application for part of the development. Perhaps just a foot in the door.

The council and all the councillors have been reticent in actually talking about the development to interested parties (that would be the people of the city they purport to represent) other than saying it is a positive thing for the area.

Positive?
A large public park owned by the people of Liverpool is to be taken away from the city for housing and a private company (in this case including Everton). The removal of green space and natural habitats to be replaced with housing, retail and a football stadium - that's got to be positive yes?
WaltonHallPark400
Available Reports?
Tantalisingly there seems to be little. The council (
our council) paid for a report from a London company called Volterra Partners to prove that the development of a historic park would be positive to the people of north Liverpool. The report (link here) is a bit of an oddity for one focussed on the issues with developing a large green space there is next to nothing said about the environment - and seems preoccupied with crime and depravation. I'm sure it was an independent report - i.e. not written in committee with LCC, but the lack of comment on the potential negatives to be considered with the development - Environment, Habitats, and god forbid discussing 'Alternatives' is surprising.

There is also nothing in there about Programme, which is significant - the council talking the development up in terms of pushing it through ('planning' in the summer) yet the report does not talk about planning. Such a development in another council area would be sure to require an
EIA under Schedule 2 - guidelines suggest 1000 houses on a green site would trigger an EIA - let alone the additional stadium and associated development. That too is a 'green site' which really relates to green field, rather than a public park.

On the positive side for those against the development of the park if they push to go through without an EIA they are highly likely to be called in - and their incompetence would be there for all to see. There is no evidence - from the lack of reports available out there - that they have considered other sites adequately or at all - this would have to be demonstrated within an EIA.

Website Information?
There is a website with a nice green and blue image at the top marketing the 'new' park, which of course a) includes no plans and b) says it would be better and more used. It doesn't say either how large it will be (it is thought at least half the park will be lost). It's just a placeholder page in reality - with a nice green sounding name '
park life project' - I ask you! Assume 'Destruction of the Park' domain name was taken. As marketing goes I trust they haven't paid anything more than for a domain name and hosting!

On the page there is a link to
Everton FC and their stadium page on the EFC website. Of course there is a) no plans and b) there are two pages showing that you can't sign up for consultation on the stadium (closed last September!?). In fact incredibly there is LESS information on the EFC site than there is on the lovely green park life site.
EvertonStadium400
I haven't found a site advertising the 1000 houses and additional development. If it exists I would assume it is one page with no information on it - although probably would include a smiling face and a thumbs up.

Planning?
Looking at the Liverpool City Council planning portal there have been no planning applications submitted for any parts of the proposal to date.

The councillor's 'heads up' re planning in the summer is not backed up by any information - but that is a significant part of the problem: the
paucity of information and engagement with the people of Walton and Liverpool. It feels like the development is being steamrollered and the opposition to it has no-one to go to - at the moment we are shouting into the wind.

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Questions?
  • What other reports are available? There must be an Options Appraisal somewhere that came up with the park as the 'best option'
  • Why do LCC think they can ignore and then walk over north Liverpool? (could anyone imagine 1000 houses and a stadium being proposed on Sefton Park! Of course not.)
  • If LCC are one of the partners for the development how will the independence of the planning department and process be assured?
  • When and how will any real consultation be undertaken?
  • What advice have they taken with respect to Environmental Impact Assessment? This will take at least a year - unless studies are already being undertaken. Which begs the question, what studies has LCC or the development group already commissioned e.g. habitat surveys, contamination investigations, geotechnical investigations, traffic assessments etc.
  • I run at the park and know there are bats there, do they roost there or is it just a foraging area?
  • There is another very large housing development one junction up from the park at the former Queen Mary School. Will the assessments include the additional traffic from both developments? - the East Lancs will become a nightmare.
  • How much money has the council spent on investigating the proposals to date for the development of the park?
  • Why are the council paying ANYTHING for a private company (EFC) to develop their (our) land?
  • If Everton was to propose to build elsewhere would the council still propose to build the 1000 houses on the park or are the houses proposed to help fund the stadium? If so WHY!?
  • Lastly, HOW ON EARTH DOES ANY COUNCILLOR, MAYOR OR PLANNER JUSIFY PROPOSING TO BUILD ON A PUBLIC PARK OVER BROWNFIELD SITES (OR EVEN THE EXISTING EVERTON FC SITE - IF JUST TALKING ABOUT THE STADIUM).

I will update this blog as and when any information comes to light. In the meantime if you are a twitter user you can find some information and comments via:

Friends of Walton Hall Park:
@wallyhallpark
Save Liverpool:
@andersonsaxe

You could also follow 'our' mayor Joe Anderson. But don't say anything contentious or ask any questions as you'll probably get blocked.
Ego Joe:
@joeforliverpool

There is the beginning of a website from community fans of the park now too:

http://waltonhallparkcommunity.org/campaign/

Movember 2013

Power to the Mo

Decided on the 31st October at about 8pm to go for Movember for the second year. Yep, nothing like a last minute call - like
NaNoWritMo

Last year I posted photos on a daily basis on this website, this time I'll just post them on my
Mo Space. so follow the progress through the month on there. Feel free to donate if you wish too - it's a good cause - but no pressure in these difficult times. However do read up on what it's all about and where the money goes.

Below are the photos from November 6th last year and the final Mo - along with an incredibly realistic projection for this years effort…


6 Nov 2012 30 Nov 2012
November 6th 2012 and the final 'tash.

6 Nov 2013 30 Nov 2013
November 6th 2013 and projected 'tash for 2013….

Liverpool Express

Seems I'm not the only one who hadn't heard of Liverpool Express (see blog story below) which somehow seems to have been created about the time of - or after? -the Liverpool Express story on the application process for the £1 homes. Check out the blog on the Daily Post website (from July! 2013) - Curiouser and Curiouser.

     And yes when you Google "Liverpool Express" you get a little known band of that name - not a Council website.

     Why does the
Council have an additional website under a .co.uk web name anyway surely .gov.uk? They have their 'normal' website at www.liverpool.gov.uk

     It appears to be to form a degree of separation for the marketing of certain roles. Just check out all the mayor videos and blog on the Express website - or not.

     Stinks of "Communications Officer".



£1 Houses - LCC Scam or Just Totally Inept?

Just seen Major Joe Anderson on Cairn's Street - 10am 09.10.13 - taking a photo opportunity with the first family to be allocated a house under the famous £1 house scheme. This scheme has received national media attention over the months since it was announced.

Back in
early 2013 the scheme was announced and open for local people to 'Express an Interest' in the scheme with a promise to those who expressed an interest would be contacted with an application/questionnaire once the minutia of the process had been decided upon internally by the council.

There were some 20 houses or so available in each of three areas of Liverpool:
Kensington, Toxteth and - I think - Huyton. Those that expressed an interest were asked to state which of the areas they were interested in.

The initiative was heralded in many of the national newspapers including the Guardian and Independent and it was not a surprise that the scheme was oversubscribed with '
over a 1000' people expressing an interest at the closing date in the first week of March 2013.

The council stated that they would get back to those applicants, which they expected to be in
May.

This is where it starts to get more suspect.

The 'success' of the initiative was initially expounded with the large numbers who had expressed an interest. YET the council then reopened the list for a month in
May - there was no information in the public domain as to why an oversubscribed list should be reopened to allow the number of potential purchasers to swell still further.

Still no news - no emails - no letters - no phone calls - no information on the local government website. Nothing on when the questionnaires or applications would be issued.

Over the last couple of months now people have been in the local newspapers and in the national media (even the One Show) following the news that they have been allocated houses in the scheme.

Governments are all about process - be it applying for housing benefit, school dinners or applying for a £1 house - so where is the process? Where is the clarity?

I have never received a questionnaire. Others I know have never received a questionnaire or application form. So how have ANY houses been allocated under the scheme?

The
Liverpool City Council (LCC) website states - as it has for months - that the process is ongoing (see below). How has a family been selected to get a house on the scheme ahead of another family if the expressions of interest have not been followed through with everyone by questionnaire (to weed out those not entitled) and then application, which would have then presumably resulted in a yay or nay letter.


LCC - One Pound Houses
LCC website 'Homes for a pound' page 09.10.13


The webpage of the LCC says exactly nothing - it is 'ongoing'.

How can anyone in the council say that they have gone through a
rigorous defendable process to allocate houses on the scheme?

How can Joe Anderson as a major for the city (a job position that was hoisted on to the city without due process - but that is another issue) and the councillors enjoy the limelight they are currently loving knowing that they have an undefendable system (
assuming there is/was a system)?

Where is the openness on the process? Why not put the questionnaire/criteria etc on the website - rather than just the woolly '
have to live in Liverpool, live in the house for 5 years, and not sub-let'?

How many people who expressed an interest have been approached about applying for the scheme? - Or to put it another way how many people who expressed an interest - and may have been well suited for the scheme - remain unspoken to and ignorant that their potential house has been given to someone else?

How many people who expressed an interest
after the first closing date for the scheme have been approached?

Why was the scheme reopened after it was over subscribed?

It is an interesting scheme - as evidenced by the national interest in it - so it is embarrassing that the council have been so inept (at best) or corrupt* (at worst) in implementing it.


As for whether the scheme is some sort of
Scam or those associated with it have just been totally Inept? Well, we probably all have views on that, things will no doubt become clearer with time.

Good luck to those that have got the houses. Good luck to anyone in the process (if there is one). Good luck to those looking to find out how the council have given theses houses out.


*** UPDATE: ***

(15:00 - 09 October 2013)

After a great deal of searching found a webpage on 'Liverpool Express' - which I haven't heard of before - dated 24th April, which states that;


a) the (4000) people who expressed an interest in the scheme were being
invited to apply for the houses between the last week in April and May 7th,

b) anyone could apply for the houses even if they hadn't previously expressed an interest in the houses.


I confirm that people who expressed an interest were NOT invited to apply - neither by phone, by email nor by letter.

I am at a loss to understand what the point of registering interest was for if they then;

i) did not contact you, and

ii) then invited anyone else to apply for them anyway - it had been implied that you had had to have registered interest to be in a chance of applying for the houses.



Perhaps the wrong people had registered interest. Wonder how many council staff and friends got an email?


UTTER NONSENSE!




Incidentally - for complete clarity about me - I now know that I would not be entitled to one of these houses - but when I expressed an interest there was little criteria that had been decided on so I may have been. Other people I know that could be entitled have not been approached either.


My concern is with local government: process, transparency and accountability.


* I am not suggesting that they have been corrupt. I am however saying that the process has been so none existent and hidden that there is no way to say whether they have been either 'just' inept or whether they have been corrupt - it's great when you are hoping that those that purport to work for us are just inept.


- On another note all the sycophantic media stories on this illustrate how the vast majority of the media purely swallow and reprint press releases (maybe take a photograph) and report what told by government marketeers as a truth. -

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