Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Labour Conference Day 5

Well, it appears that the drugs were working, at least for me, I managed to hang around gormlessly outside the conference for all 5 days. Today though was a special day, I got there just before kicking out time and got to watch the Labour party leave on mass, all in all, it was a collection of the terribly mundane, trooping out back into reality or from a couple of overheard fragments straight back into the nearest pub.
In a feat or organization, not seen since Corbyn took over, one group even dispatched several members before the speech ended to grab places or report back on vacancies in bars, at least 2 of their reccie teams found that other more determined groups hand grabbed prime positions in the area and watched the speech from the pub.
Outside the entrance, a small group of Corbynites had gathered and had a go at some of the realist members of the party as they left, with what will be described as thrilling and witty repartee in The Canary and shallow slogans everywhere else.
Corbynite prepares and attempted haranguing Tom Watson
First out of the building was Derek Hatton, in a hurry to get back to his Merc.
Derek does one.
The most visible presence outside the conference all week has been the pro-European one, each day has had a different group or 2 for who BREXIT is a key issue.
Some reports from inside the halls suggest that inside the atmosphere has been a bit more bad-tempered than usual but under control. The noise made when Corbyn left, the conference or his hotel were significant but not overwhelming. While JC may be able to get his supporters to pay some cash to have a say it doesn’t look like he has got them to turn up for the conference. It seems like that, as with the other humdrum work being a party member should require, they cannot be bothered to do it, any commitment beyond the odd rally is beyond them, well beyond the sheep anyway, not sure about the shepherds, but after last night speeches at the Black-E, there will likely be 1 less shepherd to worry about.
Clive Lewis claiming the conference hasn't been good for his liver.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Labour Conference Day 3

It was raining so people were not standing around to chat, though I did talk to some people handing out invites to their own fringe meeting. They seem to be in agreement with the views of some others that the general mood of the conference was a bit down.

Had a quick look through one of the big windows into some form of Atrium, saw the beast of Bolsover and left. At least it getting me out of the flat for the afternoon walk a little earlier, so I at least am enjoying conference a bit.
If you are the person I spoke to about BREXIT and the legal hurdles here is the link.
The best stunt outside was by Associate British Ports(APB) with some men singing shanties, I doubt they were from ABPs operation down at Garston Docks.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Labour Conference Day 2

Well! I did go back mainly for the free WiFi, in the course of this I took in the save the Liverpool Women's Hospital march and rally as well.
First things first the decision about where is best for the hospital should be based on clinical imperatives there are competing factors, pregnancy and birth are not illnesses and should be treated as such, this is the official position but it also can result in emergency admission. The decision should not be a political football for either side of the argument.
March turns onto Berry Street
The first thing I noticed about the placards was the usual SWP brand and Left Unity, there were the usual SWP salesmen, has anyone ever seen an SWP saleswoman? Given the exodus from the SWP, I think the entire membership was here. Given the some of the reasons for the exodus it makes the SWP presents rather tasteless. See The SWP leadership has turned the party into a sinking ship
While some organisation come to show support the SWP is usually there to gather support and to make itself seem bigger than it is, I doubt the people carrying the SWP brand banners were actually SWP, it just is just more of their attempts to co-opt members.
The March probably contained 1000 or so by the time they turned up at the entrance to the dock estate, that number quickly dropped off as the speakers began, the only one I recognised was Diane Abbot, though Tony Mulhearn was also there and the I think Lesley Mahmood, who is one of the founders of the group, both ex-Militant, Richard Branson and Tony Blair came in for particular treatment, which you would think was a bit strange, given that neither has anything to do with the hospital or the NHS these days, and the Blair/Brown governments did massively increase funding for the NHS. In short, it had descended into rather typical Corbynite/SWP territory. So basically your average every day hijacking of a good cause. If you are holding a rally do the sensible thing and ban SWP placards, they are claiming that you support them, they are not supporting you.
I did have another look around the conference and yet again saw both Dennis Skinner and Marie Le Conte, still wearing those bloody shoes, the only addition to my I Spy book of MPs was Hilary Benn. The Conference seemed to be hiding in the woods.

I missed going to the meeting of the Continuity Labour party, with Hilary Benn, because I didn't know it was happening but the Fabian wings meeting spilt onto the street.

Labour Conference Day 1

Well not actually the conference in full actually the women's conference. I don't actually have a pass for the conference, so this is basically what I heard randomly walking around and for long periods sitting on the large concrete blocks by the entrance to the arena area. The last one I did this for was the LibDems in 2014, in the same place, the BT Conference centre. That had a lot more people security but they were in government then, today's game of spot the special branch officer, was really a non-starter though there were a fair number of normal cops in the area and at least 3 evidence gathering teams with videos.
Saw 5 MPs, Lucian Berger, Louise Ellman and Angela Eagle were local, while Denis Skinner & Harriet Harman were not. There may have been others around but didn't recognise them. Saw only a few Journos, one being Marie Le Conte who has since blocked me, for taking the piss out of her god awful boots, on twitter.
Denis Skinner walked past me claiming loudly "the fucking woman with the safety pin has fooking following me around all day". Skinner looked and sounded every bit the brightly dressed arsehole I have always imagined him to be.
The main topic of decision that was in the air was, of course, Corbyn's victory, and the attitudes to it were quite predictable from different groups. There were some very happy Asian men and some unhappy sharp-suited young white men, who at various times decided to stand or sit by me and talk quite loudly of their opinions.
The main reason for going down was just to assess the mood and see what people who go to these things look like, and on that basis today was a bit of a failure, there simply were not enough people out and about in the precinct but I'm not sure I can be arsed doing it tomorrow, might just swing by on my afternoon promenade.
One thing I must do is hunt down the alleged Lib Dem recruitment stand.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Green Line

The quest for more green space in Liverpool continues.

The High Line

New York has the High Line Park, a disused overhead railway converted to a park.
The High Line by Beyond my Ken
Unfortunately, the Liverpool Overhead Railway was not only closed but demolished in the 1950s

Even after that had gone, between Sandhills and Exchange, there were a large collection of raised lines of which only a small amount now remain, some of which carry Merseyrail, a small unused section running parallel to Love Lane seem to have greened itself but there is no access. It only 250m long but with something to separate it from the rail would make a park. Some of the bridges over roads have been removed, so it would not be the cheapest park in the world.

The Very Low Line

There are a lot of people asking for more green places in Liverpool, the problem is there are very few places that do not have more profitable uses, but there are a few.
When Lime Street station was first opened  it was connected to Edge Hill via a tunnel. The tunnel was not well ventilated and the build up of smoke caused vision problems, which lead to several accidents, so in 1881 large portions of the tunnel were opened out.
Opening out the tunnel
As time past and signalling improved the ventilation became irrelevant and some places had the cuttings covered over. The most obvious section was the section through the university from Brownlow Hill to Crown Street in 1965, only a small section now remains open.

Courtesy of Graham Newell

Courtesy of Graham Newell
 The changes can be seen here on side by side maps.
Lime Street Approach, cuttings outlined in black
The total length of the cuttings combined is about 676 meters, with a width of at least 16 meters, which give a total area of 10,816 m2, 1.08 hectares or 2.6 acres.
Cuttings North of Kirkdale on various lines.
These are deep cuttings, the system used to cover these was large I-Beams at the surface level, so leaving a large amount of space over the lines. The walls of the cutting act as the load bearing element. I'm sure the beams could be placed closer to the track or arches within the cutting but this might be more difficult while the track is in use. Though if you were building a structure above it would provide some basement space.  

In addition to the cuttings above, there are others in Dingle.

The Not so Low Line

There is another technique that has been used down south most notably at Gerrards Cross, though it made the news for all the wrong reasons, see the Gerrards Cross Tunnel Collapse. This is suitable for shallower or wider cuttings, it could even be used on surface lines to reattach 2 pieces of land, bisected by the railway leaving with only a modest hill.

Timo Newton-Syms
Timo Newton-Syms
As you can see it was quite a simple idea put an arch over the line then back fill. Like a rather delayed Cut and Cover operation. This was all done while the line remained in operation. The technique is sufficiently common that specialised systems exist and several projects have been completed since Gerrard's Cross, such as  BEBO® Concrete Arch System & Tech Span  PreCast Arch
There are several places that such a system could be used on Liverpool's various used and disused railway, perhaps the most obvious are near Kirkdale and perhaps the main line at Speke.

Things built over railway lines

Mutley Plain Car Park, Plymouth

Spring Road Station
The bridge beyond station is a multi-storey car-park built for the former Lucas factory site off to the right.

Update March 3rd 2017

On 1st March part of the retaining wall on, one of the cuttings collapsed, scattering 200 tonnes of wall and earth over the track, bringing down the overhead lines and unsurprisingly bringing trains to a halt, the current estimate is it will take a week to get it sorted. The deep set arches at the level of the old tunnel roof seem like a good idea now, put them in and cover to a depth of a meter in concrete, to protect the track.  The in the space above cellars car park whatever and a garden on the top, or more car park.

See Owner of land next to collapsed Lime St wall previously sanctioned for "double stacking" containers

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Hell in the PDF:Liverpool’s Draft Local Plan Consultation

Liverpool’s Draft Local Plan Consultation

First impressions

This is possibly one of the most tedious documents I have ever read. Though given the subject matter that is entirely excusable. What isn't is that in this age of PDF files with hypertext ability and portable e-reader when the draft is provided in a PDF form that none of the advantages of the format is used. this is clearly a document designed to be printed and at 301 pages that will not be cheap. Far better in this day and age to take full advantage of the technology available and have the print version slightly compromised, than the other way around.

In the beginning

The first 5 chapters are mainly descriptions of the city and its history which are not really controversial or interesting, at least from my point of view. I will point out that the line "Liverpool lies at the heart of the former county of Merseyside" is wrong. The county still exists it is only the metropolitan council that was abolished.

Chapter 6: Liverpool City Centre

6.7/6.8 Commercial Quarter/Pumpfields

The first thing that occurs to me on look at map 1, is that I've always assumed that the centre goes further north. The map seems to truncate it at Kingsway. I would include the area bounded by Vauxhall road and Sandhills Lane. This is in part just down to my own judgement but also based on its history, with the likes of the Tate and Lyle factory. I view the Eldonian village as being misplaced, a prime example of land that should have been reserved for industry/business or high-density housing, not a semi detached suburb. The area should be treated as an extension of Pumpfields and be of similar mixed-use high density. This would blend in with Liverpool Waters and help provide the commercial space needed by providing some large plots without the restrictions of the World Heritage Area.

6.10 The Waterfront

If the city centre is extended up to Sandhills Lane, then this area should be extended at least to include Stanley dock and incorporate all the docks, not in their original use. Putting a boundary through them will just make planning difficult if there are conflicting requirements in the different divisions.

6.38 Historic Quarter

Sandwich between the Commercial and the Historic quarters is the area between Dale Street and Exchange street. This area needs some special attention due to the street layout, which is amongst the oldest in the city. The area around Hackins Hey has great potential with the current street layout. Development in the area needs to take advantage of this intimate possibly medieval street layout and produce an area with character. To just bulldoze it for a large office block what not use it to its greatest advantage. It will require an imaginative scheme, which keeps the current street layout.

6.41 Residential Neighbourhoods

The document talks about Marybone first, which seems to be a totemic place for the council and refers to it and later L1 as Older established areas with low-density housing. While people have lived in these areas for a longer time,the low-density thing is a fairly recent, thing as can be seen in this picture of Fontenoy Gardens, in Marybone, Gerard Gardens was over the road.

Fontenoy Gardens
and these in L1.

Kent Gardens
Sussex Gardens
The move to low density has changed the character of the area, I think some plans need to be put in place to turn it back to high density. In addition to these areas mentioned I'd want the area previously occupied by Myrtle Gardens and some of the other "Gardens" recovered, as well as the Eldonian village.
While people complain about tower blocks, there seems to be nothing but nostalgia for this size of buildings. Designed and built properly they can be fit for the modern era and at the same time take pressure off the green belt. Within the City centre area, there needs to be a minimum density specification as well as a minimum height for new residential. Some buildings in Marybone adjacent to Leeds street do seem to conform to something like the requirements, but semi detached do not.
I'm not sure of the ownership of these buildings but an active plan that respects the rights of the people to live in the area and maintains the standard of their housing, but works toward moving to a higher density regime, should be put in place. Semi detached have a place but it is not in the city and not in any area that is urban. I think this is a necessary step but one that would require more bottle than the council has, even to suggest it.

6.115 Transport and accessibility

Mention is made of reopening a St James station and the provision of a new station for Liverpool Waters. Later in  14.9 the Edge spur is referred to, though only the Wapping Tunnel option mentioned. The Merseyside Area land use Transportation study (MALTS) project report of the late 60s makes similar costed proposals and offers an alternate plan which seems to be better. I have outlined possible further changes in my blog A New Edge Hill. The proposals made by the Mayor for Paddington Place station would seem to rely on using the Victoria tunnel

This would use the complete length of both Wapping and Victoria tunnel which in addition to the link to Central would provide a link to the waterfront. The two tunnels being linked by tram lines and a full train tram service providing a loop from Edge hill.
In the council's document, there is no mention of Trams or Train/Trams, which seem to reflect a bias in Merseytravel rather than an objective view. In 14.8 the tunnels are described as having a junction with the Northern Line, no such junction exists or has ever existed.

7 Employment Land and the Economy

Several references are made to the knowledge economy, this is a very wide area, I would suggest emphasising some more specific areas. Some mention has been made in other places of what is fundamentally Industry 4.0, this and several other areas could be emphasised. Perhaps 1 could be medical science, building on the current base and the proposed Royal College of physicians. It may advisable to look to a way of exploiting the renewed interest in space-related activities, while launch and recovery are unlikely, mission control is not, which could be extended to include the control of commercial UAVs/Drones globally. The exploitation of UAVs in urban environments might be a tag.

7.33 Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

The extension of the runway and a decent rail connection are important. The extension into the river should be considered. While the protected status is a problem, provided some remedial work is undertaken such as removing part of the dry land to keep the mud flat area the same or perhaps greater, the nature of the reserve would allow quick recovery of the reserve. See needs to be longer at Liverpool.

8 Housing Provision

8.1.2 Land at Chaucer Street, Grosvenor Street, Juvenal Street & Peover Street

I think this area may conflict with area desired by Merseyside Police for their new HQ. This and the area once occupied by Gerard Gardens to the south is a prime site for high-density development. Merseyside Police should not be allowed to squander it on a low rise building and worse still with above ground car parking. See Cops getting away with daylight robbery.

8.1.5-8.1.8 Land Between Great Mersey Street and Lancaster Street

This and several other plots along Scotland road are identified. I believe these need to be at least terraces designs and preferably above 2 stories, simply to give the feeling of entering the city centre. This need for some theatre on the main trunk routes into the centre does not seem to be addressed, another place that this needs to be taken into account is West Derby road, Edge lane, Park Road and the bottom of Kensington.  The areas outside of them have become separated from the city centre psychologically if not physically.

10 Urban Design

The rise of the car, though it has been going on for over a century still seem to be problematic. With it comes the need for car parks, which are in all honesty a waste of space, unless there is a very good reason all parking space associated with new build should be within the footprint of the building, either underground or as an undercroft.

12 Green Infrastructure

This part of the document is incomplete and waiting on Simon O'Brien's report.

One of the first things mentioned is the creation of 2 new woodlands. One I suspect is the park Melrose Meadows in Kirkdale. The other may be Grant Gardens, a park which had 0 visitors on a bright May bank holiday. Personally, I would like to see it naturalise itself, it would be a good educational resource as it went through the process of Ecological succession.


A couple of comments are made about the impact of trees, which are I think inaccurate, firstly there is the mention of oxygen generation, this is quite minor especially for deciduous trees, most of the atmospheric oxygen comes from phytoplankton. The second is carbon uptake, it is true that trees do take up carbon but they do that mostly while they are young, once they reach maturity the carbon uptake drops dramatically. To improve the impact, once a tree reaches maturity, it needs to be felled and objects made of it, while a new tree takes up its space. The trees and the wood they produce need to be seen as a resource and a crop in order to maximise carbon capture.
Trees are far more important than grass, any area that is kept as only grass, is an oversized lawn and either needs to have a use as a sports pitch or be left to return to woodland. If someone can find a way of introducing red squirrels and excluding greys even better.

14 Sustainable Transport and Accessibility


In addition to the routes names the routes to Wigan, Warrington Wrexham, Preston and Manchester need considering. Viewing rail connections as IntraCity, IntraRegional or InterCity makes a gap in the IntraRegional rail apparent. A journey from Kirkdale to Salford Crescent is slow and makes that commuter route untenable. This sort of IntraRegional link needs to be addressed perhaps by decision between Mersey Travel and adjacent Transport Authorities, rather than with London. See  Liverpool does not need HS3 to connect to Manchester, it needs it to connect to Leeds.


A train/tram line along the route of the old overhead railway, perhaps even a raised line, with connections to Edge Hill via the Wapping and Victoria tunnels should be considered.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Lymm to Lime Street

Having worked out a route for HS2 to connect to Liverpool with minimum fuss and cost I thought I had better price it. I found some estimates done in 2007 by Network rail for upgrading various lines to GB & GC gauge to take double decker trains or extra long trains. It is Version: 1.21Preliminary Evaluation of Double Deck Extra Long Train Operations Table 1.3 provided most of the information.

The plan I outlined requires the upgrade of the Ditton to Lime Street section which already has OHLE, so I used the figures for the London-Ipswich Route which is similar.

For Bank Quay to Ditton, the line exists but is not electrified, so I took the low from London -> Brighton and the high from London to Southampton.

To estimate the reinstatement of the line from East of Lymm to Bank Quay was a little trickier, I took the numbers from HS2 own estimates for Phase 2 and took out the irrelevant bits. Such as there being no Tunnels this gives a cost of £64 million per mile of which on £17 is construction costs.

Route Miles Min m£ Max m£ Low Per Mile High Per Mile
London →Brighton 51 810 1200 15.8823529412 23.5294117647
London →Ipswich 68 890 1340 13.0882352941 19.7058823529
London →Southampton 79 610 1440 7.7215189873 18.2278481013
London →Oxford 63 800 1720 12.6984126984 27.3015873016
HS new build

64.375 126.333504

Ditton-> Lime Street 10 130.8823529412 197.0588235294

Warrington BQ->Ditton 8 61.7721518987 188.2352941176

192.6545048399 385.2941176471

2007->2016 Pounds 1.31 252.3774013403 504.7352941176

East of Lymm 8 515 1010.668032

Total 26 767.3774013403 1515.4033261177

from my spreadsheet East of Lymm to Lime Street.

If we take the cost of East of Lymm down to just construction, then the total cost is £469m, if you wanted you could knock another £130 million off and just have the classic compatible running into Lime Street. I'm assuming that there would be little to saved by using only W10 on reinstatements and upgrades. So that should be done to GC gauge.
These numbers do not include building a new station at Lime Street or a complex remodeling of Ditton junction, to bring the lines in from Warrington to the centre 2 without crossing at grade, which would be needed for optimal performance, as would a complex junction between HS2 and this spur or the extra work needed on the viaduct over the Manchester Ship canal. Nor does it involve and remodelling of the route around Warrington Bank Quay. This is simply to get the trains through with no traffic.
So a cost of between £0.5 billion and £1.5bmillion doesn't sound unreasonable, just to be on the safe side say 1 billion. It is still less than Liverpool City council offered to pay.