Sefton Rising
Tony Dowdall

Tony Dowdall

Boxing Coach at Linacre Boxing Academy

Sefton Rising

Of course, floods. But not on the new shiny estate, but on the existing dwellings that in the last 70 years have encountered zero floods. Why? Because the vulture capitalists had the foresight to build the new houses 3ft higher than the surrounding community.

Here’s another one for you!.. what do you get if you “upgrade” the existing road structure in and out of the area to purposely create traffic so as to force drivers to use newly built carriageways? Traffic of course.

This is the story of a Sefton village called Thornton.

Thornton is a small village, sharing borders with Netherton, Little Crosby and Crosby. With a population of 2,139, we have one doctor’s surgery, one dentist, one Primary and one High School. It is a historic village, mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. It features a set of medieval stocks, a fabled “Witches Path”, and a sundial which dates back to the late 18th century.

Sundial Place is the name of choice for the housing development built on the junction of Lydiate Lane; Lydiate River at the time of writing.

During the planning stages for Sundial Place, local residents lobbied the council to reconsider the application. The residents pointed to real strain upon local infrastructure that, like infrastructure across the rest of Sefton and Merseyside, has suffered through catastrophic cuts to local services. But more than this, both the council and residents knew of the flood issues.

The surrounding areas were primarily used as farming land. There was an extensive drainage system employed by the farmers. Swathes of land were set aside as storage space for extra water in case of excessive rains. Unfortunately these ditches fell into disrepair, and it became a battle between farmers and Sefton Council as to who was responsible for their upkeep.

During the “consultation process”, local residents asked for sight of the plans of the old farm drainage system. They were told that these plans were passed to Capita upon outsourcing of the council’s technical services remit and were never returned when the £65m deal was terminated and the service brought back “in house”.

So, in spite of local knowledge surpassing the professional insight of technocrats driven by outmoded and unsustainable measures of “value”, and key evidence of the environmental context being lost in a £multi-million losing outsourcing void, the development went ahead.

As it stands, we have 200 new homes at Sundial Place”. As I write, the road to it is blocked due to flooding. The surrounding area, including many people’s gardens, now sits below the neighbouring development and is inevitably flooded.

Whilst digging the foundations for Sundial Place, the developers stumbled upon the remains of a dwelling believed to be a blacksmiths. A historic artefact or the name of the next housing estate? Who knows? It was quickly built over. There are plans for a further 600 houses to be built on the surrounding areas, further obliterating what remains of the water management infrastructure of this former agricultural land. Not that the technocrats will take this flood risk into account, they lost the plans when the badge changed from private to public.

Local people are not averse to battles. However, to succeed in ensuring that both the housing and the environmental crises are addressed, development must be undertaken with the consent of an informed and empowered community. We should draw upon the Community Land Trusts movement and organisations such as the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) in Boston, building up community activism, resistance, and representation in the political arena. DSNI was referenced in an earlier Beacon piece:

Probably the biggest battle now facing the local community is to reverse plans to destroy the largest green space in Sefton, Rimrose Valley. The main road in and out of Thornton is Edge Lane. Over the past year there have been major roadworks, with the intention of directing traffic to Brooms Cross road which connects Thornton to Switch island. In reality, all this has done is create a mass of traffic in Thornton with standstill traffic at most hours of the day.

The cynical amongst us could be excused for believing this is a plan to force a solution to a problem of the planners’ own makings. The “solution” being Rimrose Valley Road. A new road, with an attendant massive increase in traffic, being foisted upon an already stressed environment in order to create access to the Peel estate at the docks. Environmental ruin to create value in formerly public land that is now held by private capital.

Our politicians, local, regional and national, have declared a climate emergency. In Thornton, this climate emergency is literally lapping at our feet. The area’s ability to cope with existing rainfall, let alone the extremes projected, has been compromised by environmentally illiterate planning and development.

If the climate emergency declaration is not to be mere tokenism en route to climate catastrophe, our politicians and planners must adopt new targets based upon environmental and social value. They must stop pursuing environmental degradation as a means of inflating land values to enable the extraction of private wealth. 

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