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Councillors protest Maghull North railway station being axed
18 December 2010
By Jim Sharpe
 
In a double whammy last week, two major capital projects for Maghull were axed in the wake of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Ministry of Justice dropped a bombshell when it announced out of the blue that the planned 600 place prison at Ashworth South would not now go ahead - and the next day Merseytravel were told their Government funding was to be slashed to slashed to just £11.4 million, compared to the £32m it received this year. This effectively means that plans for the Maghull North station have hit the buffers too, at least for the foreseeable future.

Following the decision to scrap the prison, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Following the Comprehensive Spending Review announcement on 20 October and the publication of last week's consultation Green Paper on sentencing and rehabilitation, we will now look in detail at the sentencing frameworks for adults and young offenders, and the full range of penalties currently available to sentencers. We will also look to overhaul the system of rehabilitation to reduce reoffending.

”We will consult widely before bringing forward more detailed plans for reform.

“Long-term decisions on prison capacity programmes will be taken in the light of future policy developments and a projected fall in the number of offenders in custody. We will ensure that we meet prison capacity requirements more efficiently to improve value for money for the taxpayer and contribute savings to help reduce the budget deficit.

"The Ministry of Justice has contacted the appointed contractor and informed them of our intent to withdraw."

Councillor Tony Robertson, leader of both Sefton and Maghull Town Councils, said:

"After 13 years of mucking about the Government has finally decided it does not need to build a prison in Maghull!"

He pointed out that in recent months the old hospital buildings have been demolished, the site cleared and access roads put in.

"So it was a big surprise to hear the prison was not going to be built," he said.

Maghill Town Council had been discussing plans to try to get the site used for a business park just before the original prison announcement was made in 1997 - and now Cllr Robertson thinks it would be worthwhile trying to revisit that plan.

It is also true that the proposal for a prison was very unpopular locally with petitions being supported by the town council. After that battle was lost it did negotiate the best compensation deal possible.

Sefton Central MP, Bill Esterson too was surprised that the scheme had been axed after so much money has already been spent on preliminary work. ”Work was well underway on improving some of the link roads from the mortorway, as well as landscaping the ground,“ he said.

”What I am keen to see now is that improvements to the town's infrastructure are still given the go-ahead.“

The new station, Maghull North, had stong links to the new prison too - though in fact local people had been asking for it long before the proposal for the prison came forward.

Talking to The Champion, Councillor Mark Dowd, chairman of Merseytravel, said the maths speak for themselves. ”We were pushing for two new stations, one on the Wirral and one at Maghull North,“ he said. ”They were both costed at about £7m each. What can you do when you are left with £1.9m to spend - you can put up a new bus stop or sometjing.“

Cllr Dowd had been prepared to "bat for Maghull North" at the Department for Transport, to get a special grant for its construction.

"Now the simple fact is that all our capital shemes are stopped - it's not my fault, it is the Coalition Government. I met with our accountants yesterday and will try to obtain European funding - but the fact is that schemes like Maghull North simply cannot go ahead because we have no money.

“I have benn on Sefton Council for 28 years and I've never seen anything quite like this.”

And though the idea of a second station for Maghull has been doing the round for many years , and in fact has been the subject of a recent petiton which attracted hundreds of names, it was the proposed new prison which had given new impetus - with the Prison Service due to give £450,000 towards its building costs.

MP Bill Esterson said: “It is something which is wanted by people in that part of the community who have complained to me that they feel isolated from the rest of the town.”

And he promised: “I will be working with the community to call on the Government to grant funding for the new train station, as well as infrastructures for the town.”

But Cllr Robertson did not think the situation with regard toMaghull North had changed so much since the announcement of the savage cut in Government grant.

“Merseytravel had already announced it (the new station) would not be going ahead,” he pointed out. “It had clearly been indicated to me that this was so and we knew we were not getting money for the station in the next couple of years.”

But he, said, that was no reason to give up on the idea. “In 18 months or so we need to start pressing the buttons to get this thing moving again,” he told The Champion. “If we don'tkeep pressing and fighting we'll never get it.

He agreed the project would have to be kept on the back burner for now - until the economy picks up which, he conceeded, could be three or even four years away. ”But we must not give up on it for the sake of anyone who lives near the existing station,“ he said.

"At present there are many questions about the prison site and the new station, and very few answers. We will be pressing for information and to be consulted over what the site is to be used for in the future," he said.
Got a Maghull story? Let us know by contacting Jim Sharpe on 0151 526 1446 or by sending an email to editorial@champnews.com
 

 


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