Statement to the Inquiry on the Proposed plans of Langtree/McLean for the Liverpool Garden Festival Site, by Reg Cox.

I am Hon. Sec. of Riverside Residents Association “RRA”, formerly Riverside Action Group “RAG”. Riverside Residents Association represents the nearly 700 houses which border the Garden Festival Site, on the western side of Riverside Drive.

Born and raised in Wavertree, I retired in 1989 as Lecturer in Photography in the Faculty of Art & Design, John Moore’s University.

In 1994, my wife and I made the biggest investment of our lives, when we bought a property in what is known as St Michael’s Wood.

In the mid 50’s, when I left the Royal Air Force, my wife and I settled in Liverpool 8, firstly in Percy Street and then Canning Street, where we eventually bought one of the large terrace houses, now known as the “Georgian Quarter”. After retirement the house was too large for us and the gas bills were also far too high, so we looked around for somewhere more economical.

After much searching we found the “Redrow” house that is now our home. Our solicitor warned us that there may be problems with “Pleasure Island”, as it had a reputation for noise and rowdy behaviour. We had a look and a listen at different times of the day and decided that, though there was a problem there, it was sufficiently far away and would not be too much of a problem. Though this was not the case for residents of properties bordering Promenade Gardens. Virtually every night, they were terrorised by mobs of drunken youths who vandalised the whole area, the glass in the bus shelters was smashed and the noise pollution was very high.

My wife and I became members of Riverside Action Group “RAG” a year, or so after we moved into St Michael’s Wood and became committee members not long after that. Since December 2000 I have edited and produced the Association’s newsletter “RAG Pickings”.

In 2001 Wiggins, later Planestation consulted with RAG regarding plans for developing the Garden Festival Site and in September of that year Wiggins produced a plan which met with RAG’s approval. One of the benefits for local residents, was that it re-routed Riverside Drive along the promenade, as it is north of the Britannia Inn, meeting up with Jericho Lane at the roundabout. This would have been much safer, particularly for the residents on Promenade Gardens, which include a group of houses for senior citizens, and for whom crossing the road to catch a bus is a case of the quick and the dead.

This proposal met with a great deal of opposition from the conservationists. or the “dicky bird lovers and dog emptiers” as they are known locally. Wiggins eventually modified their plans, but by all accounts they did not have the funds to convince Liverpool City Council that they could carry the scheme through and
Wiggins sold the lease to Langtree/McLean.

At a meeting of Liverpool City Council’s Regeneration Select Committee in April 2005, which was open to the public, Langtree/McLean put their scheme to the committee and, at the end of their presentation, the Chairman asked if there were any questions from the public. I put forward the concerns of the local residents and the Chairman of the Select Committee suggested that Langtree/McLean people pass their business cards to me. From then on Langtree/McLean have consulted RAG on many occasions, taking our suggestions into account and modifying their plans. They also consulted a large number of other groups.
Whilst the proposals do not meet with Riverside Residents Association’s complete approval, they are an acceptable, viable plan that would restore the current eyesore to the glory of the International Garden Festival of 1984. Plus, and a big plus for local residents, there are community facilities as part of the scheme, retail and Primary Care.

At present, it is a good thirty minutes walk for me to buy a newspaper. And, in fine weather, when the motor cycle riders arrive at the Garden Festival Site, it is bedlam, the noise being a constant intrusion to the peace of a normally quiet residential area.

I cannot understand why the objectors do so. They say they want a park and woodland, exactly what the scheme will provide. Admittedly at the cost of some houses and apartments, but they will fund the scheme, which will not be a charge to the Liverpool Council Tax payers.

There have been objections to the traffic, but there are traffic calming measures in the scheme and, whilst many years have gone by in producing this acceptable plan, umpteen properties have been started and completed along Riverside Drive and Sefton Street. Did anyone object to that possible traffic increase problem? If they did, I didn’t hear about it.

The Garden Festival Site has been a constant topic of discussion at the committee meetings and Annual General Meetings of RAG/RRA for many years and it has always been voted for in these discussions, usually by a large majority, if not unanimously. There have been a few objectors. Mr Jones of Beech Avenue is a resident in the RRA area. I had not met the gentleman until I came here last week, though I have probably pushed RRA newsletter through his door.

When Liverpool City Council approved the Langtree / McLean plans, we (RRA) settled back, thinking all was done and dusted. Then the objectors got going and in answer to the objectors petition signing activities of people walking along the promenade and visiting the Britannia Inn, the RRA committee members went round knocking on doors in the evening, asking residents of our area if they approved of the plans for the Garden Festival Site. I personally visited some sixty houses and met with only one objector to the plans. We collected 285 signatures of RRA residents, by knocking on doors when people were home from work. There were also 127 other people, non residents, who supported the scheme and, I believe RRA Chairwoman Andrea Spyropoulos has many more from non residents, that she has not submitted.

RRA is a non political organisation,nor is it allied to any political parties. Our activities are funded by members subscriptions and we cannot match the blanket leafleting that is carried out by the objectors. Who funds that production line would be interesting to know! Some of their statements have been pure emotive fiction, e.g. “Any decisions made about this site will have a huge impact on the Prom – it could become a no-go area with construction and all sorts of toxic dust blowing around for the next 15 years!” Quote from the undated letter to Deborah Tobin, circulated by the Save the Garden Festival group.
It has been stated that RRA area residents are concerned with the Garden Festival Site because it depresses the value of our property and, to some extent, that is true, but the major concern of most of the people with whom I have discussed the Site is to get rid of the eyesore, that was once a beautiful garden and restore it in all its wonder and pleasantness to the citizens of Liverpool.
Reg Cox.
Hon. Sec. Riverside Residents Association.