As many local residents know, I have spoken out against the cycle lane scheme which Sefton Council imposed upon our town centre without consultation.
In mid-2020, Sefton Council applied to the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund to finance the rollout of cycle lanes across Southport. They then built these lanes across Southport’s town centre.
Whilst I welcome the availability of greater funding for local authorities to encourage cycling – indeed in many areas of the country cycle lanes are desperately needed – on Hoghton Street, new cycle lanes are neither necessary nor desired.
I am particularly concerned that the Council did not consult with local businesses and residents prior to the new lanes being installed. I have been inundated with concerns - this scheme is damaging the trade of local businesses by removing parking at a time they are desperately trying to rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Holy Trinity Church have also complained that the removal of parking meant that elderly and disabled parishioners could no longer park close, and parents can no longer drop off or collect their children from school safely.
In addition, the new cycle lanes have left a hole in the Council’s pay and display revenue – a loss estimated by the council to be £140,000 per year on Hoghton Street alone.
I wrote to Sefton Council and the Government expressing my deep concern regarding the restrictions on parking, restricted road access on Queens Road, the decrease in revenues (both for businesses and the Council), and lack of consultation.
In January 2021, it was announced that the cycle lanes were due to be expanded into areas of Birkdale and Ainsdale to the south, and both Churchtown and Crossens in the north.
In June 2021, Sefton Council consulted on their proposals - which were estimated to cost £1.35 million. I believed that the proposals were deeply flawed, and did not support their introduction. I note that petitions on this matter raised thousands of signatures, and that local Conservative councillors submitted motions to the Council requesting the plans be scrapped.
I secured an extension to the consultation deadline, to allow more time for local residents to submit their views. Once the consultation ended, I requested a copy of the results. Following months of delay and obfuscation, Sefton Council finally published the results of the cycle lane consultation in November 2021. The results showed that an overwhelming majority of Southport residents clearly rejected Sefton Council's cycle lane proposals.
It was clear that the costly plans have no public support in our town, and I therefore called on the Labour leadership of Sefton Council to acknowledge this reality and announce that the plans will be scrapped.
It would have been outrageous if, following such a strong and unambiguous rejection by Southport residents, Labour pushed ahead with the £1.35 million plans. It would have been a colossal waste of tax-payers money, and would only have served to re-enforce the clear view that I and the majority of residents share - that a Labour-led Sefton Council does not work for Southport.
On 18 January 2022, Sefton Council decided to shelve the North – South Southport plans, and instead progress a separate scheme in Formby. The scheme was not completely ruled-out - the option of revisiting the plans was left on the table - and so Southport Conservatives campaigned on this issue in the May 2022 local elections. Sefton Council subsequently formally axed the plans.
In October 2022, a decision is due to be made by Sefton Council on whether to retain or remove the town centre lanes and bollards. In anticipation of this, I held a public meeting which was attended by more than 200 people.
I hope that Sefton Council will take the concerns of residents and businesses seriously, and remove the lanes and bollards added in 2020.