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Posted by: John Brace | 17th September 2014

A meeting with 2 Wirral Council officers about parking behind Birkenhead Market and disability issues

A meeting with 2 Wirral Council officers about parking behind Birkenhead Market and disability issues

                                                                 

I had an interesting meeting with Leonora and two Wirral Council officers in Birkenhead about the proposed changes to parking at the back of Birkenhead Market as a result of a traffic regulation order that’s being consulted on. I will start by pointing out that my wife Leonora regularly parks in the Birkenhead Market Service Road and has a Blue Badge. I did ask for my concerns to be fed into the car parking review which is now happening as a task and finish group chaired by Councillor Paul Doughty.

One of my issues was to do with the fact that if they went ahead with this traffic regulation order it would prevent users with a Blue Badge parking in the Birkenhead Market Service Road. We started our survey of parking outside the One Stop Shop in Conway Street. The short 15 minute bays there were permanently in use. Each time someone moved another car came in within a few minutes. Interestingly G4S was also parked in the short stay bay there and had gone in to the One Stop Shop (G4S were the company the people were protesting about outside the Mayor of Liverpool’s house as reported in the Liverpool Echo recently).

We crossed the busy road and went past the Birkenhead Bus Station.

The blue badge bays in the car park next to Birkenhead Bus Station were (no surprise there) all in use. We then walked around the first half of the Birkenhead Market Service Roas talking on the way. The officers said that the Pyramids/Birkenhead Market were paying the costs of the traffic regulation order because of problems they had with antisocial parking blocking deliveries.

There were a number of cars and a van parked on that stretch of the Service Road but no loading or unloading was observed during the time we were there (late afternoon). What is interesting though is that the Pyramids (one of two bodies we were told would be paying for the traffic regulation order) currently charge people for parking in their multi-storey car park (apart from on a Sunday).

Leonora raised the issues she had about being (if the Traffic Regulation Order came into force at some future date) that she would be forced to park elsewhere. One of the market stall holders (who runs the flower stall) came over when he heard us talking. He was confused by what the Traffic Regulation Order was about as guess what no consultation had happened with the individual stall holders! He asked if it would it affect his customers picking up flowers? The Wirral Council officers assured him that it wouldn’t and explained it was aimed at blue badge users parking on the Birkenhead Market Service Road.

Technically if they’re only picking up prepaid flowers they were right, however if his customers were parking (rather than loading/unloading) with a blue badge it will affect them.

Wirral Council officers admitted to me that they had not consulted the individual market stall holders. Consultation problems seem to be a recurring theme with Wirral Council recently. Officers felt that consulting with the company that runs the market was enough as they so them as a representative body (even though there seemed to have been no clear communication or consultation with individualmstall holders).

What I did surprise them with though was a paper copy of Birkenhead Market Lease & sublease (which in a rather twisted irony in all this is with Wirral Council) which I received last Friday as part of the 2013/14 audit.

What’s interesting (and the detail of this was seemingly unknown to those Wirral Council officers who started asking me where I’d got the lease and sublease from the answer being Wirral Council itself) is that there is then a sublease with the market stall holders. Here are some quotes from it (which mention the Grange too):

“1.1 Right to use half width of access road

The full and free right for the owners and occupiers of the adjoining property known as the Grange Shopping Centre (“the Adjoining Land”) (in common with the Council and all persons deriving title under the Council and all others entitled to a like right) at all times to pass and repass over and along that part of the access road situate on the Premises and shown coloured brown on the Plan with or without vehicles for the purpose of gaining access to or egress from the Adjoining Land but so that such right shall extend only to moving traffic whether pedestrian or vehicular PROVIDED that such right shall be exercised in one direction only such direction to be from the point marked X on the Plan to the point marked Y thereon or such other direction as shall be agreed from time to time between the Council the Tenant and the owner of the Adjoining Land and SUBJECT to the obligations of the Council but with the BENEFIT of the obligations of the owner of the Adjoining Land contained in paragraph (5) of the Part ii of the First Schedule to the Transfer dated 1st October 1992 and made between The Council (1) and Legal & General Assurance Society Limited (2) (“the Transfer”)

1.2 Rights over Market Loading Bays

The full and free right for the owners or occupiers of the Adjoining Land (in common with the Council and all persons deriving title under the Council and all others entitled to a like right) to use at all times those parts of the Premises shown hatched red on the Plan for the purpose of parking motor vehicles loading or off-loading or waiting to load or off-load goods into and from the Adjoining Land or any part thereof and for no other purpose whatsoever PROVIDED that (save as mentioned in paragraph (6) of Part ii of the First Schedule to the Transfer)(except in case of emergency) no motor vehicle shall be so parked for a period in excess of one hour at any one time nor in a manner as shall obstruct traffic on the said access road coloured brown and green on the Plan SUBJECT to the obligations of the Council but with the BENEFIT of the obligations of the owner of the Adjoining Land contained in paragraph (6) of Part ii of the First Schedule to the Transfer”

I presume as it mentions the side run by the Pyramid/Grange that there is something similar in their lease too. In other words what’s the point of a Traffic Regulation Order as Wirral Council is currently because of the contract they signed with the tenants (at least on the market side) supposed to be managing effectively the traffic in the Birkenhead Market Service Road through this clause in the contract already?

The fact that the two officers involved with the Traffic Regulation Order didn’t know about the clauses in the Birkenhead Market sublease until I brought it up is worrying in itself as surely the Asset Management side of Wirral Council has a copy of the lease and subleases for day to day management?

One of the two officers rather amusingly asked me “Do you know the budgetary pressures the Council is under?” (or words to that effect). I have a rather short reply to that as the press I was and tried not to smile too much at the question.

The point is, if someone is parked where they shouldn’t be and caused a nuisance or blocked that road it’s a police/traffic warden issue to deal with.

Much of the road can’t be currently parked in by blue badge holders as it’s even loading bays or double yellows with kerb blips.

The issue to do with traffic flow is also a civil matter too to do with how you enforce the lease. The fact the traffic side at Wirral Council doesn’t know what the asset side at Wirral Council is doing (and seemingly don’t talk to each other) is perhaps a rather worrying sign of a “silo mentality”.

The fact that the costs of the Traffic Regulation Order are being paid for by a company that will benefit from people paying an extra £2 at the expense of the disabled who will be prevented from parking for free here is again another worrying example of Wirral Council seemingly being on the side of commercial interests.

Officers did suggest as a compromise that if we dropped our objections to the proposed traffic regulation order that they would monitor the parking situation in a year’s time. This was not accepted. I also asked for these issues to be fed into the current car parking review and promised to email the relevant sections of the Birkenhead Market lease to them.

Sadly this is another tale where there has been lack of consultation with the individual market stallholders on an issue that will affect their trade. Wirral Council seem to take the “Beware of the Leopard” mentality of saying that they don’t have to consult with them and the plans were available and that it’s not their fault if people didn’t go and look at them.

Anyway the consultation on this proposed Traffic Regulation Order runs to Friday 26th September. If there are any unresolved objections after that it goes to the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel. The Highways and Traffic Representation Panel can then make recommendations to their parent committee.

However that’s just democracy for you. It seems however that Wirral Council once again are rubbing disabled people up the wrong way and who’s Wirral Council supposed to represent anyway, the people or “commercial interests”?

According to Wirral Council officers today (who aren’t going to just drop the plans because of these objections) the commercial interests of the people paying for the Traffic Regulation Order seem to (at the moment) carry more weight than the concerns of the people this will affect. Leonora did have a few things to say about the culture at Wirral Council, but I gather producing the lease & sublease (which came as a total surprise to them), shows there are existing contract obligations which as that covers most of the people using this road duplicates the purpose behind the Traffic Regulation Order.

Are they really going to go to the costs of possibly renegotiating the subleases with all market stall holders over this? Why do I ask that? Yes market traders have a specific badge on their car, but some of them will have Blue Badges and will park in the service road, which if the new Traffic Regulation Order comes into effect will mean they’d get (if a traffic warden was around) a ticket as market stall holders are limited to an hour maximum. Why can’t Wirral Council just deal with this as another other landlord/tenant issue? Words do fail me on this one really, but I could go on for a further thousand words on the thorny issue of parking and Wirral Council and still just be scratching the surface.

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