Destination Kirkby Rejected

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Parochial Church Council.

Kirkby Valley HIlls in full flower
Kirkby Valley HIlls in full flower

The right decision

The announcement yesterday by the Secretary of State finally over-turning planning permission given by Knowsley Borough Council for a monster sized shopping development and football stadium puts an end to three years of worry for Kirkby residents. Those living near to the site in particular have had their homes blighted, felt trapped, concerned about the loss of peace and quiet in their own houses, increased anti-social behaviour nearby, community safety, health, car-parking, litter, traffic, loss of amenity. After all, a football stadium with capacity greater than the population of the town and a supermarket requiring eight times the number of shoppers each week than the 40,000 who currently live in Kirkby was going to have a big impact.

But the rejection of these plans has not been met by the popping of champagne corks. Those of us who have opposed the development know the town needs regeneration. We remain frustrated that three years have now been wasted on a plan that lacked common sense and community backing.

The Secretary of State has not rejected these proposals just because opponents shouted loudly. If he was to go with those who shouted most loudly he would surely have sided with Everton FC, Tesco and KMBC. The Secretary of State has rejected those proposals because the harm the development would bring was likely to be greater than the benefit:

“the proposal would be likely to have a harmful effect on the vitality and viability of Kirkby, Bootle, Skelmersdale and St Helens. Other factors weighing against the proposal include that the physical regeneration of the old town centre is uncertain, and the stadium would result in harmful impact on many of the town’s residents.” (Paragraph 28 of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government letter, 26th November 2009.)

Impact

The proponents of this development originally claimed that it would bring 2,200 jobs to Kirkby. In the last couple of days they have been saying in the press that 7,000 jobs have been lost. I am not too sure why their original figure has now been multiplied by three. In fact, in the planning inquiry under cross-examination, the developers’ consultants admitted that the net gain in full-time-equivalent jobs for Kirkby would be 132 if all went well. This is partly because other existing jobs would be displaced by the new development. This helps us understand the balancing act that the Secretary of State needed to manage: benefit against disbenefits. Nobody is saying that 132 is not a benefit, but 7,000 jobs is simply not the truth. And 132 jobs need to be weighed against the harm. I have said in other places that these plans were about degeneration, not regeneration.

The artist's impression Destination Kirkby developers didn't want you to see (courtesy of KEIOC)
The artist's impression Destination Kirkby developers didn't want you to see (courtesy of KEIOC). The stadium is in the background but you can still see it sitting on top of a wall as high as neighbouring houses. Imagine if the stadium was in the foreground of the picture.

One of the big impacts of this development that was made clear to those of us who sat through the Public Inquiry but that little has been said of in the press is the sheer mass of the stadium. The Valley Hills were going to be levelled to the height of the land behind and up to a concrete wall running along Valley Road. At its highest point this wall would be thirty-two feet high with a three-foot fence on top of that. The stadium’s secure car park would be on top of that. The playing surface was to be above that level and the stands above that. If you can imagine even a thirty-five foot wall and fence along valley road, let alone a huge stadium on top it you will get a picture of how this development would have changed the face of the town. Then remember that some houses in the Grange Estate would have been dwarfed underneath the eaves of this.

Of course, there are other residents who have been settled in their houses behind Cherryfield Drive who were going to have their homes taken off them under a Compulsory Purchase Order. This development took little account of the pride and aspirations of Kirkby residents for their town.

For these reasons I have stood alongside others to make a clear and cogent case for the Government to consider. I am proud of friends and colleagues who have given such a good demonstration of local people’s insights and abilities and have proven the foolishness of what big business was planning to do here.

But the work has not finished. It may only just have begun. Now we need to convince local government officers and members to work with Kirkby residents and plan for regeneration that brings only benefits to the town and no harm.

Revd Dr Tim Stratford (Team Rector of Kirkby).

Chester Trip

A coach load of people from Kirkby visited Chester to begin, continue or finish their Christmas shopping on Saturday 21st November. Despite the occasional bit of drizzle, everyone managed to get round the city, and have a good time. Many bags were filled, restaurants sampled, and choral evensong was (for some of us) attended, which was a beautiful and reflective way to finish the day.

This was another trip organised by the Ministry of Fun, the parish social committee that was set up about 2 years ago, and has already been responsible for organising more than a dozen popular and successful events.

Chester cathedral with Christmas lights
Chester cathedral with Christmas lights
Chester shopping
Chester shopping
Cathedral Refectory
Cathedral Refectory
Chester street
Chester street

Murder Mystery Night

A dark and wet evening on Friday 13th November provided the setting for a mystery at St Chad’s.

Tables were set up in the chancel for a mystery banquet, catering courtesy of St John, Ravenhead.
Tables were set up in the chancel for a mystery banquet, catering courtesy of St John, Ravenhead.

Tables were set in the Chancel and a banquet was held by the mythical 8th Earl of Sefton. Some dubious acting exposed a plot of family intrigue and jealousy that was nevertheless convincing. The dinner guests (who had each paid £7 for the privilege) were confronted by solving a complex whodunnit.  None were successful, including those playing the major parts.

The evening was rounded off with awards for the acting and catering.  There are no prizes for guessing who got the prize for the most bumbling detective – I was actually playing the role of one of the victims but didn’t know it at the time.

There has been a great deal of interest in the event and it is sure to be repeated, perhaps when the weather gets a bit warmer and the nights a bit lighter.

The Earl's daughter-in-Law, Melanie, played by Joyce Lester.
The Earl's daughter-in-Law, Melanie, played by Joyce Lester.
Kelly Lester, alias the Earl's nurse, Bobbie.
Kelly Stokes, alias the Earl's nurse, Bobbie.

Kirkby School Photo 1892/3

Kirkby School 1892-3
Photo of "Kirkby Boys Group III" at Kirkby Church of England School between 1892 and 1893 (courtesy of Mrs RJ Webb aged 95)

Kirkby Church of England School used to be on the corner of Old Rough Lance and County Road opposite the current site of MacDonalds. For 150 years it was the only educational establishment in the town.  In the last 50 years more schools have been built as the population has grown.

Mrs Webb visited Kirkby recently, having lived away for some time, and was shocked to see the urban nature of a village she remembered as containing “lovely farm houses”.  You may just be able to detect a blue spot on the head of a young lad second from right and second from the back.  this is the only person we are currently able to identify: Edmond Rose.  His name is written on the back of the picture.  We would be glad to know of any other family memories from those days.

Remembrance Sunday

In Remembrance
In Remembrance

The 8th November saw Remembrance Sunday being marked as usual by representatives of the British Legion, veterans, cadets, scouts, the Red Cross, the police and fire service along with the Deputy Mayor, George Howarth MP, members of St. Chads and the general public. The Rev Dr Tim Stratford led the service, with a Bible reading by the Right Hon. George Howarth from the Book of Revelation. 2 minutes of silence was observed to mark the fallen of all wars, followed by wreaths being laid by civic, church and uniformed representatives, and others. The parade then marched to St. Chads to lay a wreath on the war memorial in the churchyard. This is always a powerful occasion, that stirs many memories for those attending, and serves as a stark reminder to us all that war is never cheap.

The Remembrance Sunday Parade and Service is an event that is growing in importance in Kirkby.  As members of the British Forces continue to loose their lives in active service overseas the pain of war is felt more deeply throughout the community.

Parish Pilgrimage to the Corrymeela Community, Northern Ireland

P2140052A group of people from the four Kirkby churches met at John Lennon Airport on 7th September 2009 to travel to  Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland for the Annual Parish Retreat.  For many this was their first flight so there was much excitement as the plane soared into the air over the Mersey and climbed to 23,000 feet for the short flight to Belfast.   Arriving at Corrymeela we were  quite overcome by the stunning scenery and the genuine warmth of our welcome –  as soon as we piled out of the mini bus we were greeted with ‘you are so welcome’ and taken in for the first of what proved to be many cups of tea.
After we had unpacked we gathered in one of the many comfortable lounges and over a cup of tea met Padraig, Theresa and Fergal who were to lead and care for us on our journey of discovery about why   Northern Ireland needs centres like Corrymeela.  Over the next few days we came to understand that Northern Ireland is  a country where Catholics and Protestants  live physically close to one another but are separated by the hurts created by the historical and ongoing political, religious and cultural conflicts which have arisen between these two branches Christianity.    Founded in 1965  Corrymeela is an ecumenical  Christian community which aims to provide a safe place within which to explore the possibilities for  healing, reconciliation and peace  between the Catholic and Protestant Communities.    The most healing place on the site is, undoubtedly the Croi.  “Croi” is the Gaelic word for “heart” and the building resembles the shape of a human heart with different chambers flowing into each other.  We met in this peaceful place daily at 9.30 am and at 9 pm for short periods of worship, music, fellowship and laughter, and always  left it feeling nourished and spiritually refreshed.  The peace of the ‘croi’ enveloped and embraced us when we returned from a challenging day in Belfast where we had seen the raw wounds of the ‘peace walls’ and the wall paintings – physical evidence of the hurts of this city which is only 30 minutes by air from our own. Lest this give an impression of total gloom one should mention that in Belfast we also visited the Clonard Reconciliation Project and were warmed and impressed by the unity pilgrims led by Father Gerry and Rev. Sam.

Just reading this it may seem that Corrymeela is worthy but rather dull but this is far from the case.   We enjoyed a week of fun, laughter, fabulous meals, superb sceney and, of course, many many cups of tea!  We enjoyed trips to Giant’s Causeway, and Porrush and  we had a great Irish evening in the local pub in Ballycastle. We experienced the warmth of the Irish people and the joy of seeing and hearing how Corrymeela is slowly but surely breaking down the divisions  and replacing them with trust and hopefully friendship.  None of us wanted to leave  Ireland or Corrymeela  and the journey back to the airport was full of discussion about which part of Ireland we should visit on the next Parish pilgrimage!  Our hopes can be summed up in the Irish prayer :

May the road rise to meet us, may the wind be always at our back, may the sunshine upon our faces, the rain fall soft upon our fields and until we meet again, may God hold us in the palm of his hand. Amen.

Vera on the Giant's Causeway
Vera on the Giant's Causeway
The Croi where all our worship was held
The Croi where all our worship was held

Day Retreat at Pennant Melangell

The shrine church of Pennant Melangell
The shrine church of Pennant Melangell

On July 16th, the Kirkby healing team members set off for a quiet day retreat to St. Melangell’s Church in the Berwyn Mountains, a remote and beautiful spot at the head of the Tanet Valley in Wales.

Our aim was to reflect on the life of Jesus through the cycle of Grace (some insights developed by Frank Lake based on the work of Emile Brunner). The first input being on acceptance, the second sustenance, the third Significance and the fourth achievement – much food for thought and self analysis, believe you me!

At 12 noon we walked down from our base to the church to celebrate the eucharist, with the opportunity for prayers for healing for those in need. The feeling of reverence as you entered this place of worship reminded one strongly of the many who had worshipped there way back from the 12th century, and the effigies, the oak screen and stone carvings tll the history of the church. The shrine of St. Melangall, situated behind the altar became the focal point of the service.

Returning to base for lunch we discovered it was raining: surprise, surprise!! However we enjoyed sharing our thoughts together whilst we ate.

After lunch we then continued with our next input and between each session continued with our own quiet time and prayers wherever we wished. Undaunted by the weather we wandered outside! In the midst of all the mountains it was so quiet and so peaceful! Who could not help but feel the presence of the Lord in such beautiful surroundings?

After tea and cake, more input and further quiet time for meditation before returning to church again for evening prayer which took place around the shrine. A final time to spend with our Lord before the minibus journey home.

If only the nations of the world could have shared the peace of St. Melangell, it would become a far, far better place. As we left with that peace, serenity and tranquility in our hearts and a quietness of spirit from the day, we gave thanks for the wonderful fellowship and sharing within our group and for a day well spent. Thank you to all concerned.

Written by Wyn, a member of the group

All Saints

CB108036On Sunday 1st November, in the evening, we held our annual Commemoration services for the Faithful Departed, especially thinking about those who have died in the previous year. Christmas is a hard time for many people, and we begin the run up to Christmas with services for bereaved families. Around 250 people attended this year, and we hope that in some small way, these services help them in the journey of grief.

When you lose someone you love often the hardest time is after the funeral. Family and friends rally around but a bereaved person can still feel very alone as they grieve for their loved one and seek to carry on. A listening ear can be a great help on that journey. We have a bereavement support team in the parish able to come and visit if you feel that you would appreciate this kind of support. This is available however long ago the death was. Please contact Andy Heber on 548 7969 if you would like to have more information.