A u-turn in Wirral's docks: Did locals give the government a bloody nose?
Plus: The people vs heavy industry in Garston, an award-winning festival returns and a death knell for fish and chips
Dear readers — some 18 new faces ushered themselves through the doors into the Post VIP area (aka paying members list) over the weekend. If that’s you, a very warm welcome, take a seat on the leather sofa — hell, why not jump in the jacuzzi? The champagne’s complimentary and while the guest list isn’t quite A-list, it does include several well-known local movers and shakers. You’re in good company.
And by the way, also over the weekend our triumvirate of northern powerhouses (that’s us and our sister publications: The Mill in Manchester and The Tribune in Sheffield) surpassed a collective 5,000 paying members. It was a huge milestone for us as a group and clear proof of the appetite for highly researched, quality, local journalism. Why not join them?
Today’s edition is bursting at the seams, as ever. Our big story focuses on the government’s rebuffed plans to house asylum seekers on a Wirral barge, amid a massive local backlash. Elsewhere, we’ve got an award-winning festival at the Bombed Out Church, the people vs heavy industry in Garston and an elegy for Britain’s fish and chips industry (fear not: the Lobster Pot is not going anywhere…)
At the weekend Abi took journalism to unforeseen levels of intrepid-ness: swimming in the Mersey. Numb-toed, blue-lipped and verging on an epiphany, it made for compelling reading, perhaps not quite enough to get me (Jack) into my Speedos, but nonetheless: do catch up if you missed it. And by the sounds of things, some of you — though not quite all of you — are braver than me:
“I might take a dip next week.”
“I'm not totally sure you (or any of the other competitors) are really ready for my ample torso to be displayed to all and sundry.”
“Intriguing, rather than tempting.”
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This week’s weather
Monday ⛅ Sunny intervals and a moderate breeze with highs of 17°C
Tuesday ⛅ Sunny intervals and a moderate breeze with highs of 17°C
Wednesday 🌧️ Light rain and a gentle breeze with highs of 19°C
Thursday 🌧️ Light rain and a moderate breeze with highs of 19°C
Friday 🌦️ Light rain showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 19°C
Weekend 🌦️ Light rain showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 18°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: Government’s refugee barge plans given a wide berth
Top line: There will be no asylum seeker barge in Wirral’s docks, after considerable backlash from the council and local protests contributed to thwarting the government’s plans.
Context: The Conservative government is desperately trying to reduce the cost of housing asylum seekers in the UK. A number of solutions have been considered, one of which involves moving hundreds of people at a time onto large floating vessels like redundant cruise ships. However, these plans have been met with a massive backlash. Earlier this month Sky News revealed that proposals for similar vessels in Wirral, London and Edinburgh had all fallen flat, and that two ships acquired by the government were being returned. Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock had some choice words for his counterparts:
“Having already overseen the asylum backlog grow nine-fold on their watch, and the cost rocket to £3.6bn, they are now shifting to yet another plan that hasn’t been thought through – spending money on boats that have nowhere to dock.”
The Wirral plans would have occupied a berth owned by Peel Ports, but the company eventually refused after angry local protests:
Birkenhead’s Labour MP Mick Whitley said he was “outraged by the Home Office’s failure to meaningfully consult with the local authority”.
Wirral Council officials wrote to the Home Office setting out a “wide range of questions and concerns” and the council’s Labour leader Paul Stuart called the plans “grotesque”.
Protestors gathered outside a hotel where Peel officials were meeting last month to voice their anger.
In the latter case, the protestors — largely members of the charities Heart4Refugees, Asylum Link Merseyside, and Asylum Matters — had banners reading “Merseyside welcomes refugees” and “Peel Ports don’t sign”. The group called on Peel Ports to “demonstrate they have a humanitarian side” according to the Echo. Peel dropped the plans because they lacked “the necessary support of local agencies”.
But while the protestors have got their way up here, they’ve had less success down in Dorset, where a massive vessel to house up to 500 asylum seekers provided by Liverpool company Bibby Marine has anchored. Pro-refugee groups, who claim the vessel is inhumane and prison-like, clashed with those arguing that the plans will make locals in the town unsafe and sap limited resources, as the boat docked. But the two groups did have one thing in common: neither wanted the Bibby Stockholm in their harbour.
When we reported on the Bibby vessel back in April, a number of concerns were raised with us:
Campaigners noted that when the Bibby Stockholm was deployed to Holland in the 2000s as an immigration detention facility, two North African men died — one of heart failure and another from a liver infection — and there were further accusations of rape, fire safety failings and abuse by prison guards.
506 adult male refugees will be housed onboard, but a company brochure puts the vessel’s capacity at 222 single-bed rooms.
Metro mayor Steve Rotheram told us Bibby Marine were “profiteering by inflicting misery”.
Bottom line: Clearly this is a setback for a government which is desperate to show it can get on top of immigration issues before next year’s general election. 52,000 asylum seekers were estimated to have arrived in the UK last year, and the majority of solutions so far have been deemed either inhumane, too expensive, disproportionately affecting poorer communities or insufficient. Meanwhile the highly controversial Rwanda plan is facing legal challenges. Quite where they turn next isn’t clear.
Your Post briefing
It’s all kicking off down in Garston, according to a long piece in the Echo. The recently established Garston Community United group has been fighting back against multiple plans that would see the area subjected to a further expansion of heavy industry and chemical waste-processing operations. Heavy industry is already intrinsically tied to Garston’s identity — its port handles around 425,000 of imported freight yearly. Yet in 2021 things went up a notch: utilities company Veolia had plans approved to expand capacity for restoring and recycling solvents, from 28,000 to 58,000 tonnes a year. As the Echo reports, Liverpool City Council approved the expansion using ‘delegated powers’, meaning they weren’t subject to scrutiny by the planning committee. A meagre 87 nearby households were consulted. Now, the company is submitting plans to increase capacity even further, to 86,000 tonnes. And, adding insult to injury, land that was once earmarked for desperately-needed housing has been bought by two companies hoping to store and recycle materials. As one member of the newly-formed group says: “we are still forgotten and just getting dumped on all the time.”
Four protesters were arrested at the weekend after deploying smoke flares and orange powder at The Open golf tournament in Hoylake. The incident took place while golfers were playing the 17th hole of The Royal Liverpool and was met with loud boos from the crowd. Well-known climate activism group Just Stop Oil claimed responsibility for three of the protestors, but Merseyside Police have since confirmed that there were four arrests made on suspicion of committing criminal damage and public nuisance at the event. How the mystery fourth person came to be involved isn’t yet known.
A man has been charged for racially abusing Everton players at a Premier League game. Merseyside Police confirmed that a 26-year-old man had been arrested at Goodison Park after shouting abuse at several players back in April. The suspect is expected to appear at Sefton Magistrates Court in August, charged with a racially-aggravated public order offence.
James Jones, the former Bishop of Liverpool, says he believes the government’s request for a further delay to the publication of its response to the Hillsborough Report is “genuine”. Following 2016’s Hillsborough Inquests, Jones chaired an independent panel which set out 25 recommendations to prevent repeat tragedies. The response to that report was due in spring this year, and its delay has prompted anger: after home secretary Suella Braverman said the government was “taking some time to consider afresh certain elements of its response”, her Labour opposite number Yvette Cooper called the delay “unthinkable” and said it was “compounding pain” for the families of the 97 killed. However, Jones — who earlier described further delays as “intolerable” — has now said he understands “serious” consideration is being given to the responses of the families after a letter was sent out to them; “I do think the delay they are asking for is a genuine request”.
📖 Grab your current read and head down to Sefton Park this Sunday for the first edition of the Quiet Book Club. Attendees are encouraged to bring a variety of snacks and drinks with them to enjoy the sunshine, with the reading club starting at 4pm. Find out more here.
🥁 Give Katumba drumming a try this week with a beginner’s session held at Liverpool’s African Caribbean Centre. The workshop starts at 7pm on Tuesday, and is open to anyone aged 18 or above. Find out more here.
🎭 Liverpool’s multi-award winning theatre festival returns this week with a whole host of programmes running until Sunday. Enjoy a range of cabaret, comedy, opera, drama and musicals held at St Luke’s Bombed Out Church —- view the full list of events here.
🎤 Singer songwriter Rae Morris heads to Birkenhead for a special performance at Future Yard this Friday. The Blackpool-born artist has collaborated with the likes of TikTok star Soph Aspin and Spice Girl Melanie C, with her third album Rachel@Fairyland released last year. Grab a ticket here.
Home of the week
A Grade II-listed slice of Paradise (at least according to whoever named the place “Paradise Row”) in Gateacre Village. This five-bedroom house — built in 1760 — is on the market for £395,000. It has a gorgeous courtyard, lots of interior brick and some regal-looking curtains!
Our favourite reads
Should we say a eulogy to the Lobster Pot? Not quite, but the Guardian’s A funeral for fish and chips is, forgive us, food for thought. We join Tom Lamont in a so-called “tattie lorry” bounding through East Neuk of Fife, “dodging washing lines, mooring bollards and seagulls, parking with impunity to make deliveries”. But while this is a story set in Scotland, it’s one that applies right across Britain, especially in coastal regions like ours. Apparently, the fish and chips industry is staring down the barrel of a potential “extinction event”, as up to a third of the UK’s fish bars fear closure. So do your country a favour, and have an extra pickled onion next time.
It’s not every day we find ourselves recommending an article from Scientific American, but here’s just shy of 1000 words on the role of luck in the rise of The Beatles. Sacrilegious though it sounds (and nobody’s suggesting the Fab Four just had a fortunate night at the casino), one Harvard University professor believes it’s quite possible that “if seven or 17 things had gone differently, the Beatles wouldn’t have made it.” It’s a fascinating perspective on how contingent the success of even the greatest talents is, and how we all need a little help from our friends.
A really thoughtful long-read from a year or so ago in Liverpolitan, about Liverpool and HS2. “Watching the whole HS2 debacle from Liverpool has been something of a frustrating process,” they write. “From the outset, our leaders have done their level-best impression of an ostrich with its head somewhere where the sun doesn’t shine.” It’s a topic that’s never out of the headlines — whether it’s because of the angry protestations of middle-England village folk who fear they’re being steamrolled, or on account of the angry protestations of major Northern cities (ahem) who fear they’re being left out — but if you want to understand Liverpool’s place in the whole debacle, this is a good start.
Letters from readers
I find the accusations of racism to be utterly repulsive. I'm a long-term Labour member, and have worked actively to support the causes of anti-racism in the UK and SA. However I live next to PP and love the wildlife that finds sanctuary on the island, ‘Exclusive: Ex-deputy mayor went on council-funded trip with charity, then recommended that charity get thousands in council money’, John Goodman
Lovely article. Also liked the photos - made Princes Dock seem like a destination after all these years of slow development down there. Maybe they should hold some sort of watersports event in the dock?, ‘Move over St Tropez, Princes Dock is the place to swim and be seen’, Kendrick_66