The scourge of the CGI render: Can Bootle make its dreams come to pass?
A day out in one of Merseyside’s most-maligned towns
Dear members — Bootle has a bit of a reputation. Not a great one, to be honest. But regeneration is said to be in the pipeline. Alongside ambitious plans from Sefton Council, an organisation called Safe Regeneration is looking to revive the canalside with a community-led housing project. We spent a day there to see if the CGI renders might actually become a reality.
But first, as always, your news briefing, including a council candidate calling for mandatory DBS checks and more bad news for Britannia, the owners of Liverpool’s most infamous hotel.
Editor’s note: This edition of The Post is written for our members but non-members are also being sent the first part of the email in the hope of enticing them to become paid subscribers. The Post is entirely funded by our members and we still need many more to become a sustainable news source that can serve Liverpool for years to come. We would be delighted if you joined us as a paid member today to get the full story below and all of our members-only journalism.
Your Post briefing
Liverpool’s striking dockers have the pay deal they’ve been after. Three days ago the strikes, which have lasted intermittently for months with several offers rejected on the grounds they represented a real-terms wage cut given inflation, were called off as members voted on a new offer from Peel Ports. An agreement was struck. Full details of the deal have yet to be announced but it is said to represent a pay rise between “14.3% and 18.5%”. Unite’s Sharon Graham called it “a highly significant victory”.
Liverpool’s favourite hotel operator, Britannia, has come bottom of a consumer survey of the worst hotel chains in the country for the 10th consecutive year. Respondents to a Which? poll described the owners of the Adelphi — that Portland stone behemoth — as running “tired and tatty” venues with a “rough and ready” feel, according to The Guardian. No surprises there for Post readers of course, when we sent David Lloyd along in May he wrote: “The door to the ensuite has clearly been kicked through and polyfillered back together many times. It’s hard to say whether previous residents were trying to break into it, or escape from it. When I try to run a shower I’m fairly certain it’s the latter.”
Kevin Robinson-Hale — a Green Candidate for Everton West at next year’s council elections — is calling for DBS checks for all Liverpool City councillors. A petition created by the prospective councillor notes failings in local governance in recent years, namely those outlined by last year’s deeply troubling Caller Report, and says “surely now is the time to make sure that whoever is elected in 2023 in what is the biggest local election in a generation are fit and proper for the job”.
Care home residents in Southport have been put at risk after not being offered a drink in up to 17 hours, according to the health watchdog. Marina Care Home, which houses 33 people some of whom have dementia, was rated “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The CQC “raised concerns about staffing levels, safeguarding and cleanliness” according to the BBC. In another incident a resident was served undercooked food with large chunks causing a choking risk, and inspectors also saw a hot meal placed on a resident's knee, a burning risk. Marina Care Home said they were “focused” on making improvements.
👚 Style Swap Social — your trash is someone else’s treasure! A clothes swap party where you can trade out that hated jumper someone gifted you for something more your style in the name of sustainable fashion — is being hosted at Port Sunlight Church Hall on the 19th by Anna Grace Du Noyer, a musician and mental health campaigner. First 20 guests get a glass of bubbly too — more information here.
🗣️ Our friends at the South Liverpool Debating Society are doing what they do best again next Thursday: debating. This time they’ll be discussing the motion “This House Believes that There are Too Many People in the World”. As is customary, you can arrive at 6:30pm to catch the pre-debate dinner at Lark Lane’s Keith’s Wine Bar. Put your name down here (or just show up).
🍺 There’s never a bad time for a beer festival, but a “Winter Beer Festival” really hits the spot. Head to Eccleston Park Tennis Club in St Helens tomorrow at 5:30pm — soul warming stuff. Tickets are £12 and include food.
By Jack Walton
Midday at New Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle. Two mothers loom over prams outside TJ Hughes and chat. One says her son has been in trouble at school. She leans over to wipe some food from her daughter's mouth. “The lad deserved it though,” she adds.
New Strand is at the centre of Sefton Council’s regeneration plans for Bootle. Everywhere’s regenerating of course. Regeneration frameworks are ten a penny, they might as well come on Frosties boxes. The one for Bootle includes a “Flying Theatre” which will use “a robotic hydraulic platform to create the feeling of flying through the British Isles” and virtual reality Time-Travel Tunnel to “take visitors on a journey through the History of Bootle and Liverpool including an experience of the Blitz”. Virtual reality is well and good, but reality-reality ought to get a look. Because the question that persists is this: when it comes to the council’s regeneration plans for Bootle, are they all talk, no trousers?
It’s fair to say that in the eyes of many, the town could do with some improvements. An innocent Reddit post from a few years ago, written by a prospective uni student from out of town, enquired about the area ahead of moving into a flat in the New Strand area. “I was wondering if anyone has any advice,” the writer asked. The top response: “Get your deposit back as soon as possible, get on Rightmove and desperately find somewhere else to live”.
There’s a strong sense among the people I speak to that the area has been unfairly overlooked at times. Sefton Council complained just this year that they had been placed in the same category for Levelling Up bids as more moneyed areas like Cambridge and Windsor, for example. Sure, the upkeep on a punt can’t come cheap. And the royal blue carpet in Windsor Castle’s Garter Throne Room must need regular vacuuming. But when the non-drinking leisure on offer in Bootle town centre consists of a bingo hall, some of the frustrations seem well-placed.
A man called Gareth Hicks stands outside the centre smoking. He gives me an abridged Bootle history which skips over the blitz and the dockers but mentions Bootle natives Keith Chegwin and Derek Acorah, as well as St John’s House — once dubbed “the sickest building in Britain” — where 1000 Inland Revenue workers picked up influenza-like symptoms. I later look it up and find out that a resident told the BBC at the time: “The building made the tax workers inside it feel sick and it wasn't much better for those of us who had to look at it”. It had to be knocked down.
The sad truth about Bootle is that it wasn’t just St John’s where sickness is common. Sefton’s 2019/20 Public Health Report noted a staggering 12-year difference in life expectancy between the more affluent area of the north of the borough, compared to less affluent areas of the south. The report focused on Bootle and said that “different factors like poverty, unemployment, poor housing and unhealthy environments contribute to this ‘health gap’”.
And yet, most people you’ll speak to from the area don’t think the reputation is warranted. Hicks tells me “some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet” live here in Bootle. He’d know, he’s been here for 60 years. Bootle has five of the most deprived 250 neighbourhood units in the country, it has its issues, but there's optimism and steeliness too. Safe Regeneration — a community business in the town who are aiming to build an affordable housing project along the canal — can be credited at least in part.
Alongside their proposed housing they run a number of community projects, which has created a real sense that something is happening down on their patch. It’s a case of not simply waiting for better times to come along, but actually making it come to pass.