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Over a thousand trees planted to improve St Luke's Church Road, so why are residents angry?

If you go down to the woods today, you will be in for a big surprise and we are not talking about the Easter Bunny but, the new laurel trees that have been planted either side of the road, in fact, over a thousand of them.

There is no doubt about it, the road looks better and owner, local businessman Mike McComb, who is paying for the works at his own personal expence, is also having the road tarmacced and we have been told that Victorian lighting will also be put in place. So why are local residents complaining about this obvious improvement to our Bubble?

The trees have blocked a pathway through from Beechwood Drive to St. Luke's Church Road that has been used by residents for over sixty years as a cut through. Angry residents have even pushed the trees down to get through. One resident said: "What right has anyone got to block this pathway? It is a public right of way that we have used since moving into our house over fifty years ago!"

Another resident said: "What an arrogant, insensitive man Mike McComb is proving to be. I purchased my home on Maple Close purely due to the proximity of the woods from Beechwood Drive. The footpaths there have been in use by the residents for the last fifty years and are now blocked by a dense row of laurel trees. To be treated as a mere peasant by being informed that I should use the Cedar Close entrance instead from now on is highly offensive."

"Mike McComb may own a stretch of St Lukes Church Road but he forgets that his road is also a right of access to Albert and Alexandra Road not to mention the nature paths marked out by the National Trust. Yes Toad of Toad Hall has truly arrived in Formby and I hope the residents of Formby pull together to reclaim our historical rights of access to the woodland instead of accepting the whims of this odious man."

Some residents are happy about the new trees: "As a resident of Limetree Way for over 30 years can I say I am absolutely delighted at this project, this so called public right of way people talk about is totally unfounded, I have contacted the council concerning this area and there is no information who even owns the land! Over the years we have had cars, driving through the gap, scrambler bikes, gangs gathering, used as a toilet and somewhere to be sick by drunken reveller's in the early hours of the morning. Mostly by these people leaving Shorrock,s hill! I have picked up and placed back one of these trees that had been knocked over only a few days after it was planted! If people want to access St Luke's Church Road as they have done before the only have a very short detour , I hope Mr Mike mcComb puts the wire fencing across this area and gives us all a bit of peace."

This is where the walk through is now blocked off by the trees from Beechwood Drive onto St. Luke's Church Road

Formby Bubble spoke to Mike McComb about the road and told him the residents concerns. He was very pleasant and forthcoming with his response which he hopes will reassure residents.

Mike said: "The road is privately owned by me and is not a public right of way, this matter has been investigated by others previously that have come to the same conclusion, in addition to this it is not listed in any 'right of way' map. The works are obviously being carried out legally. However, I am not denying access for pedestrians, only where they access the road. The main entrance by Shorrocks Hill will be kept open as will the access at the end of this road to the Beechwood Drive estate and I hope that this remains in the long term. Beechwood estate access will be allowed via Cedar Drive to the top of the road near my gate to the house, not half way down. The gates will not be locked by shorrocks. People will be allowed access from there also. If kids start going behind bushes we will fence off so they can't. I am attempting to make the area safer for everyone. Especially the people that live in this immediate area. For years they have been plagued by vehicles and people late at night accessing this way. This action should alleviate this problem."

Mike went on to say: "I am being more than reasonable allowing this public access and in the interest of road safety, I cannot condone people accessing wherever they want onto a private road, at the moment people have pushed trees over to gain access, this behaviour is unacceptable. I am installing a new road that will be lit and safe, I do hope that people respect it and clean up after their animals. It will have CCTV installed so that it is safer and more secure for everyone that is allowed to use it."

"May I reiterate that this road is privately owned and is being rebuilt at great personal cost, whilst I cannot please everybody, I do hope that most people will appreciate the efforts that are going in to improve this beautiful part of our town."

Residents have also contacted Formby Civic Society about the planting of the trees. Spokesman John Phillips said to the Bubble: "A number of people have made approaches to the Civic Society with regard to the planting of tall bushes along the unmade road leading from St. Luke’s Road towards Alexandra Road. This road was originally constructed by the Formby family in the 19th century as an entrance to ‘Firwood’ and was called ‘The Avenue’. Over time, the house was left empty and became dilapidated and eventually a ruin. The Avenue, which also provides a roadway for other people living in properties along Alexandra and Albert Roads, has been a very rough drive for cars and either a dusty or muddy (pick your season!) route for walkers. Nevertheless, with its open aspect and the lovely trees planted some time ago along the way, it is a lovely start to a visit to Sefton’s natural coast, the spectacular dune landscape of Ravenmeols and the two recently-opened Heritage Trails. I am assured, also, that tourist materials published by Sefton MBC show The Avenue as being a part of the Sefton Coastal Path."

"Within the Society there are different opinions about the nature of the tree planting and the possible effects on the community and environment. The choice of bush is disappointing although an effort to clear up the rough pathway is very much welcomed. Why such a pathway is necessary to service an individual dwelling, however large, is difficult to grasp. It is not something that has been welcomed by most of the members with whom we have spoken. For people living close by on the Birchwood estate it is worse. Change and development can often upset and annoy people, but it can be handled and managed in such a way that those people feel that they have had some consultation about the process and an understanding in advance of what was going to happen and why it would happen. Was there any prior communication with the residents most affected? Some of them have used a particular pathway for many decades and, almost overnight, it has become denied to them. They see a tall row of approximately 9 feet high evergreen shrubs, possibly Cherry Laurel or similar, being planted at great expense with what appears to be the intention of completely enclosing The Avenue and which will eventually create a rather dark and gloomy tunnel for the many local residents and visitors who use it. Cherry Laurel is a choice made more for its qualities of providing tight and thick cover rather than for what advantages it will offer for local wildlife. There are now concerns that this could now provide a possible gathering place hidden from view for unwanted groups."

"I am sure that on the side of the owner of the road, there will be some frustration that he has actually improved the roadway with new planting and is clearly setting about improving the road surface itself. We know also that he has been responsible for much good-quality tree-planting and enhancement of green areas. The pity is that a lack of communication has allowed so much ill feeling to surface and that a group of residents feel that they have had imposed upon them something that is inappropriate and not necessary. The trees will remain, if all legal guidelines have been met, as we can suppose they have, and there is little the local community can do other than work together and seek to have some positive discussion with the owner. If both sides could meet to share their views, there might just be a way of resolving this issue for both sides of the argument. It would be a terrible pity if what will remain will be the upgraded roadway and a huge amount of ill feeling."

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