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Street artist Paul Curtis completes gigantic transformation of Ainsdale’s Toad Hall

Award-winning street artist Paul Curtis has completed work on his largest ever mural to date – thought also to be the largest painting created by a single artist in the UK – transforming Ainsdale’s Toad Hall.

Huge finished sand lizard painting by Paul Curtis on the side of Ainsdale's Toad Hall
Huge finished sand lizard painting by Paul Curtis on the side of Ainsdale’s Toad Hall

Sefton Council’s Green Sefton Service commissioned Paul to carry out the work as part of its plans to invest in and develop the Ainsdale-on-Sea coastal area.

Paul, who burst onto the street art scene around three years ago, began painting the tribute to the Sefton coast’s rare sand lizards in August.

He has used 330 litres of paint, 42 spray paint cans and spent 360 hours, through rain and sunshine, creating the incredible scene across the exterior of the building.

Depicting the environmentally important Ainsdale dunes, it features not just one, but two sand lizards taking pride of place across the design.

Cllr Ian Moncur, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said:

“We gave Paul an enormous challenge when we asked him to brighten up Toad Hall and I can certainly say that he has stepped up to that challenge. His mural is a magnificent celebration of our unique and environmentally-important coast.

“Paul has captured our Ainsdale dunes and sand lizards perfectly, and I know that people will travel from far and wide to get a glimpse of the finished mural.”

Artist Paul Curtis said:

“This is a project I was extremely keen to be part of. The sheer scale and the challenge that comes with a mural like this is something I had to literally get my teeth into. I used to visit Ainsdale a lot and I often wondered what the story of Toad Hall was, but I never imagined that I would end up painting it. 

“The are many, many challenges involved with a building like this. This is far from a flat canvas; there are numerous nooks and crannies, pillars and alcoves. This presents difficulties in simply accessing certain parts, but also in making the image line up and make sense. The claws of the lizard were one of the most difficult things I have ever painted because of this 3D challenge. I knew this would be a tough assignment and I knew it would take time.”

The idea for an art installation on the Toad Hall building was developed by the Council’s Green Sefton team. They consulted with members of the community and community groups as well as local Councillors on the design for the mural.

Cllr Ian Moncur, artist Paul Curtis and Green Sefton’s Development Officer Andy Cutts stood in front of the sand lizard mural
L-R Cllr Ian Moncur, Paul Curtis and Green Sefton’s Development Officer Andy Cutts

Commenting on the design, Paul said:

“The initial designs went for the obvious…put a toad on Toad Hall. However, after producing a series of toady designs, none of them seemed to work. We took the tough decision to scrap that idea completely. Eventually the sand lizard idea was landed on. This would fit the bill. Bright vibrant colours, elongated shape to match the proportions of Toad Hall and part of the local fauna. It ticked all the boxes! 

“I have never painted a lizard before, but I have done a couple of snakes, so I prepared myself for thousands of skin scales! The Marram grass and coastal environment is designed to form an illusion so that when you walk over the dunes, due to perspective, the mural should emerge from the horizon as though part of your near surroundings.”

The Sefton coast is one of the UK strongholds for the rare sand lizard species which is one of the reasons why the coastline is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest – helping to protect vital habitats.

Both male and female lizards will soon be heading into hibernation which takes place between October to March.

The warmth-loving species rely on the heat of the dunes for a successful life cycle and are about 20cm long. Males are brighter green in the summer months and females usually a duller colour.

Male sand lizard
Male sand lizard

Sefton Council works alongside conversation charities and environmental organisations like Natural England to help protect the lizards and improve habitat by removing invasive plants.

People are reminded not to dig in the dunes so as not to damage eggs or disturb hibernating lizards.

Paul said:

“It’s been a joy to work on this project.  So many people stopping me and really enthusing about the artwork. The joy on the kids’ faces when they see the mural. Everyone who approached me was so positive. I hope that this artwork gains national interest in the way that the Iron Men did for Crosby.

“Thanks again to everyone in Ainsdale for being so hospitable and making me feel welcome.” 

Cllr Moncur added:

“The mural has really put Ainsdale on the map and marks the start of a longer-term plan for the Council to work alongside the community to improve facilities for all, while protecting the landscape that we are all lucky to be custodians of.”

There are just a few days left for people to submit their views on the long-term development proposals for the Ainsdale-on-Sea area.

The Council’s public consultation is open until Thursday 30th September online at https://yourseftonyoursay.sefton.gov.uk/green-sefton/ainsdale-on-sea-consultation/

Have your say on Crosby Town Centre Regeneration proposals

Residents, businesses and visitors are being invited to have their say on proposals to develop Crosby’s town centre.

Sefton Council has launched a public consultation on proposals to regenerate Crosby. Among the proposals are new access routes and highway improvements ahead of developments on the Green Car Park site. In addition, there will be improvements to other car parks and junctions in the town as well as better access for people walking and cycling.

Crosby Town Centre map outlining proposed improvementsCooksland and Allengate car parks will have new layouts, better utilising space and increasing the number of spaces available. The car parks will be future-proofed to include electric vehicle charging spaces and easy pedestrian routes will be created to connect the car parks with the town centre high street.

Also, the junction of the A565 Liverpool Road / The By-Pass and the B5193 Islington / Coronation Road / Church Road junction will be reconfigured to enable traffic to move more freely around the edge of the town centre and access parking.

Cllr Maher, Sefton Council Leader said:
“This is an exciting step in the regeneration of Crosby town centre and the delivery of the Crosby Investment Strategy. Our plans will help to ensure Crosby’s historic town centre is a vibrant and diverse place to live, work and visit.

“The Council has an ongoing commitment to supporting the community, listening to valued feedback, and working and living among the community so we are already well aware of how much this regeneration plan is needed to boost south Sefton.

“I strongly encourage people to take part in the public consultation and have their say on the future development of Crosby town centre.”

A plan for the regeneration in Crosby was developed by the Council and following consultation was approved in 2015.

Earlier this year, Sefton Council and its partners submitted a £19.2 million bid to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund for a range of schemes to revitalise Crosby town centre after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Entitled ‘Reimagining Crosby’, the bid includes plans for the creation of a new, state-of-the-art library, healthcare facilities and town centre living spaces, located on the current Green Car Park site.

The outcome of the Council’s Levelling Up Fund bid is due by late 2021.

Consultation on the plans for Crosby town centre will run for six weeks and close on Wednesday 3rd November 2021. Local residents, businesses and visitors to Crosby are invited to share their thoughts online at yourseftonyoursay.sefton.gov.uk

People are also encouraged to share the online survey with others who may be interested and want to take part. People without internet access, can have their say over the phone by calling 0345 140 0845.

For further information, residents can contact the Regeneration Team on regen@sefton.gov.uk

Help Sefton Council to shape its flood and coastal erosion risk strategy for the next decade

Sefton Council, as the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA), is drawing up a new strategy to protect its communities from the risk of flooding and coastal erosion over the next decade.

The new management strategy will outline the clear roles and responsibilities of not only the Council, but other risk management authorities including the Environment Agency, United Utilities, Highways England and the Canal and River Trust.

It will set out the actions that will be undertaken to reduce the risk and impact of flooding and coastal erosion on Sefton’s communities and highlight simple actions that residents themselves can undertake in support of this.  

Arial view of the coastline at Southport
Arial view of the coastline at Southport

Everyone living in Sefton is encouraged to take part in the period of consultation on the draft strategy, ensuring that their views are heard before the plan is finalised in early 2022.

The public consultation includes the opportunity for the strategy, and associated business plan, to be viewed in full, followed by a short survey to gather thoughts from residents.

People can take part online at www.YourSeftonYourSay.sefton.gov.uk and have up until Wednesday 17th November 2021.

Cllr Ian Moncur, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said:

“We are very proud of our unique borough with its 22 miles of amazing coastline and diverse landscapes among our urban residential areas and business hubs. One thing we have in common with the rest of the country, and especially other coastal authorities, is the risk of flooding and erosion and the complex challenges that we face to manage the impact of such events on our communities.

“That is why it’s vital for us to develop, maintain, apply and monitor a local flood risk management strategy, and to seek the views of those who live here in Sefton as we look to shape that plan for the next decade.”

Flood and erosion events can affect not only those living in high-risk areas, but also transport networks, schools, highways and local businesses. They can also have detrimental environmental impacts on rare habitats and species, which is why the Council is dedicated to producing a management strategy that is fit-for-purpose and recognises the increasing challenges of the climate emergency and where targeted and risk-based investment is needed.

The Council’s own plans must align with the Environment Agency’s national strategy that looks 100 years into the future and considers the risks climate change presents and the options to adapt to this challenge.

Cllr Moncur added:

“Over the past decade due to a combination of severe weather events and instances occurring from rivers, sewers and surface water, we’ve seen significant flooding events in neighbourhoods across Sefton, including most recently at the start of 2021 in Maghull.

“These events can have devastating environmental, social and economic impacts, making a sustainable flood risk management strategy absolutely essential for our communities. And is complementary to our on-going work with partners, such as the recently formed strategic flood resilience group, where we share expertise and identify actions that can be taken individually and collectively to reduce the overall risk.

“I would urge everyone across Sefton to take part as we shape this plan for the next decade to ensure their views are heard.”

Sefton Council set to improve Botanic Gardens lakeside ahead of major transformation consultation

Sefton Council has outlined ideas for up to £30,000 in improvements for the lake and lakeside area at Southport’s popular Botanic Gardens. These include new water aeration fountains, the installation of new fencing and secure lifeline stations, as well as plans for annual community clean-up events.

The plans were discussed at a meeting on Thursday 19th August with local community groups.

As part of a wider vision for transforming the park, the initial improvements were outlined to members of the Botanic Gardens Community Association and Make a Change for Ben fundraising group who have been in discussion with the Council’s Green Sefton team on the proposals.

At the meeting the group agreed to prioritise the aerating fountains as the first phase. Funding for the phased lakeside improvements is set to come from community fundraising schemes, local ward budgets and the Green Sefton Service.

Cllr Ian Moncur, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing said:

“As outlined earlier this year, Sefton Council’s Green Sefton Service is looking at ways to develop and improve the Botanic Gardens.

“Our Green Sefton team has been working alongside a number of dedicated community groups who care deeply about the future of the park and are keen to see improvements that benefit everyone who loves spending time there.

“We’re at the stage where we have been able to agree some initial improvements focused on the lakeside area that will complement the work already undertaken, at the beginning of the year, to improve the aviary.

“But our longer-term vision is to reinvigorate the park with a whole host of potential ideas that would offer better facilities for our communities as well as providing a positive boost to the local visitor economy, including the creation of new jobs.”

The Green Sefton Service will launch a consultation to seek ideas from the community for the longer-term vision for the Botanic Gardens. This consultation will take place once the current consultations are completed for Hesketh Park and the Ainsdale beach gateway. Details of those consultations can be found at: https://yourseftonyoursay.sefton.gov.uk/

In time, it is expected funding will be sought from streams through organisations that support the heritage sector. Around £5 million is likely to be required to deliver the Council’s ambitious plans to transform the park.

The project would support the restoration of many of the park’s Victorian buildings and help the Council to develop new attractions that would bring more visitors to the park and generate income that would be earmarked for the park’s maintenance and management.

Cllr Moncur added:

“The major proposals are at the very early stages of development and our next steps will include launching a public consultation over the coming winter/ spring to bring together the views of residents, regular park users, visitors and the dedicated volunteer groups, like the Botanic Gardens Community Association, who support many projects at the park to keep the space clean, green and beautiful for all.”

People can find more on the Borough’s parks, play areas and open spaces managed by the Green Sefton team, with support from volunteers and partners, by visiting www.sefton.gov.uk/parks

Anyone interested in helping to shape the developing project, or would like to volunteer in the Botanic Gardens, can contact the Botanic Gardens Community Association at https://botanicgardensca.org.uk/

Call for those with a love of the outdoors to take part in Green Sefton customer satisfaction survey

Sefton Council’s Green Sefton Service loves the Borough’s parks, greenspaces, playgrounds, sports pitches and beaches just as much as its residents, which is why they want the community’s views on their management of these vital outdoor spaces.

The customer satisfaction survey is now open for contributions until 31st October 2021 and can be easily completed online at www.yourseftonyoursay.sefton.gov.uk  

Green Sefton Rangers will also be out and about over the next fortnight at popular parks and coastal locations, to help gather feedback and encourage people to submit their thoughts online.  

Customer satisfaction survey for Sefton's Green Sefton Service has been launched and people can take part of visiting the your sefton your say website

Cllr Ian Moncur, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said:

“Sefton has 22-miles of stunning coastline, more than 30 parks and around 180 open spaces. All these places have been more popular than ever over the pandemic for residents and visitors as people have enjoyed spending time outdoors.

“We have an incredibly passionate workforce who look after these sites, many of whom are experts on conservation and environmental issues. They work side-by-side a network of enthusiastic volunteers and community groups who together ensure our outdoor spaces are great places for people, animals and plants to thrive.

“It’s really important that we take time to stop and reflect on what has been an incredibly busy and demanding 18 months, and so conducting the survey at this time will allow us to make informed decisions on our management and development of the service area over the next few years.”

Feedback will be gathered from people who use Sefton’s parks, open spaces and coastal gateways to see how they rate the services provided by Green Sefton and to set a baseline for future customer satisfaction surveys.

The survey also looks to provide an understanding of the expectations of visitors which needs to be balanced with the Council’s commitment to managing recreation pressure on the Sefton Coast. The Council must also fulfil its legal duties under the Habitats Regulations to protect these internationally important nature sites.

Cllr Moncur added:

“We have faced backlogs and delays to many of our normal maintenance schedules this summer, as we’ve continued to feel the effects of the pandemic. We know that some of our outdoor spaces are not looking up to their usual standards, which people may well reflect on when answering our survey.

“But the management and maintence of our greenspaces also needs to take into account the need to reduce the impact of climate change moving forward, and how we can boost our biodiversity so that rare species and habitats are not lost.

“We are interested in opening this dialogue with our residents as part of this survey, so that together raising the standards of our outdoor spaces doesn’t just mean regular mowing and pruning, but more sympathetic and sustainable approaches that benefit both people and planet.”

Once the consultation period has concluded, the results will be used to inform and shape management and development decisions for the Green Sefton Service, for example where resources could or should be directed, to maintain and improve satisfaction levels.

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