Paul arriving back at Liverpool Airport, just a couple of miles down the road was one of Paul’s favourite spots as a child, Oggy shore. Anyone who grew up in Speke, Liverpool knew it as a place to escape from the streets.
Above is the 1930s art deco building I remember. As kids, we would walk the couple miles along the boulevard to the terminal, and spend the day wandering around the lounges and cafes in a way that would be impossible today. There were moulded white plastic armchairs chairs with coin-operated TV’s in the arm, completely futuristic for the early seventies. I remember the ornate lift that would take customers up to the bar-restaurant. As a youth, I would go to the airport bar for a drink, not one of the most exciting places, but at seventeen if you got served at all it didn’t matter where it was. In what I think was a universally popular move the airport was renamed John Lennon Airport in 2001.
The Airport opened in 1933 and was taken over by the RAF in the run-up to WW2 when it was known as RAF Speke. The land was part of the grounds of the Tudor Speke Hall and I guess the airport has been encroaching on it ever since. As the airport has grown, access to green space has diminished.
The airport began to expand and develop throughout the post-war years. The next big change was the ‘new runway’ in 1966, to the South East of the airport, this closed the space between the estate and the river. We could however still get to Speke Hall through Critchley woods, and over the farmer’s field at the back of Dunlops. In 1986 the new Southern terminal was built. This new terminal killed Critchley, but Oglet shore still existed even if the runway ran right up to Dungeon Lane and planes came in metres above.
The 1970s were not good for the shore and it became more and more of a dumping ground. The 80s and beyond saw the problems of the estate reach the shore, burned-out cars, and even a multiple murder. The work of local campaigners and rising environmental standards and legislation meant that it began to be cleaned up, and by the 2000’s it was welcoming back a diverse range of wildlife.
Throughout this period Dungeon lane, with its tiny cottages was the only access to the shore. This too is now blocked off. We are told there is always a price to pay for economic development, there are also usually good profits to be made as well, the problem is people in places like Speke end up paying all the price while getting none of the profits.
Speke was always a place to be driven past or through, along the Ford Road. It was never a destination except for those who lived there. Seen as labour for the factories, until they began to go, one by one, then the schools closed one by one, even the pubs disappeared, until just two remain. The airport was bringing business into Liverpool – no doubt. But did the people of Speke or Garston see the profits? Capital of Culture, Liverpool One, The tourist industry, football, all multi-billion pound industries, yet the gateway to this success has since the 1960s struggled with poverty and unemployment.
The airport is now facing a huge problem, the drop in air travel as a consequence of Covid-19 means that Peel holdings (the owners) plans for expansion must be under review. Easy Jet has already secured a 600 million pound loan from the UK government. While the owner said the airline has now reached agreements with unions to furlough UK-based pilots and crew. About 4,000 of 9,000 will be furloughed during April and May. (Financed by the government scheme) This furlough money and low-interest loans are paid by UK taxpayers. Whatever the result of this current crisis the climate crisis will follow fast on its heels providing another body blow to air travel. Now is not the time to be expanding airport capacity.
The residents have lived with the noise and pollution of the flights for decades, I don’t think anyone wants to see the airport close. I am skeptical about the financial benefits of the airport directly to the area. But in quality of life, access to Oglet directly from Speke has been valued by generations of Speke-ites. I think it’s worth preserving and if they can find 600 million for airline owners maybe they can find a way of looking after local wildlife and people.
Or to paraphrase John Lennon from Imagine ‘I hope today you’ll join us’ and sign the petition below to save Oglet Shore;