You know people? People in general? Annoying, aren't they? Their foibles, their prejudices, their way of stinking and moaning and complaining and just ruining things for everyone? People are just so annoying.
I was reminded of this when I was in Maghull yesterday to see an exhibition about a proposed railway station.
Here's the situation: on the fringes of Maghull, right at the limits of Merseyside, is Ashworth Hospital, the high security institution. It used to spread over two sites, but a few years ago the southern site was closed and demolished. First it was earmarked for a prison, but then the government changed its mind and decided to build hundreds of new homes there. Merseytravel nipped in quick, pointed out that it was right next to the Ormskirk branch of the Northern Line, and suggested a new train station might be a good idea. Sorted!
The exhibition at Maghull town hall was to show the plans to the locals and allow them to express their feelings about them. And goodness, they were keen to express them. I stepped into a small room full of pictures and maps and some incredibly furious people. They were haranguing the three or four members of the Merseytravel staff. I heard complaints about the car park layout and the lack of acoustic fencing and the sheer inconvenience to them this new station will cause.
And here's the thing: I don't understand a single one of their objections.
I'd been out at the site of Maghull North that morning, in the middle of a relentless, unpleasant rain storm. It was miserable and wet, with cars whizzing by and splashing the pavement from puddles in the gutter. I found the roundabout that will lead into the new housing estate, and the fenced off entry to the development site.
A bit further down the road was the bridge over the tracks. According to the Merseytravel website, by 2017, this site will look like this:
In 2015, it looks like this:
And this is why I didn't get the objections. Remember, on the right hand side of the tracks, there is a secure hospital for the criminally insane and a prison and a motorway junction. This is not bucolic, fragrant, England's green and pleasant land. When Ian Brady is one of your neighbours, it's pretty hard to lower the tone.
A new railway station will improve life for everyone. A fast, frequent service to Liverpool and Ormskirk. A manned station building to discourage anti-social behaviour. A park and ride facility, close to the M58. Full access for the less able. Relief for Maghull and Ormskirk stations, both of which are in the top ten busiest stations on Merseyrail.
I'm biased, I know. I just can't see the downside. There are studies that show living within walking distance of a railway station can add 10% to the value of your home. It'll help alleviate the pressure on the local roads from those hundreds of new houses. I mean, the railway line's already there: there are already electric trains whizzing by eight times an hour, nineteen hours a day.
I heard a woman at the public exhibition describe the plans as a "disgrace". Perhaps she was an architecture critic; the station building is a bit perfunctory. More likely she was just "people". People are annoying.
You can comment on the plans for Maghull North here. Please say something nice.