Ann Coffey

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Ann’s Stockport Express Column, August 2018

In Stockport we are quite rightly proud of our heritage architecture.  Perhaps most of all of our iconic viaduct, which towers over 30 metres above the Mersey and is a Grade II listed structure.  The viaduct is also a crucial link in our railway network, used by all the train companies to connect Stockport passengers with the rest of the country.

Unfortunately, trespassing on the railway network is an increasing problem according to Network Rail, reaching a five-year high in 2018. Network Rail says that teenagers, particularly boys, are amongst those most likely to trespass, and they do not fully understand the dangers they are putting themselves in. There are spikes in trespass incidents at key times during the year – one of which is during the summer holidays.

Last month we had an incident in Stockport, when a vulnerable older man got onto the viaduct in the early morning and was only brought down safely almost 24 hours later following specialist help from the police and emergency services.  I am very grateful to those involved in managing to avoid a tragedy.

As well as putting lives at risk, this dangerous incident also resulted in absolute chaos on the railway that day. With the line closed, no trains could stop at Stockport and passengers faced huge delays and cancellations.  There was a knock-on effect on train services across the network.

Network Rail has taken measures such as end-of-platform fencing and heat cameras, to prevent trespassing at Stockport.  I am making enquiries to see if more could be done to prevent people getting onto the viaduct itself in future, such as railings on the viaduct itself. This option would require special planning permission because of the listed status of the viaduct.   And from my enquiries it seems that if an individual is determined to walk along the tracks, railings on the viaduct would not prevent them.

This makes it all the more important that the railway industry works with local communities on these vital safety issues. You Vs Train is a new campaign, launched jointly by the rail industry and British Transport Police, which includes a graphic video aimed at young people.  I hope teachers, parents and the Council will support the campaign which spells out the dangers which people put themselves and others in if they step onto the railway track.

Ann’s Stockport Express column, July 2018

When I visit primary schools children often ask questions about recycling and show a great deal of concern about protecting the environment.  World Oceans Day last month reminded me of just one of the issues which children have talked to me about.

Children at Vernon Park Primary school who had been learning about over-fishing of the oceans, and the appalling practice of shark finning wrote very passionate letters to me about protecting our marine habitat. They were very pleased to get a letter from the Minister at the Department of the Environment after I wrote to him about the children’s concerns.

The Women’s Institute, whose Heatons branch celebrates its 10th Birthday this summer, has also campaigned on environmental issues.  The WI is now working to protect our oceans, with a campaign called End Plastic Soup.  This is all about the tiny microplastic fibres which are shed from our clothing in the washing machine and flow into the sewage system and eventually into the ocean.  They form a sort of plastic soup which is gradually clogging up the seas, and the WI want the government and industry to find a solution to the problem.

I think people were amazed and shocked by the extent of marine plastic pollution exposed by the Blue Planet TV series last year.  People of all ages and interests are now campaigning on this issue, which is recognised as one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world.

The government has said that the UK should be in the forefront of world action to eliminate avoidable plastic waste to protect our rivers and seas – although I think their 25 Year Environment Plan could be more ambitious as far as the timescale goes.  What we need is urgent global action to protect the world’s oceans from plastics, protect sharks and other marine creatures through strict international controls and encourage sustainable fishing.  And of course this is a global problem, which needs global solutions.

Meanwhile, I hope people who care in Stockport, children and adults alike, will continue to campaign for action.

Deaths of missing people could be prevented

Thursday July 19 2018

Hundreds of lives are being put at risk each year because adults with mental health problems are ‘found and forgotten’ after going missing, according to a Parliamentary Inquiry.  

Ann Coffey – head of the ‘Inquiry into safeguarding missing adults who have mental health issues’ by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults – said that going missing should be a ‘red flag moment’ which ought to trigger help.

But instead tens of thousands of adults nationally are left alone and isolated with no support on their return home.

There are about 126,000 incidents of adults going missing annually. Up to 600 missing people a year are found dead: the most commonly known cause being suicide.

The inquiry heard that about 80 per cent of adults who go missing are experiencing mental health problems and up to one third go missing again.

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