Friday, 18 January 2008

Heysham Nukes Still Out of Action, Repair Costs Escalate

Two of of Heysham's four nuclear reactors are still out of action - and are likely to remain that way until the end of the year.

In a press statement, nuclear power firm British Energy has confirmed four of its reactors at two UK stations are likely to remain out of action until the end of the year and may perhaps not be in action again until 2009.

Two reactors at Hartlepool and the two comprising the Heysham 1 station, which combined account for about 25 per cent of British Energy's generating capacity, have been out of service after a routine inspection revealed problems with the boiler units last October. British Energy says they have concluded that remedial engineering work is required to enable the return to service of all four reactors, to repair corroded wire windings around the steel and concrete boiler closure units (BCUs) form part of the reactor pressure boundary (More on this on the World Nuclear News web site).

Heysham 1's two reactors are out of action because of BCU issues. Heysham 2 is not affected and is in operation.

The cost of the remedial engineering work is expected to be less than £50m, but that is in addition to the costs of inspection and assessment of the units incurred in financial year 2007/08 of around £20m.

Despite problems with the current reactors, British Energy says it hopes to build a third at Heysham, after the Government signalled its intentions to restart a nuclear energy program in the UK earlier this month. A spokesman for British Energy recently told The Westmorland Gazette: "If we are committed to nuclear playing a part in the UK's energy mix then as plants such as Heysham 1 reach the end of their lives we will need to have the next generation of plants in place - on the existing sites because we already own the land.

"We will be working towards having everything in place to replace Heysham 1 by the end of the next decade."

At a meeting of stakeholder groups and other community representatives on the future of Heysham power station held last August, British Energy argued the employment that new building would produce would be significant "and there would be economic benefit to creating competitive advantage with rest of world" (A report on that meeting is available here in PDF format from the Nucelar Power 2007 consultation web site).

Heysham Power Station employs 1300 people and around €50 m (just over £37m) in wages a year - a significant contribution to the local economy.

A third nuclear reactor was considered some years ago, provoking huge local opposition. In 1996, British Energy dropped plans to build a gas-fired power station at Heysham, citing inadequate transmission capacity.

Heysham 1 is currently scheduled for decommissioning in 2014 but Heysham 2, which went online in 1988, is not scheduled for decommissioning until 2023 according to British Energy.

British Energy has eight nuclear power stations across the UK: Torness, Hunterston, Heysham 1 and 2, Hartlepool, Hinkley, Dungeness and Sizewell (15 reactors in total, but only one at Sizewell which is a Pressurised Water Reactor).

Post Office Plans Srutinised

The future of the district’s Post Offices will be discussed at the next meeting of Lancaster City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee at 6.00pm in Morecambe Town Hall on 30 January, and locals are invited to attend.

Last year, the Post Office announced that it was reviewing the future provision of its branches across the country and proposals for Lancashire will be revealed on Tuesday January 22, followed by a six week consultation period.

After swingeing cuts to post offices in the last round of cuts, which met with huge (but largely unsuccessful) opposition, the Council seems keen to acknowledge the importance of those Post Offices that remains in our community, and intends to play a role in the consultation.

Nationally, around 2,500 post offices from the 14,500 plus service are to close. (A list of some of the planned closures was leaked onto the Internet last year). The Post Office, outlining its plans as "Network Change" claims fewer people are using its branches - and opting instead to use services online. The organisation has almost consistently refused to recognise that although those post offices still open are within three miles distance of "99 per cent" of potential customers, many do not have the means - public or private - to get to them. Sub post offices also lost business because the Government has often failed to promote their services despite being a publicly owned service. For example, when pensions began to be switched from over the counter payment to direct bank payment, the Post Office's banking services were not promoted.

Some branches will be replaced by mobile post offices or other 'outreach' services.

On 30 January the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee has invited Mark Wright, regional development manager, and Julia Young, senior external relations manager, from the Post Office to outline the proposals. (You can listen to a BBC interview with Mark Wright by following this link - requires RealPlayer)

Chris Thirkettle from PostWatch, an organisation which is scrutinising the proposals and consultation process, will also be in attendance. (Postwatch cannot stop closures from happening, but says it will investigate every proposal to ensure that customers' reasonable access to post office services is retained. Postwatch have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Post Office Ltd which sets out in detail the role that they will play in the programme.)

“Our meeting will provide an opportunity for members of the public to hear, first hand, the proposals for the Post Office in this area," feels Coun Stuart Langhorn, chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. "People will then have a chance to make a response to what they have heard.”

• The meeting will take place at Morecambe Town Hall from 6.00pm on 30 January and everyone is welcome to attend.
• If you would like to the opportunity to speak at the meeting then please contact Democratic Services on (01524) 582047, or alternatively email
scrutiny@lancaster.gov.uk.

Ever Wanted to Keep Bees?

Lancaster Beekeepers are running a one day course on bee keeping next month, so if you have ever thought of owning a colony of honey bees but have been deterred by not knowing exactly what is involved, or are simply curious, then this one day course is for you!

The course, which runs on Saturday 23rd February covers the life cycle of the honey bee, essential equipment, a guide to the Beekeeping Year and everything else you need to know

The event takes place at Halton Youth and Community Centre, Low Road, Halton-on-Lune between 9-30am and 4-00pm and costs £15 including lunch, refreshments and course notes. Booking is essential.

• For further information contact call 01524 811978 or email: bees@al-consulting.co.uk • Please send bookings with remittance to: Lancaster Beekeepers, High Tarn, Aughton, Nr Lancaster, LA2 8LU

Arts Council savaged on cuts

The Financial Times reported earlier this week that Nicholas Hytner, the director of the National Theatre, has launched a scathing attack on Arts Council England for its handling of this year’s grant allocation, which saw almost 200 institutions have their funding withdrawn, including local arts organisations in the Lancaster area.

The plans were announced just before Christmas, with organisations given precious little time to respond because of Christmas holidays. Final funding decisions wil be announced by the Arts Council on 1 February but there are already calls for the organisation itself to be dismantled and funding to return to government control.


The Stage reported last November that Lancaster's Dukes theatre has been forced to axe 80 per cent of its large-scale producing work following a 50 per cent funding cut by Arts Council England.

Under a new business plan developed in-line with the dramatic subsidy decrease - which will see ACE investment fall from £507,000 to £260,000 in April 2008 - main-house productions will be cut from five to one, and the space will be re-established as a touring venue.

The Dukes’ board, Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council all accepted the call for a new business model, and ACE North West executive director Michael Eakin said he believed the theatre’s new plan will offer a better return on public investment.

Mr Hytner has described the funding cuts, in which the council is considering appeals from 194 regularly funded bodies, as a “terrible mess” that was “ill-thought through and very unfair to those organisations that have been told to prepare for cuts”.

Arts Council England's Peter Hewitt has defended the proposed cuts, telling The Stage this week that all of the organisation's proposals have been made following the full involvement of specialist staff throughout the organisation, "reflecting both national and regional perspectives."

"The arts council has received a large number of communications welcoming both the strategy and our specific proposals," he claimed. "We believe that support will be heard when we publish our final funding decisions on 1 February."


Hamlet Takes Over the Castle

Lancaster’s ancient working castle is to make a perfect stand in for the palace of Elsinore as one of the country’s most exciting site-specific professional theatre companies prepares to present its indoor promenade production of the Bard’s famous (and most quoted) drama, Hamlet, next month. Rehearsals have already begun at the castle for the new production.

Running from Thursday 21 February until Saturday 15 March 2008 this new production from Demi Paradise Productions will be set when written, circa 1600, with costume by Ruth Caswell (part of the design team on both the Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love films).

Damien Warren-Smith stars as Hamlet, with return visits by Sarah Thurstan (Gertrude) Patrick Bridgman (Horatio) David Frederickson (Polonius) & Amy Rhiannon Worth (Guildenstern). Newcomers to the demi-paradise company for this production are Robert Garrett (Ghost) Simon Kirk (Claudius) Gareth Cassidy (Laertes) Claire Disley (Ophelia) Eric Coudrill (Marcellus) Thomas K Lappin (Rosencrantz) and Paul Hassall (Fortinbras).

Mark Alexander will be bringing 25 years of experience to lighting the show and Clare-Louise Hall (Richard III) is designing set and dressing. As ever, live music will play an integrated role in developing and sustaining the action, as the audience move from venue to venue within the shire hall complex of Georgian courtrooms, stairways and medieval tower.

demi-paradise productions was founded by Stephen Tomlin in 2000 to perform indoor promenade productions of classical plays at Lancaster Castle, one of Britain’s last great working castles with a history stretching back 2,000 years.

An association of regionally based performers and designers, demi–paradise acts as a magnet and showcase for professional talent, committed to creating an unforgettable experience of high quality classical drama.

The company’s site-specific interpretations of Shakespeare’s Richard II (2000, pictured), Measure For Measure (2001), Macbeth (2002), All’s Well That Ends Well (2004), & Richard III (2006) have reflected the history and continuing use of the building as a royal fortress, prison and courts.

• Due to the restricted sizes of the various playing spaces audience capacity is strictly limited to 60 per performance. There are no performances on 24 and 25 Febuary or 2 and 9 March

• T
ickets for public performances, at £20 each, will go on sale Monday 28th January from 9.00am at Shire Hall, Lancaster Castle. Call in person, or ring 01524 64998 to book. A ‘Pay What You Can’ preview performance will take place on Tuesday 19 February. Terms are strictly first come first served on the door, cash only, non reservable places.

• There are a handful of places left for the School & Student Matinee on Saturday 1st March. Thanks to the generosity of demi paradise's principal sponsor, the Duchy of Lancaster, tickets are only £10 each. This is a real bargain for anyone in full time education and one not to be missed! Ring box office manager Christine Goodier (01524 64998) to book.

Field of Dreams?

(Republished from the main VL site and this week's newsletter): The Tender Brief for the sale of the land at Lawson's Field in Scotforth was considered by the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 17 January. After consultation with local residents, Lib Dem Scotforth East councillor Janie Kirkman registered her opposition to the sale, which was also opposed by Scotforth West Green Councillors Jane Fletcher and Emily Heath.

The meeting recommended that the woodland conservation area at the north of the land be retained and protected – despite charmless sneers from Scotforth West Labour councillor Sheila Denwood that it was nothing more than a rubbish tip where dog walkers left poo.

The item will go to the City Council Cabinet for a decision on 22 January (10am, Morecambe Town Hall). The agenda and reports (including the draft brief) for the O&S Committee can be viewed at here.

The agenda and reports for the Cabinet meeting can be viewed at here.

The original proposal to put this land out to tender as a potential site for a supermarket was originally kept secret until news was leaked by Scotforth's Green councillors. Local residents objected strongly over the secrecy and lack of consultation regarding such a major development.

Speculation that Tescos might be involved behind the scenes was started by a reference in a Council document, although given the Highways Authority recent stipulations that traffic on the A6 at Scotforth cannot sustain any increase, it would appear that the contender with the fewest obstacles to planning permission would be Booths. (Booths is currently building a new, bigger store in Garstang at a cost of some £6 million, the development only marginally delayed by the discovery of asbestos at the former CCM factory during demolition to make way for its new store last November).

Booths is a firm supporter of Garstang's Fair Trade status and is openly committed to sourcing local produce. Responses from locals to a 2006 consultation on the Garstang development conducted by Wyre Borough Council (PDF) were largely positive, alrthough elsewhere there are concerns at the impact the larger stroe will have on independent traders in the town.

It's Our City (www.itsourcity.org.uk) is backing a vigorous local campaign opposing development on what is currently a very pleasant and vibrant green area serving a wide city suburb. They seek your support and advise residents to come to the meetings, if only just to see how councillors actually make these decisions (it's an eye-opener!).

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Food Guide seeks local input

A Climate Change project is seeking food producers and businesses in North Lancashire and South Cumbria to appear in a new free guide to local food.

The guide will be the first of its kind to help north Lancashire shoppers reduce their carbon footprint and support local food businesses by buying local food.

Climate Change project LESS is compiling the directory and wants to hear from people who produce, sell, or manufacture locally grown food, as well as restaurants or pubs which source food locally for their menus.

LESS want to hear from farmers, gardeners, people producing meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, honey, preserves, locally brewed beer, as well restaurants serving this kind of food.

The guide will take in food produced within a 30-mile radius from the Lancaster district, which extends to Penrith, Skipton, Clitheroe, and includes Chorley, Burnley, Southport, Nelson and the Fylde area.

“LESS is a climate change project," explains Jennifer Lauruol of LESS, "and one way we can reduce our carbon footprint and impact on climate change is to buy and eat food produced locally instead of food that’s been shipped large distances.

“It’s not always easy to find locally produced food. This guide should make it easier and enable people to reduce their carbon impact by supporting local rural business and to enjoy some great food.”

Entries in the directory are free, and to appear in it food producers should get in touch with LESS now on 0845 478 6368 or fooddirectory@lessuk.org, or visit the LESS website www.lessuk.org. The organisation will be sending out questionnaires at the beginning of February.

• LESS is also organising a festival to celebrate local food, the Local FOOD ‘FEASTival’ will be at the Platform Morecambe, on bank holiday Monday, 26 May 2008. Contact Simon on 01524 888641 or email events@eatlocal.org.uk if you are a local food producer or outlet interested in attending.

Stepping Stones' petition call

A locally-based organisation helping children in Africa is urging people to try to protect them from abuse and cruelty by signing an international petition for action to stop a monstrous modern day witch hunt.

The call from Thurnham-based Stepping Stones comes in response to the recent Observer newspaper article on the plight of the children that the organisation work with in Nigeria. An online petition has been set up to pressure the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, to act to stop the gross violations of child rights that are taking place due to the belief in child "witches".

The paper reported that evangelical pastors are helping to create a terrible new campaign of violence against young Nigerians. Children and babies branded as evil are being abused, abandoned and even murdered while the preachers make money out of the fear of their parents and their communities.

In one case, a 12-year-old, Ekemini Okon Samuel, was stigmatised as a witch and abandoned before the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) in Eket Local Government Government area of Akwa Ibom State rescued her last month.

Channel TV News reported that the President of CRARN, Mr. Sam Itauma, has blamed the high rate of child trafficking in Akwa Ibom, South-South of Nigeria, on the activities of religious organisations who he says “label children as witches," noting that “more than 5,000 innocent children in the state had been wrongly labeled as witches by new generation Churches.”

"Countless children are being abandoned, tortured and killed in this region due to this traditional harmful belief," says Gary Foxcroft, Programme Director for Stepping Stones. "We need to act as quickly as possible if we are protect more children from harm and challenge this deeply held belief."

Once the pettion has as many signatories as possible Stepping Stones will then personally present the petition to the Governor. "This is just the first step in what is going to be a long, concerted effort by Stepping Stones Nigeria and our partner NGO - the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network - to put an end to this needless suffering, Gary explains. "We will be looking to significantly expand the scope of our Prevent Abandonment of Children Today (PACT) campaign in 2008 and will keep supporters informed regarding any support they may be able to give us with this."

• The petition can be found at:
www.thepetitionsite.com/2/children-are-targets-of-nigerian-witch-hunt

• Latest news can be found at www.steppingstonesnigeria.org/latestnews

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Holocaust Remembered

Various events will take place in Lancaster to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, the annual commemoration of the Holocaust - the mass murder of Jews, gays, gypsies trade unionists and Communists by the Nazis in the last century - on 27 January.

The Day is a time to remember those who have suffered and lost their lives during the Holocaust and other atrocities, perhaps by lighting a candle to show your support at embracing diversity and dispelling the darkness that racism, oppression and ignorance can lead to.

Lighting a candle is a Jewish custom to remember people who have passed away. It is also symbolic in many other faiths including Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

In the Lancaster District the lessons of the Holocaust will be remembered in a variety of ways. The Dukes is hosting a film lecture and discussion, Representations of the Holocaust on Tuesday 22nd January at 7.oopm; the annual commemoration co-ordinated by NCBI Lancashire is on 24th January at 6.30pm in the peace gardens by Lancaster Town Hall, followed by performances by young people in the Town Hall.

On Wednesday 27th January the Priory is hosting a vigil and commemoration starting at 6.30pm.

• If you cannot come to the events in the District you can also light a virtual candle by visiting the website www.hmd.org.uk. For more information phone NCBI Lancashire on 01524 383899 or email ncbilancs@ncbi.org.uk

Tourism numbers increase

Lancaster continues to prove appealing to overseas visitors, with the Tourist Information Centre's visitors book indicating that the historic city remains ever popular with visitors from all four corners of the globe.

During an end of year review of the book by tourism officers based at Lancaster TIC on Castle Hill, comments showed that of the 132 overseas visitors who signed the book during 2007, 26 per cent came from 15 different states of the USA and five of Canada’s provinces were represented in the 14 per cent of overseas visitors who came here from Canada.

12 per cent of visitors to Lancaster TIC were from Spain, outnumbering the 11 per cent who came from Australia. Other larger numbers came from New Zealand (6 per cent) and Germany (5 per cent) in addition to visitors from as far away as Hong Kong and Mexico.

The new on-line shopping facility which became available last month on Lancaster City Council's tourism website is also showing interest from abroad. An order was recently placed by a lady in Philadelphia, USA, for Barry Guise’s new book The Midland Hotel, Morecambe’s White Hope.

“Although this is only a small sample of our visitors, it is clear that overseas visitors enjoy the history of the area and may sometimes be here to trace their roots," feels Coun Abbott Bryning, cabinet member with responsibility for tourism in Lancaster.

“The city has a rich heritage and it is good to see this being appreciated by people from such a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. I am sure that the numbers of visitors from abroad and from across Britain will increase as regeneration proceeds and the new Visitor Information Centre in The Storey building is opened ready for 2009”.

• For a programme of events for the year, information about everything to see and do in the Lancaster district and ideas for short breaks, visit virtual-lancaster or Lancaster City Council’s tourism website: www.citycoastcountryside.

Midge Ure returns to the Platform


One of the UK’s finest vocalists, Midge Ure, will make a welcome return to Morecambe next month.

Midge will be playing at the Platform in Morecambe, on Thursday 7 February as part of his European tour, performing a solo acoustic show.

Midge has scooped both an Ivor Novello and a Grammy award amid a glittering career of achievements as a writer, singer and record producer.

The star has been involved with numerous bands – Slik, The Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy, Ultravox, Visage and, the most famous one off group in history, Band Aid. His songs, ‘Vienna’, ‘Dancing with Tears in My Eyes’, ‘If I Was’ and ‘Do They Know Its Christmas’ show him to be a songwriter with few peers. Midge’s renditions of these songs and his impressive interpretation of the Walker Brothers ‘No Regrets’ demonstrate that he is also a very fine vocalist.

• The show starts at 8pm and Tickets cost £14 adults and £13 concessions, from the Box Office on 01524 582803. Early booking is advised to avoid disappointment.

Top of the class with new gift packs

School children and teachers in Lancaster can now buy visiting students the ideal gift pack to remember their time in the district.

Lancaster Tourist Information Centre (TIC) has launched the new gift pack after regularly receiving requests from local schools for gift ideas to give to exchange students and retiring staff.

The packs can include pens, pencils, key rings, notepads, boxes of chocolates and glassware plus much more. They range from £5 to £10 and can be individually tailored to suit the occasion.

The Lancaster branded gifts are a great way to promote the area and are ideal for student trips and official school visits.

The gift packs and other fantastic gift ideas are available to view on Lancaster City Council's tourism website: www.citycoastcountryside.co.uk/site/books-and-gifts.

Coun Abbott Bryning, cabinet member with responsibility for tourism in Lancaster, said: “This is another great way of promoting the district to visitors. I’m sure exchange students or visitors to schools will be delighted to receive one of these gift packs. ”

For information on buying a pack please contact Lancaster TIC Manager Paula Higgin on 01524 582394 or Visitor Services Officer Allison Thomas on 01524 582397. Alternatively you can contact Lancaster TIC by email at lancastertic@lancaster.gov.uk.

• For a programme of events for the year, information about everything to see and do in the Lancaster district and ideas for short breaks, visit www.citycoastcountryside.co.uk.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Basil of the Caribbean!


Everyone's favourite fox, Basil Brush will be taking to the high seas when he returns to Lancaster City Council`s Morecambe Dome on Friday 22nd February.

Basil and his friends will go on a swashbuckling boom-tastic adventure on the deserted tropical island of Coco-Loco to search for the precious lost treasure 'The Golden Jelly Baby'.

Get along and join in the treasure hunt with singing and dancing, games, magic and loads of laughs – buckets of audience participation guaranteed! But keep an eye out for the pirates – Ooh Arrrrr!

Organier's are calling the show this year's must see for Basil fans old and new – a great giggle for all the family! So if you're a fan of jokes such as “Why do pirates always have a bar of soap?” “So when they`re shipwrecked they can wash themselves ashore!” Ha Ha! Boom Boom!... then this is the event for you.

There will be two performances of this half term treat, 2.00pm and 7.00pm. Tickets cost £10 adults, £8 children or £30 for a family (2 + 2) and available from the Box Office on 01524 582803.

Picture: Basil Brush® © 2007 I Owen/P Firmin/Entertainment Rights PLC

Morecambe's new antiques market

The old Alhambra building on Marine Road West Morecambe is to re open as an indoor antiques market on the 2nd of February.

Morecambe Antiques is a new venture which offers individual stalls and cabinets for rent. Offering high quality original and reproduction antiques with over 200 stalls and cabinets, stocked with a wealth of varying antiques., its owners say they hope to be one of the premier antique trading outlets on the coast and offer free admission to the public.

• Website: www.morecambeantiques.co.uk

Dukes under pressure as funding cuts bite

Concerns are growing for the future of small arts organisations facing savage cut backs in funding as the government diverts funding to the 2012 Olympics. The Dukes is just one organisation under threat but many local arts groups are having a hard time.

Add to that the 2012 Olympics construction project which will host the competition to not find the world's best pharmacists -- it is hoovering up every penny from the Lottery, thus impoverishing the likes of the Dukes, Folly, community events, sporting grants, heritage funds, etc.

The Manchester Guardian reported this week that in December, the Arts Council England sent out letters to the 990 organisations it regularly funds: theatres, festivals, venues, art galleries, dance groups and music production companies. Three-quarters were given some great news: they would see their funding increase from March 2008. For 200 or so others, however, the news was grim: their grants would either stop entirely, or be significantly reduced. They were told they had until this week to put a case to the ACE, which would announce its decisions at the end of january.

With Christmas coming right in the middle of this "response period", the companies had around 18 working days to make their case. For many, it is a fight for survival.

Although some local arts groups are celebrating new funding, such as the Folly - although even there, some workers have lost their jobs - who have done some excellent work in and beyond the district, let's keep our fingers crossed the Dukes will receive more funding.

(News via Pascal - cheers)

Lancaster Library is a Lottery Winner!

As part of its desire to develop libraries as modern cultural hubs, Lancashire County Libraries has won a Big Lottery bid of £1.43 million - and £640,000 of this will be spent on Lancaster Library.

The Library says users can expect fresh, exciting changes, and plans for the new look library will be show in Lancaster Library throughout the week of 28 January 2008, along with a new promotional film.

Two forums will take place on Wednesday 30th January at 5.15 and 7.15 pm, offering an opportunity for users to have their say, discuss views, and look forward to the proposed changes.

• More information from Lancaster Library, telephone 01524 580700 or email lancaster.library@lcl.lancscc.gov.uk
Website: www.myspace.com/yourspacelancaster

Secret Nuclear Talks Revealed


The Independent on Sunday reported this week that the British Government held at least nine secret meetings at Downing Street with the bosses of nuclear energy companies while it formulated controversial plans for a new generation of the power plants.

Heysham Power Station is just one possible location for a new nuclear reactor: plans have been mooted before, although this has consistently been denied in the past couple of years.

The IOS says no official records were kept of the discussions with the companies, which stand to profit from Gordon Brown's announcement last Thursday that he was approving a new generation of nuclear power plants.

The Government initially tried to block details of the meetings requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Read the full story on the IOS web site