Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Balfour Beatty Prosecuted

Big business is not immune from local planning enforcement. Lancaster City Council has successfully prosecuted one of the country’s largest companies for failing to comply with a planning enforcement notice during work in Halton.

On Thursday 17 January, representatives from Balfour Beatty Utilities Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching an enforecement notice when they appeared at Lancaster Magistrates Court.
The court heard that the company had used land near the village of Halton as a construction compound without the necessary planning permission.

Acting on complaints, the council investigated the case and served an enforcement notice on the company.

Although the company eventually complied with the notice, the council still decided to take action as the notice had not been complied with by the specified date.
The council also felt that a strong message needed to be sent out to the community that it is not just small builders and private individuals who will be challenged for falling foul of planning laws.

Following the guilty plea, magistrates fined the company £10,000 and ordered payment of the council’s court costs.

“The community often gets frustrated because planning enforcement action is discretionary - many offences are minor and can be resolved by negotiation," said Coun Eileen Blamire, chairman of the city council’s planning committee. “This sometimes gives the impression that the city council is reluctant to take on difficult cases.

"This prosecution should demonstrate to the public and large development companies that we will only be tolerant to a point. When significant harm occurs, and our requests to resolve the problem are ignored, we will have no hesitation in enforcing the law.“

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Lancashire Post Offices Closure Plans Announced

This is the full list of Lancashire Post Offices that may face closure in the latest round of cuts announced today by the so-called "People's Post Office".

Lancaster and Morecambe has already suffered massive cuts to its sub post office network in recent years, but complaints were met with a "use it or lose it" response from then sitting MP Hilton Dawson.

The six-week public consultation period for this Plan begins on 22 January, 2008, and all representations should be received by 3 March, 2008.
To express their views, people should write to Richard Lynds, Network Development Manager, c/o National Consultation Team, FREEPOST CONSULTATION TEAM, email: consultation@postoffice.co.uk or call the Customer Helpline: 08457 22 33 44.

Locally, one more post office - Bargain Booze on Greaves - is additional to the post offices outined in a leaked list of post office closures published by various local newspapers earlier this month.

Local councillors have already responded angrily to the proposals. Commenting on the proposed closure of the Ridge post office Councillor John Whitelegg described the plans as a kick in the teeth for Ridge residents.

"Local post offices are an essential part of the community and do much more than sell stamps," he says. " The closure of Ridge Sq post office will seriously hurt elderly people, those without a car and all those who need to use local services. This closure is a despicable attack on vulnerable people and local green party councillors will do all in their power to fight it.

“I have contacted the chief executive of the Post Office and invited him to join me with two small children and pushchairs to walk from Ridge Sq Post Office to the nearest alternative Post Office (Ullswater Roadd) This is the only way to appreciate how ridiculous it is to close a valuable local facility.”

Local Offices

Carnforth
Kellet Road, 114 Kellet Road, Carnforth, LA5 9LS

Lancaster
Higher Greaves, Bargain Booze, 2 - 4 Greaves Drive, Lancaster, LA1 4UD
The Ridge, 14 Ridge Square, Lancaster, LA1 3HR

Morecambe
Middleton, 5 Carr Lane, Middleton, Morecambe, LA3 3JQ

Nether Kellet
Nether Kellet, Halton Road, Nether Kellet, Carnforth, LA6 1ES

Yealand Redmayne
Yealand, Village Hall, Footeran Lane, Yealand Redmayne, Carnforth, LA5 9SU

The following local Post Office branches are proposed for replacement by an outreach solution:

Glasson Dock, 14-16 Tithbarn Hill, Glasson Dock, Lancaster, LA2 0BY
Quernmore, Temperance Hotel, Quernmore, Lancaster, LA2 9EH

Other Lancashire Offices
Accrington
Church, 9a Market Street, Church, Accrington, BB5 0DP
Huncoat, 10-12 Station Road, Huncoat, Accrington, BB5 6LS

Bacup
Lee Mill, 95 Newchurch Road, Bacup, OL13 0DH

Barnoldswick
Gisburn Road, 61 Gisburn Road, Barnoldswick, BB18 5HB

Blackburn
Belthorn, 8 Holden Street, Belthorn, Blackburn, BB1 2NU
Preston New Road, 47 Preston New Road, Blackburn, BB2 6AE
St Huberts, 108 Queen Street, Great Harwood, Blackburn, BB6 7AL
Mellor Brook, Branch Road, Mellor Brook, Blackburn, BB2 7NY

Blackpool
North Drive, 216 Victoria Road West, Thornton Cleveleys, Blackpool, FY5 3NG
Red Bank Road, 19-21 Red Bank Road, Bispham, Blackpool, FY2 9HN
St Annes Road, 1 Harcourt Road, Blackpool, FY4 3ET
Torsway Avenue, 39 Torsway Avenue, Layton, Blackpool, FY3 8LD
Great Singleton, Lodge Lane, Singleton, Blackpool, FY6 8LS

Bolton
Turton, 87 Wellington Road, Turton, Bolton, BL7 0EA

Burnley
Cheapside, 702 Padiham Road, Burnley, BB12 6LG
Hapton, 31 Church Street, Hapton, Burnley, BB12 7LA
Higham, 2 Cross Street, Higham, Burnley, BB12 9HD
Parliament Street, 70 Parliament Street, Burnley, BB11 3JZ
Piccadilly Road, 32 Piccadilly Road, Burnley, BB11 4PU
Walk Mill, 19-21 Park Road, Cliviger, Burnley, BB10 4SL

Catforth
Catforth, The Poultry Farm, Square Lane, Catforth, Preston, PR4 0HH

Chorley
Bolton Road, 91-93 Bolton Street, Chorley, PR7 3AG
Chapel Lane, 118 Chapel Lane, Coppull, Chorley, PR7 4PN
Charnock Richard, Houghs Mini Market, 71 Church Lane, Charnock Richard, Chorley, PR7 5NA
Eccleston Bridge, 106 Towngate, Eccleston, Chorley, PR7 5QS
Withnell Mill, 20 Bury Lane, Withnell, Chorley, PR6 8RX

Clitheroe
Newton-in-Bowland, Salisbury Bungalow, Newton-in-Bowland, Clitheroe, BB7 3DZ

The following Post Office branches are proposed for replacement by an outreach solution:

Bashall Eaves, Old School House, Rabbit Lane, Bashall Eaves, Clitheroe, BB7 3DB
Bolton-by-Bowland, 2 Main Street, Bolton By Bowland, Clitheroe, BB7 4NW

Colne
Foulridge, Glenwynn Causeway, Foulridge, Colne, BB8 7PH

Darwen
Sunnyhurst, 99 Hindle Street, Darwen, BB3 1NF

Elswick
Elswick (temporarily closed), Burton House Stores, High Street, Elswick, Preston, PR4 3ZB

Fleetwood
Lighthouse, 66 North Albert Street, Fleetwood, FY7 6AR

Leyland
Bent Lane, 63 Bent Lane, Leyland, PR25 4HR

Lytham St. Annes
Warton Street, 65 Warton Street, Lytham St Annes, FY8 5DG

Nelson
Barkerhouse Road, 75 Barkerhouse Road, Nelson, BB9 9ET
Carr Hall, 22 Bedford Street, Barrowford, Nelson, BB9 6DA
Hill Place, 12 Hill Place, Nelson, BB9 0QB

Ormskirk
Shirdley Hill, 55 Renacres Lane, Ormskirk, L39 8SG

Poulton le Fylde
Hodderway, 2 Hardhorn Way, Poulton Le Fylde, Blackpool, FY6 8AE

Preston
The Evening Post revealed earlier this month that offices at Broughton and Bilsborrow on Preston's rural fringe and Plungington in the city have all received letters telling them they are safe.

Acregate Lane, 2 Ribbleton Avenue, Preston, PR1 5RY
Deepdale Road, 209 Deepdale Road, Preston, PR1 6LJ
Hutton, Village Store, 167 Liverpool Road, Hutton, Preston, PR4 5FE
Manchester Road, 186 Selbourne Street, Preston, PR1 4LB
Moor Nook, 50 Pope Lane, Ribbleton, Preston, PR2 6JN
Churchtown, Maycroft, The Green, Churchtown, Preston, PR3 0HS
Rawcliffe, Whin Lane, Out Rawcliffe, Preston, PR3 6TH
Billington, 1 Bonny Grass Terrace, Billington, Clitheroe, BB7 9LY
Samlesbury, 4 St James Terrace, Samlesbury, Preston, PR5 0UT
Mere Brow, 27 The Gravel, Mere Brow, Preston, PR4 6JX
Much Hoole, 2 Smithy Lane, Much Hoole, Preston, PR4 4GN

The following Post Office branches are proposed for replacement by an outreach solution:

Calder Vale, Victoria Terrace, Calder Vale, Preston, PR3 1SJ
Chipping, 20-22 Talbot Street, Chipping, Preston, PR3 2QE

Rossendale
Longshoot, 19 Birch Avenue, Haslingden, Rossendale, BB4 5NF

Southport
Churchtown, 38 Manor Road, Southport, PR9 7LE
Forest Road, 5 Forest Road, Southport, PR8 6ST

Wigan
Mossy Lea, 273 Mossy Lea Road, Wrightington, Wigan, WN6 9RN

Monday, 21 January 2008

John Otway back at the Platform

John Otway and his band will be performing at The Platform in Morecambe on Friday 8 February.

John became notorious back in 1977, after an appearance on the the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test with his former partner, Wild Willy Barrett. He had leapt astride Wild Willy's amplifier and lost his footing. One leg slipped on one side of the sturdy wooden piece of musical equipment and the other leg down the other. The whole weight of Otway's body crashed down on his most delicate parts.

This sort of behaviour went down exceedingly well with the punk audiences of the time. Otway was rewarded with a recording contract – worth a million in today's money – his first hit and a sizeable live audience. Over the years his following steadily grew and by 1988 he was able to boast that ticket touts were doing a roaring trade for his show at the Albert Hall.

Subsequently to this, as a run up to the Millenium, the BBC ran a poll to find the nation's favourite song lyric from the last 2000 years. Otway was as shocked as many other to discover that "Beware of the Flowers Cause I'm Sure They're Going To Get You, Yeah" - the B-side to his first hit - was voted Number 7, coming above artists like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.

Over the years, John's fan base has remained loyal and 25 years after his first hit "Cor Baby That's Really Free" he had his second hit and was finally in the Top Ten in 2002 with "Bunsen Burner", appearing on Top of The Pops for the first time.

John last performed in Morecambe at the Platform as part of the Punk Festival, where he played to a very enthusiastic full house.

• The show will start at 8pm and tickets cost £12 adults, £11 concessions, and are available from the Box Office on 01524 582803.

Council Could do More for Cycling

Welcoming news of new government funding for cycling, local transport expert and local councillor John Whitelegg says there are things that could easily be done to encourage more cycling in what is already a Cycling Town – but local politicians lack the will to implement them.

The North West could soon join a national cycling revolution, after Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, invited towns and cities across the region to bid for a record £140 million fund to help a generation rediscover their bikes.

The government hopes its ambitious new drive to boost cycling over the next three years as part of the Government's forthcoming Obesity Strategy will create more opportunities for exercise as well as helping to tackle road congestion and improve air quality.

“This is good news," feels John, “but government at all levels still does not get the main point about cycling. If we really want to encourage cycling in Lancaster, there are several things we could do but the highway authority, Lancashire County Council, will not do them.”

His suggestions include a blanket 20mph speed limit on every residential road - already agreed but not fully implemented councy council policy - and make sure the police enforce it. “The police are supposed to work to a democratic remit through the police authority and through PACT,” John notes.

Locally, “you could also make make Common Garden Street a contra flow cycle path so cyclists can get through town and on to the Middle Street/ Fenton route to the railway station and Marsh area," John proposes. “The one-way system is an enormous turn-off for cycling and it should be abolished.

“People should also stop parking on cycle lanes. The cycle lane on King Street is occupied by parked vehicles at many times in the day.”

John also suggests the County Council should build safe and segregated cycle routes to all our secondary schools (nationally, the government’s new funding will help build another 250 Safe Links to Schools, connecting around 500 more schools to the National Cycle Network).
National government should make it possible to take bikes on buses and trains.

“We should also stop the ridiculous system of giving city council staff and councillors a free gift of about £500 per anumn if they use a car but nothing at all if they cycle,” he argues. “The £500 is the difference between the costs of a general all-car park parking permit in Lancaster to citizens and to Council people.

“This is a job for the City Council.”

The new money will create up to a further 10 Cycling Demonstration Towns in England, as well as the first large Demonstration City. In just one year the six current Cycling Demonstration Towns, including Lancaster and Morecambe, achieved an average 20 per cent increase in cycle trips.

The government says this new programme of funding has been influenced by the very good value for money which the current Cycling Town projects exhibit, according to economic research by Cycling England (www.cyclingengland.co.uk).

Cycling England will be seeking bids for the new Cycle Demonstration Towns and City in spring 2008/9. Following a period of planning, the major investment will begin the following year.

Speed limits unchanged one year on

Despite supporting the introduction of a district-wide speed limit on residential roads early last year, little seems to have been done to implement it by local politicians.

Last January, a joint committee of County and City councillors (Lancashire Locals-Lancaster) debated a proposal from Green councillors to adopt a 20mph speed limit on every residential road in Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham. The proposal was amended by Labour councillors and passed unanimously -- and all councillors from all political parties agreed to the 20mph limit.

It is now one year since that decision was taken and Lancashire County Council has done nothing to put it into practice and nothing to put it out to public consultation.

“The County Council has shown that it cares nothing for local democracy and even less for the safety and welfare of thousands of children and elderly people who are exposed to traffic danger on a daily basis in this district," feels City councillor John Whitelegg, also an internationally-regarded expert in transport matters. " So today, I've sent a birthday card to County Councillor Hazel Harding (leader of the County Council) reminding her that this decision is one year old and that we are still waiting for action”.

There are currently around 3,200 road deaths annually in the UK, compared with more than 7,000 a year in the 1960s.

Last November, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts) issued a report arguing that reducing speed limits in towns would help save lives. A survey by the Transport Research Laboratory of 20mph zones across the UK and in other European countries found child road accidents fell by 67%, cyclist accidents by 29% and traffic flow by 27%. The report claimed a default speed of 20mph in built-up areas would help halve the number of deaths on Britain's roads within the next few years.

The "Beyond 2010" report also called for greater enforcement of 20mph zones through a new generation of speed cameras.

Robert Gifford, executive director of Pacts, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that reducing speed limits in towns would help save lives with lower speed limits leading to fewer people being killed or injured as well as environmental benefits.

Response to the report was mixed with some arguing better road design and less regulation but better driver education would have better results than imposing more speed regulation.

Lancaster in (Tourist) Demand

Lancaster City Council is preparing to launch its tourism brochures for 2008 and judging by requests made for them via its tourism website, they’re already in great demand.

Featuring a fine combination of nationally accredited accommodation, great photography and useful ideas of places to visit and eat out across Morecambe, Lancaster and the Lune Valley, the Council holiday guide continues to act as a popular marketing tool for the area (as well as virtual-lancaster, of course!).

For 2008 there are a number of new businesses to enhance the holiday guide, including the recently refurbished Penny Street Bridge in Lancaster, a contemporary blend of bar, food and stylish bedrooms.

The events flyer detailing key events for the year, is particularly helpful for tourism businesses, who can use it to supplement their own information for visitors or give out to guests on arrival.

The third publication, the attractions brochure, promotes the wealth of places to visit in the district including family attractions, historic buildings and outdoor pursuits. It also includes useful maps and location information.

“Despite the growing use of the internet, our brochures are still a very important part of marketing the district," feels Coun Abbott Bryning, cabinet member with responsibility for tourism in Lancaster, "and enquiries for these publications are increasing by the month, including potential visitors to Lancaster from abroad.

"The Lancaster district has much to offer the visitor, so brochures such as these are crucial to the promotion of the area.”

Coun June Ashworth, Lancaster City Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for tourism in Morecambe said: “With the development of new businesses, the re-opening of the Midland Hotel [on 1st June] and the exciting regeneration work across the district, 2008 promises to be an exciting year for tourism in our city, coast and countryside.”

• For a copy of any of the new free publications telephone (01524) 582808, call in to Morecambe or Lancaster Tourist Information Centres or visit www.citycoastcountryside.co.uk.

Lawson's Field Update

The City Council’s cabinet will be voting on whether to go ahead with selling off fields at Lawson’s Bridge (view a PDF map; view an aerial photo) on Tuesday 22 January at 10.00am in Morecambe Town Hall.

If you are free that morning, campaigners against the plans, who include Green councillors, are urging people to help to make councillors aware of the high level of public concern about this by joining the protest from 9.00am at Morecambe Town Hall, and observing the meeting.

Please also email the cabinet members – details at www.lancastergreenparty.org.uk/campaigns/lawsons-bridge.

"Although the large number of emails sent to them in October didn’t appear to make much difference, there are signs that some of them are starting to feel the pressure from concerned residents and shift their positions somewhat (especially the Lib Dems)," says councillor Emily Heath.

At the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 17th January 2008, the draft tender brief for marketing Lawson’s Bridge was looked at in some detail.

The cabinet had asked officers to draw up a general brief (not mentioning a food store or other specific use), although the original cabinet report on 9 October 2007 was focused entirely on selling the land for a food store, and councillors were told that the £4m estimate for the value of the land in the Council’s capital budget was based mainly on retail value – although it could apply to other uses as well, such as housing.

"Councillor Sheila Denwood (Labour, Scotforth West) gave a speech about how she’s always having to get the Council to clear up litter and dog poo on the path behind Ray’s Drive (I'm not sure what relevance that has to selling it)," says Emily, "and expressed a view that public concern about the land can’t be very high because otherwise there would have been far more members of the public at the meeting. (It was pointed out to her that the recent public meeting in Scotforth Parish Hall was packed!). She also claimed that the idea that the land will be sold for a supermarket is just a myth."

With Booths engaged in expansion plans across the North West and Tescos continued expansion, Denwood's claims should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. (At the Scotforth meeting Tim Hamilton Cox, from Lancaster's It's Our City Group, suggested the potential impact on existing food shops in Lancaster. He also gave details of residents groups around the country who are opposing Tesco’s attempts to bulldoze their way into their towns.).

"The land will be advertised in the general property press and local press, not targeted at a specific sector," Emily erxplains. "However, the cabinet will inevitably be influenced by which bids have the most chance of getting planning permission (even though they’re not explicitly taking planning considerations into account) because the Council only gets the full capital receipt upon completion of the development, and has budgeted for this to happen by 2011.

"I commented that a housing development would be highly unlikely to get planning permission in the foreseeable future because there are strong policies against the release of greenfield sites for housing in this part of the country.

"Coun Susan Bray (Conservative) implied that the local community would be welcome to put in a bid to buy the land for public open space (so shall we have a quick whip-round to raise the four million?!). She also claimed that land can either be used for grazing or for public access – not both - which made me wonder whether she’s ever been for a walk in the countryside. Her Conservative colleague Coun Ken Brown stated that the land is ‘white land’, not a ‘green field’ … (I think he meant it’s not protected as green BELT).

"Several members of the public spoke about what the fields mean to them, about the lack of public consultation and joined-up thinking about the needs of the community, and about the Council being custodian of assets on behalf of the community (including for future generations), so it shouldn’t automatically sell off any assets that are not essential to the Council’s current operational requirements.

"Tim Hamilton-Cox raised issues about alternative ways of funding the capital programme, the covenant on the neighbouring land (which may still allow the Council to control the type of development and claim a 40 per cent clawback of any increase in value since the Council sold it) and the legality of the Council not choosing the highest bidder if there is a gap of more than two million between that and the winning bid.

"The Green members of the committee proposed that the cabinet should not approve the tender documents and not sell the land. This was defeated 6-3, though the fact that Lib Dem Councillor Stuart Langhorn voted with us shows that there has been some progress since October. Coun Janie Kirkman (Lib Dem, Scotforth East) also had a statement read out in her absence saying that the traffic impacts of a supermarket would be bad, and she supports looking into designating the land for a town green."

The Greens then proposed that the community woodland containing the footpath adjacent to Ray’s Drive should be removed from the area to be sold, that the Council should make the footpath a statutory public right of way, and that the Council should retain a narrow ransom strip to the south.

This was voted through, along with a motion to submit all the comments made in the meeting to cabinet for their perusal.

WHAT CAN YOU DO...
• Visit the Green Party's Lawson's Field Campaign Page:
www.lancastergreenparty.org.uk/campaigns/lawsons-bridge.
• Support this campaign by contacting Coun Emily Heath (Tel: 01524 380169
or email: emily”AT”heath.greenisp.org
Email your comments to these cabinet members:

Roger Mace - rmace@lancaster.gov.uk
Tony Johnson - ajohnson@lancaster.gov.uk
Eileen Blamire - eblamire@lancaster.gov.uk
Abbot Bryning - abryning@lancaster.gov.uk
Evelyn Archer - earcher@lancaster.gov.uk
David Kerr - dkerr@lancaster.gov.uk
June Ashworth - jashworth@lancaster.gov.uk
John Gilbert - jgilbert@lancaster.gov.uk

• Support the Friends of the Earth campaign against a proposed change to planning rules which would make it even easier for supermarkets to be built. FOE Real Food Campaign