Friday, 6 March 2009

Centros Scheme: Objections Deadline Looms

(Updated 8/3/09): The deadline to submit objections to the proposed Centros development for Lancaster's Canal Corridor is Monday 9th March.

Developers Centros have not yet submitted their case, but the deadline for them to do so has been extended to March 13th which means that they can still submit, so the inquiry still looks to be going ahead at this stage.

Even though Centros is experiencing difficulties elsewhere, campaigners against present plans, who have suggested alternative uses for the site, are determined to keep up the pressure against the proposed development.

"If Centros see hundreds of people objecting, it will be a huge hurdle that might just be enough to put them off," commented one campaigner.

Last month, Centros told virtual-lancaster that they had no comment to make at this stage on their plans. "We will make a statement about the inquiry at the appropriate time," said Centros spokesperson Steve Bryson.

Despite the economic downturn, Centros has opened its development in Bury St. Edmunds and almost two thirds of the 265,000 sq ft scheme is now open and trading and is currently just under 90% let, including the Debenhams store. Property Week reports the remaining confirmed retailers will open in the next few weeks. Tenants include Top Shop, Next and H&M with 62 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments now on offer, situated above the retailers.
• Any correspondence concerning the Canal Corridor application should be sent to the Planning Inspectorate at:- The Planning Inspectorate PINS SAC(B)Room 3/17, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN. Their telephone number is 0117 372 8918 and fax 0117 372 8181.

Links
It's Our City Campaign Site
Centros' Castle View Development Site
Council Regeneration Strategy documents on the council web site (PDF files)

Dome, Citizens Advice and Toilets Gain Cuts Reprieve

Lancaster City Council set its revenue budget for 2009/10 this week, with a Full Council Meeting reversing an earlier decision to close Morecambe Dome, keeping open all but two public toilets that had been ear marked for closure and removing the proposed £20,000 cut to Lancaster and Morecambe Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Setting the budget at £23.999 million, Council accepted many of the recommendations prepared by Cabinet but also made a number of changes, which include:
  • Keeping The Dome in Morecambe open for the 2009/10 season.Morecambe councillors argued The Platform is too small to host major events in the town, ignoring the fact that the venue is scheduled to be closed anyway in the near future despite this decision
  • Removing the £20,000 cut to Lancaster and Morecambe Citizens Advice Bureaux in 2009/10. There will therefore be no cuts to the funding they receive next year and will be given a grant totalling £182,800. Keeping open all but two toilets. The only toilets to close will be at the end of Regent Road and on the promenade outside The Dome in Morecambe. That decision followed an investigation by the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee just one day before the Full Council meeting which rejected the proposal for the adoption of a 'Richmond Scheme' which would have seen toilets replaced by access to local business 'facilities'. Councillors argued the cuts were disproportinate
  • Retaining the Catch the Wind kite festival and Sandcastle Festival instead of the Lancaster Jazz Festival which will not now take place in 2009.
  • Restoring £20,000 of the £40,000 reduction to The Dukes in Lancaster. The theatre will now receive £147,800 instead of the previously proposed £127,800.
The Lancaster Guardian reports that some of the extra cash to keep the Dome and public toilets open was found from a £1.1million council fund used for art and leisure provision.

“In common with other public bodies we were faced with tough choices when setting our budget," commented Coun Abbott Bryning, Leader of Lancaster City Council. “The recession has impacted heavily on our finances and because we have less money coming in we have less to spend.

“Inevitably this has meant that some services we may had wanted to maintain or expand have had to be scaled back or ended completely.

“These choices have had to make to balance our books and ensure we provide a set of good quality core services which can continue to operate effectively.”

Cuts agreed by the Council's Cabinet and accepted by Full Council include
  • Scrapping Lancaster's International Youth Games
  • Salt Ayre Sports Centre will have its budget cut by 10% -- £119,000. The Council is looking at ways to reduce costs at the Centre but the cut could mean it will close for two days a week
  • Reductions in mowing at Lancaster Cemetery and on Broadway Bridge, Morecambe.
  • £400 cut to the Mayoral budget
  • Scrapping the Festivals Innovation Fund
  • Cuts to 15 other organisations including charities and arts bodies
  • Scrapping plans to introduce school recycling
Council has previously set next year’s increase in Council Tax at 4%. This means that from April 2009 Lancaster City Council’s proportion of Council Tax will be around £3.56 a week on average.

The city council retains around 13% of the total Council Tax bill with the remainder going to Lancashire County Council (74%) Lancashire Police Authority (9%) and Lancashire Combined Fire Authority (4%).

These authorities have increased their precepts as follows:

  • Lancashire County Council: 2.9%
  • Lancashire Police Authority: 4.5%
  • Lancashire Combined Fire Authority: 3.74%

In addition, residents living in parished areas pay a precept to their parish council. Excluding Parish precepts the overall basic Band D increase in Council Tax will be 3.22%.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Heysham Wind Turbine Plans Revealed

BT Wind TurbineLancaster City Council has received a planning application to erect two wind turbines and ancillary equipment on land to the north of the existing BT Radio Station mast at Fanny House Farm, Heysham. It is now seeking comment on the plans from the public.

While the project is now facing a rethink (see below), BT first announced its plans to erect the turbines back in January and is an integral part of BT’s wider ‘Wind for Change Project’, part of the company’s national renewable energy delivery programme for wind turbine development at this and other locations across the UK. Further applications are expected during the first half of 2009 for up to nine wind turbines at Red Gap near Hartlepool and for two wind turbines on BT’s site at Goonhilly, Cornwall.

BT's renewable electricity programme aims to develop wind farms with a 250 MW total capacity, to offset around 25% of its existing UK electricity requirements by 2016.

The proposed turbines at Heysham will have the capacity to generate up to 5MW of electricity, saving over 4,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

Wireframe image of how the proposed turbines might look from Walker Grove, Heysham, taken from the submitted plansWireframe image of how the proposed turbines might look from Walker Grove, Heysham, taken from the submitted plans

Wireframe image of how the proposed turbines might look from the A683 westbound, taken from the submitted plansWireframe image of how the proposed turbines might look from the A683 westbound, taken from the submitted plans

The deadline for consultation responses is 23rd March 2009 but the Council has already received early comments on the scheme, arguing the plans which could threaten local wildlife and prove an unsightly "blot on the landcscape."

"The position of these turbines are detrimental to the wild life of an area of natural beauty and adjacent to a protected area," feels Heysham resident Max Pemberton. "The woods nearby have a bat colony and these are known to suffer from the noise of the turbines. Ducks and geese are frequently seen to overfly the area."

For human residents in Heysham there are technical issues, too. "The current BT Tower is already noted for disturbing the local Sky TV signals and the Turbines will do likewise," Mr Pemberton feels. "We can a see one other Wind Turbine Farm from our bedroom and we certainly do not need another."

Whatever the result of the planning process, it appears the entire 'Wind for Change' project may well not proceed. Earlier this month, it was revealed BT was rethinking plans for its own £250m wind farm due to concerns that the government's labyrinthine subsidy scheme would prevent the resulting power counting towards BT's reduction in carbon emissions.

Speaking to BusinessGreen.com, the company's chief sustainability officer Dr Chris Tuppen confirmed reports that the board was looking again at the viability of the scheme, which is capable of providing a quarter of the company's power.

The company says the rules governing the imminent Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) cap-and-trade scheme means it won't be able use the renewable energy from the project to reduce its reported carbon emissions.

• Plans, supporting statements and application documents are available to view online on the PublicAccess system by following this link to search results in the Planning Applications section of www.lancaster.gov.uk. If that link doesn't work, the application number is 09/00155/FUL.

A public computer is available in Palatine Hall, Dalton Square, Lancaster for those without access to the internet and hard copies of documents are available for viewing in the Customer Service Centre at Morecambe Town Hall.

• Comments can be made either via the Submit Comments button on PublicAccess, via email to dcconsultation@lancaster.gov.uk or in writing to Development Control Team, PO Box 4, Town Hall, Lancaster, LA1 1QR.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Labour Group Has Own Budget Plans for Council

Lancaster City Council’s Labour Group has revealed it is making a last minute attempt to set a budget that it says will be fair to the whole district and which it hopes will heal the Morecambe-Lancaster divide that has emerged in current debates.

Labour Group leader Councillor Eileen Blamire said that they would announce their plans at the budget Council meeting on Wednesday, which has to agree £1.7 million in cost saving that currently include rural toilet closures, cuts in funding for The Dukes and Citizens Advice (see news story)

“We have listened carefully to public opinion on such matters as the proposed closure of public toilets, cuts to the Duke’s Theatre, support for festivals, and reductions for the two Citizens Advice Bureaux," says Eileen, who is a supporter of the cash-guzzling Northern Bypass which will cost tax payers over £120 million and acheive no lasting benefit to local transport woes. "Our plans seek to unite the whole district and do not play off Lancaster against Morecambe or vice-versa.”

She added that the time was now right to heal wounds, not deepen them -- but then proceeded to lambast other political groups on the Council.

Councillor Blamire believes that Labour is in the strongest position to speak for the whole district following the shock resignation four weeks ago of council leader Roger Mace, maintaining that this had left the Tory group “rudderless”, while the Morecambe Bay Independents are "vindictive" towards Lancaster, and the Greens are championing "unworkable" solutions.

New council leader Abbot Bryning -- who voted for some of the proposed cuts in services at Cabinet and is due to be hauled up before the Overview and Scrutiny Committee today over proposed toilet closures -- will unveil the details at Wednesday’s council meeting at what is expected to be a stormy and protracted debate, with standing orders suspended to allow councillors longer time to speak on particular issues.