Friday, 8 January 2010

Cycling Advice for Chilled out Cyclists!

The local adverse weather conditions in the Lancaster and Morecambe area might put off many people from venturing out, but some cyclists are braving the worst.

Lancaster's Celebrating Cycling organisation advises that at present, local main roads are currently rideable with care. "We advise that you ride well out from the gutter where there may be an accumulation of ice and snow," says a spokesperson. "Many side roads and cycle paths are currently covered with a layer of compressed snow/ice, so take extra care in these areas."

Top Tips for Winter Cycling:


• Ride more slowly, keep your weight stable and on the back wheel, and don't lean into turns as much. Stay the course and keep pedalling--your bike wants to stay upright, and momentum will help it.

• Brake with great care, and principally with the back brake

• Know your route so you can anticipate potential hazards

• When it is wet or icy, make turns much more gradually

Road CC’s tips for cycling on ice and snow

Bikeradar.com – how to ride in snow

Bike for All – winter cycling

Refuse and recycling collections hit by bad weather

The continuing severe weather conditions has meant Lancaster City Council has been unable to make refuse and recycling collections in some areas of the district between Monday 4th January and Friday 8th January, so there are now some changes to collection dates next week (beginning 11th January).

Residents whose collections of refuse and recycling have been missed should leave their bins and boxes out for collection from the morning of Monday 11th January and the council will endeavour to collect them during the course of the week.

In order to prioritise these missed collections, green garden waste will not be collected. Residents should refer to their collection calendar for their next scheduled green garden waste collection.

Anyone with extra recycling due to the missed collections should:

• Place all glass inside the green recycling boxes (no broken glass)

• Cut or fold cardboard down to the size of the recycling box

• Place cans, paper and plastic bottles in carrier bags at the side of the recycling boxes.

Please ensure items are kept separate e.g. one carrier bag for paper, one for cans, one for plastic bottles.

Any additional non-recyclable waste should be put into refuse sacks and placed at the side of your grey wheeled bin for collection.

The city council will endeavour to complete as many collections as possible but this will be dependent on the weather.

• Updates on collection arrangements will be posted on the council's website, www.lancaster.gov.uk.

Celebrate the Year of the Tiger

Tiger.JPGWe may be deep in cold weather torpor now, but by the end of February, we're sure everyone will be in the mood to join friends and family to welcome in 2010 - the Year of the Tiger - at Lancaster's festival for Chinese and Asian culture.

Organised by Hua Xian Chinese Society, Lancaster will come alive with an exciting programme of live entertainment, art, delicious food, gift and community stalls, alongside other fun activities celebrating the Chinese New Year. The events line up includes a Double Lion Dance and Workshop, offering a spectacular display with the Traditional Chinese Lion Dance roaring into town to kick off celebrations and a performance from a Traditional Chinese Orchestra, organised by More Music in Morecambe. They're bringing the local Chinese Ensemble together to play traditional Chinese instruments like the Yangqin, Erhu, Pipa, Ruan and Dizi.

Other events include music from the Folk'd Up Live Music Band, a folk collective based in Leeds playing traditional and roots music from around the world who will play a special set of Chinese songs with a few surprises thrown in.

• For more information visit http://lancasterchinesenewyear.cbkenterprise.com

Snow makes parts of Lancaster no go for drivers, pedestrians



Several of Lancaster's hillier streets have become no-go to vehicles, except to happily sliding bin lid kids, as unfortunate drivers have discovered how slippery the white stuff really gets. In Aberdeen Road, a van came to an abrupt halt as it slid into the side of a house, with help from the vehicle behind (see pic). Think on folks.

We're also told many taxi drivers are now refusing to pick up from addresses on some estates worst hit by the lack of gritting on safety grounds.

The City Council has now undertaken some priority gritting of pedestrian areas which the County has no policy to service. After we reported that City Council staff were gritting the Millennium Bridge yesterday, the Council has issued a statement explaining its role in duties that should be carried out by County.

"Lancashire County Council is responsibile for gritting public highways and pavements," a spokesperson told virtual-lancaster. "Due to the severe nature of the current conditions, city council staff are assisting wherever possible.

"The county council has a list of priority routes for gritting and we are helping to keep these areas clear on their behalf.

"In addition, we are clearing areas of our own land where it is beneficial to do so. The Millennium Bridge is owned by the city council and due to the nature of the structure, and it being an area of high pedestrian footfall, we have used a special chemical to clear it of ice."

Green Councillors have put forward a motion for Full Council on 3rd February, congratulating the hard working staff that undertook gritting operations over the Christmas New Year period and proposing that in future, the County Council provide a comprehensive network of grit bins throughout the district and ensure they are filled before the start of the winter
gritting period.

The proposal aims to set a way forward for future cold spells, bearing in mind the difficulties experienced by thousands of our residents and taxpayers and that resource constraints do not allow for every path to be gritted by council staff.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

City Council, Police Help Out in Snow Chaos

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Lancashire County Council may have left its taxpayers in the lurch if they don't live on an A-road or want to use pavements safely - but other local agencies have been working all out to keep the area going. Lancaster City Council, for example, had workers out this morning gritting the Millennium Bridge and cycle path, to the obvious relief of pedestrians. (Although we're still bemused by the apparent lack of gritting of the town centre yesterday).

Meanwhile, police officers across Lancashire’s Northern Division have been making extra efforts to help residents who have been put in difficult – and sometimes life threatening - situations due to the recent heavy snow.

On 2nd January, a 62-year-old man from Poulton was reported missing from home, having left his address in only pyjamas and a fleece. Following a search, PC Vinny Heaton and PC Tony Jennings found the man face down in undergrowth in Brockholes Wood. He was semi conscious and suffering from hypothermia, having been outside for nine hours. The man was airlifted to Royal Preston Hospital.

“Clearly the actions of the officers in locating this man and providing initial first aid have prevented the loss of life, commented Supt Richard Spedding.

On Tuesday, a man in his seventies was reported missing after having gone out two hours earlier in Lancaster to warm up his car. He was eventually found in Langthwaite Road by PC Barry Lees and Andy Massingham. The pensioner had lost control of his car on the icy road and had collided with a wall. With no mobile phone and no other means of getting help he had been stranded for an hour before the officers were able to take him home safely.

Other good deeds have included a PCSO and a PC assisted a pregnant woman who had started to have contractions after slipping and falling in the snow, also on Tuesday.

On the same day, PCSO Keith Russell was on patrol in Thornton when he found the 35-weeks pregnant woman, who had fallen outside a school in Hey Street and was being helped by two members of the public. He and PC Mark Holden, who wrapped the woman in his police jacket, then waited with her for 45 minutes until the ambulance arrived.

Throughout the ordeal the woman was having increasingly more frequent contractions, although these stopped when she arrived at Blackpool Hospital. She is now being kept in for observation.

On the same day, while out on patrol PC Ewan Burford and PC Stu Thompson discovered a milk tanker stuck in a ditch on Chapel Lane, Out Rawcliffe. A farmer had offered to help tow it out, but could not get any traction due to the side on the road. The officers scraped the ice away from the tyres then spread soil on the cleared patch, enabling the tractor to finally pull the wagon out and back on to the road.

Sgt James Martin followed a car that had been weaving across the road in Carnforth on Christmas Day. The elderly driver had a virus and was being sick, making him unsafe to drive any further. Sgt Martin offered the driver and his wife a lift home and then spent 40 minutes transferring the pensioners and their presents across the icy road to his vehicle, before moving their car to a safe place and then delivering them safely home. Unfortunately, he then caught the virus himself!

"Quite rightly, the public expect the police to assist in all circumstances and the recent cold and snowy conditions are no exceptions," commented Supt Spedding. "The incidents mentioned have shown once more the dedication of officers to local communities especially where they have prevented obvious fatal consequences. Let’s not forget that the police also have to cope with the treacherous conditions not only in getting to work but also to conduct their duties.

"I am extremely grateful to the vast majority within our communities who took sensible precautions during the bad weather which decreased our workload to a manageable level. However, there are plenty of examples where members of the public have acted in a reckless manner and not considered the fact that during bad weather life does not go on as normal.

"The snow has also assisted us in detecting crime as fortunately some criminals forget that you leave tracks in snow which has assisted us to track them down and prosecute them!"

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Canal Corridor Public Meeting Announced

Development campaign group It's Our City are to hold a public meeting on Tuesday 19th January to consider the main elements of the inspector's report which led to the dismissal by the Secretary of State of the Centros applications for the Canal Corridor North Site at the Public Inquiry.

"We also do need to discuss a positive way forward for the development of this site," said a spokesperson.

More info: www.itsourcity.org.uk

No change on County' "no pavement gritting" policy

As pavements became ice rinks this morning as snow froze overnight, there was no good news for pedestrians facing ungritted pavements in the local area.

As we reported yesterday, local Green councillors have condemned Lancashire County Council's lack of gritting of pavements. Unlike many other councils, it makes little provision for such action and there is no likelihood the policy will be revised in time to benefit taxpayers.

County Council policies are subject to regular review through the democratic process winter maintenance policy was reviewed in September last year by the Sustainable Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee (this link to the county council web site includes the agenda and report).

Based on its overall findings, the issue of gritting pavements would seem, in part, due to a lack of funding for such action.The report reveals that, confronted with the worst winter weather in 30 years last year (2008-09), the total cost of carrying out the winter service was £5.2m, £1m over the budget that was set aside for this service. (The overspend was largely contained within the overall budget for highway maintenance).

While the outcome of that Winter Service Review does not seem to have been published (or if it has, it is not in an obvious location on the County Council's web site), under current arrangements, the Council's first priority is to try to keep the main roads free of obstruction from snow and ice. These roads form the pre-cautionary gritting routes which receive treatment based on the weather forecasts received from the national Met Office, roadside weather stations and staff inspections.

Some footways receive incidental gritting when there are no parked vehicles, but no footways are specifically included in the pre-cautionary routes.

The good news is that there is a list of priority footways and secondary routes that receive treatment in periods of prolonged icing. The bad news is that these will be gritted only in daylight hours and only if resources are available, and a list of which routes should be gritted does not seem to be available on the County Council web site - unlike other councils, who publish details of what routes they should be gritting.

virtual-lancaster has also learnt that on the 22nd December - just as snow was beginning to grip the area for the first time this winter - there was a County wide instruction not to fill grit bins that could be used on pavements, due to the state of existing salt stocks which are being reserved for keeping priority traffic routes open.

This means that there will be no filling of grit bins for the foreseeable future or until salt stocks can be built up to give some resilience.

The County Council is, of course, facing a difficult situation. The threat to the
main roads has been such that resources have been fully employed in trying to keep the pre-cautionary routes open and as a result the Council says it has not been able to fall back on the priority footways and secondary routes as much as they would have liked.

It seems unlikely, then, that any pavements will be gritted - although the Council has, as we reported, gritted its own properties, such as White Cross - and the Council will not be in a position to take action for some time.

"The County Council with its many fine policy documents on how much it promotes, celebrates and values walking and cycling does not grit walking and cycling routes," notes local councillor John Whitelegg, who has raised the issue of problems for the elderly on estates like Lancaster's Bath Mill, many of whom have reportedly been rendered housebound because of the conditions> "The proof of the pudding is in the lack of gritting."

The bottom line if you're a pedestrian or cyclist? Keep your fingers crossed for a thaw...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Dog, drugs and cash seized during Skerton raid

Police seized a suspected dangerous dog, drugs and cash during a raid on a house in Lancaster yesterday.

The four-year-old suspected pitbull was confiscated by officers after they executed a dangerous dogs warrant at a property in Noel Road, Skerton, at around 1.00pm on Monday 4th January.

Around £300 worth of cannabis bush and around £500 in cash was also discovered at the address and a 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possessing a class B drug. He has been released on bail pending further inquiries.

The dog will be examined by an expert to determine its exact breed.

Yesterday’s activity follows on from several raids last month, which have resulted in four other dogs being seized.

"These dogs are often used as a status symbol by their owners and as an alternative to carrying a weapon," commented PC Adam Crossley of Lancaster police.

"They are also used in illegal dog fights, which raises issues of animal cruelty. It is important that they are removed from those who use them for criminal gain."

Budget consultation events cancelled in Carnforth

Lancaster City Council has unfortunately had to cancel a public exhibition and workshop due to take place in Carnforth today (Tuesday January 5) due to adverse weather conditions.

The exhibition and workshop were due to take place at Carnforth Railway Station as part of the city council’s consultation into its budget for future years, but, due to the recent heavy snow and icy conditions, the events will not take place on safety grounds.

Although today’s events have been cancelled, people who want to take part in the consultation can do so online at www.lancaster.gov.uk/consultation, by attending exhibitions and workshops taking place in Lancaster and Morecambe, or by picking up a copy of the budget consultation booklet from council buildings.

The Lancaster exhibition will take place in Marketgate on Wednesday 6th January between 11.00am and 3.00pm, and the Arndale Centre in Morecambe on Thursday 7th January between 10.30am and 1.30pm.

To attend one of the workshops please register your interest by telephoning 01524 582268 or email consultation@lancaster.gov.uk.

Should weather conditions deteriorate further and any of these events need to be cancelled then further information will be provided on the council’s website.

Icy pavements "A Death Trap", say Greens

snowwalker_lancaster051010.jpg


Green councillors have called on Lancashire County Council to prioritise gritting of pavements rather than just major roads.

"Many people, including me, have fallen over in the last few weeks and there seems virtually no gritting of pavements outside the town centre," commented John O'Gaunt ward Councillor Jude Towers. "Lots of old people have been rendered virtually housebound – especially in hilly areas such as Moorlands."

Strangely, some pedestrian areas, such as the White Cross Industrial Estate, which is run by Lancashire County Council, have been gritted in places.

Coun John Whitelegg, who has seen problems on steep roads and icy pavements in his area said: "Residents in Bulk Ward are happy to lend a hand themselves – however, the County Council has refused my request to re-fill the grit-bins on the Bath Mill estate.

"Surely, pedestrians should be a priority in this sort of weather."

Unlike some other councils, Lancashire County Council apparently only provides gritting for roads, according to its web site, prioritising County Motorways and Principal 'A' Roads. Green councillor Jon Barry has contacted County Council officers and asked for a change in policy so that pavements as well as roads are gritted. Green County councillors Sam Riches and Chris Coates will be formally asking for this change in policy at the February County Council meeting.

Councils such as Harringey in London consider pavement gritting based on locations with highest pedestrian flows, combined with highest level of risk associated with steeper gradients. After the town centres have been treated, and if cold conditions continue, the council will carry on gritting pavements according to local conditions where it is needed the most.

Manchester Council grits pavements during prolonged periods of ice or snow, some pedestrian areas such as footbridges, shopping areas, hospital entrances and steep gradients are gritted.

In Scotland, Perthshire Council prioritises pavements on main shopping areas, main arterial footways, busy feeder footways and footways leading to community centres and centres of employment.

Picture: Snow Walker by Chris Kirkbride. More of Chris work here on Flickr. Used with permission. © 2010 Chris Kirkbride

Keep your dogs on a lead, police warn

Dog owners are being warned to keep their pets on leads when out walking on farm land after a spate of attacks on sheep.

Local police report one animal was killed after a dog attacked it in a field in Coach Road, Warton, on 20th December; a lamb was bitten on the neck by a black and white dog at Park Lane, Silverdale, on Boxing Day and two sheep sustained serious injuries after being set upon by terriers in Moss Lane, Silverdale, on 29th December.

Owners risk their pets being shot by farmers if they are caught attacking sheep. They also face prosecution and heavy costs if any animals are harmed by their dogs.

Not only is a dog attack traumatic to the ewes themselves, potentially leading to lambing difficulties, poorly and late finishing lambs and difficulties getting the ewes in-lamb again - but caring for the sheep after an attack is extremely upsetting to farmers and can be very costly. In one instance last year in Kent, Farmers Interactive Weekly reported it was feared dog attacks would lead to an entire flock of prize-winning sheep being destroyed.

Dogs off the lead can also cause damage to wildlife, disturbing ground-nesting birds who may not return to the nest and chasing deer. Even friendly, domesticated dogs sniffing around an area are actually exercising their hunting instincts.

"When walking on farm land, dogs must be kept under control and when walking near livestock they must be on a lead," commented PC Tony Marsh, who's community beat manager for Carnforth and Silverdale."

"Instinct can take over when a dog is not on its lead – especially if it is with another dog – and this can lead to attacks on sheep, which not only cause suffering to the animals but also to the farmer, whose livelihood can be affected."

Dog attacks on sheep has ben on the rise for some time. Last November, the Farmer's Guardian reported that the number of sheep attacked by domestic dogs soared in 2008 as insurance claims topped £1 million. Although the majority of the attacks were caused by stray dogs, other attacks were caused by walkers letting their dogs off the lead.

The newspaper notes that if a dog is worrying livestock on agricultural land, then the dog owner or person in charge of the dog may have committed a criminal offence, and farmers can report owners of dogs that have worried livestock to the police. Farmers may also have a claim against the keeper of the dog in respect of any injuries sustained by the farmer’s livestock or any livestock killed by the dog.

Big Chill Continues in Lancaster

snow_lancaster050110_cath.jpg


Travelling to work in the Lancaster and Morecambe area proved treacherous this morning, as snow again blanketed much of the area. Minor accidents on several roads - even gritted surfaces - were causing headaches for both those involved and local police. Across Lancashire, police were advising people not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

Conditions for pedestrians are also an issue, with no gritting of pavements and both Skerton and the Millennium Bridge quickly getting iced up.

Forecasters warn the snow is unlikely to melt away because of the low temperatures, although as locals well know, Lancaster has its own "pocket climate" so those fears may yet prove unfounded. However, many people raised concerns about the gritting of some roads during the snow before Christmas, with some bus routes, such as Hala Hill and Noel Road in Skerton reportedly left ungritted. Icy pavements are also, of course, a major concern.

Pictured: Lancaster Cathedral this morning. Photo: John Freeman (More snow pics taken 5th January here)


For details of school closures and the latest travel advice visit the BBC Radio Lancashire web site

Road Closure and other Road Travel News

Monday, 4 January 2010

Wassailing Tradition Makes it Three in a Row

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The Fairfield Association will be hosting their third traditional Wassailing event on Saturday 16th January.

This will be the third time in living memory that Lancaster has hosted a Wassailing – the first two years were a rip-roaring success with over 100 people in attendance. It follows another year of successful events hosted by the Fairfield Association, a registered charity founded in 1996 which saved a long-established children’s play area (Fairfield Green) from development and is currently working towards establishing an urban nature reserve on farmland near to the Millennium Green and Community Orchard.

"Wassailings are traditionally held in the cider making counties of southern England, but since Lancaster boasts its own public orchard we decided to bring the tradition to the North West," explains Andrew Brennand, the event’s organizer. "We were bowled over by how many people attended the last couple of years and hope that everyone who has been before will attend again and tell their friends.

"With a bit of luck this will become a popular new tradition in Lancaster – it's certainly something to fill those dreary days after Christmas!"

There will be a range of activities suitable for both children and adults, starting with a noisy procession to Fairfield Community Orchard at the end of Sunnyside Lane, Lancaster, at 3.00pm sharp. People are encouraged to bring pots, pans and drums. The procession is intended to scare away any evil spirits who might blight the crop in the year
to come.

Not many people believe in evil spirits these days, but there is some evidence that making a big noise at this time of year actually disrupts the natural cycle of parasites that damage the trees. You could say that the content of the centuries old Wassailing ceremony is actually backed by modern science.

Following this there will be a traditional Mummers Play performed by the Stone the Crows Morris side from Leyland. These plays are also traditional and have a heritage going back at least five hundred years.

"Some people believe that these plays go all the way back to the time of the Crusades," Andrew reveals. "Although the texts of all Mummers Plays are quite similar, the version being performed will be an adaptation of the original Lancaster Pace Egging play that
originates in this very city."

Included in the afternoon’s proceedings will be the choosing of an Oak King and Apple Queen to rule for a year, so people are requested to attend in Fancy Dress if they want to be considered for these prestigious roles. The Oak King and Apple Queen will make the traditional offerings of cider to the trees and begin the passing round of a Wassail Bowl.

The event will finish with the performance of traditional Wassailing songs around a bonfire.

• The Wassailing takes place on Saturday 16th January 2010 between 3pm and 5.00pm in the Fairfield Community Orchard at the end of Sunnyside Lane, Lancaster. All funds raised will go towards the upkeep of the orchard. There is a suggested donation of £1 per attendee.

• More about the Fairfield Community Association at: www.fairfieldassociation.org


Read more about wassailing on the White Dragon web site

• Wassailing Song on Carols.org.uk

• Read about Celtic myth and druids on www.druidry.org

Pictured: The Apple Queen and Oak King of 2008

Evofit released following sexual assault in Morecambe

Morecambe-evofit.jpgThe police have released an evofit of a man who is believed to have seriously sexually assaulted a woman in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

The incident took place in a house near to the town centre at around 7.00am. The victim, who is in her forties, met her alleged attacker in Coast nightclub on New Year’s Eve.

The alleged offender was dressed as a pirate and had a “Tina Turner or Rod Stewart” hair style wig on. He is described as being white, tanned complexion, short black hair, five foot four to five foot eight tall and of a medium to stocky build. He had a pirate eye patch, striped trousers and a red jacket with dark coloured shoulders and white stripes across the shoulders and down the sleeves. He may have had a foreign accent.

Detective Inspector Joanna Dent said, “The victim has been left extremely traumatised and is currently receiving support from specially trained officers.

“I would urge anyone who has any information which could help us to come forward and contact police. In particular I would ask members of the public to consider the description of the suspect, and to contact us with any information that may assist our enquiries.

“I would like to stress that incidents like this are very rare and that we are doing all we can to trace the man who carried out this attack."

• Anyone with any information is asked to call Morecambe police in 01254 63333 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Charity Chamber Music Concert at the Priory

A concert of chamber music to raise money for the Doublejoy Orphanage Kenya will take place at Lancaster Priory on Saturday 9th January, opening with a performance of Haydn’s string quartet in G op. 77 No.1 by a group of Lancaster’s rising musical talents.

The second work, Mozart’s GranPartita in B flat, K361 is rarely performed because of its length and combination of instruments: the line-up of two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two basset horns and four French horns and a double bass would not be out of place with the Twelve Days of Christmas!

"We have been particularly fortunate in securing the services of the bassets as they are usually hibernating at this time of year," jokes one of the players, Ian Wilson. "For one night only the menagerie will be known as Euroclydon and perform this stunning work."

Double Joy Children's Farm is a home and school for children orphaned by Aids in Kenya, created in 1994 by Mary Hinde, an English woman who had been living and teaching in Kenya for 20 years.

After witnessing Aids becoming a major cause of death in her community, Mary felt moved to do something to help the children abandoned when their parents died of Aids. She started Double Joy to provide a home and school for these children and a chance for them to survive in their community. Double Joy started with 24 children and now has 90.

• The concert will start at 7.30 on Saturday 9th January. Tickets £7.00/ £6.00 on the door. All proceeds will be donated to the Doublejoy Orphanage. More info about the Orphanage at www.double-joy.org.uk

What Now for the Tramway?

The Tramway, LancasterLancaster's disused Tramway pub on St Leonard's Gate, owned by Mitchells and in a sorry state of repair.

This is just one of several properties owned by Mitchells that appears to have been left to rot, a victim of continuing uncertainty over the future of development of the "Canal Corridor".

As we previously reported, just before Christmas the government rejected plans for a a huge retail-led development that was fiercely opposed by local people and various heritage organistaions such as SAVE.

Lancaster City Council has begun all-party talks to discuss the area's future, which include development partner Centros, pressure group It's Our City and local political parties.